Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: An Exclusive Interview with editor and project creator Melissa Stewart



Here's the brand-new book trailer:

And here's the interview...

Lee: Hi Melissa, thanks for talking about this new nonfiction book you've conceptualized, edited, and championed!

Let's jump into the first question. Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award-Winning Children's Book Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing seems all about breaking down the myths about nonfiction, and what it takes to write it well. Is that where the inspiration came from?

Melissa: Yes, many people seem to think that writing nonfiction is simple and straightforward—just do some research and then cobbling together a bunch of facts. But nothing could be further from the truth.

To craft high-quality prose, nonfiction writers have to dig deep. We have to be personally invested. We have to get in touch with our passions and our vulnerabilities and use them to fuel our work.

The topics we choose, the approaches we take, and the concepts and themes we explore are closely linked to who we are as people—our personalities, our beliefs, and our experiences in the world.

As far as we’re concerned, putting the information we collect through our own personal filters and making our own meaning is the secret to creating engaging nonfiction.

We wanted to bring this message to teachers and students—and also aspiring children’s book authors. It’s a critical part of our writing process that often goes unseen and unappreciated.

Lee: I'll just say now that I'm completely honored to be one of the contributing nonfiction writers! But 50 contributors is a lot of coordinating - and selecting! Tell us about the process of putting this all together.

Melissa: Thank you for contributing, Lee. Your essay is SO powerful!

The idea for the book traces back to a panel I did with authors Candace Fleming and Deborah Heiligman at the 2017 NCTE conference.

During our discussion, we dove deeply into what fuels our work and why we routinely dedicate years of our lives to a single manuscript.

As we compared our thoughts and experiences, we came to realize that each of our books has a piece of us at its heart. And that personal connection is what drives us to keep working despite the inevitable obstacles and setbacks.

Several other nonfiction authors were in the audience, and afterward, they praised our insights. That conversation helped us all understand our creative process in a new and exciting way.

I wanted to explore this idea further, so during the 2018-2019 school year, I invited 38 colleagues to write essays for my blog. After the first few appeared, teachers began asking if all the essays could be compiled in one place. That’s when I began thinking about a book.

Once a publisher accepted my proposal (and there were a lot of rejections), I thought carefully about creating a sense of balance.

I wanted to include contributions from roughly equal numbers of science writers, history writers, and biographers. I thought a lot about equity and inclusion, and about balancing picture books and long-form nonfiction. Before I knew it, I was so close to fifty contributors that I decided to go for that nice round number.

Plenty of people warned me that editing an anthology with 50 contributors was an act of insanity, but my colleagues never let me down. Despite their busy schedules, they met all their deadlines. The nonfiction community is a tight-knit, supportive group, and everyone was committed to making this a great book.

Lee: It seems there are multiple audiences for the book - teachers, students, adult writers of nonfiction... How do you see the book impacting each of those audiences? (And, if I've missed one, let me know!)

Melissa:I’d add librarians too. School librarians play an important role in helping students with the nonfiction writing process.

While the essays in Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep can be used by educators in many ways, from serving as mentor texts for writing personal narratives to enriching author studies, our fondest hope is that this book will transform the way nonfiction writing is taught in schools.

The best nonfiction writing happens when students (or adults) choose a topic they’re excited about and then spend time synthesizing their research and viewing the information through their own personal lens. But right now, most students jump straight from research to writing.

Because every instructional minute is precious, teachers may be reluctant for students to take more time at the beginning of the process. But it’s time well spent because it will reduce time spent revising later on.

For adult writers, we hope that reading the essays will be like sitting down to have a cup of coffee with a good friend. As each author opens up about their process, their craft, their truth, readers will develop the ability to identify their own truth and their own voice. They will feel empowered to craft the book that only they can write.

Lee: The book also includes "a wide range of tips, tools, teaching strategies, and activity ideas from editor Melissa Stewart to help students (1) choose a topic, (2) focus that topic by identifying a core idea, theme, or concept, and (3) analyze their research to find a personal connection. By adding a piece of themselves to their drafts, students will learn to craft rich, unique prose." Tell us more about those, and how they're integrated with the rest.

Melissa: The book is divided into three chapters—Choosing a Topic, Finding a Focus, and Making It Personal. These are the three steps nonfiction writers struggle with most as they conceptualize a piece.

Each chapter begins with an overview that introduces key ideas and provides tips and tools for navigating the author essays. Following 16 or 17 essays, each chapter concludes with an In the Classroom section. It provides strategies and writing activities that help student writers as well as adult writers apply the ideas in the essays to their own writing.

Lee: Proceeds from sales of the book will be split between SCBWI, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and We Need Diverse Books. That's amazing, and generous, and very cool. Can you tell us what's behind that decision?

Melissa: Financing a book like this was tricky. Educational publishers like NCTE Books don’t pay an advance, just royalties. But it’s not possible to split a royalty among fifty people.

Because I feel strongly that writers should always be compensated for their work, I paid each contributing author $200 out of my own pocket. After I’ve earned back that money through royalties, I’ll donate the rest of the proceeds to non-profit organizations that support all children’s book authors and the young readers we serve. For me, this book is a labor of love, and I want it to help as many people as possible.

Lee: Is there anything else about the book you'd like to share with the SCBWI audience?

Melissa: It’s worth mentioning that SCBWI played an important role in the creation of this book. The money I paid the contributing authors came from an unexpected special sale that occurred because one of my books was on display at the SCBWI booth at the Bologna Book Fair a few years ago. Without SCBWI, this anthology probably wouldn’t exist.

This organization has made my writing life richer in so many ways. I really can’t thank Lin Oliver, Sarah Baker, Tammy Brown, Kim Turrisi, and the whole SCBWI team enough.

Thanks, Melissa!

You can learn more about Melissa Stewart and her nonfiction books for kids at her website here and about Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award-Winning Children's Book Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing here.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Have You Registered Yet For SCBWI's Winter 2021 Conference?


Check out the SCBWI Winter 2021 Conference schedule, offerings, and opportunities - it's hosted on Zoom February 19-21, and video recordings will be available through March 31, 2021. And SCBWI has lowered the cost to attend to $150 for members - making it more accessible for more children's book writers, illustrators, and translators!

The SCBWI Winter Conference: Inside Children's Publishing will include:

the Golden Kite Awards Gala,

a State-of-the-Industry In-Depth Interview with Jean Feiwel

Keynote Conversations with: 

Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Matt De La Peña and Christian Robinson

Jerry Craft and Victoria Jamieson, hosted by Weslie Turner

Patricia Maclachlan interviewed by Lin Oliver

a Keynote with Tami Charles

There will also be a behind the scenes tour of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing with Katrina Groover (Managing Editor), Laurent Linn (Art Director), Chava Wolin (Senior Production Manager), and Paula Wiseman (Vice President and Publisher)

Genre Breakout Sessions with editors, including

Picture Books: Andrea Welch, Joanna Cardenas, Elizabeth Bicknell

Middle Grade: Tricia Lin, Krista Vitola

Young Adult: Stacey Barney, Alexandra Cooper

Nonfiction: Alyssa Mito Pusey, Shelby Lees

We'll get to attend a Fly-on-the-Wall Acquisitions meeting with Wendy Loggia and a team from Delacorte Press

and a Mock Book Production meeting with Yaffa Jaskoll and a team from Scholastic Books

There's an Agents Panel, with Kirby Kim, Kevin Lewis, Erica Rand Silverman, and Saba Sulaiman, and so much more!

Illustrators - make sure to check out the portfolio showcase opportunity, as well as the Monday Feb 22 Illustrators' Intensive.

We hope you'll join us – Get all the details here

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

"Celebrating Queer Voices" Highlights from SCBWI Celebrates #OwnVoices January 2021 Workshop

SCBWI's "Celebrating Queer Voices" Workshop on January 14, 2021 was the first in a new, free series of #OwnVoices discussions that will be happening quarterly!

The Queer Voices Panelists with their books!


Pictured: 

top row: Sign language interpreter Jennye Kamin; moderator Phil Bildner with a copy of Phil's middle grade novel A High Five For Glenn Burke; Mike Curato with a copy of Mike's YA graphic novel, Flamer.

middle row: Alex Gino with a copy of Alex's George and Rick; Abdi Nazemian with a copy of Abdi's Like a Love Story.

lower row: J Yang with a copy of J's Spirit Day; and Kaylynn Bayron with a copy of Kaylynn's Cinderella is Dead.

Some highlights:

Kaylynn speaking of her Cinderella is Dead: "Black girls team up to overthrow the patriarchy." And on unlearning while centering Queer black girls in her writing.

J speaking of the impact of the secondary Trans character in Tamora Pierce's Bloodhound, and how "every single person I draw is Queer."

Bill on the four different decisions he played out (of his two main characters who meet at the top of The Bridge intending to jump to their deaths) and how he ultimately wants readers to know that "they are not alone." And wanting to see "more LGBTQ joy."

Abdi saying "Let's study history to repeat the best of it, not just avoid the worst of it." And how "even in the darkest moment, there is light." Also Abdi's describing reaching out to his Iranian community as an out Gay man to change hearts and minds.

Alex on the impact of Kate Bornstein's Gender Outlaw where they learned the term Gender Queer and how powerful that "access to language" was. And how there is no age too young to learn to be kind, compassionate, know yourself and others.

Mike on how the mouse in the Little Elliot books is nonbinary, how Mike's hope is for readers to know "there is light in you even if you can't see it yourself," and how having a Queer imprint at a major publisher would be a game-changer.

...and Phil speaking of how essential a thread of hope is in books for young people, and on the motivation for A High Five for Glenn Burke – to get the message out that "Queer kids play sports, too."

The whole panel was recorded and you can watch the video here at the SCBWI website.

The next SCBWI Celebrates #OwnVoices workshop will be "Celebrating Asian Voices" and will take place in Spring 2021. Following that will be "Celebrating Voices of Disabled Book Creators" in Summer 2021 and then "Celebrating Voices of Faith" in December 2021. You can learn more about the SCBWI Celebrates #OwnVoices Workshops here.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, January 14, 2021

CASE Act Becomes Law - Creating Small Claims Tribunal in the Copyright Office

Advocated for by members of the Authors Guild, the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), and an entire "copyright alliance" coalition, on December 27, 2020 the CASE Act was signed into law. 





 “this new legislation will create a forum called the Copyright Claims Board within the U.S. Copyright Office to hear copyright claims of up to $15,000 per claim and an aggregate of $30,000. The cost of bringing a claim will range between a minimum of $100 and a maximum of the filing cost of an action in federal district court (currently $350), and the claims will be heard by a panel of three Copyright Claims Officers appointed by the Librarian of Congress, at least two of whom must have experience representing both owners and users of copyrighted works. The legislation ultimately ensures that individual content creators and other copyright owners who depend on copyright for their livelihoods but can’t afford the costs of protracted litigation gain access to justice.” 

 The Copyright Alliance explains further:

Why is the small claims process important?

Because federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over copyright, and federal litigation is so expensive, many professional creators and small businesses simply cannot afford to defend their rights when someone infringes their copyrighted works. Visual artists, authors and songwriters are hurt the most by the high cost of federal litigation because the individual value of their works or transactions is often too low to warrant the expense of litigation and most attorneys won’t even consider taking these small cases. As a result, these infringements regularly go unchallenged, leading many creators to feel disenfranchised by the copyright system. In effect, these creators have rights but no remedies.

Until now!

In the words of Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger,

“Copyright law should protect all creators, but the unfortunate fact is that it only protects those who can afford the high costs of federal court and legal representation. With the average cost of federal litigation at $400,000, pursuing a remedy for their rights is impossible for most authors—even the best-selling ones. The CASE Act changes this by providing authors with a voluntary, inexpensive and streamlined alternative that they can use to protect their rights, their creativity and their livelihoods.”

You can learn more about the CASE Act here at the Copyright Alliance's Q&A.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

SCBWI Celebrates Queer Voices - Thursday January 14, 1pm Pacific (with a 2:30pm Pacific social) on Zoom

SCBWI is launching a new series of FREE digital workshops, "SCBWI Celebrates #OwnVoices," and the first one will be this Thursday January 14, from 1pm-2:30pm Pacific, on Celebrating Queer Voices.

With authors Kalynn Bayron, Mike Curato, Alex Gino, Bill Konigsberg, Abdi Nazemian, and J Yang, and moderated by Phil Bildner, the discussion will cover:

"the joys and challenges of bringing queer representation into their work and the importance of telling the stories they wish they had as a kid."

The session will be held live on Zoom, and will be followed with a safe space social (hosted by me, Lee Wind) for those who identify as part of the Queer community. (That link will be provided during the live workshop.) If you're not able to attend live, the workshop will be recorded and made available by 1pm Friday January 15, 2021.

Here's more on the workshop faculty:

Phil Bildner (moderator) is the award-winning author of numerous books for kids including the 2021 Charlotte Huck Award Honor-winning, A High Five for Glenn Burke and the Margaret Wise Brown Prize-winning picture book, Marvelous Cornelius. He is also the author of the highly acclaimed Rip & Red middle grade series. Phil taught middle school in the New York City Public School system for eleven years and is the founder of The Author Village, an author booking business.

Kalynn Bayron is the bestselling author of the award-winning YA fantasy Cinderella is Dead. She is a classically trained vocalist and when she’s not writing you can find her listening to Ella Fitzgerald on loop, attending the theater, watching scary movies, and spending time with her kids.

Mike Curato is the author and illustrator of everyone’s favorite polka-dotted elephant, Little Elliot. His debut title, Little Elliot, Big City, released in 2014 to critical acclaim, has won several awards, and has been translated into over ten languages. There are now five books in the Little Elliot series, including Little Elliot, Big Family; Little Elliot, Big Fun; Little Elliot, Fall Friends; and Merry Christmas, Little Elliot. Mike had the pleasure of illustrating What If… by Samantha Berger, All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle, Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, and contributed to What’s Your Favorite Color? by Eric Carle and Friends and Sunny Day: A Celebration of the Sesame Street Theme Song. His latest books, released in 2020, are The Power of One written by Trudy Ludwig, and his first YA graphic novel, Flamer! Publishers Weekly named Mike a “Fall 2014 Flying Start.” In the same year he won the Society of Illustrators Original Art Show Founder’s Award.

Alex Gino is the author of the middle grade novels Rick, You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! and the Stonewall Award-winning George. They love glitter, ice cream, gardening, awe-ful puns, and stories that reflect the diversity and complexity of being alive. For more information, visit alexgino.com.

Bill Konigsberg is the award-winning author of six young adult novels, including Openly Straight and The Music of What Happens. His latest novel, The Bridge, is in development as a limited series at Amazon. In 2018, The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)’s Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) established the Bill Konigsberg Award for Acts and Activism for Equity and Inclusion through Young Adult Literature. Prior to turning his attention to writing books for teens, Bill was a sportswriter and editor for The Associated Press and ESPN.com.

Abdi Nazemian is the author of three novels. His first, The Walk-In Closet, won the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Debut Fiction. His most recent, Like a Love Story, an Indie Next Pick, Walden Award finalist and Junior Library Guild Selection, was awarded a Stonewall Honor, and was chosen as one of the best books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, Audible, Buzzfeed, the New York Public Library, and more. His screenwriting credits include the films The Artist’s Wife, The Quiet, and Menendez: Blood Brothers, and the television series The Village and Almost Family. He has been an executive producer and associate producer on numerous films, including Call Me By Your Name, Little Woods, and Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood. He lives in Los Angeles with his husband and two children.

J Yang is a New York-based illustrator who happens to be a Chinese-American trans man. During quarantine, he has acquired a cherry shrimp hobby, learned a couple of new recipes, and has become a square-shaped grandma in a D&D campaign. You can find his work in Portrait of a Tyrant, Our Rainbow, Spirit Day, and upcoming The Good Hair Day and If You’re A Kid Like Gavin. J is currently at large.

Hope to see you there! (No registration required - just click here for the zoom link.)
Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, January 7, 2021

SCBWI Offers 52 Awards and Grants - Consider the Opportunities for You in 2021


SCBWI Awards and Grants include:

FOR WRITERS
Manuscript Awards, Emerging Voices Award, Student Writer Scholarship, Work-in-Progress Grants, Karen Cushman Late Bloomer Award and the SCBWI PJ Library Jewish Stories Award.

FOR ILLUSTRATORS
Art Spot, Portfolio Awards, Student Illustrator Scholarship, Narrative Art Award, Don Freeman Work-in-Progress Grant, Featured Illustrator, Draw This!

FOR PUBLISHED AUTHORS AND ILLUSTRATORS
Book Launch Award, Crystal Kite Awards, Golden Kite Awards, Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Grant, Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, Magazine Merit Award, Martha Weston Grant, Sid Fleischman Award, Spark Award.

COMMUNITY GRANTS
Amber Brown and Tribute Fund.

GRANTS FOR STUDENTS
Student Writer Scholarship and Student Illustrator Scholarship.

CONFERENCE SCHOLARSHIPS
New Voices in Nonfiction.

Check out all the details here.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Start Off 2021 With A Commitment To Your Artistic Journey - Join Our SCBWI Community For The SCBWI Winter Conference (Feb 19-21, 2021)


SCBWI conferences – including this online Winter 2021 Conference that's hosted on Zoom with recordings available through March 31, 2021 – offer so much education on the craft and business of writing and illustrating for kids and teens, and there's so much more: There are opportunities to advance your career, there's networking to build your community within the larger community of children's book writers, illustrators, and translators, there's inspiration from luminaries in our field, and maybe most of all, there's the celebration of what we do, individually and together, to make creative work for young people.

Check out the full conference schedule here.

We hope you'll join us.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee