Thursday, December 2, 2021

Illustration Inspiration - The 2021 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books

Screen shot of the New York Times article, "The 2021 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children's Books" showing an interior spread from one of the ten winners, "I Am the Subway," written and illustrated by Kim Hyo-eun.

Since 1952, the New York Times has pulled together a rotating panel of three experts to look at EVERY illustrated book for kids published in the USA for that year. This year's judges, children's literature critic Catherine Hong; New York Public Library youth collections librarian Jessica Agudelo; and Caldecott medalist Paul O. Zelinsky (a member of SCBWI's Board of Advisors and a past winner of this honor), chose ten winners ”purely on the basis of artistic merit.”

Announced in the New York Times Book Review on November 12, 2021, The 2021 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books includes interior images – and there's a bonus article with interviews with the artists and views of them working in their studios!

The ten winning books are:

I Am the Subway
Written and illustrated by Kim Hyo-eun
Translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith

The Night Walk
Written and illustrated by Marie Dorléans

Time Is a Flower
Written and illustrated by Julie Morstad

It Fell From the Sky
Written and illustrated by Terry Fan and Eric Fan

The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess
Written and illustrated by Tom Gauld

¡Vamos! Let’s Cross the Bridge
Written and illustrated by Raúl the Third
Colors by Elaine Bay

While You’re Sleeping
Written by Mick Jackson
Illustrated by John Broadley

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Keeping the City Going
Written and illustrated by Brian Floca

On the Other Side of the Forest
Written by Nadine Robert
Illustrated by Gérard DuBois

Congratulations to the winners, and what inspiration for the rest of us!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Power – And Politics – of Words: The Library of Congress Changes the Subject Headings "Aliens" to "Noncitizens" and "Illegal Aliens" to "Illegal Immigration"

Screen shot of the article from Publishers Weekly,
"Library of Congress to Replace 'Aliens,' 'Illegal Aliens' Subject Headings"

Reported in this article by Andrew Albanese in Publishers Weekly, the subject heading change that will roll out to libraries all over the USA was announced earlier this month. The change away from calling people 'aliens' and then calling those same people 'illegal,' as Andrew writes,

“comes after a long-running advocacy campaign by a number of groups, including the library community—and a conservative political backlash against the effort.”

Turns out this change was agreed to by the Library of Congress back in 2016... Why the delay in making this change official? Back in  2016,

“ an unprecedented action, a group of conservative members of Congress objected to the change, and went so far as to add a provision to an appropriations bill that would require the library to retain the terminology—the first time in LC's history, LC officials told reporters, that lawmakers had intervened in a routine cataloguing matter.”

Wow. It's nice to see this long-overdue change happen, and it also is a humbling reminder of the power of words to shape our (and others') views of the world. A reminder that we creators should choose the words we have control over with care. And it's also a reminder that librarians are awesome, and that change to make systems more just is possible.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Alex Sanchez - 20 Years, 10 Books, and a Baker's Dozen Insights On Being An Author


screenshot of the article over at Cynsations

Alex celebrates this anniversary of his debut, groundbreaking novel with this Cynsations Guest Post: Author Alex Sanchez Celebrates the 20th Anniversary of Rainbow Boys!

Alex's life lessons include:

1. Surround yourself with people who believe in you. They don’t need to be other writers, but it helps if they have their own creative passions so they understand why you’re up at 3 a.m. working on a project you might never get paid for. My first artistic support buddies included a songwriter and a papier mâché artist. It’s thanks to them that I got to today.


4. Write the stories your heart is burning to tell, even if you think no one will ever want to publish them. When I began writing, I thought nobody would want to publish stories that affirmed gay teens because nobody was publishing affirming stories about gay teens. I wrote the stories anyway, and broke new ground. Write the stories you would write if you had only one year to live.

Check out the rest of Alex's excellent advice here

Alex, congratulations - keep writing! And for the rest of us, with this inspiration, let's...

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

There's a Whole Lot of Book Banning Going On


Criminal charges are being files. Lists of 'problematic books' are being circulated. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Information Freedom, which tracks book challenges nationwide, told Publishers Weekly that

“We have seen a 60% increase in challenges to books received in the month of September compared to last year.” 

And while communities are pushing back, Caldwell-Stone says “the volume of challenges we are hearing and seeing now appears to be the result of an organized movement by certain groups to impose their political views and make them the norm for education and for our society as a whole. You have a state representative circulating a list of 850 books—and if you read that list they are all dealing with sex education, LGBTQIA+ identity, or the experience of persons of color. You also have people showing up at school boards complaining about the exact same books, repeating almost world for word the same complaints found on social media.”

Shirley Robinson, executive director of the Texas Library Association, agrees. “There is clearly an organized effort going on to bring large groups of people to school board meetings or to City Council meetings. And we as a community of educators and librarians need to stand together. We need to find a way to explain to people, in a way that makes sense to them, that we’re standing up for one of their fundamental rights as Americans.”

Read the full article, Librarians, Educators Warn of 'Organized' Book Banning Efforts at Publishers Weekly here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, November 18, 2021

#NY22SCBWI (The SCBWI Annual Winter Conference 2022) Will Take Place Online February 11-13, 2022

Save the dates!

The conference theme: Creating and Selling Successful Children's Books in 2022

Keynotes for the Winter 2022 SCBWI Winter 2022 Conference will Include Brian Selznick, Paula Yoo, Kelly Yang, and Vanessa Brantley Newton

Some already scheduled highlights:

Friday evening, February 11, will be a rare keynote from the one and only Brian Selznick, creator of THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET and WONDERSTRUCK, whose latest book KALEIDOSCOPE was called a “lockdown masterpiece” by the New York Times

The entire day Saturday, February 12, will be packed full with keynotes and panels. Keynotes will be from Kelly Yang, the New York Times bestselling author of FRONT DESK and winner of the 2019 Asian Pacific American Award for Children's Literature; Paula Yoo, whose YA non-fiction book, FROM A WHISPER TO A RALLYING CRY: THE KILLING OF VINCENT CHIN AND THE TRIAL THAT GALVANIZED THE ASIAN AMERICAN MOVEMENT won the 2021 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Nonfiction; and New York Times best- selling illustrator for THE KING OF KINDERGARTEN, Vanessa Brantley Newton.

Interspersed between the keynotes will be three panels featuring 15 industry professionals. The topic of each panel is Recipes for Success in 2022 and will feature individual presentations from five editors, five agents, and five art directors, whose relevant and timely observations will provide a guide for creating and selling children’s books in the current environment. 

The cost for the main conference is $150. Multiple scholarships will be available, and announced by the time registration opens on December 2.  

Sunday, February 13, features an optional full morning session, which will be offered for an additional fee. During the morning, editors and agents will offer intensive sessions in which they will detail their process, their house, and their wish list. Lucky attendees will get to select two sessions to attend, and will be invited to submit queries to the leaders of BOTH sessions they selected. The additional fee for that morning is $150, and space will be limited. 

Sunday afternoon, however, is a free illustrators' event and is included with the cost of the conference and open to all attendees.

Also included in the basic conference registration are peer critiques, an orientation, and multiple socials. We fully expect enrollment to be fast and furious, so mark your calendar with the registration date. The full program and schedule will be posted on the SCBWI website on December 1.

Hope you'll join us!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

10 Tips for Being A Great Podcast Guest (from Jeniffer Thompson and the Team at Monkey C Media)

I thought this article was really helpful - especially tip #1! It's so important to listen to at least one episode of the podcast you're going to be a guest on before you're on their show!

Oh, and #2 - having a bullet point list of the points you want to make is really helpful to keep you focused as you answer questions and have a great discussion.

Check out the other eight tips (and the three things to not do) here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Telling a Story That Is Not From Your Experience: Martha Brockenbrough on Collaborating with Grace Lin on their new Picture Book "I Am an American: the Wong Kim Ark Story"

I reached out to Martha to ask about how she came to co-write this new picture book with Grace. Here's what Martha shared:

The most wonderful things can happen inside vans taking authors to book festivals. Sometimes, collaborations are launched, and this is what happened with I Am an American: the Wong Kim Ark Story.

“Who the heck is Wong Kim Ark?” you might ask.

I hadn’t heard of him until 2014, when my friend Eric Liu published a book called A Chinaman’s Chance: One Family’s Journey and the Chinese American Dream. Eric mentioned Wong Kim Ark and his role in establishing birthright citizenship for every American, and that fact stopped me in my tracks.

I knew then that it could be a picture book, if I could find a way to make it resonate emotionally with very young readers. I bought a number of books about Chinese American history and was astonished and heartbroken about the rampant racism. As I thought about it and years passed, I also started to question the rightness of me, a white person, working on this book.

So when I was sitting next to Grace on that van, Grace, who is an absolute legend in storytelling as well as being a force for quality representation on the page, I asked her if she’d heard of him. She hadn’t, so I told her the story and the research I’d done, and I offered it to her.

She countered with an offer of collaboration, for which I will eternally be in her debt. I was right to doubt my fitness to tell this story. No matter what I’d picked up from history books, government records, and newspaper accounts, I still could not find the heart of the story emotionally until Grace told it to me: the right of Wong Kim Ark to assert his Americanness.

That gave us the title and refrain for our book, and even though it is about a particular piece of history, it resonates today—in the beauty and dynamism that the children of immigrants represent as well as the ugly racism of political leaders, including the former president, who threatened to undo this Supreme Court ruling, which is more than a century old.

The right of non-white people to assert Americanness is an emotional heart that illustrator Julia Kuo grasped beautifully. Her work also celebrates the rich history and nuances of Asian identity elements. If you haven’t pored over I Dream of Popo (words by Livia Blackburne and The Sound of Silence (words by Katrina Goldsaito), then you are in for a profound pleasure.

I’m incredibly proud of this beautiful book and humbled by the grit and courage of Wong Kim Ark. I hope it moves you as much as it did me.

Learn more about Martha Brockenbrough and her books here.

Learn more about Grace Lin and her books here.

And learn more about illustrator Julia Kuo here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Looking to Figure Out Your Approach to TikTok? BookBub Curated a list of 21 Authors On TikTok To Check Out

Shailee Shah starts out the article, 21 Authors on TikTok to Follow for Book Promo Ideas (&LOLs), with noting that 

“The BookTok hashtag currently stands at 12.2 billion views, with videos featuring books old and new.”

Music and text, vlog style, stitching reactions to other TikToks... there's lots to explore! And with the exception of the one movie star example, these strategies are all pretty much accessible to all of us creating content for tweens and teens.

Check out the full piece at BookBub Partners here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Janssen Bradshaw, in an Article at Brightly, Urges Us: Let’s Stop Labeling Books as “Boy Books” or “Girl Books”


Screen shot from the Brightly article

Janssen writes in Let's Stop Labeling Books as "Boy Books" or "Girl Books":

“It’s such a shame when we, as parents, teachers, or librarians, automatically assume that a boy wouldn’t enjoy a story with a female protagonist.

Girls read books with male protagonists all. the. time. and no one thinks twice about it. It would be laughable for someone to see a girl reading a Harry Potter novel and say, “I can’t believe you’re reading that boy book.”

The sad truth is that often, we assume books with male main characters are for everyone, and books with female main characters are only for girls.

And this is a lose-lose situation.”

Janssen continues:

“And when we read books aloud, buy them as gifts, or help children and students pick out library books, we should rotate between novels with female and male main characters. Let children see the stories of both girls and boys as interesting, engaging, and worth exploring.”

I liked Janssen's article, though I felt it could have been written anytime in the last 50 years or more.

Today, I'd update the idea to also include books with gender nonconforming main characters -- characters who are Intersex, Trans, Gender Queer, Gender Questioning, Gender-Fluid, Nonbinary, and other gender diverse identities. More than 9% of kids today identify outside the gender binary, so including their lives – in fiction and nonfiction – for all kids to read about is also incredibly important.

And yeah, let's stop labeling books to limit who reads what.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

What's A Sales Sheet / A Tip Sheet / A One Sheet / A Sales Flyer ... And How Do You Put One Together?

Whether you're publishing yourself or you are being published by someone else, at some point there's going to be a Sales Sheet (it has lots of names) put together about your book -- promoting your book.

This article by publisher of Elva Resa Publishing and author Karen Pavlicin from the magazine of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), the IBPA Independent magazine, Anatomy of a Book Sales Sheet (…Tip Sheet, One Sheet, Sales Flyer, What-Have-You!), shares the basics, the extras, offers a template, and an example.

As Karen explains:

“A trade version of the sales sheet helps the sales reps, distribution team, reviewers, and buyers understand what sets this title apart, its key features, intended reader, and what will help the book succeed. A consumer or direct sales version of the sales sheet helps the reader connect with the book’s content, preorder the title, and learn about upcoming author events.”
A screen shot from the article showing the Sale Sheet template and example.

If you're looking at promoting your book, and understanding how this tool (whatever it's called) can help, this is well worth reading.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Insight into Big Publishing's Business Strategy - And How That Might Affect Our Career Strategies as Creators

Speaking at the Frankfurt Book Fair on October 20, 2021, and reported in Publishers Weekly, Markus Dohle, CEO of Penguin Random House, said,

"Only a few of the 15,000 titles that we publish every year round the world are going to be modern classics. So that means that failure is part of our business model - it's a portfolio business. And because of that failure... people think that something is wrong with the industry. It's not. It's part of our business model."


Keri Rae-Barnum (left) and Lee Wind (right) answer author and publisher questions on the October 22, 2021 "Free Advice Fridays" show

When I mentioned this to Keri Rae-Barnum, Executive Director of New Shelves Books, about 37 minutes into our Oct 22, 2021 "Free Advice Fridays" chat about publishing, she said that lined up with what she's heard, 

"I've talked to some big publishers and to some pretty well known agents, and they typically tell me, they're looking for about 10% of their books to really earn out and earn up. The other ones, they're gambling on. They're hoping it will be big, but they need about 10% to really make it big, to make the profit margin continue to work...  and that's crazy. I mean, it's crazy that even when you get to a big publisher, they're only looking for about 10% to really be successful."

Which circles back to the idea as an author, an illustrator, a translator, 

If you're thinking that the average is one out of ten is going to be really really successful, you've got to publish the first ten to get to that one.

Keri agreed, saying, "Multiple books is where you get the leverage at."

Definitely motivation to publish that next book!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Join this Free Spanish language webinar on Oct 29, 2021 at 1 PM Pacific: "Inclusión y diversidad racial en libros infantiles: Estados Unidos vs Latinoamérica y España"


Inclusión y diversidad racial en libros infantiles: Estados Unidos vs Latinoamérica y España Taller abierto y gratuito organizado por el equipo hispanohablante de SCBWI, liderado por Malena Fuentes Alzu (Spanish Language Coordinator). Al taller en vivo se accederá bajo previa inscripción y estará disponible para socios en durante un mes. 

Los socios SCBWI que figuren entre los 50 primeros subscritos y asistentes al taller podrán enviar su manuscrito o portfolio de ilustración a Jenny Lizárraga durante los 60 días posteriores al evento online. Jenny Lizárraga revisará si el material tiene posibilidades de publicación en su editorial

Inclusión y diversidad racial en libros infantiles: Open and free webinar organized by SCBWI's Spanish-speaking team, led by Malena Fuentes Alzu (Spanish Language Coordinator). After the live session, the workshop will be accessed by prior registration and will be available to members on for one month.

SCBWI members who are among the first 50 subscribers and who attend the workshop will be able to send their manuscript or illustration portfolio to Jenny Lizárraga during the 60 days after the online event. Jenny Lizárraga will then review the material to see if it’s possible to publish it.

Register here/registrarse aquí:

Speaker’s bio:

Jenny Lizarraga es la fundadora y CEO de Cinco Books así como co-fundadora de Green Seeds Publishing donde es la directora editorial. Green Seeds se especializa en libros bilingües en español e inglés para niños. Ha sido invitada para presentar en ferias internacionales del libro en México, Argentina, y a congresos en Estados Unidos como ALA, NABE y La Cosecha para educación dual, donde ha compartido su experiencia y conocimientos sobre la industria editorial en español, el comportamiento del mercado y la edición de libros en español como un catalizador para promover y mantener la cultura hispana y el lenguaje en Estados Unidos. Jenny es ingeniera industrial con maestrías en comunicación y finanzas corporativas. Nació y creció en Honduras para luego emigrar a Estados Unidos a continuar su educación y trabajar en pro de la cultura hispana para las comunidades hispanohablantes en Estados Unidos.

Jenny Lizarraga is the Founder and CEO of Cinco Books and the Co-founder and Chief Editor of Green Seeds Publishing, a publisher specialized in bilingual books for children. She is based in Miami and has been a speaker at the FIL Guadalajara Bookfair, Buenos Aires Bookfair, and annual conferences in the United States such as the annual ALA, NABE, and La Cosecha for Dual Education, sharing her experience in the United States with the publishing industry and advocating for the conservation of Hispanic culture and language. Jenny is an industrial engineer, she has a master’s degree in communication and an MBA in corporate finance. She was born and raised in Honduras and migrated to the United States at a young age to pursue her graduate studies and advocate for the Hispanic and Latino communities through culture and education. 


La última década ha provocado una serie de cambios vertiginosos en la industria editorial infantil y juvenil en el mundo siendo Estados Unidos un país marcado por la diversidad, migración y estigmas raciales desde sus inicios como nación. En este marco, la accesibilidad a la información y los medios de comunicación han permitido que la expresión artística de autores e ilustradores haya florecido recientemente reclamando derechos tradicionalmente negados a las comunidades de color, pueblos originarios y personas vulnerables. Esto ha impulsado una industria editorial progresiva, rebelde y con los ojos bien abiertos a pesar de las corrientes conservadoras que predominan en varias regiones del país. El despertar reflejado en las publicaciones estadounidenses no deja indiferentes a las industrias editoriales latinoamericanas y española. Ambas muestran un ferviente interés por participar en el segmento de mercado hispanohablante en Estados Unidos, un mercado que sobrepasa los 60 millones de habitantes. Esta charla tratará sobre cómo estos dos mundos se entrelazan y se mencionarán autores que han logrado adentrarse en esta maraña de ideas e ideales.


The last decade was driven by a rampant turn in children’s books, especially in the United States, which has been explicitly marked by diversity, migration, and racism from its beginning as a nation. However, the easy access to information and communication channels allowed the rebirth of artistic expressions from authors and illustrators who reclaim social justice for themselves as well as communities of color, the underrepresented, the vulnerable, and indigenous communities. As a result, we have a flourishing industry growing with pride and courage regardless of conservative groups. This awakening is reflected in children’s literature published in the United States and ignites interest in well-established publishers in Latin America and Spain who want to participate, taking into consideration the more than 60 million Spanish-speakers living in the country. In this webinar, we will explore how these worlds interact and we will mention authors who have been able to navigate successfully among these ideas and movements.

Gracias to Malena and the SCBWI Spanish-speaking team for putting this together!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,