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: http://splendidmola.com/writers-happiness-challenge-2019/

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,

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The SCBWI Offers More Than 30 Grants and Awards -- Plan What You'll Submit to for 2019!

Check out all the SCBWI Awards and Grants here and below:


Manuscript Awards – Given in conjunction with the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, these awards are for promising manuscripts submitted for individual critique at the Summer Conference.
Emerging Voices Award – Established with funding from Martin and Sue Schmitt of the 455 Foundation to foster the emergence of diverse voices in children’s books.
Student Writer Scholarship – Conference tuition for full-time university students in an English or creative writing program.
Work-in-Progress Grants – To assist children’s book writers and illustrators in the completion of a specific project currently not under contract. Given in the categories of: Picture Book Text, Chapter Books/Early Readers, Middle Grade, Young Adult Fiction, Nonfiction, Multicultural Fiction or Nonfiction, and Translation.
Karen Cushman Late Bloomer Award – An award for a work-in-progress from an unpublished author over age 50.
SCBWI PJ Library Jewish Stories Award – An award sponsored by the PJ Library to encourage the creation of more high-quality Jewish children’s literature.
Ann Whitford Paul Writer’s Digest Manuscript Award – An annual award given to the manuscript of a Most Promising Picture Book manuscript.

Art Spot – Selected illustrations are chosen quarterly to be featured in the Bulletin.
Portfolio Awards – Given to the top portfolios submitted to the annual SCBWI Summer or Winter Conferences.
Student Illustrator Scholarship – Conference tuition for full-time university students studying illustration.
Narrative Art Award – Given annually to an illustrator of promise based on a given prompt.
Don Freeman Work-in-Progress Grant – To assist illustrators in the completion of a book dummy or portfolio.
Featured Illustrator – One SCBWI illustrator member is chosen each month. You must have your art uploaded to the SCBWI Illustrator Gallery to qualify.
Draw This! – A monthly art prompt, part of the SCBWI publication Insight. All submissions shown on the online gallery, and two winners featured in Insight, the website, and in social media.
Bologna Illustrator Gallery (BIG) – Given bi-annually to an illustrator of promise. The winner is announced at the New York Conference, and the winning art is displayed prominently at the SCBWI Bologna Book Fair Booth.


Book Launch Award – Provides authors or illustrators with $2,000 in funds to help promote their newly published work.
Crystal Kite Awards – Peer-given award to recognize great books from fifteen SCBWI regional divisions around the world.
Golden Kite Awards – Instituted in 1973, the Golden Kite Awards are the only children’s literary award judged by a jury of peers. The Golden Kite Awards recognize excellence in children’s literature in five categories: Young Reader and Middle Grade Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Book Text, and Picture Book Illustration.
Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Grant – Critically acclaimed children’s book author Jane Yolen created this grant to honor the contribution of mid-list authors.
Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award – The Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award recognizes and encourages the publication of an excellent book of poetry or anthology for children and/or young adults. This award is given every three years.
Magazine Merit Award – For original magazine work for young people in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Illustration, and Poetry.
Martha Weston Grant – The Martha Weston Grant was established by the Hairston Family to remember author/illustrator Martha Weston. The grant helps authors and illustrators who want to switch children’s book genres.
Sid Fleischman Award – Given with the Golden Kite Awards, an award for exemplary writing for children in the genre of humor.
Spark Award – An annual award that recognizes excellence in a children’s book published through a non-traditional publishing route.


Work-in-Progress Grants – To assist children’s book writers and illustrators in the completion of a specific project currently not under contract. Given in the categories of: Picture Book Text, Chapter Books/Early Readers, Middle Grade, Young Adult Fiction, Nonfiction, Multicultural Fiction or Nonfiction, and Translation.


Amber Brown – The Amber Brown Grant commemorates author and beloved school speaker Paula Danziger. One school is awarded each year with an author or illustrator visit and new books to continue Paula’s love of connecting children with creative influences.
Tribute Fund – The SCBWI Tribute Fund commemorates members of the children’s book community, their lives, and their work by funding all-expense scholarships to the SCBWI International Summer and Winter Conferences for the general membership.



Student Writer Scholarship – Conference tuition for full-time university students in an English or creative writing program.
Student Illustrator Scholarship – Conference tuition for full-time university students studying illustration.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Gift of Filling The Well - Advice from Julia Cameron of "The Artists Way"

Especially at holiday-time, these words of wisdom from Julia Cameron feel extra-helpful:
Art is an image-using system. In order to create, we draw from our inner well. This inner well, an artistic reservoir, is ideally like a well-stocked trout pond. We've got big fish, little fish, fat fish, skinny fish-- an abundance of artistic fish to fry. As artists, we must realize that we have to maintain this artistic ecosystem...

As artists we must learn to be self-nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them-- to restock the trout pond, so to speak. I call this process filling the well.
Is it time to fill your well? 

Happy Holidays,

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Does Your Biography Have a Character Through-Line? Martha Brockenbrough Explains a Crucial Element of Writing Successful Biographies for Young People

In this in-depth interview with Matthew Winner on The Children's Book Podcast, Martha Brockenbrough speaks about her latest book, Unpresidented: A Biography of Donald Trump.

In particularly fascinating section of their discussion (about 10:40 in), Martha shares something she faced when writing both this biography of Trump and Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary.
“If I were to sum him up, what does he want? And this is something that biographers do. Who is this person and what drives them?

Alexander Hamilton, when he wrote a letter, when he was a young man, to a girl who had dumped him, he said 'I'm going to be okay, because my motto is all for love.' And I thought about that letter, and as I looked as his life, I thought, okay, was love motivating this? And indeed it was. Here's love of country. And here's him motivated by wanting to be lovable. Very much all for love was his motto, and he lived by that.

Trump wants to win. There's that poem that he wrote when he was a little boy, I love to hear the crowd give cheer, so loud and noisy in my ears. He was writing about baseball, and how much he didn't like to lose. Trump wants to win. That's it. That's what motivates him. Whatever he needs to do to win, he will do. If that laws are in his way, he will dodge them, he will break them, he will call them stupid. If the norms of civility prevent something, he will crush those norms. Trump wants to win. If he hasn't won, he will call the other person a loser. If he's gone bankrupt, he'll call that winning by another definition—Trump wants to win.”
It's a great question to ask ourselves as writers when we face the challenge of telling the story of someone's life (or a portion of their life.) Who is this person and what drives them?

The entire The Children's Book Podcast interview with Martha is well-worth listening to!

You can learn more about Martha Brockenbrough. her nonfiction, and her fiction work here at her website.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Listen to the Latest SCBWI Podcast: A Conversation with Namrata Tripathi

Namrata Tripathi is Vice President & Publisher of Kokila, a newly-formed imprint of Penguin Young Readers that is dedicated to centering stories from the margins. In this exclusive interview with Theo Baker, Namrata shares about her journey as an editor of picture books, middle grade, and young adult titles, what she's learned on the way, and the vision behind her new imprint!

Listen to the episode trailer here.

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

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 13, 2018

A Very White 'How I Landed in Children's Books' in Publishers Weekly

Grateful for the inclusion of Ginee Seo, the one person of color highlighted in the PW article

Yes, the twenty-one stories shared in "How I Landed In Children's Books" vary a bit - Children's Book "Industry Veterans" telling us about the friend-of-a-friend, or the college roommate, or their college dean's friend, or responding to the ad... all fun and interesting how-I-made-that-first-connection that took them to children's books.

And yes, there's the opportunity to make a game of it, i.e., can you guess whose path included a failed CIA test?

 Brenda Bowen, Literary agent, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates

Yolanda Scott, Associate publisher, Charlesbridge Publishing

David Levithan, V-p, publisher, and editorial director, Scholastic

Cathy Goldsmith, President and publisher of Beginner Books, Random House Children’s Books

Elise Howard, Editor and publisher, Algonquin Young Readers

Abigail McAden, Associate publisher, Scholastic

Susan Van Metre, Executive editorial director, Walker Books U.S.

Jennifer Greene, Senior editor, Clarion Books

Hilary Van Dusen, Executive editor, Candlewick Press

Donna Bray, V-p and copublisher, Balzer + Bray, HarperCollins Children’s Books

Dinah Stevenson, Editor-at-large and former publisher, Clarion Books

Laura Godwin, V-p and publisher of Godwin Books, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

Ginee Seo, Children’s publishing director, Chronicle Books

Beverly Horowitz, Senior v-p and publisher, Delacorte Press

Charles Kochman, Editorial director, Abrams

Debra Dorfman, V-p and publisher, global licensing, brands and media, Scholastic

Liz Bicknell, Executive editorial director and associate publisher, Candlewick Press

Victoria Stapleton, Executive director of school and library marketing, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Mary Lee Donovan, Editorial director and director of editorial operations, Candlewick Press

Caroline Wells, Coordinator, desktop projects, managing editorial, HarperCollins

Kristen Pettit, Executive editor, HarperCollins Children’s Books

Yes, it's fun. And yes, these are all successful people in our industry, totally deserving of being profiled.

Yet... it's telling that out of twenty-one featured children's book industry professionals, there is only one person of color included. And, perhaps not coincidently, Ginee Seo's story was the only one that spoke of being part of a program designed to bring in promising young people to the industry.

Clearly, structured efforts to diversify children's publishing can help.

And when reporting on the industry (even in 'fun' How I Landed in Children's Publishing pieces like this one), we should be mindful that presenting children's publishing as a table with nineteen white women, one gay man, and one Asian woman sends a message that is not particularly inclusive...

And if we want to bring more diversity to our industry, we should add more chairs to that table (and more profiles to these kinds of articles), enough for editors and agents and marketing and sales people of color, people who are disabled, and  people who are LGBTQ, too.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

"The World’s on Fire. Can We Still Talk About Books?" - A reminder of the importance of what we do

This essay, The World’s on Fire. Can We Still Talk About Books?, by Rebecca Makkai at Electric Lit is so spot-on!

Rebecca asks something I know many of us are grappling with:
Is it really okay to talk about art right now? To leave the real and broken world behind and talk about fictional ones?
Highlights of her essay:
The idea that art is born of leisure, during times of peace, is a simplistic romance, a non-artist’s daydream.
Of course, it’s one thing to believe in Angels in America, to believe in Picasso’s Guernica, and another to believe in your own sloppy first draft, or in a picture book about a monkey. One thing to fight for the first amendment, and another to retweet an invite for your friend’s poetry reading. It’s hard to feel you’re helping the world by announcing your Pushcart nomination.

But the exercise of freedom is a de facto defense of that same freedom. Freely making art, and freely talking about the art you made, is valuable in and of itself when free expression is being eroded. If anyone’s still taking that freedom for granted, it’s time to wake up and smell the history.
The whole piece is well-worth reading!

Illustrate and Write On, 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to Deliver Remarks at SCBWI Golden Kite Awards Gala!

U.S. Supreme Court Justice — and children's book author — Sonia Sotomayor (photo credit: Elena Seibert)

This is exciting!

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will deliver remarks at the Golden Kite Awards Gala on Friday, February 8, 2019, with a talk entitled How I Became a Reader.

Justice Sotomayor is the author of two books for young readers: Turning Pages: My Life Story (Philomel)

and The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor (Delacorte).

Each attendee at the Golden Kite Gala will receive a signed copy of one of Justice Sotomayor’s books. The Golden Kite Gala kicks off the 2019 annual Winter Conference in New York City. The conference is sold out, but you can follow all the happenings with the hashtag:


So much to look forward to!

Illustrate and Write On,