Friday, September 18, 2020

DW. 3.1. Writing Identity Elements into Our Stories: David Bowles, S.K. Ali & Linda Sue Park

It’s been a long few weeks away from our Digital Workshop series, but now we are BACK -- with more Children’s book creators ready to take up our computer screens. This means more writing, more inspiration, and trying our hardest not to let quarantine stop us from gifting kids with the magic of storytelling. Possibly our brand new Digital Workshop time (4pm PDT/ 7pm EDT) will help those of us returning to a world outside of work from home, as well? 

Kicking it off with our first workshop, we not only have one talented author, but three. David Bowles, S.K. Ali, and Linda Sue Park discuss “Writing Identity Elements into Our Stories,” a topic all writers are exploring right now and onwards, no matter your race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. “The more you read and learn and grow, the more culturally competent you become,” April Powers (SCBWI Equity & Inclusion Officer) says while introducing the workshop. While listening to Bowles, Ali and Park, we learn how. 

All three authors discuss their process of finding inspiration -- both from their own personal lives, and from walks of life they see around them. 

“I think a lot of writers don’t understand that a lot of young girls look up to [hijabs] because it's almost like trying on your mom's high heels… I took it from that [perspective], because it's the authenticity I lived through. I did a lot of contextualizing [from my own identity],” says S.K. Ali 

David Bowles discusses the importance of specification in our stories. Personal experience adds the realism needed for minority children to feel welcome and seen in literature. “There are as many ways as being Mexican American as there are Mexican Americans,” he says. “Rooting ourselves in where we are is beneficial for all kinds of people.”

Linda Sue Park found inspiration for her newest middle grade novel Prairie Lotus from the Little House on the Prairie novels; “I wanted to dismantle the little house… in order to dismantle that story, I wanted to use that setting. But I ran into a problem - there were no Koreans. So how was I going to put myself into the story?” S.K. Ali says similarly to her work, and advises young writers to do the same: “Don’t go by the cannon that came before you; because the cannon didn’t include you.” 

So - “who decides what a classic is, anyway?” asks April Powers as the Digital Workshop comes to a close. “It’s up to us to decide what a classic is for the next generation.” Every single child deserves to see themselves reflected across the pages of classics to come. I guess that means it’s time for all of us to get writing. 

~ Until next Thursday, book-loving, SCBWI friends ~

Avery Silverberg, SCBWI HQ Admin Assistant 

You can find me via email: 

You can also find me via Bookstagram (Instagram):

Twitter @averyfastreader 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

A Helpful List of "Things to Consider When Writing a Picture Book Biography"

Posted last year on the Highlights Foundation blog, Donna Janell Bowman's list of points to consider when writing a picture book biography is really helpful, as is the pull-quote "Tell compelling true stories that read like fiction."

Here's Donna's point about Narrative Arc:
What events led to your character’s meaningful contribution? Though this is an over-simplified definition, a story usually involves a character who faces internal and/or external obstacles while in pursuit of their goal. Their journey–the active plot–is the narrative arc where stuff happens. For example, an encyclopedic entry might read: The Great Blondin performed on a tightrope over the Niagara River in 1859. That is fact. But crafting a beginning, middle, and end that includes historical context, character insight, and how Blondin overcame skeptics, dangers, and an obstacle-riddled process to achieve his goal, is a narrative arc.
The post also covers theme, point of view, structure, and more. Read the full text here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A New Series of #SCBWIDigital Workshops "3.0" Start September 17, 2020

As a benefit just for SCBWI members, another round (#3) of amazing digital workshops with stars in the world of children's literature has been announced, and it starts this Thursday at 4pm Pacific/7pm Eastern with "Writing Identity Elements Into Our Stories" with authors David Bowles, S.K. Ali, and Linda Sue Park.

Now held on Thursdays at 4pm Pacific/7pm Eastern, the series includes seven more workshops:

On September 24, "The ABC's of Poetry" with author Lesléa Newman.

On October 1, "How and Why We Translate Books for Children" with children's book translators Emily Balistrieri, Helen Wang, and Cathy Hirano, moderated by translator Avery Fischer Udagawa.

On October 8, "Battling the Shadow: Tools for Being the Hero of Your Creative Process During Challenging Times" with Kendra Levin, Editorial Director, Simon & Schuster

On October 15, "Revising for Plot" with authors Elana K. Arnold and Brandy Colbert.

On October 22, "Picture-Making from a New Perspective: Crafting Illustrations that Captivate an Audience" with illustrator James Ransome

On October 29, "Transforming the Personal" with author Eric Gansworth

and on November 19, "The Exploding Nonfiction Market: Finding Your Opportunities and Inspirations in Informational Books" with Melissa Manlove, Senior Editor, Chronicle Books.

Click here to read more about each session, and learn about the workshop faculty. Registration will open the Monday before the workshop and is open to the first 5,000 to sign up - after that, the sessions will be available as a recording for an entire month.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Gail Carson Levine Takes A Character Political... And She's Joined By Other Children's Book Authors and Illustrators

Would you take one of your characters and put them out on social media saying who they would vote for?

In a recent message for Authors and Illustrators for Children, Gail Carson Levine, author of Ella Enchanted, did just that.

Gail Carson Levine's message that Ella of Ella Enchanted would vote in the upcoming U.S. Presidential Election

Gail wrote:
“Some of you may have seen my "Ella Would Vote" piece on social media in 2018, which I am releasing again. If you haven't, the idea is that Ella of ELLA ENCHANTED, once she threw off the curse of obedience, would never fail to exercise her options, and she would always vote. I'd love it if all the writers and illustrators in AIC would write something for the characters they've created along the same lines of "___ Would Vote", because we write or draw characters who have opinions and agency, even if they're kids or animals.

Our characters are likely to hit a soft, unarmored place in our now grown-up readers, or in parents who are reading our stories to their children. We can end by saying that we (and our characters) plan to vote for Biden-Harris.

Many writers and artists are worried about the possible effect on sales if they bring a character into the political arena. But look at what we are facing! It’s time to stand up for our children’s future...”
And it's not just Gail! Dan Gutman joined in, posting:

I hope that ALL the characters in my books would vote if they were old enough. It’s our civic duty. But I know one character for sure who would do ANYTHING to make sure he cast his ballot--Judson Moon from “The Kid Who Ran For President.”
And Iza Trapani, posting:

"Gabe & Goon & Vole & Troll would vote because they learned that friendship is more important than differences!" says @IzaTrapani. "I'm voting for #BidenHarris to rescue & reunite our country!" Thank you, Iza! #SaveDemocracy #ForOurChildren #BlackLivesMatter #Equality #AIforC2020
And Alex Flinn, posting:

"Kyle in Beastly would #vote for #BidenHarris because he'd want a president to end this pandemic & make it safe to go out. During his quarantine, Kyle developed kindness & compassion. He knows how important it is for those in power to care about others." @alex_flinn #AIforC2020

What's Authors and Illustrators for Children? As they explain on their website,

Authors & Illustrators for Children (AIC) is an organization of children’s book creators and associates committed to vote, campaign, and speak out for candidates and policies to create a safe, healthy, and inspired future for children everywhere.

You can find out more by following the hashtag #AIforC2020 and at the organization's website,

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

An Amazing Opportunity from SCBWI Mid Atlantic - Researching at the Smithsonian Libraries–Free Webinar for SCBWI Members

This sounds so cool!
Date(s) - 09/22/2020
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

The Smithsonian Libraries is the largest museum library system in the word, with over 2.5 million collection items and expert staff answering our 20,000 reference questions per year. In this session, you’ll learn more about the Smithsonian Libraries and explore how you can use Smithsonian resources for your work, from near or far. Join Outreach Librarian Erin Clements Rushing and Mid-Atlantic SCBWI Non-Fiction Coordinator Marcie Atkins for an evening of learning about Smithsonian research resources. The event will be held on 22 September from 7:00 pm to about 8:30 pm (Eastern Daylight Time).
Find out more and sign up here.

Illustrate and Write On,

P.S. Thanks to Maria for the heads-up on this one!

Thursday, September 3, 2020

BBC Highlights "Surprising Secrets of Writers’ First Book Drafts"

This article, "Surprising secrets of writers’ first book drafts" was fascinating while at the same time being a little horrifying. I'm not sure I would want anyone reading the first draft of any of my books...

Proust's madeleine? "started out as a slice of toast and a cup of tea."

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, in the first draft, was detective Sherrinford Hope.

And Oscar Wilde censored himself before being censored further by his editor and then booksellers. "The Picture of Dorian Gray, his best-known work, began life as a short story, and as the manuscript shows, his changes incorporated a degree of self-censoring. References to Basil Hallward’s relationship with Dorian are toned down. Basil talks of Dorian’s ‘good looks’ instead of his ‘beauty’, while his ‘passion’ becomes ‘feeling’.”

Is knowing all this deflating or inspiring? After all, writing is rewriting, really. Maybe it's a mix.

Read the full piece here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

"You Don't Suck At Color" - Chris Beatrice Explains Value

This post at Muddy Colors, You Don't Suck At Color, is fascinating. Chris takes the same image, of a fictitious “Horace Cunningham, avid opera goer and hardboiled police detective" and illustrates (pun intended) how value functions, and how it functions separately from color.

Super fascinating, and hopefully helpful to those of you who illustrate for children and teens.

There's also an explanation of highlights (specular highlights) and shadow (occlusion shadows) and how they add to the values of an image as well.

Illustrators - go check out the full post here.

My thanks to Elizabeth Dulemba who shouted out to this post in her excellent links list.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Bulletin is Now Online!

The 2020 Summer SCBWI Bulletin is the first all-digital edition of SCBWI's beloved magazine.

There's so much to explore behind Vashti Harrison's beautiful cover image, including:

An introduction to April Powers, SCBWI's new Chief Equity & Inclusion Officer

An article by Lisa Rogers that includes a helpful sidebar, "10 Tips for a Virtual Book Event"

An interview with Vashti Harrison about the cover,

An article by Linda Joy Kattwinkel, "Illustrators: Be Careful What You Post on Social Media"

and so much more!

To view The Bulletin, just log into your profile page at scbwi.org and click on PUBLICATIONS, then on The SCBWI Bulletin in the dropdown menu.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Listen to the Latest SCBWI Podcast: A Conversation with Yuyi Morales

Author/Illustrator Yuyi Morales has won the Caldecott Honor, The New York Times Best Illustrated Book, and Multiple Pura Belpré Awards. In this conversation with Theo Baker, Yuyi speaks of how children’s books became her companions and passion, offers insights into her creative process, and considers the impact joining SCBWI – and winning the Don Freeman Grant – had on her career.

Listen to the episode trailer here.

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

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Tomie dePaola Masterclass Released for Free

All of us in SCBWI and the children’s book community lost a dear friend and artist in Tomie dePaola. Anyone who has been lucky enough to dine or converse with him, or simply to be near his great big gregarious spirit, knows that he was the genuine article: a singular personality, and a master artist.

As we mourn his loss, we also want to celebrate his incredible body of work and his long and dear friendship with our organization. 

We are making available to members his entire Master Class DVD that he shot with Lin Oliver, where the two of them go in depth and discuss the modern picture book, a form he helped to invent and elevate. With outsized generosity, Tomie breaks down the history of the picture book, his approach, his working methods—everything you’d want to know about how he crafts a work of art for children. Tomie was incredibly proud of this Master Class. So please enjoy it, and pull a book or three of his off the shelf.

In a discussion with Lin Oliver, the master class is PACKED with insights, information, and inspiration.

Here's a quote from just the first minutes:

“If the words are more important than the pictures, that would be an illustrated storybook.... For me, the picturebook, once the child has had the book read to them, they can remember the story just by looking at the pictures.” —Tomie dePaola

Members can visit this page on the scbwi website to watch the class!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Children's Writers and Illustrators Who Also Work In the Industry

Featured last month in Publishers Weekly, this article by Pooja Makhijani, Children’s Writers Who Wear Multiple Hats, was a fascinating look into how for a number of notable creatives working in children's books, their day jobs are ALSO in children's books!

(And they have day-jobs, something we don't talk about a lot, but maybe we should.)

With shout outs and weigh-ins by Daniel Nayeri, Mallory Kass, Eric Smith, Andrea Davis Pinkney, John Cusick, Andrew Arnold, Grace Maccarone, Arthur Levine, Jonah Newman, and Patrice Caldwell, it's well-worth reading.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Elephant in the Room: To Include COVID-19 In Your Contemporary Fiction or Not?

Over at the BookBaby Blog, in the post The Coronavirus: The Elephant in the Room, Steven Spatz asks:
"As a writer, what do you do if your book is set in the present, but the Coronavirus pandemic thwarts your story?"
With over 80 comments, there are a range of strategies, from adapting your work to include the pandemic, mentioning it in passing, ignoring it all-together by backdating or future-dating your story, and variations of all three.

If nothing else, it's good to know many other authors are thinking about how the current inflection points (of both the COVID-19 pandemic impact and Black Lives Matter being centered) will affect what they create.

Illustrate and Write On,