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,