Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Listen to the Latest SCBWI Podcast: A Conversation with Susan Dobinick

Senior Editor at Bloomsbury Kids Susan Dobinick speaks with Theo Baker about the lessons she’s learned as an editor, shares advice for nonfiction authors, and tells us what she’s hoping to find.

Listen to the episode trailer here.

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

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, October 22, 2020

BookBub Gathers 20 Great Examples of Author Bios - See If You Can Improve Yours!

Diana Urban shares strong examples of author bios on the BookBub Partners blog in this piece, Writing Your Author Bio? Here Are 20 Great Examples. (Plus a Checklist!)

Review and consider- what makes you unique and credible? Have you made it easy for readers to find you online and in social media? Does it express your personal style? Is there an author mission coming through? Does it match the tone of your work? And with all that, is it concise?

It's well-worth checking out.

Illustrate and Write On,


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

DW 3.5: Elana K. Arnold and Brandy Colbert


Revising for Plot: Elana K. Arnold and Brandy Colbert 

  Let me fill you in on a little secret: both my copies of What Girls Are Made Of (Elana K. Arnold) and Little and Lion (Brandy Colbert) are annotated, worn from turning the pages, and well-loved. So naturally, coming into Elana and Brandy’s workshop, I was well prepared for the level of inspiration I was about to receive from both best-selling authors. What I wasn’t prepared for? The amount of brand new writer’s knowledge I walked away with, ready to be added to an arsenal of fresh tools. 

For a gal like me who despises math, I found myself loving it during Digital Workshop #5! Elana and Brandy introduced the concept, “Revision Math,” including addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of the revision process. “Revision is a lot like analyzing; writing is the craft of playing…” says Elana. Revision is, “why did I do this?” and, “how can I make it better?” 

Brandy on addition versus subtraction: “You want every part of your book to serve the story. Nothing should be filler. Look for specific instances that you think can enrich the scene. Anything that you think can enhance it.”

When it comes to adding, the authors encourage us not to be afraid of “trying too much.” Brandy encourages the audiences to experiment with adding a community of characters, building empathy, and a feeling for strangers. Sometimes we are afraid of adding characters who don’t stay for the entirety of our novel. “Community becomes a character,” says Elana. “They are like the Greek Chorus.” 

Last week with Kendra Levin, we spent time discussing how anxiety impacts our creative lives. It was a fitting note to end on, having Lin ask each author about how anxiety affects their own writing. Elena K. Arnold even admits to having what she calls her "anxiety chair" (helpful tip!) where she talks to her anxiety“Yes you are a part of me. When I want my character to feel anxiety, I will give you the keyboard.” 

*Hey, Alexa: Please search ‘anxiety chair’ on Amazon*

Until next week ~

Your Children's Book loving, SCBWI Admin Assistant

Avery Silverberg

Follow me on Bookstagram for YA/MG Book Reviews @a.very.fast.reader

Twitter @averyfastreader

Getting it Right: Don Tate Shares His Visual Research Process for Illustrating "Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions"

In this blog post, “Whoosh!” Research and texting with Lonnie Johnson, illustrator Don Tate considers the challenges of illustrating this nonfiction picture book (written by Chris Barton), and shares how Don ultimately connected directly with the book's subject to get things right.

Just one example: 

The beginning of the story begins with young Lonnie Johnson being creative in his make-shift kitchen workshop, with various things from the junk yard spread across the table. An early version of the manuscript mentioned a Chinaberry shooter in the scene. What in the heck was that? A quick Google returned several results. I created a sketch, but I was unsure. Below was my guess as to what his shooter might have looked like:

The text between images reads:

After our phone conversation, I realized my guess was wrong. I created another quick sketch and texted it off to Mr. Johnson. He answered my question with his own sketch of what his shooter would have looked like and how it would have worked. I wasn’t too far off, but now I had what I needed to be 100-percent correct!

While Don's ultimate solution of texting back and forth with his book's subject is unique, it does make the point that illustrators have to do their research as well - and sometimes, it's even more specific than the research writers need to do!

Read the full blog post here - it's well-worth it.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Learn How To Draw a Face -- and Eyes! -- From Caldecott Award-winning Paul O. Zelinsky (courtesy of the Society of Illustrators)

Check out Paul's art tips in this remarkable video (it says it's part of their "Draw Along Videos" for kids but really it's for anyone interested in drawing people -- at whatever age you are.)

A Screen Shot from "Draw This! Paul O. Zelinsky"

The bit about where the pupil goes and how the eyelid is affected made me realize three things:

1) Paul is a seriously amazing illustrator.

2) To draw well, you really need to observe carefully - and illustrate what you see, not what you think you see.

3) I could observe faces more carefully.

I hope you'll enjoy this, too! (Click to learn more about Paul and watch the video.) 

Illustrate and Write On,


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

DW 3.4: Kendra Levin


    When is the last time you started a writer’s workshop by taking a deep, relaxing breath instead of holding one in?

    If you attended last week’s Digital Workshop 3.4 with Simon & Schuster editor director Kendra Levin, you did. And for the first time in all of quarantine, you most likely felt relaxed about your creative pursuits, as well. When Kendra Levin takes her editorial director hat off, she has quite a few others to put on — life coach and author too. It is because of her many jobs that she has acquired the tools to help writers with the creative process. 

 “The hero’s journey is a metaphor for the creative process,” she says, comparing the feeling of embarking on a journey/ the hero’s call to adventure to a writer starting their project. The writer — or in this case, the hero — ends with a boone, a precious project, and the feeling of accomplishment. "Seeing yourself as a hero on a journey is helpful as a powerful tool of self-actualization," says Kendra Levin. She relays the experience to the 3 key elements of a happy life: meaning, hope, and purpose.

Kendra also provided tools for fighting writing anxiety — something we all know too well right now, especially under the state of our current world. "If you are feeling anxiety, turn down the volume on everything else, listen to the voice, and think: Is this an internalized voice from childhood? Is this a voice you developed as a protective measure?" Identifying where these voices are coming from (just like we would in a manuscript!) helps relieve anxiety, and places it somewhere other than ourselves. 

Remember: you can relive Kendra Levin's workshop for the next month on our website here. When the voices kick in, telling you: "you're writing a book?!? Are you KIDDING me?" — listen to Kendra's words, and believe you are the only one on this earth capable of telling your story. Some of us go to therapy, others write books. Maybe you do both. After all, as Kendra Levin says: "therapy is the story we tell about our lives." 

Until next time for Digital Workshop #5 on "Revising Plot" with Brandy Colbert and Elana K. Arnold... 

Avery Silverberg 

SCBWI Admin Assistant 

SCBWI Members can submit a short story for "The Haunted States of America"

It's going to be a trade book connecting SCBWI member-takes on spooky state stories!

Here's the project description:

Godwin Books, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers, in conjunction with SCBWI, is putting together a collection of fifty-two short stories, one for each of the fifty states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Nationally known or relatively unheard of, based in fact or based entirely in local lore, these stories should capture the spooky side of the U.S. All story authors will be chosen from the SCBWI membership.

We’re actively looking for authors from underrepresented communities as well as traditional communities—our goal is to have a diversity of creators and a diversity of tellings. We hope you will put your own spin on the story, your own voice and/or background, to ensure that the story is relevant to our contemporary times. We welcome submissions from both first time and more established authors.

Some guidelines:
•Up to 1,300 words
•For a middle-grade audience (nine- to twelve-years-old)
•Inspired by local/regional events or myths
•Written by someone who has a personal connection to the state featured in their story (i.e., lives in that state currently or previously lived there for at least three to five years)

Get all the details here, and good luck with your submission!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, October 8, 2020

SCBWI & Smithsonian Team Up To Present An Online Nonfiction Workshop - November 6-7, 2020


This digital collaboration between SCBWI and the Smithsonian Institution for nonfiction children's book writers sounds amazing! 

Hosted on Zoom, with the video recordings available through November 22nd, the schedule includes:

Keynotes (from the likes of Carole Boston Weatherford,  Kevin Noble Maillard, and Elizabeth Partridge, 

Panels on aligning your book to curriculum, age, and reading level, an editors panel on the current market for Nonfiction, another editors panel where they'll give feedback on query letters, an authors panel on creative approaches to writing nonfiction and another authors panel on nonfiction writing as a personal journey, and 

breakout sessions on STEM, History/Social Science, Culture, and Biography!

Click here to read about all the programming, and sign up if it sounds right for you!

Illustrate and Write On,


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Creating in the Face of Challenges - The ALA's List of the "Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the Past Decade"


The American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom has tallied the numbers, “reviewing both the public and confidential censorship reports it received.”

Noting that they estimate 82-97% of challenges remain unreported, they list the Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books from 2010 through 2019.

Here are the top 20:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Looking for Alaska by John Green
George by Alex Gino
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
Internet Girls (series) by Lauren Myracle
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Bone (series) by Jeff Smith
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss
Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg

Books for kids and teens, classics, books celebrating diversity, books including LGBTQ characters and themes... Take a few minutes and read the full list. And then, go create what you think kids and teens need to read anyway.

Because we can't let the prejudices of some prevent everyone else from finding the books they want, the books that could make their lives better.

As Ellen Hopkins - who has FOUR books on the top 100 list (Crank, Burned, Glass, and Tricks) - said in an interview back in 2009, when asked, “Why do you think people want to stop others from reading something they don't like?”
“I think some of them have the purest of motives... maybe we can make "those bad people" become "good people like me." Or, they think they can protect kids by not letting them read about the bad things in life. Uh, seriously? Get real. As I say in my Manifesto poem, ‘ignorance is no armor’ against the things kids see/face/deal with/ choose to do or not to do every day.” –Ellen Hopkins
Illustrate and Write On,

Monday, October 5, 2020

DW 3.3: How and Why We Translate Books for Children

Stories make up who we are and where we come from. Naturally, the same story is going to be dramatically different, depending on who is the one telling it. For the first time since we’ve begun our Digital Workshop series, our hosts are Children’s Book Translators, Emily Balistrieri, Helen Wang, Cathy Hirano; Moderated by Avery Fischer Udagawa. The intended audience for this workshop wasn’t other translators, but rather, the entirety of the children’s book community. In this workshop, viewers gained a deeper understanding and perspective into the creativity such as the process of translating a children’s book from one language to another. 

Literary translation is the art of conveying a story in a new language, and conveying the text as moving as the original; this involves translating cultural context that may be unwritten. All translators mentioned that being in the mindset of the author is essential. It is an art, matching the rhythm, word choice, and timing to that of the original pages. 

Children's Books in English Translation Published in the US 1994-2019 

If you are an author whose work gets translated, I hope this panel has opened your eyes up to the humanity of this process. Children’s book translation is an art. Just as you get a different story from a different author -- when you see a children's book translated by a different person, you will get an entirely different book!

SCBWI members who missed this workshop can view it on our site here for the next month: https://www.scbwi.org/scbwi-digital-workshops-archive/. Please join us this coming Thursday for Simon & Schuster editorial director, Kendra Levin: "Tools for Being the Hero of your Creative Process During Challenging Times."

Your trusted, Book-Obsessed, SCBWI Admin Assistant

Avery Silverberg

follow me on IG for YA/MG book reviews! @a.very.fast.reader

baby book story reading GIF

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The 2020 SCBWI Narrative Art Award is Open for Submissions (Until October 20, 2020)

Here's the Assignment:

Submit a narrative sequence based on the theme, “Silver Lining.” For anyone unfamiliar with the expression, Merriam-Webster defines it as “a consoling or hopeful prospect.” It stems from the phrase “every cloud has a silver lining.”

– The submission will consist of three sequential images, without text.

– Your art style and visual story must be appropriate for one of these two specific audiences/book genres (Choose one):

Full color, intended for a picture book for 4 to 7-year-olds
– OR –
Black and white, intended for a Middle Grade book for 8 to 11-year-olds


The judges will look for images that tell a visual story or incident with clarity and nuance. The images should reflect a range and progression of mood and emotion. The narrative qualities of the submission will be considered, as will the effectiveness of the design and composition of the image.


The prize is free tuition to the Virtual SCBWI Winter Conference. The winning illustrations will be displayed during the online Portfolio Showcase (in conjunction with the conference), and the winner will be acknowledged during the live awards ceremony at the Winter Conference, as well as on social media.

Good luck!

Illustrate On,


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

DW 3.2: Leslea Newman, The ABC's of Poetry

This workshop began with a special note from Lin Oliver, reminding us to wear a mask, so let me do the same. Wear a mask! Protect yourself, others - and why not have a cute writer's life/bookish mask like Lin's too, right? 

   Click here to check out some of my personal favorite Bookish face masks, curtesy of Out of Print.


Leslea Newman started her career as a literary poet for adults, until one day, she was encouraged to write for children and her world changed. She realized she could combine her two greatest passions, strengthening children's knowledge of poetry and their love for the field, as well.

It takes a lot for “non-poetry” people to get excited by the form - until, of course, we have a legend, such as Leslea Newman herself, explaining the magic behind stanzas and rhyme schemes. “Poetry has a bad rep,” Leslea said, during last Thursday’s Digital Workshop 3.2. “A lot of people think ‘I’m not going to understand it’ or ‘it’s too depressing’ while I turn to it in times of deep grief and joy…” Most do not realize just how poetic the children’s book industry truly is, starting with the most obvious answer: picture books. Depending on the form you choose, poetry can formulate the structure of your picture book, in a seamless and rhythmic manner. This is why our voice moves up and down, in a sing-song voice, while reciting works to our children, or performing a read aloud in a classroom. Poetry is also a staple in middle grade and young adult books, with novels in verse taking over the market. 

Leslea’s workshop, “The ABC’s of Poetry” covered a breakdown of the basic poetic forms: Formal Poetry, Simple Forms (Rhyming couplets, four-line stanzas), Complex Forms (couplets, internal rhyming scheme), Ballad, Haiku, Pantoum, Villanelle, and Sestina. If you have yet to download Leslea’s informative poetry handout, please do so here: https://bit.ly/2RUBu4D

Thank you, Leslea, for such an informative workshop. This coming Thursday, we welcome children's book translators to our screens: Emily Balistrieri, Helen Wang, Catchy Hirano, moderated by Avery Fischer Udagawa, discussing "How and Why we Translate Books for Children."

Until Thursday,

Avery Silverberg

@a.very.fast.reader IG/ @averyfastreader Twitter