Thursday, September 16, 2021

Nonfiction Author Steve Sheinkin is Interviewed Over at Shelf Awareness

Steve Sheinkin's nonfiction for young readers has won numerous awards, and now with the publication of his latest, Fallout: Spies, Superbombs, and the Ultimate Cold War Showdown, he chats with Lana Barnes over at Shelf Awareness about researching and writing nonfiction for teens.

A couple of standout moments:

“it's easy to find exciting true stories to tell. And the research, the nerdy detective work, is actually fun. Kids often accuse me of doing homework for a living, and I admit it. But the thing is, I get to pick the assignment, and that makes all the difference. The hardest part is figuring out how to work the needed background information into a story without killing the momentum.”


“I always start with libraries and good old-fashioned books. Just find a nonfiction book on a subject you're interested in (in this case, the Berlin Wall), and take notes on the people and storylines that are most intriguing. Then you can start to narrow the search, to hunt for more details on those figures, using other books, online sources, newspaper archives, interviews--whatever it takes.”


“I really believe true stories can be just as much fun to read as novels, and I'm trying to prove it. In terms of takeaways, my number-one goal is always to make readers curious. I hope they'll come away wanting to know more, inspired to dig deeper into whatever part of the story they found most compelling.”

Read the full interview here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Cover Letter Inspiration - Benedict Cumberbatch Reads "The Best Cover Letter Ever Written"

This is pretty amazing!

Posted by Letters Live, here's the setup:

In 1934, a New York copywriter by the name of Robert Pirosh quit his well-paid job and headed for Hollywood, determined to begin the career of his dreams as a screenwriter. When he arrived, he gathered the names and addresses of as many directors, producers and studio executives as he could find, and sent them what is surely one of the greatest, most effective cover letters ever to be written; a letter which secured him three interviews, one of which led to his job as a junior writer at MGM.

Fifteen years later, screenwriter Robert Pirosh won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his work on the war film, Battleground. A few months after that, he also won a Golden Globe.

To read Pirosh's amazing cover letter, here's Benedict Cumberbatch (originally performed at Freemason's Hall, London). Click here to watch the under-two-minute video.

Working on your own cover letter? Imagine how it would sound if Benedict read it... 

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, September 9, 2021

What's The Future of Author Events? Online? In-Person? Hybrid? - Shelf Awareness Reports on Last Week's ABA Children's Institute Panel

Reporting over at Shelf Awareness, Alex Mutter writes about the American Booksellers Association's August 31, 2021, Children's Institute panel discussion, Ci9: The Future of Events.

Moderated by Brein Lopez, manager of Children's Book World in Los Angeles, California, the panelists were: Lara Phan, director of account marketing at Penguin Random House; Erica Barmash, senior director of marketing and publicity at Bloomsbury; and Melissa Campion, senior director of author events at Macmillan.

The recap of the discussion touches on hybrid tours as distinct from hybrid events, adjusting sales expectations for online events, and even what times work best for what kinds of events. Lara Phan shared data drawn from 1,700 online events Penguin Random House authors did between March 2020 and March 2021 that led them to conclude:

“For children's events, afternoon sessions at around 2 or 3 p.m., which on weekdays would be around the time that virtual schooling concluded, did well, and Mondays and Saturdays were solid choices for days of the week.”

If you're wondering about the future of your author/translator/illustrator events, the full article is well worth reading.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Movement to Dismantle the Dewey Decimal System

As reported recently in their article Move Over, Melvil! Momentum Grows to Eliminate Bias and Racism in the 145-year-old Dewey Decimal System by Christina Joseph over at School Library Journal

"a growing number of school and youth librarians" are calling out the systemic bias in the, well, system.

The article explains the folks trying to change things claim that,

“Dewey’s approaches to categorizing books were racist and sexist. For instance, Black history is not part of American history; ‘women’s work’ is a separate category from jobs; non-Christian religious holidays are situated with mythology and religion; and LGBTQ+ works were once shelved under ‘perversion’ or ‘neurological disorders’ before landing in the ‘sexual orientation’ category.”

It's a fascinating article that goes into just some of the efforts being made to re-examine, and in some cases, come up with ways to, as one school librarian put it, “do better for my kiddos.”

Click here to read the full piece over at School Library Journal.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Nova Ren Suma Shares a New Technique for Authors Revisioning Our Revision

Nova Ren Suma is the #1 New York Times Bestselling author of The Walls Around Us and A Room Away from the Wolves, both finalists for an Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Novel. 

On her Instagram feed recently, Nova posted this advice, which I share here with her kind permission:

When feeling intimidated or overwhelmed about a novel revision, here’s a re-visioning revision technique I just tried out on myself late last night:

Before starting a deep revision, before re-outlining or anything else…

1) Write/revise a new opening paragraph or two.

2) Then, leap all the way to the end and write a brand-new final paragraph, imagining you made all the changes you and your editor (or readers) want, even the ones that feel like a tangled nest of questions at the moment.

It feels like manifesting the future from dust into something tangible. Magic.

Certainly worth trying! Thanks, Nova!

Learn more at Nova's website here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Have You Checked Out the 52 Grants and Awards SCBWI Offers Members?

Check out the SCBWI Awards and Grants page on the SCBWI website, with all the current opportunities organized into seven categories: 



PAL Published

Independently Published


Community Grants 

SCBWI Partnered Grants & Awards

Just one of the opportunities listed at the SCBWI Awards and Grants page

Each grant listing also includes information letting you know if is is currently taking submissions. SCBWI Awards and Grants is a great page to bookmark as you pursue your career in children's and teen literature!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Laura Davis Weighs the Hard Choices of Writing Memoir

In this Publishers Weekly opinion soapbox piece, Writers Who Make Hard Choices, Laura shares the “agonizing soul-searching” that went into deciding to tell her truth while at the same time knowing it will hurt people she loves.

Laura considers how her first book launched the incest survivor empowerment movement, and the importance, with her new book about to publish, of “offering this story to the unknown readers with whom my journey may deeply resonate.”

If you're working on a memoir, Writers Who Make Hard Choices is well-worth reading.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Authors Guild Answers: When Should Authors Create an LLC or S Corp?

Check out this FORMING AN ENTITY webinar recording on the Authors Guild site.

Here's the description:

Your writing career is a business, but is it beneficial to incorporate? Many authors are best served by operating as sole proprietorships, yet there are many circumstances that can make it advantageous to form an LLC or S corp. Entertainment lawyer Daniel Sheerin will join us to discuss the legal requirements and ramifications of forming an entity as an author, and we’ll hear about the potential tax benefits of doing so from accountant Robert Pesce, treasurer of the Authors Guild Foundation. Moderated by Erin Lowry. 

This webinar addresses questions such as:  

•At what income threshold is it worth it to form an entity?  

•How much more complicated will my taxes be?  

•Does incorporating protect me personally in the event of a lawsuit?  

•When is an LLC or S corp better for an author? 

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Are Your Characters Dealing With Trauma?

In this article in Electric Lit, “Shadow and Bone” Helped Me Combat My Imposter Syndrome, Meera Vijayann poses the question/opportunity:

“The tendency of writers to focus on the future of their characters without examining their present is a missed opportunity; because it is well-documented that children do not merely outgrow their trauma. Their personalities are shaped by it, and usually, their futures are ruined by the effect it has on their minds.”

Meera considers how 

“Time and time again, throughout the Grishaverse trilogy, Alina peels away her trauma layer by layer, until all that’s left is the person she was truly meant to be.”

and writes, 

“I’m hopeful that Bardugo’s audacity to redefine feminine strength will shape young adult fiction. In refusing to write around trauma, instead writing directly through it, she allows Alina Starkov to become consumed and haunted by it and eventually, develop the strength to fight back and overcome it. It is healing through confrontation. It is a different kind of pain, and a necessary one that we need more of our literary heroines to go through.”

The characters we create model so much for young readers... and Meera's analysis is fascinating to consider. Read the full article here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Where Are The Fat Children In Picture Books? - Ashlie Swicker Asks Over at BookRiot

6 year olds giggling - in a laughing at others way - when Ashlie read them the word "fat" in Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar sparked the piece in BookRiot. 

Where are the Fat Children in Picture Books? is important reading - Ashlie shares not just the impact of fat-shaming culture, but also the need for joyful inclusion. Here's an excerpt:

“Many people honestly do not believe fat children deserve representation. They believe fat kids need to be FIXED. We live in a time where there is a War on Childhood Obesity. And for all the shaming and warnings about how large children are unhealthy, nothing is changing in the data. It’s almost as if humiliation and mockery will not change outcomes. To anyone who wants to fight that fat kids can’t be in books because they need to be healthy, I am here to tell you that thin does not equal healthy. We could get into the ickier questions about our national obsession with health as an inherent moral value, but this isn’t even the moment. If we want to teach kids to treat their bodies well, we must first teach them to love and appreciate their bodies, no matter how they look.” 


“There need to be more fat children in picture books. There need to be fat children celebrated in picture books. There need to be fat children dancing, eating, running, and playing, and they need to be prominently and warmly featured in picture books.”

As creators of children's literature, we should pay attention - the full article is well-worth reading.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Laura Shovan on Creating a Mock Cover to Focus on Your Writing Project

 Over on Instagram, Laura shared:

“A few years ago, I started doodling a book cover for each work in progress. There's one for The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, one for Takedown. I remember showing @saadiafaruqi my sketches for A Place at the Table.

These are nothing like the actual covers of my books, created by professional designers and illustrators. I'm amazed at how well a good book cover can capture the feel of a story.

These doodle covers are for fun. They're a way to focus on whatever it is I'm working on. Does anyone else create mock covers for their writing projects?”

I followed up to ask Laura if there was an example she could share of a doodle along with a completed professional book cover for one of her titles that was out in the world...

Laura shared both the cover and the spine(!) doodles for Takedown, side-by-side with the published book's cover and spine. The published book's cover illustration is by Kevin Whipple.

Laura commented, "so funny that both versions have the blue and red striping."

This seems like an excellent left-side/right-side of the brain exercise to focus on what a project is really about...

Thanks, Laura!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Censorship on the Rise Worldwide - Ed Nawotka Updates International Censorship for Publishers Weekly

SCBWI member Lawrence Schimel – and the censorship his children's books showing families with two moms and two dads has faced in Hungary – is featured in the article Censorship on the Rise Worldwide.

Some quotes from the article:

Schimel, an American living in Madrid, has published dozens of LGBTQ-themed works for children and adults. “It’s important for all families, not just those who are LGBTQ, to see and read these books which show just how normal these families are,” he said. What a Family! is now sold in Hungary with a sticker, warning readers that it depicts families “outside the norm.” It was originally published as two books in Spanish, and Orca Book Publishers is releasing it as two books in the U.S. in September.


in July, the government of Belarus moved to dissolve the local branch of PEN after the freedom of speech organization released a report showing 621 instances of human rights violations, including arrests and imprisonments, against culture workers in the first six months of 2021.


It has long been known that the Chinese government keeps a close eye on which books are distributed there and maintains control of the issuing of ISBNs. Officially, censorship is not a state policy. Publishers have long held that if a book does not become too popular or influential in China, it will be tolerated. But unofficial policy is flexible, and recent trends have shifted toward a narrowing of what is considered acceptable.

Read the full piece here

Thanks to SCBWI member translator Avery Udagawa for sharing with me, so I can share with you. 

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,