Thursday, May 6, 2021

A Mr. Darcy Rant About Alliterative Names: A Guest Post by Ann Whitford Paul

Picture Book Author Ann Whitford Paul has a great newsletter, where she writes from the point of view of her cat, Mr. Darcy, on issues of craft. In the most recent, Mr. Darcy chases after the all-too-common practice of alliterative names in picture book manuscripts. With Ann's kind permission, here's that essay:

Why do so many picture book manuscripts use alliterative names? Sitting on my writer’s lap, we read them together and whenever she comes across Danny the Donkey, Tony the Tractor, or Zelda the Zebra, she groans so loud I leap away. Imagine an editor’s reaction! Worse than a groan, they will toss the manuscript into the rejection pile.


Too many people think of children as cute and therefore their characters should be cute. I think children are cute until they tie a bonnet on my head or, even worse, pull my tail. OUCH!

Being young may look fantastic to adults. What’s not to love having your food prepared for you, playing all day, and never having to hold down a job! That doesn’t mean childhood is all ice cream cones, giggles and kisses. There are falls and tears and temper tantrums. Recognize this when considering an alliterative name.

It’s okay to call Donkey, Donkey and Lion, Lion. It’s also okay to name animals. Writers have been doing it forever. Think of Babar, Ferdinand, and Curious George.

Remember in picture books, every word counts. If you name a character Annie Ant, that’s one extra word; two extra words, if you call her Annie the Ant. Those extra words repeated through the manuscript could go to much better use forwarding the action, expressing emotion, and writing lyrically. We lucky authors of picture books have illustrators to let the reader know what creatures our characters are.

I shiver at the thought my writer might have named me Curt the Cat, instead of Mr. Darcy, but she knew better. When you’re naming your charters, I hope you’ll know better, too.

For more of Ann's wisdom on crafting picture books, you might check out her website's resources for writers page and her book, WRITING PICTURE BOOKS: A Hands-On Guide From Story Creation to Publication.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

A Pep Talk from Author Libba Bray

The remarkable and hysterical Libba Bray recently posted this video pep talk over on Instagram.

I was laughing, and then nodding along at Libba's wisdom:

"As writers, we're always kind of struggling with art versus commerce."

"For me, someone could give me the most commercial idea in the world, and I would run that sucker into a ditch of weird. Without even trying."

"We have to be the writers we are."

and what really, as writers, is a victory. 

Go watch it. Six minutes 12 seconds of awesome.

And then, we should all, like Libba encourages us to:

"Go make that awesome thing you're making. And make it as only you can."

Thanks, Libba!

Illustrate and Translate and Write On,

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Illustrators - Do you know you can be a SCBWI Featured Illustrator of the Month?

Yes, SCBWI features one illustrator member each month. 

Here's the scoop: 

The Featured Illustrator’s art is highlighted prominently on the homepage and the Illustrator Gallery landing page, as well as all SCBWI social media. Our site receives over 191K hits each month, our Instagram account has over 22K followers, our Twitter account has 44K followers, and our Facebook has 5K followers. That is a lot of eyes on your work!

The April 2021 Featured Illustrator is Sophie Diao - here is Sophie's work featured on the "Featured Illustrator" information page:
And on the SCBWI home page:

And more images by Sophie as well as her bio and agent information at the Illustrator Gallery landing page:

There's even a listing of all the past SCBWI Featured Illustrators of the Month on the Illustrator Gallery landing page.

Congratulations to Sophie, and all the other previously featured illustrators!

Find out how you can be considered for the SCBWI Featured Illustrator honor here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Do you have a writing schedule? Inspiration (and quite the example) from Ines Johnson on the BookBub Partners Blog

 The article is about the steps Ines took to figure out "How I Make Six Figures as a Self-Published Author." 

What I found most fascinating in the description of lessons earned and learned was Ines discussing how she assigns herself a certain amount of writing on a daily basis. While Inez was doing this for her own publishing schedule, it's something all of us writers - however we're published - face. 

When's that next book going to be ready to give to your agent, or your editor? What are your readers' expectations?

“The next place I failed was in setting reader expectations. Sometimes I put out a book a month for three months. Other times, I only put out three books a year. I lost readers and then gained new ones only to lose them again. I had to learn it wasn’t about speed. It was about showing up on time and when you were expected.” —Ines Johnson

Ines writes by chapters. And shares that, "When I finish a chapter, I reward myself with stickers or a doodle."

“Once you know how many words (or chapters) you can write in an hour, day, or month, then you will have a gauge of your publishing schedule for the year, set reader expectations, and then meet them.” –Ines Johnson

Illustrate, and Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Authors Guild Releases Model Book Contracts to the General Public to Help Writers and Translators When Negotiating with Trade Publishers

While previously these model contracts were reserved for members of the Authors Guild, this month the Authors Guild has made two model contracts with commentary available to the general public - one, to help guide writers when negotiating with trade publishers, and the other a model translation contract to help translators hired to translate a work in another language into English.

Here's a screen shot of one section of the Authors Guild's "Model Trade Book Contract." The section in green is commentary that helps contextualize and explain the contractual language.

These are great resources for authors and translators! 

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

P.S. My thanks to editor and coach Emma Dryden for posting about this on LinkedIn, which is where I learned about it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Round Two Voting for the SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards Is Open Through April 30 at 5pm Pacific

The field has been narrowed down, and it's time for SCBWI members to place their final votes for the members' choice title in their region.

Here's how to vote:

log on to

Once you are on your Member Home page ("My Home" at the top right of the screen), go to the left navigation bar, scroll to the bottom and click on Vote in the Crystal Kite Awards.

That takes you right to the voting page where all of the books in your division appear (there are 15 different divisions across the US and the world).

Then click the VOTE FOR THIS BOOK button below your chosen book and you are done!

You'll even get a cool digital sticker so you can tell the world:

I voted in the Crystal Kites - SCBWI

Good luck to all the finalists!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Did You See The SCBWI Special Event: #KIDLITBLACKHISTORY Month Family Feud, with Host Kwame Alexander? If Not, Here's the Recording.

Kwame Alexander (bottom right) hosts, Don Tate (bottom left) represents The Brown Bookshelf, and April Powers (top left) represents SCBWI, the event's sponsors. Also show in this image is sign language interpreter,Vania Mollinedo (top right).

Check out this remarkable (and remarkably fun) event with children’s book creators Kwame Alexander, Jerry Craft, Van G. Garrett, Lamar Giles, Kwame Mbalia, Breanna J. McDaniel, Oge Mora, Karyn Parsons, and Alicia D. Williams -- a Family Feud-inspired trivia night celebrating Black history.

Sponsored by SCBWI (repped by April Powers) and The Brown Bookshelf (repped by Don Tate), you can find details and the link to download the #kidlitblackhistorymonth trivia questions and answers here.

As April says in the intro, it's an event "Centering Black Lives, Black Joy, and Black Stories."

Don Tate spoke about how "Black history month should be celebrated throughout the year" - and I agree! He spoke about how Black history is under attack, and called to children's book creators, saying "Keep writing those books. We need those books that celebrate Black girl magic, and Black boy joy, but yes, we also need those books that tell the truth about our history."

It's important, educational, and entertaining! Watch it now.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Crystal Kite Award Round One Voting Ends April 14 at 5pm Pacific #SCBWI21CK

The annual SCBWI Crystal Kite Award is a peer-given award to recognize great books from 15 SCBWI regional divisions around the world.

Have you voted yet?

It's easy. All SCBWI members are eligible to vote: You must be logged in at - there will be a link to vote from your “My Home” page. 

Note that:
You can only vote for the titles in YOUR Division.
You can only vote ONCE in each round.

To cast your vote: log on to Once you are on your Member Home page, go to the left navigation bar, scroll to the bottom and click on Vote in the Crystal Kite Awards. That takes you right to the voting page where all of the books in your Division appear. Then click the VOTE FOR THIS BOOK button below your chosen book and you are done!

Get all the details about SCBWI's Crystal Kite Awards here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, April 8, 2021

More Consolidation in the Book Biz: HarperCollins to Acquire Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books & Media

Widely reported, and quoted here from the Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot,
"No one in the industry was surprised last week when HarperCollins emerged as the buyer for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books & Media, the sixth-largest trade publisher in the U.S. Ever since HC and its parent company, News Corp, lost out to Bertelsmann’s Penguin Random House in its bid to buy Simon & Schuster last November, HC was seen as the favorite to acquire the HMH trade operation, which parent company HMH put up for sale last fall. The biggest question mark was what the purchase price would be. The answer is $349 million in cash."
The article explained that,

"The HMH purchase will keep HC firmly entrenched as the country’s second-largest trade publisher, with revenue of about $2 billion."

Back in November 2020, when Penguin Random House bought Simon & Schuster, there was a lot of noise made about how consolidation is not good news for creators. 

Like this article by Alex Shephard in New Republic, Pretty Soon There'll Be Just One Big Book Publisher Left

And at that time, the Authors Guild released a statement that read, in part:
"Less competition would make it even more difficult for agents and authors to negotiate for better deals, or for the Authors Guild to help secure changes to standard publishing contracts—because authors, even best-selling authors, wouldn’t have many options, making it harder to walk away. The history of publishing consolidation has also taught us that authors are further hurt by such mergers due to editorial layoffs, canceling of contracts, a reduction in diversity among authors and ideas, a more conservative approach to risk-taking, and fewer imprints under which an author may publish. The Authors Guild calls on the Justice Department to challenge PRH’s purchase of S&S and refuse to allow even further consolidation of the U.S. book publishing industry."

This ongoing consolidation is important to know about.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Dr. Seuss and Dav Pilkey Have Books Pulled From the Market Due to Racist Imagery/Themes

These two examples illustrate a new season of accountability for works for children - in particular in light of the #StopAsianHate campaign as our nation grapples with violence and prejudice against another vast, diverse, and maligned minority group, Asian Americans.

The New York Times reported on Scholastic Halts Distribution of Book by 'Captain Underpants" Author, where they wrote:

Scholastic said last week that it had halted distribution of the book, “The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future,” originally published in 2010. The decision was made with “the full support” of its author, Dav Pilkey, the company said, adding that it had removed the book from its website and had stopped fulfilling orders for it.

“Together, we recognize that this book perpetuates passive racism,” the publisher said in a statement. “We are deeply sorry for this serious mistake.”

And, widely reported in The Guardian and elsewhere, the six Dr. Seuss titles were pulled by Dr Seuss Enterprises, "the company that preserves and protects the author’s legacy... due to their racist and insensitive portrayal of people of color." Ironically, the controversy boosted sales of Dr. Seuss' other titles.

While the Dr. Seuss decision seemed to arise after feedback from a "panel of experts" who "concluded that the six titles portrayed people in ways that were ‘hurtful and wrong’”, the pulling of Dav's titles seemed driven by the author's interaction with one father of young readers who created a petition to protest the book's "passive racism that has contributed to the continued hate and prejudice experienced by Asian Americans on a daily basis."

“I hope that you, my readers, will forgive me, and learn from my mistake that even unintentional and passive stereotypes and racism are harmful to everyone,” Dav wrote. “I apologize, and I pledge to do better.”

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Power of #BookTok

As reported last week in Shelf Awareness, #BookTok Videos 'Starting to Influence Publishers and Bestseller Lists'

Noting that TikTok "is not an obvious destination for book buzz," the New York Times reported that "videos made mostly by women in their teens and 20s have come to dominate a growing niche under the hashtag #BookTok, where users recommend books, record time lapses of themselves reading, or sob openly into the camera after an emotionally crushing ending."

one example from the article:

Miriam Parker, a v-p and associate publisher at Ecco, said the company saw a sales spike for The Song of Achilles on August 9 last year, but couldn't figure out why. Ecco eventually traced it to a TikTok video called "books that will make you sob," published on August 8 by @moongirlreads. The video has now been viewed nearly six million times.

Have you checked out #BookTok?

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Translation Controversy: Who Gets To Translate Who... and What?

A recent article by Allison Braden in Asymptote, Translators Weigh In on the Amanda Gorman Controversy, catches you up:

On March 1, The Guardian reported that Amanda Gorman’s Dutch translator, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, had quit. Amanda Gorman, the poet who catapulted onto the world stage after an astounding performance at U.S. President Joe Biden’s January inauguration, had approved Rijneveld, an acclaimed Dutch writer, themselves, but the announcement that Rijneveld would translate Gorman’s book The Hill We Climb provoked backlash.

Chief complaint amid the backlash was voiced by activist Janice Deul,

who called the choice “incomprehensible.” She wondered why Meulenhoff, the publisher, hadn’t chosen a translator who was more like Gorman: a “spoken-word artist, young, female and unapologetically Black.”


Haidee Kotze, a professor of translation studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, argues in a Medium post that Amanda Gorman’s identity was part of her message and that her translators should be part of the message, too: “It’s about the opportunity, the space for visibility created by the act of translation, and who gets to occupy that space.”

It's a parallel debate to not only who gets to write what story, but who gets published, and who gets the opportunities in our industry. It's about diversity, and equity and inclusion.

Corine Tachtiris on Twitter @tachtco put it this way:

Mar 12 White translators: let's take any energy that was going to go to any further discussion of AG's translators & use it for concrete actions toward equity and inclusion for translators of color, esp. Black translators.

Read the full article here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,