Thursday, May 27, 2010

More From BookExpo America

Here's more from the whirlwind book-o-rama of BEA. Aaron Hartzler, (SCBWI Director of Communications) and were I running our legs off meeting up with some of our favorite editors and agents--many of whom are coming to the 2010 Summer Conference in July. (Okay, I was running mainly to keep up with Aaron who has long legs, is a foot taller than I am, and can part a crowd like Moses at an ocean.) At SCBWI we work hard to keep in in touch with top editors and agents in the industry at events like BEA, so we can bring them to you at our terrific conferences. 

Here's the round-up:

Ari Lewen, Senior Editor at Disney/Hyperion (right) will be doing critiques and workshops at the summer conferece. We ran into her with Inara Scott (left),author of the DELCROIX ACADEMY books. Book One: The Candidates drops on August 24th.

We ran into Francesco Sedita author AND Publisher of Grosset and Dunlap, and Price Stern Sloan, two children’s imprints at the Penguin Young Readers Group. He told us about a great new series he has coming out: FRANKLY FRANNIE by A.J. Stern. The series is about a little girl who wants an office job, and debuts today! Be sure to catch Francesco's workshop on seies fiction this year at the summer conference!

Publisher Elizabeth Law was holding court at the Egmont booth where she gave us the scoop on the forthcoming titles:
And just then, Vordak the Incomprehensible (aka Nico Medina) happened to wander by...


At the Random House booth we chatted with Delacorte Executive Editor Wendy Loggia who just nabbed Tyra Banks' Young Adult series MODELLAND due out in summer 2011.

Also at the Random House booth, author James Dashner (left), here with his agent Michael Bourret, was signing teaser chapters of THE SCORCH TRIALS the forthcoming sequel to his his debut book THE MAZE RUNNER. Be sure to catch Michael Bourret's workshop on Monday, August 2nd at the summer conference. He'll be talking with his author Jill S. Alexander about being ready for the publishing process once your manuscript is accepted by an editor.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Aaron's First Day at BEA (with Me)

Today I ran around BookExpo America in NYC's Javits Center with SCBWI Director of Communications Aaron Hartzler. We started the morning at the Children's Book and Author Breakfast which was hosted by Sarah, Duchess of York and featured authors Cory Doctorow, Mitali Perkins and Richard Peck. (On the way into the the event, a CBS News team interviewed Aaron about what he thought of Sarah being at the event considering the recent headlines surrounding her. The word chutzpah was bandied about.)

After listening to these engaging speakers over half a sesame bagel (they somehow find the worst ones in New York City), Aaron and I took to the floor see who we could see and what books they were excited about. Here's a photo montage of Aaron with a few of the editors and info on titles they're buzzing about. (It's like Disneyland for writers. Editors are Mickey Mouse.)

Editor with Aaron: Tara Weikum of Harper.
She's excited about I AM NUMBER FOUR by Pittacus Lore.

Editor with Aaron: Allyn Johnston of Beach Lane Books.
She's excited about BOSS BABY by Marla Frazee.

Editor with Aaron: Krista Marino of Delcorte.
She's excited about James Dashner's THE SCORCH TRIALS

Editor with Aaron: David Gale of Simon & Schuster.
He's excited about THE SEARCH FOR WONDLA by Tony DiTerlizzi.

More editors buzzing tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Coming Soon! The SCBWI Board Illustrator Committee Blog

The SCBWI Board of Advisors has a terrific Illustrator Committee whose mission "is to be a source of challenge, encouragement and inspiration for our illustrator membership," says Priscilla Burris, U.S. Illustrator Coordinator for SCBWI.

To move forward with that mission, the committee, which, in addition to Priscilla, includes Cecilia Yung, Pat Cummings, David Diaz, Bridget Srevens-Marzo and John Shelley, is starting a blog especially for SCBWI member illustrators.

The SCBWI Board Illustrator Committee Blog will offer an outlet on the SCBWI website for the committee members to share, educate, and communicate with illustrator members. "Along with our ongoing responsibilities strategically planning events nationally and internationally for our illustrator membership, this blog serves as an extension of what the SCBWI Board of Advisors Illustrator Committee strives to provide--a place to share and communicate, challenge, inspire and instruct our illustrator and author/illustrator members," says Priscilla.

"We look forward to sharing insights, technique talks, portfolio suggestions, and an array of issues and topics of specific interest for illustrators and author/illustrators."

The blog will kick off soon in the Illustrators Corner area of the SCBWI site. I'll post and tweet a link as soon as it gets going.

Monday, May 24, 2010

SCBWI Announces the 2010 Magazine Merit Award Winners

Writing for children's magazines is not something I've seen much coverage of in the blogsphere (my old blog included) and that's too bad. The magazine market for young readers is a great place for writers (of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and more) and illustrators to have their work published. There are lots of children's magazines (nearly 75 in the current SCBWI market survey) and they publish frequently so there's always a need for fresh material.

Writing for kids' magazines takes special skills, whether crafting a short piece of fiction or coming up with a unique angle for a nonfiction piece. And illustrators must be able to capture the essence of these pieces in sometimes just a single illustration.

Each year SCBWI honors talented writers and artists who create material for children's magazine with the Magazine Merit Awards. SCBWI HQ has just announced the 2010 recipients. Winners--whose work exhibits excellence and genuine appeal to the interests and concerns of young people--receive Merit Plaques and Honor Certificates for fiction, nonfiction, illustration and poetry which appeared in magazines during the past year. SCBWI also sends Letters of Merit to runners-up.

The Plaque and Honor recipients are:

  • Sue Anderson (Plaque) for "Respectfully, Robert E. Lee" (July/August issue of CRICKET)
  • Rozanne Silverwood (Honor) for "The Star That Fell to Earth and Became a Tree" (January CRICKET)
  • Patricia Nikolina Clark (Plaque) for "Ants in Their Pants" (September/October CICADA) 
  • Sue Cowing (Honor) for "Insects of the World of Art" (September CRICKET)
  • Bonnie Leick (Plaque) for her illustration "Music in the Dark" (August HIGHLIGHTS)
  • Bethanie Murguia (Honor) for "Egg Hunt" in (March YOUR BIG BACK YARD)
  • Jeanne Hargett (Plaque) for "No Secret" (March HIGHTLIGHTS) 
  • Jacqueline Jules (Honor) for "Morning Monster" (May/June CRICKET)
Congratulations to all the winners! For those of you who write or illustrate for magazines, the 2010 competition is now underway. For rules and information on how to enter (as well as a list of current and past winners) visit the SCBWI website.

Friday, May 21, 2010

In the News This Week

Every Friday on the SCBWI blog, I share snippets of and links to some of the publishing-related news I've read during the week that I found interesting or helpful (or, perhaps, fun).

Several best-selling authors are in the news this week: Stephenie Meyer for her ECLIPSE press junket; Jeff Kinney about the fifth WIMPY KID book; and mystery author J.A. Konrath on his publishing deal (both e and traditional) with AmazonEncore. Some of the coverage on the Konrath story pondered whether the publishing industry has now jumped the shark as a major retailer has turned into a publisher, thus eliminating the middleman. To semi-quote Troy on last night's "Community": "There was an episode of 'Happy Days' where someone really did jump over a shark, and it was the best one ever!" (I know that's not helpful or illuminating. But it's funny.)

During a 2006 book festival, I saw Konrath get in a heated debate with Dennis Lehane during a panel on fiction writing. They argued over plot vs. character. Konrath was all plot, plot, plot--plot is king. Lehane argued that if there aren't great characters, who cares what they are doing? It seems Konrath is still all about thickening the plot.

If you've had it up to here with all this talk of electronic publishing, check out the video on eBook Newser on their Kindle Resentment post. It features three guys beating the tar out of one of the Amazon devices with baseball bats, Office-Space style. Then take a deep breath and  curl up with a good book.

Folio Unveils Children's Book Division (on PW)
"Four-year-old agency Folio Literary Management is expanding its presence in the children’s book market with the launch of Folio Jr., which will represent creators of middle-grade and young adult novels, as well as 'selective' picture books."

Best eBook News on Twitter (on eBook Newswer)
"Over at GalleyCat, we've been building a series of Twitter directories to help people find the best content. It's time to create a couple useful directories for the eBook world."

Sesame Street Starts Subscription Model for E-Books  (on PW)
"Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that produces Sesame Street, and e-content delivery provider Impelsys have launched a new online Sesame Street eBookstore. Readers can subscribe with Impelsys to get unlimited access to a library of more than 100 Sesame Street eBooks for an annual fee of $39.99, although the company is offering an introductory price of $24.99 through July 4."

Amazon Kindle Resentment (on eBook Newswer)
"Kindle and eReader anger is alive and well, from that video to publishing catalogs. Reporter Eric Engleman passed along the video embedded above created by a book designer--a Kindle smashing set to profanity-laden music."

Barnes & Noble to Offer Digital Self-Publishing (on PW)
"Barnes & Noble is entering the self-publishing business with the summer launch of PubIt! by Barnes & Noble that will allow independent publishers and self-publishing writers to distribute their works digitally through Barnes & and the Barnes & Noble eBookstore."

J.A. Konrath Signs with Amazon Encore (on GalleyCat) 
"J.A. Konrath, who writes the Jacqueline Daniels thriller series, has signed with's new publishing imprint, AmazonEncore. He'll release his new book, Shaken, on Kindle in October and in stores in February 2011."

Can Social Media Replace Verbal Communication? (on Social Times blog)
"If I told you that you couldn’t speak for one month, would you be able to do it? That’s the challenge entrepreneur Clark Harris, aka Silent Clark, has issued to himself as he sets out to raise $100,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by communicating only via social media channels."

Fifth Book in Wimpy Kid Series to Hit Stores This November
(on SLJ)
Mark your calendars. The fifth volume in Jeff Kinney’s hugely popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Abrams) series is about to hit book stores on Tuesday, November 9.

The iPad Revolution (NY Review of Books)
"As just about every sentient being knows, Apple Computer launched its 'revolutionary,' 'game changing,' 'magical' tablet computer, the iPad, on April 3."

Book Trailer Awards Announced: MobyLives Names Best (And Worst) Book Videos Of The Year (on HuffPo)
"The popular book blog MobyLives, which is associated with the Brooklyn-based independent publisher Melville House, has announced the winners (and losers) of its first annual Book Trailer Awards. They awarded ten of the best and worst promotional book videos, ranging from authors reading over a still shot of the book cover to very cool stop motion animation."

Stephenie Meyer Invites 'Twilight' Fan Sites To Personal 'Eclipse' Junket (on "'Twilight' author Stephenie Meyer announced a rather surprising publicity move Monday (May 17): She will be hosting her own press junket to promote the upcoming release of 'Eclipse.'
According to the letter she posted on her website, Meyer explained that she wants to offer her fans something different for this movie release, so she is inviting four lucky 'Twilight' fan sites to her own 'mini-junket' on Friday, June 18, the week before the film's L.A. premiere."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Agent Interview: Chris Richman, Upstart Crow

Chris Richman is a relatively new agent with a relatively new agency, Upstart Crow Literary (headed by industry veteran Michael Stearns). The first books he signed will be coming out this summer, and (as you'll hear more about below), he's on the lookout for new authors for his list. Read on to learn a little about him, his taste, his authors, what he likes (and doesn't) in a submission, and more.

Upstart Crow started about a year ago, correct? How are things at Upstart Crow?

Things are really great at Upstart Crow. We actually haven’t been around for a full year yet, but so far it’s been a truly terrific experience. Michael Stearns is a natural fit to head a company; he’s brilliant, he’s funny, he’s dedicated, and he’s serious about books for children, so it’s been great learning under him. Between the four agents—Danielle Chiotti, Michael, Ted Malawer, and myself—we have a nice roster of clients who are creating some wonderful projects.

Next, the Big Question—are you currently looking for new authors? Is there anything in particular you're looking for right now?

I am absolutely seeking new clients. I’m starting to shift completely into new client mode. I’ve been very picky with the material I’ve taken on—in two years I’ve signed only eight projects out of literally thousands—and I’m ready to discover more exciting authors to add to my list. In terms of what I’m seeking, I’m beginning to get a reputation for the “funny boy” books. Part of that is my own background in comedy, and part of it’s because I truly believe there’s a place in the market for these types of projects. I’m a really tough critic, though, when it comes to funny material, so if an author is going to attempt it, they have to make sure it’s really funny, and not merely a collection of fart and burp jokes. Despite my call for boy books, my two most recent sales were for teen girl books. Go figure! I’m mostly seeking standout voices—a teen version of Jonathan Lethem, Annie Dillard, or Kurt Vonnegut—or really terrific and original concepts.

What drives you crazy in a submission and what, if anything, drives you wild?

I’m going to assume “crazy” is bad, and “wild” is good. There are small things that drive me crazy—queries that are obviously sent out to every agent under the sun, queries where a writer promises that their project will be the next bestseller or hit movie—but I suppose queries in which a writer obviously didn’t research me or my tastes at all tend to frustrate me.

I’m wild for submissions that blend a great idea with really solid, careful writing. Although I know it’s difficult since few of the projects I’ve sold are out yet, I do generally appreciate when a writer says they are approaching me because they loved “x” book I sold. Of course, now I expect a deluge of submissions starting with, “I’m writing to you because I read such-and-such…” but hey, if it means people are buying my clients’ books, I guess I can’t complain!

Why do you tweet and blog? What's the advantage for an agent or agency to being active and social online?

Well, unfortunately I’ve discovered I don’t have as much time to blog as I used to, so now I’ll post only when I think I have something worthwhile to say. Blogging is great because it’s important for new agents to get their names out there so authors get a feel for their sensibilities. Let’s be honest—the last few years have seen an explosion of new agents, and there are tons of great blogs full of terrific information. If I can write something that strikes a chord with an author seeking representation, I may have a better shot of landing the next big thing.

As for Twitter, I’ll admit I was a late adopter. Not super late, but I definitely had to be convinced to give it a try. It’s been great! I can get my personality out there a bit, can easily stay connected with my clients who tweet, and I’ve been able to meet writers and editors I may not have met otherwise. I almost feel like I discovered the secret smoking lounge outside the high school where all the cool kids hang out. Am I one of the cool kids? I won’t go that far, but I at least feel comfortable sticking my head in and saying hi.

Will you be attending any upcoming events where writers can meet you? Do you prefer meeting potential clients in person to just receiving queries, or does it matter?

I’ve got a few events coming up. I’ll be on the faculty for the SCBWI Carolinas conference in September, mentoring at this year’s Rutgers One-On-One conference in October, and speaking with the St. Louis Writer’s Guild in November. I’d love to do more, too, and am always on the lookout for great conferences.

I really enjoy connecting with writers. I think it’s helpful for writers to realize that agents are people with our own quirks, styles, and personalities, and not just some faceless name behind a desk somewhere. Now, do these sorts of meetings mean I’m more likely to sign a project? Not really, no. My decision still comes down to the concept and the actual words on the page.

How would you describe your agenting style?

I’m fairly hands-on when it comes to revisions and helping to direct a project toward its final version. I try to be available to my clients, and transparent in my dealings with both them and the editors. I’ll never say something in hopes of wooing a potential client that I don’t mean—I’ll never promise a certain amount of money or sales, for example—but I enter into each relationship with a commitment to the writer and their work.

Would you like to mention some recent or upcoming titles from your authors that you're excited about?

Come on, Alice! I’m excited about ALL of my clients’ titles! It’s like picking a favorite child. It’s actually funny…since I’m still relatively new to the agent game, this summer will be my debut list of releases. The first projects I signed as a green, inexperienced agent will be hitting the shelves, and I couldn’t be happier. The three releases all show different sides of my taste.

Jacqueline West’s THE SHADOWS, the first in the THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE series ( is a classic, spooky middle grade reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s CORALINE. Jacqueline was actually the first client I ever signed, and we’ve been really excited by how much Penguin has embraced the series.

On the same day, Shaun David Hutchinson’s THE DEATHDAY LETTER ( is due out. This is a wild, hilarious teen book in which a kid gets a letter letting him know he’ll kick the bucket within 24 hours, and how he spends his last day on earth.

Matt Myklusch’s first in his JACK BLANK series, JACK BLANK AND THE IMAGINE NATION (, is out this August. JACK BLANK is an awesome middle grade book for boys that follows Jack, who is swept away to a secret land where all the amazing things in the world originate, including Jack himself. It’s funny, it’s adventurous, it’s epic, and it features a really terrifically imagined world unlike anything readers have ever seen.

All told, these three significantly different projects will help give writers a clear idea of the sorts of books that appeal to me.

Please offer my readers some advice on approaching agents and finding the best agent for their work.

It’s important to remember how subjective this business is. I’ve passed on projects that have gone on to sell for huge sums of money, but in every case, I’ve felt that passing was still the right decision based on what I’m looking for in a story. Once you’ve written the absolute best book you can, try to find agents who have represented works similar to your own, if not in concept, then in tone or style. Don’t be discouraged, however, if someone passes on your work. A large part of our jobs is saying “no,” but that makes the times we say “yes” all the more special. And if your first work fails to find a home, know when to put it aside and work on something new. It’s through hard work and dedication that a dabbler becomes a writer.

Find Chris Richman online:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday Tweet Roundup

I saw a lot of this cute little guy this morning:

The Fail Whale only means that the Twitterverse is exploding with fewer-than-140-character comments, thoughts, non sequiturs, bits of information and links. (Or maybe @sarahshum had it right in her tweet  this morning: "I haven't seen this much of the Fail Whale in a long time. Maybe it's a sign I should stop hanging out on Twitter and DO STUFF. Yeah.")

As always (well, just like last week) I give you my favorite tweets I've spotted in the last seven day for my Wednesday Twitter Roundup. Click on the Twitter handles (@name) to see the original tweets and follow the links to read the articles or blog posts these tweeters refer to.

@inkyelbows: Lit. agent @ElanaRoth on revision requests:

@MichaelBourret: Writers, pay attention: NB spells out why I posted this RT @NathanBransford: Every writer gets rejected at some point: 

@RachelleGardner: Since it's the writing that's most important, is there any value in a verbal pitch?

@inkyelbows: 3 Things Debut Authors Should Know When Signing With an Agent - Barbara Poelle

@Noni_Writes: RT @HUnderdown: The Odds of Getting Published Stink--and Why You Shouldn't Care: #kidlit #yalit #writing

@colleenlindsay: RT @DanBlank In 1939 publishers faced a disruptive new format: paperbacks. A story of opportunity: via @debbiestier

@Cowpernicus: RT @amyhodgepodge: On the blog: Examples of picture books that tackle difficult subjects. #kidlit (via @Swellbooks)

@chavelaque: Fun on the blog: A video playlist of great bookish love songs:

@thecreativepenn: 7 simple SEO tips for writers via @michellerafter

@huffingtonpost: Twilight + Academia = Academic Dissertations on Twilight!

@PBJunkies: Skyping School Visits- by Roz 

@srrcolvin: RT @4kidlit Adventures in Children's Publishing: Quirks Are Character Life S..

@inkyelbows: Pay No Attention To Shiny Objects: 10 ways to stay focused on your writing, by @Dana_Kaye

@jasouders: What's your muse?
@cuppajolie: A speaker at the #scbwi summer conference RT @RileyCarney: Excellent post characters by author Gail Carson Levine

@GalleyCat: Facebook nears 500 million users; a FB search for "publishing" turns up 17,000 pages and 78,000 people pages:Original Tweet: 

@sljournal: British Columbia Public, School Libraries Offer First E-Book Collection -

@mitaliperkins: Editorial Staff Changes at Children's Book Publishers (via @HUnderdown)

@MaggieHilliard: RT @booksquare: @debbiestier Breaks Down Publishing In 2010: 'A Tale Of Two Cities'
@jeannevb: RT @JaneFriedman: Can brightest minds in publishing successfully reinvent the business, or do they just know too much?


@molly_oneill: Day 3 in a row of spam promising to make my *ahem* "longer than the Great Wall of China." Editor's thought: "Hm, better writing than usual."

What did I miss? If you found a helpful/inspirational/useful/amusing tweet that's not on my list, please post it in a comment.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Got an iPad, Still Not Sold on eBooks

When I got home from going out to lunch yesterday (I'm a very popular lunch date these days), there was a you-missed-a-delivery FedEx tag stuck to my door. It was the iPad I've been waiting almost two weeks to get! I picked up the boy and we headed to the FedEx HQ to retrieve it.

The iPad really is kind of (as it's advertised) magic. It's simply gorgeous. My photos never looked so amazing. The email interface is fabulous. It's fast and easy to use and really great to type on. It feels good in my hands and fits nicely in my bag. (One big issue for me: Blogger doesn't work on the iPad or iPhone and there's no decent app to help. Someone create a Blogger app pronto! I'll be first in line; I'll pay whatever it costs.)

One of the first things I did after syncing my new device was load in iBooks and spend some time in the store. It's attractive, easy to browse, and has a ton of titles. And yet I can't quite bring myself to buy an ebook.

My lunch yesterday was at the cafe at my local independent bookseller. After the delish vegetarian chili, I did a little browsing. I discussed with my friend how much I love the smell of bookstores. I bought three new books. I need more books about as much as I need more shoes and have pretty much no storage space left for either, so ebooks should be the way to go for me especially with this great device that holds a bajillion titles. It just seems weird to me to pay ten or fifteen bucks or more and not have a physical book in my hands. I pay for apps all the time. I buy songs in iTunes constantly. So what's the big deal, self? Huh?

Books are different. It's the sensual part of reading that I'm worried I'll miss--the feel of the pages, the aforementioned aroma of paper and ink. The act of turning each page and inserting a bookmark. The way I hug a terrific novel to my chest and sigh when I finish it. The ability to foist a favorite book on a friend saying: You MUST read this.

iBooks came with a copy of WINNIE THE POOH. It looks really book-y. You can turn the pages with a swipe. I'll give it a try. I'll see what I can find in the way of books for young readers. I will take the plunge and let you know if I become a convert. Stay tuned...

In the meantime, what do you think? Do you read and love ebooks? Am I being silly? Or will they take away your printed books when they pry them from your cold, dead fingers? Leave a comment!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Featured SCBWI Board Member: Carolyn Mackler

Did you know that SCBWI has a Board of Advisors made up of 25 diverse, talented and wise authors, illustrators, and editors? Every so often here on the SCBWI blog, I'll spotlight one of these terrific board members so you can get to know them and learn about why and how they are involved in SCBWI.

I'm starting today with one of the newest board members, award-wining novelist Carolyn Mackler. Carolyn just joined the SCBWI board a few weeks ago (along with fellow new board member--me!).

Carolyn's novels for teens include her latest, TANGLED; THE EARTH, MY BUTT, AND OTHER BIG ROUND THINGS (A Michael L. Printz Honor Book); GUYAHOLIC; VEGAN VIRGIN VALENTINE; and LOVE AND OTHER FOUR-LETTER WORDS. She's written for magazines like SEVENTEEN, GLAMOUR, CosmoGIRL!, GIRLS' LIFE and AMERICAN GIRL and has short stories in THIRTEEN, edited by James Howe, and SIXTEEN, edited by Megan McCafferty. She also served as a judge for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature in 2008.  And she'll deliver a keynote speech at the SCBWI Annual Summer Conference in L.A.

How long have you been involved in SCBWI and how have you been involved with SCBWI?

I attended my first SCBWI conference in the fall of 1998. I'd been living in New York City for a little over a year, and I was hard at work on yet another draft of my first novel. Judy Blume, whom I'd met earlier in the year, told me about SCBWI. So I joined and off I went to the big fall conference (which is now the big winter conference). It was at a public school on the upper west side of Manhattan. I attended workshops and took a million notes and, mostly, I was inspired by all the other writers I met. I knew I'd found my place! By the spring of 1999, I'd finished (yet another) draft of my first novel, LOVE AND OTHER FOUR-LETTER WORDS, found an agent, and sold it to Random House Children's Books.

In the summer of 2005, I gave my first keynote speech. It was at the national conference in Los Angeles, and Lin Oliver invited me to deliver the first Paula Danziger speech. This was such an honor! Paula was a mentor, and a friend, and early in my career she encouraged me to get as much speaking experience as possible. Over the past several years, I've given other keynotes at national SCBWI conferences, and I've spoken at regional conferences as well. I love being at SCBWI conferences, big or small. There's a great energy, and such wonderful, smart, warm people. I always feel inspired.

How has SCBWI helped you? Why would you recommend someone join and how can a member make the most of it?

Yes, yes, yes! It is one of the first things I recommend to aspiring writers. Read a lot, write a lot, don't get discouraged, and join SCBWI. Go to conferences, read the Bulletin, try for the awards and grants, get involved with your regional chapter, make contacts with editors, agents, and writers, be part of the SCBWI community. That is certainly how SCBWI helped me...and has continued to help me.

Tell us about your most recent novel TANGLED and what you're working on.

Thanks for asking about TANGLED! Yes, that's my most recent novel. It just came out a few months ago and--sigh--it makes me feel happy talking about it. TANGLED is the story of four teens, two boys and two girls, who meet on a vacation. I follow them over the course of the next four months, with each month told from a different teen's point of view, as their worlds intersect and change, and they ultimately have lasting impacts on each other's lives. So far the response to TANGLED has been wonderful. One of my readers even sent me a song she wrote that was inspired by it!

I'm currently working on a new novel for teens. It's a very exciting concept, and I'm having a blast with it. That's all I'll say for now. Oh, and I'm also working on my keynote speech for this summer's SCBWI conference in LA! I'm giving a speech on Sunday morning, August 1st. I've called it "For Richer or Poorer: Writing in Good Times and Bad." Some people say that writing a book is like giving birth to a child. I have two children and, for me at least, writing isn't nearly as painful. But sometimes I see writing as a marriage: no matter what, I'm in it for life. Though I have to say, my husband gives a better shoulder massage!

Find Carolyn Mackler online:

Friday, May 14, 2010

In the News This Week

To end each week on the SCBWI blog, I'll be sharing snippets of and links to some of the publishing-related news I've read during the week that I found interesting or helpful (or, perhaps, fun). (Articles discovered via Twitter, Facebook, newsletters, blogs and general Internet trolling.)

Below are my picks for this week. (Click the title to link the the articles.) If you're attending the BookExpo America, be sure to read Elizabeth Bluemle's great post on BEA planning and the PW piece on galleys to grab (then construct your strategy). I'm also excited about the iPad apps for writers rundown by the amazing Debbie Ridpath Ohi on her Inkygirl blog. (My iPad is set to be delivered next week--I'll give you a full report on using it for working and for reading. Yay!) And here's hoping Alice won't become a hip baby name thanks to Stephenie Meyer's series (see the NYT piece below). I'm not sure I want a bunch of little Alices running around.

ABC and ABA to Formalize Potential Merger Plan) (on the ALA site)
"The Association of Booksellers for Children and the American Booksellers Association moved another step closer to a possible merger this week with the release on Thursday of a letter of agreement..."

Facebook And Twitter Are On A Collision Course. And We’re In The Middle. (on Tech Crunch)
"In Jim Sheridan’s 2009 film Brothers, Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire play two siblings that are opposites... In the tech world, Facebook is Sam, Twitter is Tommy, and Grace is all of us, the Internet users..."

Facebook Creates Community Pages for Stephen King, Kathryn Stockett, Random House, and Many Others (on GalleyCat)
"As part of a controversial expansion of Facebook, the social networking site has created "Community Pages" for many popular people and brands..."

Amazon to Drop Free Books from Kindle Bestseller List  (on PW)
"For some in publishing it may be a curiosity, for others a point of contention—Amazon’s practice of including free downloads in its list of most popular Kindle titles..."

2010 BEA Planning (for real) (by Elizabeth Bluemle on PW's Shelf Talker)
"Our April 1 column this year was a spoof of BEA programming—which caught a few of you by surprise when you sat down expecting to plan your trade show schedules. We cross our hearts that today’s post is the genuine article: a guide to children’s-book-related events and educational sessions at BookExpo America in New York City from Tuesday, May 25-Thursday, May 27..."

BEA 2010: Kids' Galleys to Grab (on PW)
"Favorite Authors, New Projects..."

ALSC announces 2010 election results (includes judges for Newberry, Caldecott and other awards)
"CHICAGO – Mary J. Fellows, manager, youth and family services, Upper Hudson Library System, Albany, N.Y., has been elected vice-president/president-elect of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA)..."

Self-Publishing Expo Back in October (on PW)
"The founders of the Self-Publishing Book Expo have announced plans to hold a second SPBE in October..."

Patterson, Brown Win Top Honors at Children's Choice Awards (on PW) 
"The Children’s Choice Book Awards, the only national award chosen by children, were presented by the Children’s Book Council in a ceremony on Tuesday night in New York City, hosted by Mo Willems. The winners were..."

iPad apps for writers: notetaking, writing, & brainstorming ideas (on Inkygirl)
"The following is a list of reviews I’ve posted so far on iPadGirl during my ongoing search for useful iPad apps for writers, starting with the most recently reviewed. Feel free to bookmark this page, because I’ll be keeping it updated as I review more iPad apps..."

A Name for Newborns Thanks to the Vampires (NY Times)
"For baseball fans, 2009 was the year of the Yankees. For job seekers, it was the year of the Great Recession. And for people who track baby names, it was the year of the vampire..."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Debut Author Interview: Amy Ignatow, THE POPULARITY PAPERS

Amy Ignatow's first book, THE POPULARITY PAPERS: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang, was released by Amulet last month. Here Amy tells us about her delightful debut, her agent, and what she's up to in the way of promotion and new projects. (And her tip about peanut butter: so true! I thought Madeleine Pope came up with that miracle cure.)

Your debut book is an illustrated novel with a unique format. How would you describe it?

THE POPULARITY PAPERS is a record of the observations and experiments of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang, two fifth graders who are trying to figure out how to be popular by watching and emulating the girls in their school who are currently popular. Instead of writing it as a straight graphic novel (panels, word-bubbles) I wanted readers to feel like they were really holding a journal that these two girls made--Lydia writes in cursive, Julie prints, and they both draw (as the better artist, Julie takes the lead, but Lydia makes due with her stick figure illustrations when Julie isn't around). They paste notes that they've passed back and forth into the book, as well as photos they've printed off the Internet, plants, and yarn samples.

Amy's characters Lydia and Julie reading THE POPULARITY PAPERS 
(a little something she whipped up just for the SCBWI blog!)

THE POPULARITY PAPERS is so funny. (There was some LOLing as I read.) Lydia and Julie are so appealing. How did these characters evolve? And will there be sequels?

Thank you so much!  I've been fortunate enough to be in some really strong, long-lasting friendships. I have friends that I'm still close with from high school, from college, and from different jobs and social circles, and I understand how good friends talk (particularly how extroverts and introverts communicate with each other). I hope that readers will be able to see themselves in either Lydia, with her ambition and daring, or Julie, with her skepticism and shyness. I can definitely see a little of myself in both of them.

There will be a sequel is coming out in Spring 2011, and Lydia and Julie and their families are in for a wild ride.

How did you connect with your agent Dan Lazar (who is so enthusiastic about your book)?

Years ago I had a web comic called "Ig City."  I sent Dan a link to my website and he liked the art and the writing, so I wrote an autobiographical graphic novel that garnered some interest but no book deal.  After that experiment, Dan suggested that because the best bits of the novel were the parts having to do with my childhood, maybe I should try my hand at writing a graphic novel for kids.

Dan is amazing.  He's honest, unbelievably supportive, very patient, and he really understands what works best for me.  He's got great instincts and what's more, he's a genuinely nice person.

In what format was this project pitched to Dan and then to publishers?

The moment that Dan suggested writing a graphic novel for kids, I knew that I wanted it to be a communication between two curious girls.  The story just popped into my head and before I knew it the ideas were flowing out of my brain faster than I could type them. Because I wrote the autobiographical graphic novel without an outline (I didn't even sketch first, just wrote and drew on blank pages with ink like a nutbag) Dan had me write a very detailed outline before he gave me the go ahead to start drawing. He read it and made very helpful suggestions, and held my hand through the outline writing process (writing an outline isn't the sort of thing I learned in art school--I could weld, but writing an outline was an entirely new and daunting experience). After it was finished I drew the first 75 pages of the book, and those pages, along with the outline, was what Dan submitted to publishers.

What do you and your publisher have planned in the way of promotion?

Amulet printed a ton of amazing full-color advanced reading copies that we've been giving away at conferences (NCTE, ALA, etc). Jason Wells (marketing guru at Abrams) has been sending me to schools and festivals and bookstores, and there was a big book launch at Books of Wonder in NYC in April, and another smaller one hosted by Walk A Crooked Mile Books in my neighborhood in Philadelphia. There's a website and a Facebook page, and my friend Kit has told everyone in the Hudson River Valley about the book. I think she forced a conductor on Metro North to order a copy. My father has been asking everyone he meets if they have a kid between the ages of 8 and 13, and then demanding that they buy a book if they do. The promotional prowess of my family and friends has been both incredibly gratifying and a little terrifying

Can you offer some advice for first-time authors?

There are so many smart pieces of advice that are almost too trite at this point: take constructive criticism, don't give up just because it's hard, write every know, all that good stuff. But I think first-time authors already know all that, so my advice is to eat a spoonful of peanut butter to stop hiccups. Works every time.

Find Amy Ignatow online:

Are you a debut author who'd like to be featured on the SCBWI blog? E-mail me!

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Wednesday Tweet Roundup

    Twittter can be a tad overwhelming to keep up with. Or maybe it's just me--I follow just under 3,000 Twitter users. I know I should probably cut down, but I don't want to miss anything! The problem is, it's impossible to not miss anything. (They say the average tweet lives for five minutes, then--poof--it's gone.)

    Since Twitter users can't see it all, and those of you who aren't quite sure what a "tweet" is won't see any (and since it's "writer Wednesday" on Twitter--#WW), I've decided to start sharing some of what I think are the most interesting/useful/amusing tweets I've come across recently. (I'll do this most Wednesdays.)

    Click on the twitter handle (@name) to see the original tweet and follow the links to read the articles or blog posts these tweeters refer to.
    @colleenlindsay: This is the kind of agent I am: I ate worms for @EgmontUSA to get them to read a client's book. (There is photographic evidence coming!)

    @inkyelbows: Lit agent @Kid_Lit debunks the "I can't get published unless I'm published" myth:

    @katrinagermein: RT @BonnieAdamson: RT @MandyHubbard: Just blogged about trends I'm seeing RIGHT NOW in slush the pile:

    @ingridsundberg: Holly Black: Examining the Strange - The Basics of Writing Fantasy:

    @MelissaWrites: RT @ImaginationSoup: Deborah Underwood, Children's Picture Book Author Explains Plotting for Kids

    @lil_monmon: RT @4KidLit: Personality Typing Your Characters for Fuller Development: Character Worksheet Part 2

    @PoodlePowered: Great post! RT @4KidLit: Creating Memorable Characters Part 1- Character Worksheet

    @mstewartscience: Why is tone important in nonfiction writing?

    @juliemusil: RT @4kidlit Adventures in Children's Publishing: Shrinking Your Characters 

    @PaulaYoo: Natl Pic Bk Writing Week Wrap Up Blog List posted here:

    @Peter_Gutierrez: My report on #IRA annual conf @ #graphicnovel Reporter w/ quotes frm Jane Yolen, Michael Bitz

     @JodySparks: RT @4kidlit Adventures in Children's Publishing: Monday Conference Round-Up ..

    @ingridsundberg: John Green and David Levithan Speak at #LATFOB : (@realjohngreen)

    @asuen1: 5 Great Books About Hamsters @penguinkids @Scholastic @HarperChildrens #kidlit

    @lcalabrese: Picture Books for Moms

    @jennaraynell: RT @FirstBook: The 70 Best Children's Books Of All Time: List Marks Puffin's 70th Anniversary.
    @ReadTogether: RT @reachoutandread: RT @readingrockets 50 multicultural books every child should know:

    @CherokeeMK: RT @amyhodgepodge: RT @katrinagermein: On creating a digital picture book for the iPad. - Amazing!

    @ingridsundberg: Quote of the Week: Mary Kole - "Teens aren't..."

    @jasouders: Check out a really great oasis for #writers ! New collaborative blog for YA.

    @SaraFujimura: Stealing a delightfully disgusting diabetic toe incident from my nurse friend & putting in BREATHE. 

    What did I miss, tweeps? (I know there's a lot.) If you found a helpful/inspirational/useful/amusing tweet that's not on my list, please post it in a comment.

    (NOTE: Based on subsequent tweets, Colleen Lindsay seems to have survived the worm eating at Egmont unscathed. I ate worms my freshmen year of high school during Miss Dugle's algebra class because she was munching on them and grossing everyone out and I didn't want her to get a way with it. I puked during my next class. As if algebra wasn't nauseating enough...)

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    Summer Conference Opportunites for Illustrators & Published SCBWI Members

    Registration for the 39th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference is well under way and there are a few great opportunities still available for both illustrators and SCBWI members who are published or have books under contract. These classes and tracks offer specialized instruction with great teachers and are a steal at $100. Check them out (and if you're interested, act fast).

    FOR ILLUSTRATORS there are still a limited number of spaces open in two pretty awesome Master Classes:

    Writing and Illustrating Children's Graphic Novels, with Mac McCool
    Mac McCool freelanced for a decade for the likes of Disney and currently teaches illustration and sequential art at Cal State, Fullerton. His class, which has a couple of homework assignments that much be completed prior to attending, helps those interested in creating graphic novel to expand their stills, sharpen dialog, create great characters (over and over) and more. The class is also open to writers, too, and participants will both write and illustrate, even if one is not their forte. Click here for more information and to register.

    Pushing Pixels: Picture Book Illustration in the Digital Age, with William Low
    William Low has been working as an award winning painter and illustrator for more than 23 years with a long list of impressive clients, and is the author of, among others, MACHINES GO TO WORK (2009) and the upcoming CITY MACHINES GO TO WORK (2011). His class offers hands-on instruction in digital techniques (check out this video) that will teach illustrators how to create digital art that doesn't look so, well, digital! (No cold, flat, computer-y looking images here.) Participant requirements include a laptop and Adobe Photoshop. Click here for more information and to register.

    PUBLISHED SCBWI MEMBERS can still registers for the Summer Conference Pro Track with special sessions and events just for them:

    Pro Track Series Luncheon & Book Sale
    Participants in this track must be P.A.L. SCBWI members, that is they must have a book under contract with, or published by, a publisher listed on one of the the SCBWI Market Surveys. There are eight targeted courses offered (including a couple of sessions with yours truly), plus Friday’s lunch for PROtrack attendees offering a tasty conversation on “Staying Afloat Financially.” PROtrack conference-goers also have the opportunity to sell their book in the PROtrack Bookstore at Friday night’s wine & cheese reception honoring published attendees. And in addition Website Consultation, Author Photo, or “Find A Speaker” Video Shoot options are also available. Click here for more information and to register.

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Editor Interview: Brian Farrey, Flux

    With lots of fanfare (there's confetti flying here in my home office) I'm kicking off the new SCBWI blog with an editor interview featuring Brian Farrey of Flux, an imprint dedicated to publishing only YA. Brian has been Flux's acquisitions editor since the end of 2008, before that working in publicity for the imprint since it started up in 2005. Here he talks about Flux, his direction with the imprint, some upcoming titles, and, of course, YA itself.

    Has anything changed at Flux since you took over the imprint?

    As some people know, my first job with Flux was as publicist when the imprint first launched. In that capacity, I worked closely with Andrew Karre, Flux's former acquiring editor (now the Editorial Director at Lerner's Carolrhoda imprint). I had (and continue to have) a lot of respect for Andrew's sense of vision. He did a lot to set the standard for the imprint. Thankfully, Andrew and I have very similar tastes in YA, so in that respect not much has changed. However, by nature, I bring a different eye to reading submissions. Ultimately, I don't think Flux's direction has changed at all. I'm still looking to bring in fresh voices with a solid grounding in emotional honesty. If anything, I aim to build on the success the imprint has enjoyed, expanding on the points of view we present. I'm adding some sci-fi/speculative fiction to the line in the coming year. I'm looking at the books where we've seen success and hoping similar titles will prove just as successful. We'll also be expanding the number of titles we produce each year, which means I'm chin deep in submissions.

    How would you define YA?

    I think the most important part of the definition invokes Flux's slogan: YA is a point of view, not a reading level. To me, that's where it all starts. I find I get in trouble (with myself, mainly) when I try to narrow the definition further because just when I decide what it is, I fall in love with a manuscript that challenges my criteria. In a lot of ways, YA is a lot like the target audience: try to label and define a "typical" young adult at your own peril. They're at that exciting* stage of life that's all about reinventing convention and exploration of self. The best YA--the stuff that really gets me excited--latches on to that.

    {* I say "exciting" in retrospect because I think a sizable contingent of teens would find other adjectives (terrifying, confusing, stultifying) to describe their current situation.}

    You accept electronic submissions directly from authors as well as taking submissions from agents. What makes you keep reading?

    The thrill of discovering a new voice. Really, that's what it is. Finding the person who zeroes in on the right words and puts them in just the right order and leaves me giddy.  I've had that pleasure over and over again, both with agented submissions and unagented. Part of the price of admission for that thrill ride is, of course, reading lots of stuff that doesn't hit the mark with me. LOTS of stuff. Not that it's bad but I just don't connect with the material in the way that a writer deserves. So much of this job, to me, is about the author-editor relationship. I enjoy that collaboration and when you find an author with whom you share a wavelength, it's really exciting.  So I keep reading to keep reliving that experience.

    What are some upcoming or recent Flux releases that you're excited about?

    Ah, this is the part of the interview where I'm forced to choose which of my children are my favorites. Always so hard to do. To make it easy, I'll just mention three of the very first books I acquired when I took over Flux. Out in May is A BLUE SO DARK, Holly Schindler's stunning debut. It's the story of a girl who can no longer hide the fact that she's her schizophrenic mother's sole caretaker (and, as I type this, I just found out it got a starred review from BOOKLIST!).  And keep your eye on Heath Gibson when his debut, GIGGED, hits shelves (also in May). Like many YA enthusiasts, I adore Robert Cormier's work and I don't invoke his name lightly. But GIGGED captures a lot of Cormier's magic and includes a stunner of a twist ending of which Cormier himself would approve. And this summer, Karen Kincy's debut, OTHER, starts an exciting new urban fantasy series for Flux about a shapeshifting teen in Washington state who becomes the target of a serial killer when she begins investigating the deaths of "Others," the paranormal kinfolk of the world.

    What advice would you offer to YA writers hoping to get published?

    The piece that I've been distributing most often recently comes from something I'm noticing more and more with submissions: if you're going to write YA, you need to read YA. Know the market. Every day I get manuscripts from people who CLEARLY have not read a contemporary YA novel. Don't look at the "New for Teens" shelf at Borders and think you can do that without having read a word. DO NOT regurgitate what you see on the market. You definitely need your own voice, your own spin. But know what's out there and what's appealing to readers.

    Here's where to find Flux online: