Thursday, December 27, 2012

Inspiration as we 'graduate' 2012... Tony Kushner's words to artists

"Artists are a tough people in my experience.  You have to be tough to create.  Just ask God."

- Tony Kushner, in his 2011 Columbia School of the Arts Graduation speech (33 minutes in.)

Illustrate and Write On, into 2013!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Gift of Being Present To Your Career

This fall, editor Molly O'Neill (who will be on faculty at the upcoming SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, February 1-3, 2013) published a blog post, "You Tell Me: The Home Library Dilemma," where she asked:

Imagine that your entire home library is destroyed (anguish! woe!) in a fire or flood or some such disaster. None of the books are recoverable. When it's time to start rebuilding your library: what are the very first two books (one picture book, one novel) that you'd want to put on your new shelves?

The answers (hers and in comments) are fun to read, but let's take the idea one step further...

How can we make our illustrations, our characters, and our stories so loved that they're the ones others would pick first in rebuilding their libraries?

What elements of our craft can we hone?

What depths of feeling and meaning can we spelunk?

What crazy and super-evocative words like spelunk can we use?

As we celebrate the holidays, let's also take the time to contemplate our work, and the concrete steps we can take in the year ahead to have that work reach its own and our greatest potential...  And what better gift could there be, for ourselves and our readers?

Happy Holidays!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Give Yourself The Gift of a SCBWI International Conference: #NY13SCBWI

There is still room in the 14th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City (February 1-3, 2013) but workshops are filling up... Don't miss your opportunity to learn what editors and agents are looking for!

Treat yourself (or a loved one who writes and/or illustrators for children and teens) to a weekend of...

Hear from Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Meg Rosoff, Shaun Tan and Mo Willems!)

There's the Saturday Night GALA Party, and right afterwards, three different socials:  Illustrators, International, and LGBTQ Chat!

Publisher Jennifer Besser (G.P. Putnam's Sons), Executive Editor Rosemary Brosnan (HarperCollins Children's Books), Executive Editor Francoise Bui (Delacorte Press), Sue Fletcher (Candlewick Press), Executive Editor Arianne Lewin (G.P. Putnam's Sons), Executive Editor Krista Marino (Delacorte Press), Moly O'Neill (Katherine Teagan Books/HarperCollins), Julie Scheina (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), Editorial Director Yolanda Scott (Charlesbridge), Senior Executive Editor Nancy Siscoe (Knopf Books for Young Readers),

Art Directors and Creative Directors!
Creative Director Patrick Collins (Henry Holt Book for Young Readers), Executive Art Director Isabel Warren-Lynch (Random House)

Brenda Bowen (Sandford J. Greenburger Associates), Alexandra Penfold (Upstart Crow Literary), Chris Tugeau (CATugeau: Artis Agent LLC),

There's still room in Friday's illustrator's intensive, but only waiting lists for the writers' intensives!  

Mary Brown (owner of Books, Bytes & Beyond), Robert Brown (National Sales and Program Manager at Scholastic Book Fairs), Jan Constantine (General Counsel for The Authors Guild), Jon Fine (Director of Author & Publisher Relations, Amazon), Peter Glassman (found and President of Books of Wonder),

Floyd Cooper (over 90 children's books published and more than 2000 book cover illustrations!), Pat Cummings (author and/or illustrator of over 35 books for young readers), David Diaz (winner of the Caldecott Medal!), The Brothers Hilts (team illustrators who recently won the Founder's Award from The Society of Illustrators), award-winning author Matthew J. Kirby, Barbara McClintock (her books have been named four times to the NY Times Best Illustrated Books of the Year list!), Linda Sue Park (Newbery Medal Winner!), David Ezra Stein (a Caldecott Honoree for 'Interrupting Chicken'), Mark Teague (illustrator of the How Do Dinosaurs? series written by Jane Yolen), and Jane Yolen herself (author of almost 300 books for children!)

#NY13SCBWI will be full of opportunity, and best of all, your community.

Come join us!  Early Registration closes January 4, 2013.  And don't forget to check out some of our pre-conference interviews with conference faculty members, including Printz award-winning author Meg Rosoff, Charlesbridge Editorial Director Yolanda Scott, and editor at HarperCollins' Katherine Tegen Books Molly O'Neill.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The New York Times Bestseller List Will Now Separate YA and Middle Grade Titles!

As reported in publisher's lunch, The New York Times will now "...split its children's Chapter book bestseller lists into separate middle grade and young adult lists..."

Here's a screen shot (courtesy of Author John Green's tumbler) of the YA and middle grade lists:

Both lists, including the series bestseller lists, will include ebook sales, while the picture book bestsellers list will continue to report hardcover unit sales only.

This means ten more MG and YA books get to be on the New York Times bestseller list every week, which can only be good for all of us who create MG and YA books!  (And it's good for readers, too - as they get more information about the age category they're interested in.)

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Standards are Coming! The Standards are Coming! Is the New Common Core Curriculum Unfriendly To Fiction?

The Common Core State Standards in English (already adopted in 46 states and Washington, D.C.) call for public schools to "ramp up nonfiction so that by 12th grade students will be reading mostly “informational text” instead of fictional literature."

Two recent articles

"New education standards elbow out literature: Is non-fiction more rigorous than literature? An important education initiative thinks so" in Salon by Alex Halperin


"Common core sparks war over words" by Lyndsey Layton in the Washington Post

raise some fascinating points.

From the Washington Post article:

Jamie Highfill is mourning the six weeks’ worth of poetry she removed from her eighth-grade English class at Woodland Junior High School in Fayetteville, Ark. She also dropped some short stories and a favorite unit on the legends of King Arthur to make room for essays by Malcolm Gladwell and a chapter from “The Tipping Point,” Gladwell’s book about social behavior.

“I’m struggling with this, and my students are struggling,” said Highfill, who was named 2011 middle school teacher of the year in her state. “With informational text, there isn’t that human connection that you get with literature. And the kids are shutting down. They’re getting bored. I’m seeing more behavior problems in my classroom than I’ve ever seen.”
And from the Salon article:

"...the standards appear to suggest that non-fiction is by definition more rigorous and practical than fiction and poetry. But is “The Tipping Point” a tougher slog than “Moby Dick” or more thought provoking than an average “literary” novel?"
The standard architects are saying that the teachers of other subjects can assign non-fiction that relates to their subject (i.e., math students could read Euclid’s “Elements”) which would free up English teachers to still teach fiction, but, as it says in the Washington Post article,
In practice, the burden of teaching the nonfiction texts is falling to English teachers, said Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University: “You have chemistry teachers, history teachers saying, ‘We’re not going to teach reading and writing, we have to teach our subject matter. That’s what you English teachers do.’ ”
One final quote from the Washington Post:
“Reading for information makes you knowledgeable — you learn stuff,” English teacher J.D. Wilson said. “But reading literature makes you wise.”

What's your take?  Is fiction being undervalued?  Or is Non-Fiction finally getting its due?

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Simon & Schuster Joins Other Major Trade Publishers Offering Self-Publishing Services

As Traditional publishers try to figure out the future, and more books are being self-published than ever before, comes this news as reported on Publisher's Lunch and in Publisher's Weekly:

"Simon & Schuster is joining other publishers such as Thomas Nelson and Harlequin in pairing with Author Solutions--now owned by Penguin/Pearson--to offer its own self-publishing service. (Now that Nelson is owned by HarperCollins, that connects ASI to three of the largest trade publishers.)

The service, operated by ASI under license, brings back the old Archway brand and will be known as Archway Publishing. (Archway was an S&S line of young adult paperbacks, which published lines including Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys.)

Like the other publisher co-branded ASI offerings, Archway Publishing offers self-published authors premium-priced packages that start at $1,999 (and $1,599 for children's book authors) and reach up to $25,000.  (Nelson's West Bow Press packages start at $999; Harlequin's Dellarte's services start at $599. Other publishing partners include Hay House, Writer's Digest, and Guideposts.) 

And in a nod to the ongoing clout of being Traditionally published:

"As with the other publisher-affiliated lines, Archway dangles the prospect that ASI "will alert Simon & Schuster to Archway Publishing titles that perform well in the market."

S&S CEO Carolyn Reidy said in the press release:

"Through Archway Publishing, Simon & Schuster is pleased to be part of the rapidly expanding self-publishing segment of our industry.... We're excited that we'll be able to help more authors find their own path to publication and at the same time create a more direct connection to those self-published authors ready to make the leap to traditional publishing."
Fascinating times we're writing and illustrating in!


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Short Stories and Poetry: A Digital Renaissance Moment?

The decline of print magazines (like the venerable Newsweek, which as of this month is going digital-only) and the rise of e-books can make it seem that short stories and poetry for children and teens have a shrinking market.

But recent changes in publishing signal may a new life for these shorter forms...

A new digital-focused imprint, Harper Teen Impulse launched this month, publishing short fiction for teens.  As reported in Publisher's Weekly,

"The new line launches December 4 with a novella by Sophie Jordan, BREATHLESSS, and a futuristic novella from Scott Westerfeld, STUPID PERFECT WORLD, both selling for $1.99. The company indicates it will publish up to 4 ebooks a month, priced from 99 cents to $2.99.

Harper Children's president and publisher Susan Katz says, "We're seeing short-form content becoming more popular in the digital marketplace, and HarperTeen Impulse allows us to experiment with new concepts and deliver content quickly." 

And this piece in Salon, "Can Books Endure In A 140-character World?" by Julia Ingalls suggests that maybe the short attention span of digital natives (you're a digital immigrant if you remember a time before cell phones and email) creates an opportunity for shorter form narratives, like poetry. 

"Instead of spending five months immersed in Proust, the visual and auditory quality of social media makes it possible to spend five minutes getting your mind blown by a contemporary philosopher. Quality, not quantity, is the key."

These are fascinating times we live and create in!

Illustrate and Write On,

Monday, December 3, 2012

SCBWI Magazine Merit Awards deadline coming up in two weeks: Applications Due December 15, 2012!

The SCBWI Magazine Merit Awards are presented by the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators annually for original magazine work for young people.

Each year, the SCBWI presents four plaques, one in each category of fiction, nonfiction, illustration, and poetry,  to honor members' outstanding original magazine work published during that year.  The works chosen are those that exhibit excellence in writing and illustration, and genuinely appeal to the interests and concerns of young people. Honor Certificates in each category are also awarded.

Find out the submission information for your magazine work published in 2012 here.

Good Luck!

Illustrate and Write On,