Thursday, March 28, 2013

Money Money Money...

Three thought-provoking discussions of making money as an artist (and if you write and illustrate for children and teens, that's what you are.)

#1: This Salon article, My Amazon bestseller made me nothing.

In it, author Patrick Wensink details exactly how much he made from having his novel become

"The international bestseller at the center of the "World's Nicest Cease and Desist" from Jack Daniel's. Featured in the New Yorker, New York Times, Forbes, London Telegraph, Esquire, The Atlantic, NPR's Weekend Edition and more."

#2  A newly discovered letter by Oscar Wilde, written to an aspiring young writer, that includes this advice:

“The best work in literature is always done by those who do not depend on it for their daily bread and the highest form of literature, Poetry, brings no wealth to the singer,”

#3 And this TED talk by Amanda Palmer, which I found in a great post by author Grace Lin at Blue Rose Girls.

Grace also quotes Neal Pollack on the questionable value of hype for an author, and says she found it

"both hopeful and disheartening. Hopeful because I think it just shows that the only real success one can can have being an author is writing something you truly love. But disheartening because that success may never pay the bills."

There are always going to be the stories of J. K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer and Suzanne Collins-level mega-bucks, but the vast number of books that get published don't make their author rich. 

So, if you are an artist whose work is not (yet) bringing in the income you need to make your life work, there are two questions to consider:

How are you going to support yourself? 

And maybe the larger issue,

What are the measures (besides money) that you are going to use to determine the success of your art?

Certainly there's no definitive answer someone else can hand you, but it's an important conversation we should be having - with ourselves, and our community.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Creativity Tool: Coffeeshop Ambiance

Coffitivity is a free website providing

"Ambient sounds to boost your creativity."

The idea is that some people work really well in a cafe environment, but that requires getting to a cafe, which can get expensive and leave you overly caffeinated.

What if you could have that ambient noise and bustle just by clicking to a website? 

Well, now you can.

If you're a cafe-creative type, check it out.

Illustrate and Write On,

ps - a shout-out to Rita Crayon Huang for letting me know about this!

pps- this post was written with coffitivity playing in the background on my computer.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


The SCBWI Summer Conference is coming, and here's a sneak peek at some of the amazing keynote speakers!

Laurie Halse Anderson

Bruce Degen

Matt de la Peña

Jarrett Krosoczka

Kirby Larson

Peter Lerangis 

Carolyn Mackler

Jon Scieszka


David Weisner

It's an amazing lineup!

So mark your calendar (August 2-5, 2013) for an unforgettable experience with the very best in the field of children's literature!  Over a jam-packed weekend you'll hear from top agents and editors on the state of the market, get inspired by award-winning authors and illustrators, discuss how to progress your career, attend small, targeted breakout workshops, connect with old friends, and meet new ones!

And on August 5th there's an even more in-depth experience available, with exciting optional intensives for writers and an incredible Illustrators Day program.

Members of SCBWI, keep an eye out for emails about the conference in the weeks to come.

This conference has sold out for the last few years, so make your plans now and be ready when registration opens in mid-April.

We hope to see you there!

Illustrate and Write On,

Friday, March 15, 2013

Today (Friday March 15, 2013) Is The Last Day To Vote For The 2013 Crystal Kite Awards!

The Crystal Kite Awards are given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators each year to recognize great books from 15 regional SCBWI divisions around the world. Along with the SCBWI Golden Kite Awards, the Crystal Kite Awards are chosen by other children’s book writers and illustrators, making them the only peer-given awards in publishing for young readers. Each member of SCBWI is allowed to vote for their favorite book from a nominated author in their region that was published in the previous calendar year.

Today is the last day of Round 2 voting, where you vote on your favorite of the five books in your region that received the highest number of votes in Round 1.

The 15 regions are:

Domestic Divisions
· California/Hawaii
· West (Washington/Oregon/Alaska/Idaho/Montana/North Dakota/South Dakota)
· Southwest (Nevada/Arizona/Utah/Colorado/Wyoming/New Mexico)
· Midwest (Minnesota/Iowa/Nebraska/Wisconsin/Illinois/Michigan/Indiana/Ohio)
· New England (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island)
· New York
· Texas/Oklahoma
· Atlantic (Pennsylvania/Delaware/New Jersey/Wash DC/Virginia/West Virginia/Maryland)
· Mid-South (Kansas/Louisiana/Arkansas/Tennessee/Kentucky/Missouri)
· Southeast (Florida/Georgia/South Carolina/North Carolina/Alabama/Mississippi)
Continental Divisions
· UK/Europe
· Africa
· Middle East/India/Asia
· Australia/New Zealand
· The Americas (Canada/Mexico/Central & South America)

So how do you vote?

Go to and sign in with your email address and password.

Click on the "See what's going on in your region!" link on your Member Home Page.

Click on the tab that says "Crystal Kite."

Check out the top five books from your Regional Division and vote for the one book of your choice.

Note: This option is ONLY available during the voting period. 

Go here to read all the rules and details! 

Happy voting!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Latest Pew Report On Library Use

This report on Library Services in the Digital Age, based on a survey of 2,252 Americans ages 16 and up between Oct 15 and Nov 10, 2012 - conducted in English and Spanish on both land and cell phone lines, is full of fascinating findings:

Blacks and Hispanics are more likely than Whites to use proposed new library services, like:

kiosks throughout the community to check out books/movies,
e-book readers loaded with books you want to read,
instruction on how to use e-book reading devices,
customized on-line suggestions based on your previous borrowing activity,
and even a cell GPS app that helps you locate material in a library.
and when asked about
Offering a broader selection of e-books: 53% of Americans ages 16 and older say libraries should “definitely do” this.
These numbers were important:

80% of Americans say borrowing books is a “very important” service libraries provide.

80% say reference librarians are a “very important” service of libraries.

77% say free access to computers and the internet is a “very important” service of libraries.

There's much more to discover in the research so check it out yourself.

It's interesting to note how the media spins things to match up with a meta-narrative of the decline of books and libraries as a fear-based response to change  - change which in a different light might be seen as positive evolution!  The LA Times article about this Pew Research Report was titled, "Not dead yet: Libraries still vital, Pew report finds."  Which is a pretty backwards way of presenting it. 

Bottom line?

Fully 91% of Americans ages 16 and older say public libraries are important to their communities; and 76% say libraries are important to them and their families.

And for us writers and illustrators?  That's good news.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bruce Hale Shares Three Excellent Tips For School Visits

Author/Illustrator Bruce Hale

Reading Bruce's latest newsletter, I was impressed by this article, and with his kind permission, share it here:


Ah, school visits -- the bread and butter of a working children's
book author.  We all know the basics, right?  You stand up in front
of a room full of kids, read from your work, and answer questions.

But if you want to take your school visit from good to great, here
are three things to bear in mind:

1. It's not about you

Say what?  Aren't they paying me to talk about myself? Well, yes
and no.  Yes, they want to hear something of your life story and
how you came to write your marvelous book.  But no, they don't want
to hear the "me, me, me" song all day long.  That can turn off your
audience quicker than anything.

If it's not about you, then who IS it about?  Your listeners.  Just
like adult audiences, kids are tuned into one radio station:
WII-FM, or What's In It For ME?  If you're going to talk about
yourself, find a way to let them know you're thinking of them
first.  Use humor. Frame your talk from their point of view.  Draw
parallels between your life and theirs.  Find lessons that can help
them from all the mistakes you made along the way.  And above all,
encourage and empower them.

2. Fun is king

Even if you're not Joe or Josephine Public Speaker, school visits
can be a blast.  You have license to make things fun, for yourself
and your audience.  Use it.  Tell appropriate jokes, show
embarrassing photos, break out the goofy props, sing, dance, or
draw.  If you appeal to as many senses as possible, you'll capture
their attention.

What if you can't sing or dance?  Review the contents of your
stories and your own native abilities to find something different
and enjoyable to share with kids.  At the very least, you can dress
colorfully and give them something to look at.

As authors, we're not just talking heads, we're entertainers.  And
the more you embrace that, not just in your writing, but in your
speaking, the more positively your audiences will respond.  Yes, we
do often convey serious messages, but there's no reason they can't
be conveyed with a dash of silliness or panache.

3. Interactivity rules

The more active and engaged your audience, the better.  Ask
questions with clear answers that kids can respond to as a group.
Get them to raise their hands with broadly applicable queries like,
"Who's ever had trouble coming up with an ending for their story?"

Bring up volunteers to draw, participate in reader's theater, or
write something on the board for you.  Even if you only call on two
or three students, they will serve as surrogates for the rest of
the group, and the audience will feel more involved.

There's a reason that call-and-response figures strongly in both
sermons and storytelling.  Use it wherever you can.  If your
picture book has a refrain, get the kids to say it with you.  Every
time they say something or do something that relates to your
presentation, you raise the level of energy and engagement in the

And if you can do that, schools will keep coming back for more.

Bruce Hale is the author-illustrator of nearly 30 seriously funny books for young readers, including the award-winning Chet Gecko Mysteries, SNORING BEAUTY, and his newest series, SCHOOL FOR S.P.I.E.S. You can learn more about his books online at, and subscribe to his e-newsletter of writing tips at

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Kid Lit Celebrates Women's History Month!

A great example of synergy and group blogging is Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month.

Synergy because they're taking an event, the national observance in the USA of Women's History, and putting up a one-month-only blog that's all about Women and history and empowerment.

Synergy because it's a joint effort, with each contributor doing a single post, allowing them the time and focus to do it well.

Synergy since the promotion efforts of one help all, and of all help one.

The list of scheduled contributors is impressive:

And the posts so far have been impressive as well:

Like Yes You Can!, where Lisa of Shelf Employed and the Association of Library Service To Children blog starts us off with the inspiring story of her own daughter wanting to read a non-fiction science book that was "too old" for her... how she encouraged her daughter to get it anyway, and how that book transformed her daughter's life.

Check out Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month, and let the medium as well as the message inspire you!

Illustrate and Write On, 

Friday, March 1, 2013

The 2013 Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Award Winners!

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Announes the winners and honorees of the 2013 Golden Kite Awards and the Sid Fleischman Award!

The 2013 awards are presented for excellence in books for young readers published in the 2012 calendar year.

The Golden Kite Award Winners are,

(here's where you add the virtual drum roll)

for Fiction...

The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanne Rocklin (Amulet Books/Abrams)

for Non Fiction...

Noah Webster & His Words by Jeri Chase Ferris (HM for Children) 

for Picture Book Illustration...

Lester's Dreadful Sweaters by K. G. Campbell (Kids Can Press) 

and for Picture Book Text

Me and Momma and Big John by Mara Rockliff (Candlewick) 

(imagine all the applause and now a new camera angle...)


The 2013 Sid Fleischman Award for Humor goes to...

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems ((HarperCollins)!

Congratulations to all the winners!

The red carpet will be rolled out and we'll get to hear from Joanne, Jeri, K.G., Mara and Mo at the upcoming 42nd Annual SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, August 2-5, 2013.

(Cue fanfare, and imagine the following as a voice-over:

Additionally, our congratulations to the Golden Kite Honor Recipients: 

for Fiction: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion) 

for Nonfiction:  We've Got a Job by Cynthia Levinson (Peachtree) 

for Picture Book Illustration:  Electric Ben by Robert Byrd (Dial)


for  Picture Book Text:  A Leaf Can Be… by Laura Purdie Salas (Millbrook)

(Time to party... and read some great, award-winning books!)