Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The 2014 Crystal Kite Winners: ONCE UPON A MEMORY by Nina Laden, illustrated by Renata Liwska (SCBWI Western Washington)

The Crystal Kite Award is given by SCBWI in 15 divisions across the globe. In this 15th (and final) profile of our 2014 winners, the spotlight shines on ONCE UPON A MEMORY by Nina Laden, illustrated by Renata Liwska.

Representing SCBWI Western Washington (from whence Nina Laden hails), ONCE UPON A MEMORY won for the Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Northern Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota Division.

Award-Winning Author Nina Laden

Lee: Please tell us about your book!

Nina: “Once Upon A Memory” began as poem that I wrote during a particularly difficult period in my life. I was walking on the beach and I found a feather and as I held it up and tested it in the wind, it got me wondering if it remembered that it once was a bird. That question, “does a feather remember it once was a bird?” led to a string of questions that turned into a poem as I kept walking down the beach- until it got to the point that I nearly had to run home to write them down before I forgot them. 

At first I thought the book, which I originally called “Does A Feather Remember?” was going to be a whimsical board book with novelty flaps that revealed the answers. Things didn’t go that way, in fact they changed at a SCBWI conference in my home state of Washington. 

A few years back I was faculty at our SCBWI-WA Spring Conference and after the conference ended, editor Connie Hsu (who was with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers at that time) and I had a glass of wine and discovered that we both had the same birthday. On a whim I decided to send “Does A Feather Remember?” to her, and after a series of revisions, a chunk of time, and the submission of four different samples of my different illustration styles decisions were made. Little, Brown became the publisher. Connie became the editor- and for the first time ever, I became the author only. It was actually a very interesting experience and a lesson about letting go. My style was just not “sweet enough.” (I have never been accused of being “warm and fuzzy. Hah!) 

Working with Connie was wonderful and it was a lot of work. Every single word and every concept/image was thoroughly scrutinized. I was ever so grateful to help choose the fabulously-talented Renata Liwska to illustrate this book. Renata and I have become friends through this experience. There is even a cultural bond because Renata is originally from Poland, and I, too am part Polish. (My last name used to be Ladinski and was changed by my paternal grandfather.) 

Through all of this, “Does A Feather Remember?” became a beautiful, evocative picture book, and Little, Brown felt that I needed to change the title. This was a difficult thing for me to do, but it was a group decision. I submitted many ideas and everyone agreed that “Once Upon A Memory” was the best choice. There is so much of my own curiosity and wonder at the world we live in; to see this book come to life from an idea on the beach, to a gorgeous book about so many deep and important questions has been a reward after a long period of not creating the books that sustain me. 

Lee: How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Nina: I didn’t know about SCBWI when I submitted and published my first book, “The Night I Followed the Dog,” back in 1994, but I found out about them right after I was published and I joined. I can’t remember if it was late ‘94 or in ‘95. I tell people that I wish that I had known about them before I was published, but I think that not knowing has given me a greater sense of value of this incredible organization. SCBWI has been such an invaluable tool for networking. That is my number one reason for never letting my membership go after almost twenty years. Writing and illustrating is solitary work, and when I first started I didn’t even own a computer. Now we do have way too much social media connecting us to the point that we are over-stimulated. The SCBWI connections are the most meaningful ones in my book, though. I do wish I could attend more conferences, but being involved in the organization in the small way that I’ve been has helped me feel like part of such a great community. SCBWI lets us all share our knowledge and we pass on information and inspire each other. 

Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?

Nina: My advice for other children’s book writers and illustrators is to keep a journal/sketcbook/scrapbook. I’ve always done this – I put everything in my journals: ideas, stories, poems, drawings, cartoons, things I’ve cut and pasted... Anything that means something, even if I don’t know what it is. It could be the seed of an idea. You must feed your imagination. And you must get out into nature. I know we talk about keeping your “butt in the chair,” but... If you don’t get out there and have adventures and explore, you won’t have things that inspire you to write and draw. I truly believe that to create we have to “recreate” which is “re-create” if you look at the syllables... (and you have to eat well, too, there is an “ate,” there and I believe that cooking is also a connection to creativity.)

Thanks so much, Nina!

I also contacted SCBWI Western Washington co-Regional Advisors Dana Sullivan and Dana Arnim to find out more. Here's what they wrote:

SCBWI Western Washington tends to have most members clustered in the Seattle/Bellevue area, although we span from the British Columbia border up north all the way south to where Washington meets Oregon. We spread from the Cascade Mountains all the way west to the Olympic peninsula. (SCBWI’s Inland Empire region serves most cities and towns east of the Cascades in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho.) SCBWI WWA hosts an annual season of events which includes: monthly programming from September through May, a conference in April, Inside Story events, illustrator exhibitions, "Kid Lit” drink nights, both writers' & illustrators’ retreats, and a series of schmoozes in both the north and south sound areas. 

Thanks to Nina and the Danas, and Cheers to both Nina and Renata on ONCE UPON A MEMORY winning the 2014 Crystal Kite Award!

You can find out more about Nina at her website here.

Learn about Renata Liwska and see more of her beautiful illustrations at her online home here.

And discover lots more about SCBWI Western Washington here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The 2014 Crystal Kite Winners: CHICKOSAURUS REX by Lenore Appelhans, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein (SCBWI Germany/Austria)

This week's Crystal Kite Spotlight shines on CHICKOSAURUS REX by the husband and wife team of Lenore Appelhans and Daniel Jennewein.

From SCBWI Germany/Austria, their book won for the "International Other" Division.

Award-Winning Author/Illustrator Team Lenore Appelhans and Daniel Jennewein

I contacted Lenore and Daniel to learn more...

Lee: Please tell us about your book!

Lenore and Daniel: CHICK-O-SAURUS REX is about a little Little Chick, who is bullied by the bigger animals. He feels small until he discovers he’s the closest living relative to the mighty T-Rex. When a wolf threatens the farm, Little Chick finds his inner T-Rex and saves the day. 

Lee: unexpected heroes saving the day - hurray! How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Lenore and Daniel: We joined in 2007 after working on a picture book for about two years and thinking it was ready to submit. We soon learned it was not! At the 2008 pre-Bologna conference, Daniel got great feedback on his illustrations from the art directors on the First Look panel, which led to a two-book contract with HarperCollins for his debut with Author Audrey Vernick: IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? We also met our eventual (and current) agent Stephen Barbara. 

Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?

Lenore and Daniel: Keep your eyes and ears and imagination open. You never know where you’ll find ideas and inspiration. With CHICK, we were visiting friends and their daughter told Daniel that she had learned something cool that day in school. She asked if he could guess the closest living relative to the T-Rex, and he was surprised by the answer. When he told me, I thought it would make the perfect picture book.

And it clearly did!

Thanks, Lenore and Daniel, and cheers to you both for CHICKOSAURUS REX winning the 2014 Crystal Kite Award!

You can find out more about Lenore at her website here, and Daniel at his website here.

You can also get details on SCBWI Germany/Austria at their regional website here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sotheby's Reports Brand New Record for a Book Illustration at Auction...

Sotheby's tweeted this phone and text earlier this month:

Sold for £314,500: the original drawing for "Poohsticks"... A brand new record for any book illustration at auction
That's nearly half a million dollars ($493,765.00 at the current $1.57 exchange rate to £1.00)!

What I find so amazing about EH Shepard's illustration, more than its current market value, is how much emotional value is conveyed... and we don't see any faces! Just Christopher Robin, and Pooh and Piglet's body positions, and the setting, and still so much emotion and tone comes through to us.

It's impressive.

You can read more about the sale of this drawing by EH Shepard in this BBC article here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 18, 2014

2014 Crystal Kite Winner: SHINE by Candy Gourlay (SCBWI British Isles)

Our spotlight this week is on Candy Gourlay and her novel SHINE, which won the Crystal Kite Award for the United Kingdom and Ireland. 

Award-Winning Author Candy Gourlay

Here's Candy!

Hello Lee and hello SCBWI readers! When SHINE got shortlisted for the Crystal Kite Prize in our region, I was up against some really big hitters! Fractured by Teri Terry is the second of a trilogy that has been winning prizes all over the place. And Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein is the sequel to Elizabeth's brilliant Code Name Verity which was a Golden Kite Honor Book, shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal and winner of an Edgar. Here is the Crystal Kite video we played at our November conference when I was presented with the trophy.

 I was thrilled to win -- it's my second Crystal Kite. My debut novel TALL STORY won in the very first outing of the Crystal Kite Award in 2011. Here is a photo of the two trophies. The new trophy is BIGGER than the 2011 one!

ABOUT THE BOOK SHINE was the second of a two book deal -- and when I first pitched it to my publisher, David Fickling, I said I was writing a vampire novel. Not with a conventional European vampire but with a Filipino vampire. It's got an unpronounceable name - manananggal - it's a beautiful girl by day and when the sun sets, it sprouts great leathery wings and rips its upper body from its lower half then flies off to suck away the souls of people. It sounds like a great idea, but when I finished it, I wasn't at all happy. I realised that it was not the book I wanted to write -- I don't even enjoy reading vampire novels! So I did another draft, taking away the vampire and turning the story into a thriller. And I hated it. It was at that point that my editor -- the author Simon Mason -- sat me down and told me: "When you rewrite this, don't take the approach that you have to fix it. Look at what's GREAT about it." And he spent the next hour telling me what he thought was great about the story. When I left the meeting, I knew what I wanted to write. SHINE is about a girl named Rosa who has a strange condition that makes her a pariah in the superstitious island where she lives. And so she lives out her life on the internet where she can be whoever she wants to be. She is befriended by a boy who turns out to live nearby and when he suggests that they meet, she is afraid of what he'll think when he realises that she is a monster. Entwined with this story is a ghost story. On Rosa's island, people believe that leaving a burning candle on your window sill will summon ghosts. So every night, Rosa lights a candle at the window because she wants her dead mother to return. One night, there is a knock on the door ... and there is her mother.


SCBWI MEMBER OF A DOZEN YEARS According to my SCBWI account, I've been a member of SCBWI since 2002! That is more than 12 years! When I visit schools, I talk about the Hero's Journey - you know, Monomyth - introduce the hero's ordinary world, the hero is called to adventure, the hero meets a spirit guide ... that kind of thing. Well I feel that in my long journey to publication SCBWI has been my spirit guide because it feels like SCBWI took me by the hand and has been leading me every step of the way. Joining SCBWI raised my game. Meeting people much better than me made me realise that I had been underestimating the level of craft I needed to get through the door. Volunteering with SCBWI put me into the middle of the world I longed to be a part of, even though I was still a wannabe writer. I realised that by working with SCBWI I was already living the life. I was one of the winners of the very first batch of Undiscovered Voices, the competition created by SCBWI British Isles that, six years on, has put SCBWI authors and illustrators on the map, here in the UK. Winning UV got me my agent and eventually my first book was published in 2010.
On the year my first book was published, I (selfishly) proposed that SCBWI BI hold a mass book launch party at our conference. Here we are at that first book launch. We've held it every year since then and our numbers just get bigger and bigger!
I am grateful to SCBWI for all the opportunities that have come my way. But the thing I value the most is the treasure trove of friendship that my involvement has given me. There is a video on Facebook of my acceptance speech for this year's Crystal Kite. In it, I say: thank you, SCBWI, for being my family which I mean from the bottom of my heart.

ADVICE FOR OTHER CHILDREN'S WRITERS Trying to get published is a long hard slog. And it's full of danger. Because in taking this journey, it is so easy to forget your real reasons for doing what you do. So let me remind you: You are writing because you want to tell a story, not because you want to hook a commissioning editor. You are not writing for children because it's easier than writing for adults. You are writing because the storytelling voice inside you has something to say to young people. The writer's life is not about leafing through your books in the shop, being adored by your fans and signing autographs. The writer's life is sitting down every day and doing the thing you can't help but do. And that is the life you're living now, whether you're published or not. So congratulations.

Thanks, Candy!

I also contacted Natascha Biebow, Regional Advisor of SCBWI British Isles, to find out more about their region and Candy's win. Here's what Natascha wrote:

The British Isles region are the largest and most active of the international regions, with over 30 events annually. 
Candy is one of BI's treasures - her boundless energy and enthusiasm and constant innovation is truly inspiring. Despite a busy work schedule, Candy is the sort of person who comes up with an idea and then makes it happen. Candy won the BI's Outstanding Contribution Award in 2011), but never one to rest on her laurels, Candy has continued to forge new paths for SCBWI BI with amazing dedication and good humour. She has worked tirelessly over the long term to provide SCBWI BI with a slick, professional online presence. This year, Candy has rebuilt our website (again) into one of the best amongst SCBWI regions and actively worked to create PULSE events, including our first PAL Librarian Event in London. As if this weren’t enough, she has introduced an entire new PULSE strand (this is our strand for PAL authors) to the annual conference and, rather than just leaving it to others to organise, she has done most of the logistical hard work herself that will make this aspiration a reality. Her constant hard work and dedication are a powerhouse that helps the rest of the team to push forward, motivated, inspired and in focus. She is tireless in her efforts and never shirks a job, even when busy on all her other projects. She always has a good word to say and is welcoming and courteous to all those around her. Her energy and enthusiasm seems boundless. Natascha
Thanks to both Candy and Natascha, and Cheers to Candy for SHINE winning the 2014 Crystal Kite Award!

You can learn more about Candy at her website here.

And dive into more about SCBWI British Isles at their online home here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The 2014 Crystal Kite Winners: I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN by Hélène Boudreau and SKINK ON THE BRINK by Lisa Dalrymple and illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo (SCBWI Canada East)

It's a TIE! This week's Crystal Kite Spotlight shines on two winning books from SCBWI Canada East, winners in the Canada division.

 I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN by Hélène Boudreau

Crystal Kite Winning-Author Helene Boudreau
and SKINK ON THE BRINK by Lisa Dalrymple, illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo.

Crystal Kite Award-Winning Author Lisa Dalrymple
Crystal Kite Award-Winning Illustrator Suzanne Del Rizzo
I contacted the three winners to find out more. First, Hélène:

 Lee:  Please tell us about your book!

Hélène: I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN is an anti-bedtime picture book about the perils of yawning when the last thing you want to do is go to bed. It was inspired by my daughter when she’d let out big (fake) yawns at the dinner table to get us all to yawn as well. When it dawned on me that she was using the fact that yawning is contagious for her personal entertainment, I thought ‘aha!’ what a fun concept for a picture book.

Here’s the book description from Candlewick Press: A yawn can land you in your pj’s and under the covers before you can blink and say “Baa baa black sheep.” So clamp your mouth shut and look away from your sleepy dog, stay away from your cuddly blanket, and whatever you do, don’t think of baby orangutans stretching their long arms out for a snuggly hug. Otherwise, you might find your mouth opening wide and letting out a great big yawny yaaaaaawn — hey, you were supposed hold it in! 

A hilarious read-aloud that is so much fun, kids will beg for it again and again, whatever the consequences. Just try to resist this comical — and infectious — cautionary fable that will have even bedtime-avoiders gladly snuggling up for a nightly challenge.

Lee: How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Hélène: I have been a member of the Verla Kay Blueboards (now merged with the SCBWI message boards) for about eight years and a SCBWI member for about four years to date. SCBWI and its membership has really expanded my horizons in terms of the children’s book industry. It has been a go-to place for me to learn about the art and business of writing, not to mention all the fun, like-minded friends I’ve met in the process. It really is a wonderful community. 

Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?

Hélène: Something I’ve come to learn is that, to be successful in this business, desire will get you started but grit is what gets it done. There’s a certain amount of work required to see a concept through from idea to creation to publication and for some, talent will get them halfway there right out of the gate but it’s not a golden ticket and not a guarantee of success. For others (admittedly, me) it’s only by sheer practice, restarting, refining, pride-swallowing, and stick-to-itiveness in the face of rejection, that books finally get published. That may take years (5 for me), it may take many ‘practice’ books (too many to count), it may take loads of rejections (like hundreds) but where there is a will there is a way.

Thanks, Hélène!

Now, the creators of SKINK ON THE BRINK, here's Lisa and Suzanne:

Lee: Lisa, please tell us about this book and your inspiration for the story!

Lisa: Honestly, my original desire to write Skink on the Brink came from the fact that the word ‘skink’ just made me giggle. If you live in the eastern states, skinks may be relatively commonplace (after all, Stewie is known as a Common Five-lined Skink) but, up here in Canada, they are incredibly rare. Kids love hearing about them, not only because their name is so much fun to say, but because skinks can do all sorts of amazing things: they’re lizards, so they can pop off their tails; juvenile skinks have the most astonishing blue tails I have ever seen; and adult males develop a red head in the spring (to make other skinks fall in love with them. Ewww!) 

So, it’s not surprising that Stewie is a lizard with an identity crisis. He prides himself on his shockingly bright blue tail, on the songs and poems he loves to make up, and on his name (because it rhymes with blue-y.) But, as Stewie is growing up, his blue tail is fading to gray and, to make matters worse, he’s developing a red head! He’s no longer inspired to make up the rhymes that he loves. He needs to discover who Stewie the skink is if he can no longer call himself “Stewie the Blue.” 

Lee: Suzanne, tell us about the illustration inspiration and process.

Suzanne: When I first found out I would be illustrating Skink on the Brink, I knew I had some prep work to do before I even got cracking on my initial sketches. This book would be part of the Tell-Me-More Storybook series at Fitzhenry and Whiteside- stand-alone storybooks which have 2 pages of cross-curricular back matter, full of great non-fiction information. Coming from a science background, I must admit I do love the initial researching phase of any picture book project. I began by collecting loads of reference photos from the internet, library, and Lisa provided me with some super shots from her trip to Pinery Park where she managed to photograph a Five-lined Skink up-close and in person. 

I envisioned having lots of secondary animals and vegetation to make Stewie’s habitat rich and authentic, so I also familiarized myself with the various animals and plant life that co-exist in his natural habitat. Luckily, my family cottage just happened to border the geographical region of their habitat. After many nature walks I had all the photo reference I needed. Perfect! 

My illustration process always begins with lots of loose thumbnail sketches. At this stage I play around with perspective, pacing, and flow. I also went through a few rounds of character sketches, all the while checking in with my editor, Christie Harkin. Christie encouraged Lisa and me to get in touch and bounce ideas around. It’s not always standard for authors and illustrators to discuss a project, but in this case, I think it really helped us achieve something special with this book. It was a fantastic collaboration.

My illustrations are basically low relief plasticine sculptures pressed onto illustration board, which are professionally photographed for print. Because I work in plasticine (and sometimes polymer clay and mixed media), I prefer to create very detailed, full-sized pencil drawings to show my AD/editor, and ideally make changes at this phase of the project. Each illustration can take from 20-40+ hours to create, depending on its size and complexity, so it’s much easier to erase a few pencil strokes at this point than to peel off/redo the plasticine final art. Creating the final art is similar to making a pizza where you begin with the background and gradually add layer upon layer working toward the foreground. I really enjoy adding lots of different textures and little details for children to explore, enjoy, and discover, even after multiple readings. 

Lisa’s Stewie was such fun to bring to life. From the vibrant blue-ness of his tail to the dapper and oh-so-handsome red of his head, he was the perfect character to render in plasticine. And to top it off he’s also a singing skink! I knew early on he’d need to back up those songs with some equally cool moves, so I had him dancing, foot-tapping, and finger snapping, in many of the illustrations- he’s one groovy skink. I think we found just the right balance of anthropomorphism while maintaining most of his awesome natural physical characteristics.

Lee: How long have you each been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Lisa: I feel like I’ve been a member of SCBWI for a long time. The friendships and connections I’ve made through SCBWI, either online or at regional and international conferences, seem to go back much further than the couple of years that my membership profile insists must be true. For me, my involvement in SCBWI can be distilled down to three concepts: the support of experienced mentors and friends, the inspiration kindled by conversation and informative presentations, and the passion for children’s writing and illustration that we all share.

Suzanne: I’ve been a member of SCBWI since 2011. Joining SCBWI was one of the first things I did when I decided to pursue a career in illustration. It is an invaluable resource, and its members are a continual source of inspiration. I joined a critique group through my regional SCBWI chapter. In August 2013 I attended my first LA conference. A personal highlight was hearing David Wiesner- one of my all-time favorite illustrators - talk about his process. This October I’m attending my first regional conference in Ottawa. I am super excited to meet many of my fellow CANEASTers in person for the first time, many of whom I’ve gotten to know online. Being a member of such a supportive and encouraging group has helped me grow as an illustrator and author. SCBWI’s resources, such as their submissions guidelines and school visit tips are just some of the tools which I utilize year after year.

When Lisa and I heard that Skink on the Brink was chosen by our fellow SCBWI peers to win the Crystal Kite award for Canada, we were honored and beyond thrilled. 

Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?

Lisa: I’m always uncomfortable at being asked for advice when there is so much good advice out there from other writers far more qualified to give it. That’s probably why my advice is always to go to conferences, join associations, meet those other writers, listen and learn–not only to what they have to say about craft or ‘the writing life,’ but about what’s going on in the business of writing and publishing too. I also cannot recommend a critique group enough. Even if your writing is awesome, I think there’s much value in receiving feedback from others and in developing your own analytical eye. And… finding a critique group that’s a good fit is another fringe benefit of getting out there and meeting other creators.

Suzanne: We creative types tend to be rather introverted and shy; at least I know I am. We tend to work away quietly, isolated in our studio. Don’t be afraid to get out there and meet others in the kidlit community through conferences, or monthly meet-ups. Get online and connect. Every Thursday at 9pm EST on Twitter there is a #kidlitart Tweet Chat of kidlit creators. It’s always fun and they cover lots of awesome topics- check it out. Join a critique group. I belong to the Illustrators’ Union, a networking/critique group, as well as my SCBWI CANEAST PB group. Invest time in your craft. Set aside time to experiment and play, push the boundaries of your artwork to grow as an artist and further develop your individual style. I have found the kidlit community to be such a receptive and supportive bunch. Be a “sponge” and soak up all the wisdom and knowledge that is shared from other kidlit writers, illustrators, editors, and art directors may offer you, it’s golden!

Thanks, Lisa and Suzanne!

I also heard from Alma Fullerton, Regional Advisor of SCBWI Canada East, who wrote:
In Canada East if a picture book wins the Crystal Kite there’s a huge chance that we will have two winners as both author and illustrator may reside in our region. This year we were lucky to have THREE winners as two books tied for the award. Two of the winners were able to attend our fall conference to receive their awards and the third will attend our spring conference.
Thanks to Hélène, Lisa, Suzanne and Alma, and cheers to Hélène for her I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN, and to Lisa and Suzanne for their SKINK ON THE BRINK winning the 2014 Crystal Kite Award!

You can find out more about Hélène Boudreau at her website here.

Learn more about Lisa Dalrymple at this online home, and here's the link for Suzanne Del Rizzo's site.

And there's lots more info on SCBWI Canada East and their events at their region's home page.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 11, 2014

William Morris Endeavor's GIMME BOOKS Pop-Up Holiday Bookstore

Because it's so timely, and fascinating...

The talent and literary agency William Morris Endeavor just announced its first holiday pop-up store:


The idea (and innovation) of Gimme Books (announced back in June 2014) is that a talent/literary agency is seeing the events their clients are already appearing at (like Fashion Week and Wimbledon) as opportunities to sell their clients' books.

And in the case of this holiday season, they've added a new spin, with this New York pop-up store that features:

"...books hand-selected and sold by our very own WME literary agents" 


"Live in-store events" with some of their author clients.

Some points to consider:

Will branding authors for the public by their agency representation work? 

Will agencies themselves become branded selling points?

The moving roles of literary agencies, some towards producing, some towards publishing, and some, towards bookselling, is fascinating to witness.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Inspiration from Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak photo from here.

"We don't want children to suffer. But what do we do about the fact that they do? The trick is to turn that into art."
- Maurice Sendak

From an interview with Ramin Setoodeh in Newsweek, October 8, 2009, as quoted on page 36 of Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson and Peter D. Sieruta, Candlewick Press, Massachusetts, 2014.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The 2014 Crystal Kite Winners: CRANKENSTEIN by Samantha Berger (SCBWI New York) and illustrated by Dan Santat (SCBWI Los Angeles)

This week's Crystal Kite Spotlight shines on CRANKENSTEIN by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Dan Santat!

A member of SCBWI Metro New York, Samantha's CRANKENSTEIN won for the New York division. Dan Santat, a member of SCBWI Los Angeles, will also be awarded a Crystal Kite for his illustrations!

Award-Winning Author Samantha Berger

Award-Winning Illustrator Dan Santat

I connected with Samantha to find out more...

Samantha: It was (and still is) a high honor to have won the NY regional 2014 Crystal Kite Award for CRANKENSTEIN. I shrieked so loud when I read Lin's email, I frightened the dog. It was also huge for the book to be an EB White Read-Aloud Finalist, and to have a mass market board book edition made, and to be putting out the sequel this Christmas. But honestly, the Crystal Kite means the most, because it's chosen by our peers, the beloved book people. It makes my heart smile to this day. Gratitude. 

Lee: Yay! Please tell us about your book!

Samantha: Crankenstein is the story of a boy who is having *such* a bad day, and is feeling *so* cranky, he transforms into a monster. Ask him anything, and the reply will be a wrathful "MEHHRRRR!," which is the quintessential call of the crankster. As his frustration builds, his anger escalates, and his temper rises to a tantrum-y boiling point, there is only *one* thing that can break his snowballing rage - someone else who is just as cranky as *he* is. When the two Crankensteins meet, they see themselves reflected in each other. This makes them laugh, and as we all know, laughter is the cure to all of life's greatest crankiness. (SPOILER!) The monsters turn back into kids, and it just might be the beginning of a beautiful, empathetic, non-cranky friendship. 

Lee: I'm smiling at that description. Well done! Tell us about the story inspiration. 

Samantha: One seemingly-normal morning, I woke up, made fresh-pressed, hot, delicious coffee, and poured rancid, sour milk into it. Then, my computer crashed. Then, I stepped in dog poop. By the end of the day, I was in the most wretched, foul, monstrously bad mood in the history of bad moods. Just then, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a window, and between the scowling, the sourpuss, and the seized-up shoulders, I truly *looked* like a monster. That moment of literal self reflection made me stop and laugh at myself. It also gave me an epiphany: as long as we can remember to keep our sense of humor, and be able to laugh at ourselves, we're going to be okay. As the great Roger Rabbit once said, "A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why, sometimes in life, it's the only weapon we have."

Lee: Ah, Roger Rabbit. Such a sage. How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Samantha: I joined SCBWI in 2009, and right then and there, I knew I had found my Tribe. Since then, I have danced with Ashley Bryan, sang with Loren Long, toasted with Jon Scieszka, met Judy Blume (twice!), and burned my creativity candle with Kathy Erskine. I have sobbed my way through countless keynotes (hint: don't wear mascara), made the friends of a lifetime, and seen people's dreams come true (really, don't wear mascara). SCBWI is the homeland for the lit-loving, kidlit-creating, beloved Book People, and being a part of this community has made magical memories, inspired ideas, and snapped inappropriate photos, that I will cherish eternally. No matter where you are in your publishing path, this is your place, these are your people.

Lee: Smiling again... Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?

Samantha: *Tell the stories you are most compelled to tell. The stories you HAVE to tell! *Be brave enough to live and speak your TRUTH in your work. *If you speak from YOUR heart, it will speak to other people's hearts. *Keep your sense of humor, even in the crankiest times! *Go to the SCBWI conferences--they will change your life.

Thanks, Samantha!

I also checked in with Dan Santat...

Lee: Tell us about the illustrations!

Dan: The art for Crankenstein was inspired by my son, who is small and cranky (especially in the mornings), and also inspired by a pinch of the Incredible Hulk. I had originally planned on illustrating this book with 3D clay sculptures digitally composed into real life settings but the publisher preferred I go with the style I am best known for.

Lee: Can you share how long you've been involved with SCBWI, and what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Dan: I've been a member of the SCBWI since 1999 and over the years I've gained lots of information pertaining to my varying levels each year. I actually got my first two book deal meeting Arthur Levine at the portfolio display at the national conference here in LA and every year since then I've attended seminars about how to be a stronger writer and managing my career for the long term. These days a lot of my time is spent critiquing portfolios, giving keynotes at various chapters across the country, and networking with editors, art directors, and other authors and illustrators. 

Lee: What advice do you have to share with other writer/illustrators?

Dan: Be economical with your text and smart with your design. Be clear, concise, and everything you do for a project should serve a function to the overall theme.

Thanks, Dan!

I also contacted Bridget Casey (who along with Pat Weissner is co-RA for SCBWI Metro New York), and Sally Jones Rogan (who along with Sarah Laurenson is co-RA for SCBWI Los Angeles) to hear a bit more...

 From Bridget:
The Metro New York chapter of SCBWI covers New York City, Long Island and the southern portion of the Westchester County. The chapter is delighted that one of its members, Samantha Berger from Brooklyn, has won the Crystal Kite Award for her work on CRANKENSTEIN with LA's Dan Santat. We are very proud of this achievement and all her amazing work!
From Sally:
SCBWI-LA cries: "Kudos and congratulations!" for LA member, Dan Santat for his cranky and amazing art work on 'CRANKENSTEIN', which earned him the Crystal Kite Award along with talented author, Samantha Berger. Sample more of Dan's talent at www.dantat.com. Beaming with pride, SCBWI-LA Regional Team
Thanks to Samantha, Dan, Bridget and Sally!

To find out more about Samantha and her work, check out her website here.

To learn more about all things Santat (Dan, that is), visit his online homes-away-from-home starting here on Tumblr.

And you can hit the links for these regional sites: SCBWI Metro New York and SCBWI Los Angeles. 

 Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Early Registration For The 2015 SCBWI Winter Conference Ends On Dec 15!

Would you like to
Take a hands-on intensive where you get to hear James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner, talk to his editor Krista Marino about world building? 


Have the opportunity to read the first 500 words of your manuscript out loud - and get instant feedback from an editor or agent?


Attend a breakout session on Creating Cover Art with Scholastic Creative Director Elizabeth Parisi?


Get the scoop on Writing Leveled Readers from Associate Publisher and Editor Bonnie Bader?


Get Your Illustration Portfolio in the Showcase, and have your work seen by over two-hundred specially invited art directors, editors and agents from children's publishing?

These are all opportunities you can seize by registering for the upcoming SCBWI Winter Conference, February 6-8, 2015. The intensives are Friday, and the main conference runs Saturday and Sunday.

It's an incredible chance to take part of the inspiration, craft, business, and community of SCBWI... and the New York conference offers unique opportunities to advance your career that you won't find elsewhere.

So, with all the holidays coming up, consider giving yourself and your writing and/or illustrating career the gift of joining us in New York for one amazing weekend!

Find out all the details and register here.

Illustrate and Write On,

p.s. - Check out the inside scoop from SCBWI Team Blog on:

The Writer's Roundtable Intensive,

The World Building Intensive,

Associate Publisher Stephanie Lurie's take on the keynote Editor's Panel,

Senior Editor Jessica Dandino Garrison's breakout session Rules for Picture Book Making and Why We Sometimes Break Them, and

Senior Editor Ben Rosenthal's breakout sessions on Creating Nonfiction and Thrillers and Mysteries!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The 2014 Crystal Kite Winners: THE 13th SIGN by Kristin Tubb (SCBWI Midsouth)

And now our Crystal Kite Spotlight illuminates THE 13th SIGN by Kristin Tubb!

A member of SCBWI Midsouth (Tennessee/Kentucky), Kristin's novel won for the Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Alabama division.

Award-Winning Author Kristin Tubb

I contacted Kristin to find out more...

Lee: Please tell us about your book! 

Kristin: Here's the jacket copy: 

"What if there was a 13th zodiac sign? You’re no longer Sagittarius, but Ophiuchus, the healer, the 13th sign. Your personality has changed. So has your mom’s and your best friend’s. What about the rest of the world? What if you were the one who accidentally unlocked the 13th sign, causing this world-altering change, and infuriating the other 12 signs? Jalen did it, and now she must use every ounce of her strength and cunning to send the signs back where they belong. Lives, including her own, depend upon it." 

Kirkus called it "the ultimate astrological fantasy." I like to say it explores the question: do you control your personality or does your personality control you? 

Lee: What a cool concept - and it's quite the hook! How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Kristin: I've been an SCBWI member since 2002. If it's okay, I'd like to share the speech I gave when accepting the beautiful Crystal Kite statue to fully express my feelings about SCBWI: 

When I found out The 13th Sign won the Crystal Kite, I posted a teary, grateful message on Facebook, and realized that I needed to explain what “SCBWI” stood for to my non-writing (sane) friends. So, I dutifully spelled it out for them: “SCBWI stands for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.” But it occurred to me that SCBWI stands for SO MUCH MORE. 

SCBWI stands for: Study Craft Because kids Want Intense. 

Kids want real stories. Study your craft here and give them the gift of a deep, meaningful story. A life-changing story. 

Before The 13th Sign came out, I was at a party. One of my husband’s friends said, “Oh! You had another book come out? Is this another children’s book, or is it a real book?” 

I know, right? SCBWI stands for: Smile with Confidence Because this Work is Important.

Sometimes, the only place kids can find truth is in a story. Give kids the truth. It doesn’t get more real than the truth told to a child. We’re all here for the same reason: we have a need to tell a story to a kid. SCBWI means never having to walk this path alone. 

So most of all, SCBWI stands for: Shout and Cheer Because We’re In it together. 

Lee: Yay! Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?

Kristin: Other than join SCBWI? :-) Reading and studying current children's books would be at the top of the list. Join a critique group would rank high as well. But I suppose besides those (because most SCBWI members have done these things, I'm guessing), I'd emphasize studying the craft of writing, truly and diligently and continuously. Not just to get published (although yes, that's a goal). Study craft, always, because our readers deserve our very best effort.

Thanks, Kristin!

I also connected with Associate Regional Advisor Courtney C. Stevens (since Kristin is the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Midsouth) to hear the inside scoop on Kristin's win. Here's what Courtney wrote...

I'm not sure that I even know where to begin. Kristin is a gem. She's a fabulous leader, who somehow manages to balance her writing career and organizational responsibilities at the highest levels. Ultimately, she loves people and the power of story. Those two things come across when you read her work and when you interact with her. I am honored to be her ARA and her critique partner. She has enriched my life, the life of the region, and the life of readers in a powerful way. Seeing her win a second Crystal Kite, and be recognized by our beloved organization, made me stand and cheer and cry tears of joy. It is always fabulous to see greatness rewarded.

I could share many details about SCBWI Midsouth (approximately 500 members, conferences and retreats that sell-out, high PAL membership percentages, healthy critique groups, online visibility), but none would completely describe the atmosphere of children’s writers and illustrators in Kentucky and Tennessee. Our leaders are generous with their time, wisdom, and encouragement as they plan events, and the region has benefitted and grown from their consistent leadership and vision. Our members cheer for each other’s success, cry on each other’s shoulders, and get together in many of our cities to talk about life, rather than just writing/illustrating. We're friends. We've made events out of being friends because this business of publishing a book is far less scary when you are shoulder to shoulder with excellent people. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know I am a published author today because of SCBWI, and specifically, because the men and women in my region pushed me forward and surrounded me with hope.

Thanks to Kristin and Courtney, and Cheers to Kristin on The 13th Sign winning The 2014 Crystal Kite Award!

You can learn more about Kristin and her books at her website here.

And find out more about SCBWI Midsouth (Tennessee/Kentucky) at their regional website here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Jacqueline Woodson Wins The National Book Award... And Awards Show Host Daniel Handler Gets Called Out For Racist Comments

There's a lot of attention being paid to Daniel Handler's comments made at the awards ceremony last Wednesday, directly after Jacqueline Woodson's win of the National Book Award for her middle grade memoir, "Brown Girl Dreaming."

But what's getting lost in the discussion are Jackie's own words - her acceptance speech, her grace, and her passion, thanking the community for our love of books and for changing the world.

Courtesy of c-span, here's the edited down nine minutes of the National Book Award ceremony.

Go here to see the video of Jacqueline Woodson (right) accepting her National Book Award from Sharon Draper

While there are enough voices Monday morning quarterbacking the individual and systemic racism (intended or not), enough of an outcry was made that in addition to a social-media-issued apology, Daniel donated $10,000.00 (with a matching donation of up to $90,000.00 additional within the first 24 hours) to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks indieGoGo crowdfunding campaign.

Hopefully the attention can bring about not just heightened awareness, but change for the better throughout our industry.

And as it should be, the final word is Jacqueline's:

"I'd rather continue to move the dialogue forward in a positive light rather than a negative one. This is a moment when our country can grow and learn and better understand each other. It would be nice to put the energy back where it should be -- on the books and what the books are saying and doing -- Redeployment is an astounding novel, Glück is nothing short of an amazing poet. I don't know Osnos' book yet but I plan to read it. Brown Girl Dreaming is about writing and about the history of this country. But more than that, it's about what this conversation should be -- a coming to understanding across lines of race."

*** UPDATE: Jacqueline Woodson wrote an important piece about this in the New York Times, published Sat Nov 29, 2014, "The Pain of the Watermelon Joke" *** 

Congratulations to Jacqueline, and for all of us, let's Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The 2014 Crystal Kite Winners: THE STORY OF FISH AND SNAIL by Deborah Freedman (SCBWI New England)

This week our Crystal Kite Spotlight shines on THE STORY OF FISH AND SNAIL by Deborah Freedman!

A member of SCBWI New England, Deborah's picture book won for the Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island division.

Award-Winning Author/Illustrator Deborah Freedman
I contacted Deborah to find out more...

Lee: Please tell us about your book!

Deborah: THE STORY OF FISH & SNAIL is my love letter to reading. It's about two friends who live in a book — Fish, who likes to explore other books, and Snail, who does not want to leave home. Tension! Conflict (with splishing and splooshing)! And and one super act of courage.

Lee: Sounds dramatic and sweet - perfect for a picture book! How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Deborah: I've been a member since 2000. I sold my first book in 2005 after an editor saw my artwork at the New York conference that year. Since then, I've made and continue to make friends through SCBWI who have been inspiring, and encouraging, and are simply dear to me. 

Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?

Deborah: Oh, I don't know . . . I certainly don't have this writing life all figured out. So how about this: never assume you have it all figured out! 

Thanks, Deborah!

I also connected with Marilyn Salerno (who, along with Margo Lemieux, is co-Regional Advisor for SCBWI New England) to learn more. Here's what she wrote...

I am very excited Deborah captured the Crystal Kite for a beautiful picture book with a story line for all children.

As for info on SCBWI NE we are over 2,000 strong and host several events a year including a three day conference, one day events, evening presentations, over 80 monthly critique groups, and have a very active website and list serve. We have a PAL chairperson who is busy planning PAL events including a page attached to our Facebook page about happenings in the region. 

My thanks to Deborah and Marilyn, and Cheers to Deborah for THE STORY OF FISH AND SNAIL winning the 2014 Crystal Kite Award!

To learn more about Deborah and her books, check out her website here.

To find out more about SCBWI New England, visit their site here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Product Placement in books?

"Find Me I'm Yours" is a new e-book (and cross-platform story) that was funded, in part, by $1.3 million dollars from the people behind the artificial sweetener Sweet'N Low.

Yep, you read that right.

The New York Times article about product placement in e-books

According to this recent New York Times article, in the e-book, the main character paints her nails to look like Sweet'N Low packets, and in one scene defends her use of the product to a friend, citing the company's research.

While it's targeted to adult readers (mainly women), it is a fascinating foray into what one possible future of publishing might look like. We've come to accept -- and expect -- that when a character on a TV show drinks a Coca-Cola, it's sponsored. We accept/expect it in movies, too.

And now, it would seem, this is becoming true for books as well.

Can teen novels be that far behind?

Illustrate and Write On,

p.s. - This blog post was NOT sponsored by either Sweet'N Low or Coca-Cola. Just so you know.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The 2014 Crystal Kite Winners: BONKERS! by Natasha Sharma (SCBWI India)

This week's Crystal Kite Winner Spotlight shines on BONKERS! by Natasha Sharma!

From SCBWI India, Natasha's book won for the Middle East, India and Asia division.

Award-Winning Author Natasha Sharma

I contacted Natasha to learn more...

Lee: Please tell us about your book!

Natasha: Bonkers! (published by Duckbill Books) is a story that follows the adventures of a boy named Armaan with his long awaited, newly acquired puppy, Bonkers. Life for Armaan has been difficult with a bully named TT, leader of the Ghastly Groundhog Gang, always on his heels. And while he hoped for a dog that would protect him and sort out his life, insanity further prevails with the puppy around. Instead of being protector of hearth and kin, the dog proceeds to chew up Armaan’s spectacles, eat up his favourite shoe, mess with a game of cricket being played by the bully and essentially turns the boy’s life upside down. Will things ever get back to normal? 

The story is as much about discovering your inner reserve of courage as it is about laughing alongside crazy episodes with the boy and his dog. For Armaan, that happens when his dog is in trouble. It is about understanding that even bullies have their own fears. But at the heart of it, it’s a book that can best be described as bonkers! 

This story had to be written. I grew up in a home with 40 animals (it wasn’t a farm). Amongst the many horses, buffaloes, rabbits, ducks and hens were my four dogs, often accompanied by a litter of puppies. My dogs were the center of my life growing up – my friends, my protectors and my go-to when I was upset, always ready to sit patiently and hear me out. I’ve woken up with puppies dangling off my braids, rescued them off windowsills and stood between dog and parent when the dog ate my wedding cards before they were mailed (eating homework was too low grade). There’s so much in my head to inspire me that it took time to sift through what I wanted to use! 

Lee: Wow - 40 animals! Sounds like you had a lot of real-life inspiration to pull from in making one puppy turn your character's life Bonkers!

How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Natasha: I’ve been a member with the SCBWI since 2011. The India chapter is rapidly growing and the SCBWI provides an easy way to connect with other writers. Events like First Pages provide fabulous feedback on one’s own work and since it was online, it was great to see what was working or not in other openings. A writing workshop on picture books by Ann Whitford Paul who was visiting India at the time from the US, were much easier to pull together with the support of the SCBWI and turned out to be a fabulous talk. 

As the India chapter grows, we are excited to have a platform to garner resources and make it available to the children’s book community at large. I have to say that I love reading the bulletin – it gives nuggets of information that are so useful. Above all, as a writer, SCBWI helps me, as it has in this case, to go beyond the market I am publishing in and reach out to a wider peer group and audience.

Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?

Natasha: Keep at it. Whether you are brimming with ideas, stuck in your plot, clueless where you are going - keep at it. Keep learning, evaluating, writing, illustrating and improving your own skills. And through the most frustrating moments, remember why you write or illustrate. I believe we are people who are driven by an impossible bug in our brain to put down what is going on in our head. It gives me the greatest joy to write. I simply try and remember that always. 

Lee: "it gives me the greatest joy to write." Love that, and YES!

Thanks Natasha!

I also connected with SCBWI India's Regional Advisor, Anushka Ravishankar, to find out more about Natasha's win and their region. Here's what Anushka wrote:

Natasha Sharma has only been writing for children for a few years, but what productive years they have been! She now has ten books published, and they have all been getting great reviews. She does elaborately, creatively and lovingly planned sessions with children in bookstores and schools, and is a hugely popular writer/ performer at litfests and school book weeks. She is also meticulous about keeping her blog and her website current and updated, which is something all authors can learn from!

Her award-winning book, Bonkers!, is, she says, a tribute to her dog who was just as mad and loveable as the dog in her book. With wit and aplomb, she has also woven in the theme of bullying in a book which at no moment reads like a treatise against bullying, but shows children that bullies need not be scary, after all.

Natasha is an enthusiastic member of SCBWI India. Since we are so spread out geographically, we need volunteers in different cities and Natasha has willingly taken on the onus of doing programmes in Mumbai. She has already organised one -a picture book workshop by visiting SCBWI member Ann Whitford Paul, which was a great success.

It's been a little over a year since SCBWI India was restarted. Working with a wonderful advisory group, and some very dedicated members, we have had many workshops, talks, discussions and meetings.

Visiting SCBWI authors like Holly Thompson, Christopher Cheng and Ann Whitford Paul have held workshops on writing novels, non-fiction and picture books. They have all garnered massive and enthusiastic attendance and praise.

We also have events which the members specifically want - like discussions on contracts, talks on digital books and so on.

As our members are spread out over the country we try and do detailed reports on each event which go up on our blog scbwiindia@wordpress.com. Some members, like Tanushree Dahiya Singh in Delhi and Natasha Sharma in Mumbai and Arundhati Subramaniam in Bangalore have been very enthusiastic about writing these reports.

Our most successful events by far have been the online first pages, of which we have had two. We do it through Facebook, and have had editors, writers and critics from India, Malaysia, the UK and USA, which makes it very attractive. This is for members only.

We now have an IC, Oriya Kuriyan, who has many plans up her sleeve. So far we have had one picture book workshop for illustrators, which went off swimmingly.

With many events planned in the coming year, we hope SCBWI India will grow and grow!

Thanks so much to Natasha and Anushka, and cheers to Natasha for BONKERS! winning the 2014 Crystal Kite Award!

You can find out more about Natasha and her books at her website here.

And learn more about SCBWI India and all they offer at their online home.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Class Clown Academy: SCBWI's President Self-Publishes his latest book (after more than 60 traditionally published titles!)

Author Stephen Mooser

Stephen Mooser has written both stand-alone books (like his first published title, 101 Black Cats (Scholastic), Orphan Jeb at the Massacree (Knopf) and Shadows on the Graveyard Trail (Dell Yearling); series, including The Treasure Hounds (Troll), The Creepy Creature Club (Dell), The All-Star Meatballs (Dell) and Goofball Malone, Ace Detective (Penguin); and also nonfiction books about the weird and strange, including The Unknown: Nine Astounding Stories (Lippincott) and The Man Who Ate A Car and Tons of Other Weird True Stories (Dell).

A co-founder of the SCBWI, Steve has had over 60 books for children and young readers traditionally published.

His latest book is Class Clown Academy, and it's one that he chose to self-publish.

This news was so unexpected (and fascinating) that I had to find out more. Here's my interview with Stephen...

Lee: Hi Steve!

Steve: Hi back

Lee: So, you've traditionally published something over 60 books for young readers, and now, you're doing something different - self publishing?

Steve: Yes, the last book I wrote, Class Clown Academy, a Wayside School type format failed to sell for a number of reasons. Normally I would not have considered self publishing but I believed in this book and also believed it had certain aspects that lent itself to self publishing

Lee: Okay, so you have a book you really believe in that isn't getting traction the traditional route. What were the factors that made you decide to self-publish rather than continue to try the traditional publishers?

Steve: We had tried all the traditional publishers. 3 agents had tried. What made the book special was that it lent itself to becoming a virtual school. Over 3 years my team built the school www.classclownacademy. The school will drive people to the book, which is available in the student store.

Lee: So it's a website that's a virtual school, and in the school bookstore readers can buy your book?

Steve: Yes, and yes. They can also buy hats and bumper stickers and much more. Now my job-a huge one - is to drive people to the site!

Lee: I spent some time on the site this morning, reading in the library about how to tell a joke... (and laughing at the movie "Farts and You" that was screening in the CCA Theater.) Did you envision the project being MORE than a book when you were originally going out to publishers, or was the expanded universe of the story something that came about as you plotted how to successfully self-publish the book?

Steve: I thought of the school early on, but I didn't envision so much the cost or the time. But I had a great team, a book editor and formatter, programmer and artist and once I started I wanted to finish.

Lee: so, really, you didn't so much as self-publish a book as become a self-producer of an online website and a book - you had to hire that team, right?

Steve: Yes. Here is the thing about self-publishing. First you have to have a good product and believe in it. Then you have to think about how to sell it. You are now a small business and basically on your own. It is a big risk, but doing it right gives you a chance to reach a readership.

Lee: It used to be that self-publishing was viewed as the realm of the impatient, the "easy" way to get published. You're not making it sound easy.

Steve: It is not easy but then selling a book to a traditional publisher is not easy either. There are thousands of talented people you are competing against. Amazon has something like 3 million unique titles on its site. How can anyone find your book. And then want to buy it? Most projects fail badly. Mine might too, but. And I say this often. Where Digital Books are going no one knows but wherever it is heading we are all in on the ground floor.

Lee: Now the perception of self-published books and the 'stigma' they might have had 10 years ago, that seems to have changed, hasn't it?

Steve: Yes, it has changed. More and more people are self-publishing. But, again, I can't emphasize enough you need to do a professional job and put out a book that can compete with traditionally published books. As an aside there are some areas where it makes sense to do a limited edition. Books, for instance on something like autism where there is a need and you can target the audience have had success

Lee: Sort of niche-self-publishing

Steve: Sure, I have talked to many people who did books because they saw a need and filled it. For the most part self-publishers should do Print on Demand so as to keep costs down and just print as orders come in

Lee: that way your car trunk (and/or garage) aren't filled with books you haven't sold yet!

Steve: Yes, don't carry inventory. Also, the people that will do large print runs are often rip-offs. Always look at Preditors and editors before giving anyone your money.

Lee: Good advice. So how do you set your expectations when you're self-publishing... How do you keep the stories of the Amanda Hockings and Christopher Paolinis and their superstar level of success from taking over?

Steve: Good question. There is nothing wrong with dreaming. It is why we are writers. But don't embark on self-publishing without setting a budget and believing the possibility of losing it all. Start before investing anything by thinking long and hard about "how will I sell this?"

Lee: Yeah, sending a notice out to all your facebook friends is a one-time thing, and not a marketing plan. No one wants to get two announcements that you have a new book out!

Steve: Right. Having someone with a million followers tweet your book will probably sell less than 50 books because that's not your audience. You have to be creative and, again, have a great product. As I said Amazon has millions of books. But I built a website. Well, there are now over a billion websites. It's a hard climb but there are steps along the way if you are willing to look for them

Lee: Well, I imagine a lot of those steps of being 'discovered' are the same dance, whether you are traditionally or self-published.

Steve: Exactly

Lee: Like pitching your book...

Steve: Of course. And when it comes to making the sales the marketing departments of traditional publishers are relying more and more on the authors anyway

Lee: Okay... So, pitch us "Class Clown Academy!"

Steve: If you are 6-10 years old, or have the mind of one--as I do-- then you will find lots to do at the Academy. At the end of the day you can go back to the principals office and print out your diploma, as I did, and become A Master of FineFarts. And if you like the school I promise you you will love the book

Lee: So that's really pitching the website... is your main strategy that playing there will lead to book sales?

Steve: Yes, I do visits and conferences and sell copies, but I'm counting on the website to bring notice. Also, putting out a book, or a website is opening yourself to many possibilities. Will some father in the film business look over his kid's shoulder and think that might be a good title for a film or animated series. Or would someone want to buy the site and add it to their own multi-game site. As I said dreaming is part of the fun of any project. And I know since I used to be a treasure hunter

Lee: Ha! I loved learning about your 'treasure hunter' past in your bio! So, for your next book, would you consider self-publishing again, or would you take it the traditional route? Or is it too soon to say?

Steve: I would not do this again unless I had a way to market it in advance. I am working on a sequel to the book Class Clown Academy Summer School, but will just fold it into the site

Lee: I hope you find treasure there! Thanks so much, Steve!

Steve: Thank you.

* * *

And that's our interview. You can check out the Class Clown Academy website here, and Steve's website here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The 2014 Crystal Kite Winners: TEA REX by Molly Idle (SCBWI Arizona)

This week's Crystal Kite Winner Spotlight illuminates TEA REX, written and illustrated by Molly Idle.

Hailing from SCBWI Arizona, Molly's book took home the crystal for the Nevada, Arizona, Utah, southern Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico division.

Award-winning author/illustrator Molly Idle

I contacted Molly to find out more...

Lee: Please tell us about your book!

Molly: TEA REX is written as a proper, how-to-guide, providing instructions for hosting a tea party...for a special guest. The pictures in the book however, read more like a how-NOT-to-guide... And how could they not, when the special guest is a giant dinosaur?!

Lee: Fun! How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Molly: I've been a member of SCBWI since 2000- almost 15 years! What do I feel I've gained? Ohmygoodness... Where to start? Should I start with the friends I've met, or the fresh perspectives presented? The business contacts I've made, or the career opportunities seized? The constructive criticism received, or the camaraderie of community? Seriously, the SCBWI has so much to offer.

Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?

Molly: Well, the fist piece of advice I usually offer aspiring children's book writers and illustrators is: Join the SCBWI. But if you're reading this, the chances are, you're already a card carrying member. So, my second piece of advice is that you acquire just one other card... a library card. Read as many books as you can get your hands on! After the first few hundred, you'll really start to get a feel for what books work and, why they work... Then you can get down to business making your own books that work too.

Great advice. Thanks, Molly!

I connected with SCBWI Arizona Regional Advisor Michele Parker-Rock to learn more about Molly's win and their region. Here's what she wrote:

SCBWI Arizona was founded in 1988 and has been proudly serving the region for more than 25 years. As Regional Advisor I am honored to represent the growing number of individuals who make up our culturally diverse membership. We offer a wide range of opportunities for professionally published, seasoned, and pre-published writers and illustrators who actively seek to develop their craft and stay informed about the ever-changing business of the children’s and young adult marketplace.

SCBWI Arizona is a large geographic region. Our members come from all over the state, from Yuma to Lake Havasu City, Tombstone to the Grand Canyon, Phoenix to Tucson, Sedona to Flagstaff, and all the places in between. Members connect through our subscriber LISTSERV and keep abreast of activities and events by tuning into our Home Chapter http://arizona.scbwi.org, our regional website, www.scbwi-az.org, our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/SCBWIARIZONA, and our Twitter network https://twitter.com/SCBWIArizona.

SCBWI Arizona is committed to providing a wide variety of high quality free and tuition based events and services throughout the year, including conferences, intensives, retreats, hands-on workshops, critique-niks, networking get-togethers, Webinars, mentorships, and more. We also continue to provide SCBWI PAL members with opportunities to showcase their books at conferences and conventions held by various organizations, including the Arizona Library Association, the Tucson Festival of Books, the Arizona Reading Association, the International Reading Association, the Arizona Humanities Council, the Arizona Book Festival, and others.

Each year we bring top industry professionals to our region for our annual “Welcome to Our House” Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. This year we are pleased to welcome Emily Feinberg, Assistant Editor, Roaring Brook Press; Karl Jones, Assistant Editor at Penguin Young Readers; Ariel Richardson, Assistant Editor Chronicle Books; Alison Weiss, Associate Editor, Egmont USA; John Cusick, Literary Agent, The Greenhouse Literary Agency; Danielle Barthel, Literary Agent, New Leaf Literary and Media; and Jaida Temperly, Literary Agent, New Leaf Literary and Media. For details go to www.scbwi-az.org.

In addition, SCBWI AZ is excited to feature our own Molly Idle who will be presented with the well-deserved 2014 Crystal Kite Member Choice Award for her book TEA REX (Viking Children’s Press, 2013). Since its publication, TEA REX has garnered much praise. Publishers Weekly said, “…Idle has a gift for comic composition...” Kirkus Reviews said, “Sure to be enjoyed by tea-party enthusiasts, and even dino fans with no use for a teapot will find themselves drawn to this clever tale of a not-entirely-civilized beast of the past.”

SCBWI Arizona is grouped with Nevada, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico in the Southwest Region for the Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards. This year voters were faced with many excellent choices. It was particularly gratifying to see Molly Idle win in our division. Molly has been an active member of our region since 2000, and she is a consummate author/illustrator. Her book FLORA AND THE FLAMINGO (Chronicle Books, 2013) was a 2014 Caldecott Honor Book. Her latest book FLORA AND THE PENGUIN (Chronicle Books, 2014) received starred reviews from The Horn Book, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly that noted, “Once again, Idle’s elegantly drafted scenes couldn’t be more polished, and the foldout sequence that brings this dance to a close feels like a real triumph.”

After graduating from Arizona State University with a BFA in drawing, Molly went to work for DreamWorks Feature Animation Studios. Five years and a number of film credits later, she left the studio and submerged herself in the world of children's book illustration. In 2010 Molly was the Grand Prize Winner of the SCBWI Juried Portfolio Showcase. That same year, she wowed our members with an outstanding workshop, “Anatomy 101,” in which she demonstrated her technical prowess and artistic sensibilities. The rest is Idle history.

Molly currently lives with her family in Tempe, AZ. Lori Nowicki at Painted Words represents her: http://painted-words.com/portfolio/molly-idle/. You can also learn more about Molly at www.idleillustration.com

SCBWI Arizona is pleased to have Molly Idle as one of its distinguished members. We wish her continued success.

By Michelle Parker-Rock
Regional Advisor SCBWI Arizona
2011 SCBWI Member of the Year
Author of Books for Young Readers

Thanks Molly and Michelle, and Cheers to Molly on TEA REX winning the 2014 Crystal Kite Award!

To find out more about Molly and her books, check out her website here.

And to learn more about SCBWI Arizona, visit their online home here.

Illustrate and Write On,