Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Very Cool Tool

One of the great things about attending one of SCBWI's Winter or Summer Conferences is how much you learn. And this is true no matter where you are on your journey as an illustrator and/or writer.

In a conversation I had this past weekend at #NY14SCBWI with the remarkable Jane Yolen (who has published over 350 books for children and teens!), I brought up how cool it was that the faculty at the Friday plot intensive (including her) were doing the same writing exercises as the attendees.

Jane's response, said with a wise smile?

"Any time an artist stops learning, they're dead."

One very cool tool that was mentioned at #NY14SCBWI by Elizabeth Wein is Google Book's Ngram Viewer.

It lets you explore word and phrase usage in print from 1800 through 2008. You can find out when a word started being used, when it peaked, and even compare its usage as a noun as opposed to its usage as a verb. (Like with the word "Cook.")

The results come back as a chart, and, as in the example above, it would help you figure out that if you're writing a historical piece before 1965, a character likely would refer to "kindergarten" rather than "child care."

There's a lot of different ways to use this tool, and it's worth checking out Advanced Usage.

Thanks Elizabeth! And like Jane said, let's all keep learning!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Twitter View of #NY14SCBWI

Like a photo album of words (with some pictures, too), twitter lays out snapshot moments from the 2014 SCBWI Winter Conference.

Between twitter, the inspirational quotes on tumblr

and The Official Conference Blog,

you can triangulate and get a taste of the conference experience.  And for those of us fortunate enough to have attended #NY14SCBWI, it's a way to re-live the highlights.

Here are some of those twitter highlights:

Harold Underdown ‏@HUnderdown Feb 20 RT @scbwi: The lobby at the Grand Hyatt is getting Seuss-a-fied for #NY14SCBWI as linoliver looks on.

Alexandra Penfold ‏@AgentPenfold Feb 21 Great morning @scbwi! Let's get the intensives party started! #NY14SCBWI

CeCe Yuan ‏@ceceyuan219 Feb 21 Day 1 #scbwi in NYC: Do trust your reader from the first line. Don't over explain. #kidslit #WritingTips

scbwi ‏@scbwi Feb 21 How does Tomie turn complicated subjects into gestures? Deep knowledge of his subject. #NY14SCBWI

SweetTooth ‏@OneSweetWriter Feb 21 Writing action and emotional plots. @scbwi

Susan Willett ‏@CompletelySusan Feb 21 Overheard at the #SCBWI conference. "Everybody here is serious." Darn right. #NY14SCBWI

Wendy Parris ‏@wlparri Feb 21 “@CompletelySusan: Heard at the SCBWI conference: "You have to earn your ghost." Love it! #NY14SCBWI @JillSantopolo” hey that was mine:)

Kim Piddington ‏@kim_pid Feb 21 Harold Underdown discussing revision mapping: condensed manuscripts, outlines, book maps, & grids, at the SCBWI Winter Conference

dee ardelean ‏@DeeArdelean Feb 22 @scbwi #NY14SCBWI Lin Oliver is hilarious!!! Love her!!

Kim Piddington ‏@kim_pid Feb 22 Some statistics:1,085 attendees from 47 states and 20 countries at the SCBWI Winter Conference.

Kim Piddington ‏@kim_pid Feb 22 Go SCBWI team blog led by Lee Wind #NY14SCBWI

SCBWI INW ‏@SCBWI_INW Feb 22 MT @omrinavot: "A strong character will carry a weak plot, but a strong plot will not carry a weak character." Jack Gantos #NY14SCBWI

Michelle Parker-Rock ‏@MichlParkerRock Feb 22 Jack Gantos (DEAD END IN NORVELT) delivered humor & great writing advice this a.m. A treat for SCBWI Conference attendees. #NY14SCBWI

michelle lopez ‏@MamaFrenchie Feb 22 Just heard @AbbiGlines speak at #SCBWI conference. Very inspiring for newbie writers/authors, social media is key!

Noemi Gamel ‏@GeekyWriterGirl Feb 22 “@scbwi: What do you do if your book gets banned? #NY14SCBWI” -- TY. The novel I'm writing may very well be at risk.

Martha Mihalick ‏@MarthaMihalick 6h Tip for illustrators for next year's @SCBWI portfolio showcase. ALWAYS have a postcard for us to take away. & postcard > business card.

Kate Messner ‏@KateMessner Feb 21 Jane Yolen's one rule in writing: figure out your own way, and when it doesn't work, REINVENT. #NY14SCBWI

Daniel Lazar ‏@DanLazarAgent Feb 22 Well, I can finally say I made it to Carnegie Hall. Har, har! #NY14SCBWI @scbwi

Mark Mattson ‏@mattsonStudio Feb 22 @LaurentLinn Thanks so much for such a great breakout session at SCBWI! (And I liked the visual effects, incidentally)

scbwi ‏@scbwi Feb 22 Historical fiction tip #7 Make Connections: relate story to experiences kids are having now. Kendra Levin, Editor @VikingChildrens

scbwi ‏@scbwi Feb 22 Your job doesn't end when you put the last period on your manuscript. You have to research the best home for it. Marisa Polansky, Scholastic

Toby Emert ‏@ProfEmert Feb 22 The cumulative effects of professional courtesy are immeasurable, @EWein2412, YA author, says in her talk at #SCBWI 14. #NY14SCBWI

Rebecca Cassity ‏@RACassity Feb 22 Heard many inspirational speeches today at the SCBWI Winter Conference! #NY14SCBWI

Juris P. Prudence ‏@JpPrudence Feb 22 I learned a ton today during Dan Lazar and Sara Shandler's SCBWI workshops. @DanLazarAgent @sarashandler @scbwi #NY14SCBWI #kidsbooks

Susan Willett ‏@CompletelySusan Feb 23 I just sang happy birthday to @JaneYolen @scbwi #NY14SCBWI

H Knight Richard ‏@hknightrichard Feb 23 Take your vitamins people. - Tomie's words of wisdom. @scbwi #ny14scbwi

SCBWI Metro NY ‏@SCBWIMetroNY Feb 22 #NY14SCBWI Write bravely. Write honestly. That is your job. - Ellen Hopkins on censorship.

Martha Brockenbrough ‏@mbrockenbrough Feb 22 "Reading is a safe way to explore the world. If you're concerned, read with your child." --Joan Berlin #NY14SCBWI

scbwi ‏@scbwi Feb 23 First takeaway from The Art of the Picture Book panel: you have to be willing to throw everything away if it's not working. #NY14SCBWI

Ilene W. ‏@IWGregorio Feb 23 The inimitable, amazing @KateMessner brings the house down while imparting a great lesson to #writers #NY14SCBWI

Cindy Schrauben ‏@CindySchrauben 2h From the NYC-SCBWI conf: @KateMessner said: Lesson #1 Be Brave! But it's okay to be afraid. If you're not nervous, it's not worth doing.

Kathleen Bradshaw ‏@KathleenBradsha Feb 23 Hey @SCBWI_SoBreeze ! Our own Lori Nichols wins NY14SCBWI Portfolio award! Congratulations Lori!

Jessixa Bagley ‏@MeatfaceSays Feb 23 GIGANTIC congrats to my crazy talented friend @BrookeBHughes for getting runner up at the NY SCBWI portfolio showcase!!! #NY14SCBWI

Margaret Peot ‏@MargaretPeot 22h Kate Messner quotes J. Shedd at the SCBWI conference, "A ship in harbor is safe. But that is not what ships were built for"#NY14SCBWI

CAtkinson ‏@word_working Feb 23 #NY14SCBWI Nikki Grime: "Young readers deserve great books....and the key to that is patience." #amwriting #writing #kidlit @scbwi

Martha Brockenbrough ‏@mbrockenbrough Feb 23 And scene. Thank you @scbwi people. That was a great conference! Go here for a bit of inspiration:

Mike Curato ‏@MikeCurato 6h Went on a mad shopping spree in @SCBWI bookstore. Realizing I have no more shelves to put them on! #NY14SCBWI #needprivatelibrary

Raƒe ℙosey ‏@ponyonabalcony 6h @omrinavot @drydenbks Seconded -- what a way to be introduced to SCBWI! *basks in awesomeness of conference*

Katie Kath ‏@kathk_me 6h Waiting for my flight back home from NY, with beautiful SCBWI memories to take back with me #NY14SCBWI #CityLife

Kim Piddington ‏@kim_pid 8h #NY14SCBWI heading home with renewed enthusiasm, oodles of new ideas & a passel of new friends-thank you SCBWI for exceeding my expectations

Richard Due ‏@RichardDue 17h Back from SCBWI in NYC. Great workshops; fantastic panel discussions; very successful intensives. Best conference yet! #SCBWI

Kimberly Marcus ‏@kmarcuswrites 9h Up and writing. .@SCBWIMetroNY .@scbwi #amwriting #inspiration #NY14SCBWI

Happy Idiot ‏@happyidiots 4h @scbwi Thank you for all the amazing work and dedication in creating what is the event I look forward to every year! #takeabow #NY14SCBWI

lily malcom ‏@lil_design 17h Big thanks to the crew behind #NY14SCBWI. So happy to have been a part of it and had a such great time! @scbwi

John Brush ‏@johndbrush 20h Met so many great people this weekend. The @scbwi conference was incredible. Excited to meet more of my @SCBWIMetroNY members soon!

H Knight Richard ‏@hknightrichard Feb 23 so much to love about @scbwi. not only are children's book writers amazing people, they have big hearts. Go to an SCBWI conference!

Ame Dyckman ‏@AmeDyckman 19h Had THE BEST time at #NY14SCBWI! Learned, laughed, loved-hugged EVERYBODY!-& had SO much fun! THX, @scbwi, for another AWESOME Conference!

Lauren(BStBibliop..) ‏@BStBibliophile 18h Gantos made us laugh, @KateMessner made us cry. @JaneYolen was a lyricist Grimes' poems made us sigh. Thank you so much @scbwi! #NY14SCBWI

and the final tweet goes to:

Kimberly Sabatini ‏@KimSabatini Feb 23 Oh yes, 1000+ writers and illustrators are signing Aretha's RESPECT with @KateMessner That's how we roll at @scbwi

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Join Us At the Official SCBWI Conference Blog!

For Live Blogging of the 2014 SCBWI Winter Conference (also known as #ny14scbwi) from the Conference Floor,

Check out the Official SCBWI Conference Blog!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Traveling to the 2014 SCBWI Winter Conference In New York? Witness The Power Of The Re-Write

Revision, Revision, Revision.

It's powerful stuff.

 Check out this awesome performance by Sir Paul McCartney and Jimmy Fallon - singing the original version of the lyrics for a song we all pretty much know by heart...

  Scrambled Eggs.

This is a still capture of the performance, which you can watch on youtube here.

And get ready for a weekend overflowing with inspiration, business, craft, opportunity and community!

Make sure to check in to The Official SCBWI Conference Blog for all the live blogging from the conference floor and our latest project, The Conference Illustrator Journals. You can also follow the tweet-happenings with the hashtag #ny14scbwi

Here's to an amazing conference!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Author Angela Scott Shares The 3 Reasons Most Writers Give Up and her 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn't

I really liked this post at Angela's blog:

One of Angela's reasons why writers give up:
Reason #1: Writing is hard. It is. The writing process, at times, can be incredibly fun and rewarding. When the words flow and nearly write themselves, it's amazing. It's almost a high type of feeling. A rush. But there are other times, many times, in which writing just plain sucks--the words do not come; or the words DO come, but they are crap; editing (it's a pain in the butt, but SO necessary. Do not skip this step. Just saying); promoting and marketing (UUUGGGHHH); and then coming up with another great idea. Oh the pressure! No wonder I feast on lots of migraine pills, chocolate, and caffeine.
And one of her reasons why you shouldn't give up:
1) Remember why you write. If you are writing for fame and fortune, then I guess you better get out now. But if you are writing because you love the written word, or you feel as though you have a story to tell and want to share it with people, however many that will be, THEN you must keep on writing. If it makes you happy, then do it. Nothing else matters. None of it. Not the rejections. Not the lack of readers. None of it. Write because you have to.
She ends with an encouraging call to action:
I will be successful. I will taste it. Maybe not today or tomorrow or a year from now, but success will be mine. I'm pretty determined to find out what flavor success tastes like. I hope you want to find out what it tastes like too.
It's a pretty great post. Go check it out.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Timing of Releasing Books In A Series Is Changing...

As reported by Julie Bosman in this week's New York Times, "Impatience Has Its Reward: Books Are Rolled Out Faster"

"While the television industry has begun catering to impatient audiences by releasing entire series at once, the book business is upending its traditional timetable by encouraging a kind of binge reading, releasing new works by a single author at an accelerated pace."

There's arguments on both sides - releasing the books quicker keeps an audience hooked. Leaving more time between novel releases lets you build that audience.

What's not mentioned is that the author still needs time to WRITE the books (unless the first book release is delayed until future books in the series have been written...)

For those of us writing/illustrating, or contemplating, series work, it's a fascinating development to consider.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sony Shuts it's eBook Store. And that means...?

In the wild, wild west of publishing e-books to electronic devices, Sony is packing up their e-book bags and leaving town.

As announced on February 6, 2014 and reported by Dianna Dilworth at GalleyCat,

"Sony, one of the early players in the eBook business, has closed its eBook store The Reader Store. The company did not explain why it shut down, but despite being early to the scene, Sony has been lagged behind Amazon and others in device innovations and eBook sales penetration.
 All Sony client accounts will be transferred to Kobo, the Canadian-based eBook store that is owned by the Japanese commerce giant Rakuten. All accounts will transfer to Kobo in March."
Sony's upbeat press release about closing their e-book store.

For people reading on their Sony Reader™, Xperia® tablet or smartphone, it's cool that their e-libraries will still exist, but there's some nervousness (I'm seeing the tweets) about what this means in the larger sense.

What about the Nook? (That's Barnes and Noble's e-book reader.)

Are we seeing a replay of 8-track versus cassette, just in a wider field? (Okay, now you all know I grew up in the 80s! And for those of you younger than that, that's what music was on after vinyl records, before CDs, waaaay before MP3 players and digital files.)

Or is there an intrinsic uncertainty to buying an e-book, since it's ephemeral and not an object? In which case, much of what's online is ephemeral, too - including this blog post!

Here's one of those things we talk about in Los Angeles: Earthquakes are a risk we all know about, even if it's usually in the back of our minds. But, let's say you're buying a condo - it's a 20 story building, and you're buying a really nice place on the 15th floor. Congratulations - it's awesome, except...
 IF there's an earthquake and
 IF the building is red-flagged (yeah, there's even a term for it when a building needs to be demolished and taken down for safety) and
 IF that building doesn't have earthquake insurance (and some buildings vote to not have it) Then, um, where do you live?
What you now own is, essentially, a slice of sky, 150 feet up in the air above the plot of land where the building used to be.
Do you have money to rebuild? Is there earthquake insurance? What's your backup plan? 

Of course, it would be a public relations disaster to let an e-book reader format fail and have all those customers lose their e-libraries, and Sony does seem to be taking care of things. Borders, when they went out of business, had their e-readers get covered by Kobo as well. And maybe the threat of that bad P.R. (and a posse of unhappy customers) is ultimately our insurance.

What do you think?

Between the cowboys and the earthquakes, that's a lot of metaphors. It's an interesting time, out here on the digital frontier. Isn't it?

Illustrate and Write On!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The 2013 Crystal Kite Winner Profiles: Florida's Augusta Scattergood (for "Glory Be")

The winner of the 2013 Crystal Kite Award for the Southeast Region (Florida/Georgia/South Carolina/North Carolina/Alabama/Mississippi) is Augusta Scattergood for her middle grade novel, "Glory Be."

Augusta Scattergood, winner of the 2013 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award!

I contacted Augusta to find out more...

Lee:  Please tell us about your book!

Augusta:  My debut novel, GLORY BE, is set during Freedom Summer, 1964, in a small town in Mississippi when the town's Community Pool is about to close rather than integrate. Gloriana June Hemphill, Glory for short, can't understand all the changes swirling around her. Why would anybody close her pool during the hottest months of the year? Why is her sister, who's been her best friend forever, mostly ignoring her? Even Glory's friend Frankie is mad that she's befriended a girl visiting from up north. Just about everything this summer has turned upside down. And it's up to Glory to figure it all out.

Historical fiction written for ages 9-12, GLORY BE was edited by Andrea Pinkney and published by Scholastic Press. It's been named to six state lists of children's recommended books and was one of Amazon's Best Middle Grade Novels of 2012. And now it's won the Crystal Kite for the Southeastern Region!

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

Augusta:  Where do I begin. I joined SCBWI as soon as I left my library career, in 2001. I met my wonderful agent, Linda Pratt, at a summer conference in Maryland, at a MD DE WV regional event. When I moved to Florida, I immediately connected to a critique group, and since we've been here, my Tampa Bay SCBWI connections have been invaluable. I presented GLORY BE on the First Books panel at the Miami SCBWI conference in 2012 and made many new friends there. In my other role as book reviewer, I have reviewed books for the Bulletin. Quite honestly, I suspect my own novel would be languishing in a bottom drawer without the support of SCBWI.

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

Augusta:  Instead of giving writing advice, most of which we all know and try very hard follow, here's a little advice about navigating your book's Debut Year. Stay connected to other writers who have their first books out. If you aren't interested in joining the actual group to publicize them, find an email buddy you can "talk" to and keep in touch! Even if you aren't a scrapbooker, save all the amazing souvenirs (I have mine in a big binder). Find at least one writer beginning the path to publication and pay it forward in the same way others helped you. And, of course, enjoy every minute of those first exciting months.

Thanks, Augusta!

And here's what SCBWI Florida's co-regional advisors have to share about their region:

We are a diverse community of hardworking volunteers dedicated to making your dreams of becoming published authors and illustrators for kids and teens a reality. Through our Florida Regional Conference, held every January in Miami, our Mid-Year Workshop, held every June in Orlando, and lots of smaller events throughout the year and state, we put YOU in touch with top agents and editors in the children’s book industry. A wonderful place to share ideas, make new friends, find critique groups near you, and learn more about the market, SCBWI Florida is the only writers/illustrators support system you’ll ever need. 

 You can learn more about SCBWI Florida at their website here.

And to find out more about Augusta and "Glory Be," visit Augusta's online home here.

Congratulations, Augusta!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Unreliable Narrator: Lance Armstrong's Books Are "Protected Speech" and the court rejects claims of "False Advertising"

The story as reported in Cycling News "US judge rules Lance Armstrong lies are protected speech"
A little background from Cycling News:

Five readers of the 'It’s Not About the Bike' and 'Every Second Counts' had filed a suit in Sacramento federal court against the books publishers Random House, Armstrong, his manager Bill Stapleton and associate Thomas Weisel, asking for more than $5 million in damages, claiming they were fooled by the books and that they should have been described as fiction.

At the time the books were considered as inspirational, especially for cancer sufferers, and true accounts of Armstrong['s] career and comeback from testicular cancer. Their contents were shown not to be true after Armstrong was suspended by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), lost his seven-Tour de France victories and then confessed to doping.

The legal ruling from late last year (as reported in publishers marketplace)...

A month after holding a hearing on a proposed class action lawsuit against Lance Armstrong for making false statements in his books IT'S NOT ABOUT THE BIKE and EVERY SECOND COUNTS, California Federal court Judge Morrison England threw out most of the suit. Siding with Armstrong and his publisher Putnam (named in the suit along with new parent company Penguin Random House), he wrote: "The Court concludes, despite plaintiffs' allegations that the Armstrong books contained false and misleading statements, that the content of the books is afforded full First Amendment protection," England wrote in his 39-page ruling, issued Tuesday afternoon.

The plaintiffs, who sought $5 million in refunds and other damages, tried to make the case that Armstrong's untruthful claims that he never used performance-enhancing drugs constituted false advertising that deceived customers into buying his books. Importantly for publishers in general, England found that the publisher's materials were as protected as the author's work: "The promotional materials relating to the Books are inextricably intertwined with the books' contents, which is non-commercial speech...Thus, these promotional materials are also entitled to full First Amendment protection as noncommercial speech."

In addition, England ruled, "The conduct at issue is the speech about the book and Armstrong's speech about whether he used drugs. Armstrong's lies about his use of drugs are simply not criminal conduct." Separately, Judge England clarified that Armstrong's books were not "advertising for a product" but his "account, albeit partially untruthful, of his life and cycling," and thus again met the standard for protected speech, and did not need to be classified as "fiction."

It's an interesting case, and something to consider as we create our characters and figure out who's telling our stories to the reader.

How reliable are OUR narrators?

How reliable are our characters?

Illustrate and Write On,

p.s. If you want to know more about Lance Armstrong's fall, you can check out Oprah Winfrey's interview with him here.