Thursday, February 26, 2015

OUTLAWED: The Naked Truth About Censored Literature For Young People

Friends of the SCBWI, The Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children's Literature in Fresno, California, are putting on a conference of tremendous interest to our community.

Jennifer Crow, Curator at the center, based at the Henry Madden Library on the campus of California State University, Fresno, wrote to share that from April 10-12, 2015, their conference will include...

Sherman Alexie will kick off the conference with a free presentation the previous evening, April 9th at 7:30 in the Fresno State Satellite Student Union.

Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award and Newbery Honor winner, talks about the many challenges her books have received.

Lesléa Newman’s Heather Has Two Mommies set off a national firestorm of controversy in the 1990s.

Matt de la Peña’s book Mexican White Boy was banned in Tucson, Arizona, when the Mexican American Studies programs were suddenly terminated in 2012.

Margarita Engle will discuss her experiences with censorship as a Cuban-American author.

Michael Cart, a young adult author and a reviewer for Booklist speaks about the suppression of LGBTQ literature.

Leonard Marcus, a children’s literature historian, writer, and exhibition curator, will portray a larger perspective to the issue of censorship in children’s literature.

Joan Bertin, is the Executive Director of the National Coalition against Censorship, an organization that legally and financially supports intellectual freedom.

Plus 35 panel presenters from across the United States and abroad who will examine censorship in children's literature from numerous angles.

There will be an exclusive performance by the Fresno State Theatre Dept. of And Then Came Tango, based on the often banned and challenged picture book, And Tango Makes Three

You can find out more details at the conference website.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Anthony Horowitz: Wisdom from #NY15SCBWI

"The end of a chapter should never be an excuse to stop reading."

- Anthony Horowitz, in his opening keynote

Look at the chapter breaks in your current WIP (work in progress.) Are you wrapping things up too nicely at the end of each chapter? Or are you making sure the end of your chapters are, if not cliffhangers, at least no excuse to stop reading?

Check out the Official SCBWI Conference blog post to learn more about what this author of over 40 books, including the Alex Rider teen spy series that has sold more than 19 million copies, shared in his passionate keynote.

"Stormbreaker," the first book in the the Alex Rider series

You can learn more about Anthony and his books at his website here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Diversity in Reviewing YA - Malinda Lo Tackles How Diversity Is Treated (And Mis-Treated)

In this four-part essay, YA Author Malinda Lo explores some of the biases about diversity that she's seen in YA book reviews.

In Part One: That Diversity is "Scarcely Plausible,"

Malinda unpacks (and critiques) reviews like the Kirkus  review of Shannon Hale's Dangerous that called it "...a tale seemingly tailor-made to forestall complaints about lovelorn teen heroines and all-white casts of characters."

Malinda writes,
"It reveals a believe that simmers beneath all those critiques of diversity as implausible: the belief that nonwhite, LGBT, and disabled characters are simply unnecessary; that adding in these perspectives derails a story; that "reality" is white and homogenous."

"It should be blindingly clear that I disagree with this belief. It's frustrating to see it crop up again and again, coded beneath reviews that criticize diversity as "scarcely plausible" in one phrase while describing it as "praiseworthy" in the next. Diversity is not "praiseworthy": it is reality. Reviews that deny this fact of life are well behind the times, and they do a massive disservice to the majority of children in the United States who are not white."

In Part Two, Malinda addresses "So Many (Too Many?) Issues," making visible the "...invisible ceiling on the number and type of issues deemed suitable for inclusion in a realistic YA novel..."

"This demand for simplified narratives with threads that can be "smoothly" tied up in a "genuine and heartfelt" manner is an insult both to people who have instersectional minority identities, and to young adult fiction as a genre. In the real world, identities and lives are complicated."

In Part Three, "A Lot To Decode," Malinda explores reviews that "... suggest that novels about non-white/non-Western cultures should be tasked with informing white readers about those cultures." She also explores the politicizing nature of glossaries (which was fascinating):

"Including a glossary situates white/Western culture as dominant. It immediately renders the culture depicted in the book as unintelligible and foreign. Simultaneously it tells a white/Western reader that this foreign/unintelligible culture can be easily understood through a few definitions found at the back of the book. Including a glossary creates a reading experience that codifies white/Western culture as central and simplifies non-Western cultures."

In Part Four, "Readers May Be Surprised," Malinda calls out reviewer assumptions about race and homophobia that are revealed in reviews, and concludes with the point that

"The book review landscape is littered with these microaggressions. All of these microaggressions add up to support an environment in which particular beliefs are held as given: that readers are predominantly white; that books should explain their diverse content to those white readers; that too much diversity is unbelievable. These beliefs act to limit representations of diversity. They create a palpable feeling among writers - especially minority writers - that writing diversity is risky for their careers. They reinforce an industry that also, unfortunately, generally shares these beliefs."

By exposing how YA reviews may be holding diversity back, Malinda clearly hopes YA reviewers will take to heart the impact of how they address diversity in their future reviews of books that include People of Color, LGBTQ and Disabled characters and themes.

It's an important series to read and consider.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

You’ve Got To Believe

Kwame Alexander wrote a manuscript in 2008.

He believed in it.

Kwame worked on it with mentors.

He believed in it.

When his agent submitted it, it was rejected more than twenty times.

He believed in it.

“no.” “no.” “no.” “no.” “no.” “no.” “no.” “no.” “no.” “no.” “no.” “no.” “no.” “no.” “no.” “no.” “no.” “no.” “no.” “no.” “no.” …

He believed in it.

Kwame decided he would go ahead and self-publish it.

He believed in it.

A week after making that decision, Editor Margaret Raymo said “YES!”

He believed in it.

“The Crossover” was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2014.

He believed in it.

In January 2015, Kwame won the Newbery Award for it – and the book was hailed as “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”

He believed in it.

And it came true.

A true story from the 2015 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City. 

Visit Kwame's website here.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The American Library Association's 2015 youth media award winners!

It's an exciting list of winners and honorees (and certainly, for those of us writing and illustrating for children and teens, an excellent to-read list as well!)

Here are some of the winners:

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature: “The Crossover,” written by Kwame Alexander, is the 2015 Newbery Medal winner. The book is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Kwame was just on faculty at the SCBWI 2015 Winter Conference, and you can check out the official SCBWI Conference Blog posts for his breakout session on "Writing Diverse Characters and Books" and conference-closing Keynote "Dancing Naked On The Floor: How To Say Yes To The Writerly Life."

 Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children: “The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend,” illustrated by Dan Santat, is the 2015 Caldecott Medal winner. The book was written by Dan Santat and published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults: “Brown Girl Dreaming,” written by Jacqueline Woodson, is the King Author Book winner. The book is published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award: “Firebird,” illustrated by Christopher Myers, is the King Illustrator Book winner. The book was written by Misty Copeland and published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award: “When I Was the Greatest,” written by Jason Reynolds, is the Steptoe winner. The book is published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.

Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement: Deborah D. Taylor is the winner of the Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. The award pays tribute to the quality and magnitude of beloved children’s author Virginia Hamilton. Taylor’s career in public service began more than 40 years ago with the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, where she is currently coordinator of School and Student Services. Her career has been spent as mentor, educator and literacy advocate for young adults. As an inspiring young adult librarian, leader in national associations and university instructor, she has been distinctly effective in introducing young people and her professional colleagues to the outstanding work of African American authors.

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults: “I’ll Give You the Sun,” written by Jandy Nelson, is the 2015 Printz Award winner. The book is published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, a Penguin Random House Company.

Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience:

“A Boy and a Jaguar" written by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by Catia Chien and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, wins the award for children ages 0 to 10.

 “Rain Reign” written by Ann M. Martin and published by A Feiwel And Friends Book, is the winner of the middle-school (ages 11-13).

The teen (ages 13-18) award winner is “Girls Like Us,” written by Gail Giles and published by Candlewick Press.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Award honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children. The 2015 winner is Donald Crews, whose award-winning works include “Freight Train,” which was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1979, and “Truck,” a Caldecott Honor Book in 1981. He has been consistently excellent with a wide range of titles, such as “Harbor,” “Parade,” “Shortcut” and “Bigmama’s,” all published by Greenwillow Books.

Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults: The 2015 winner is Sharon M. Draper, author of more than 20 books, including: “Tears of a Tiger” (1994), “Forged by Fire” (1997), “Darkness Before Dawn” (2001), “Battle of Jericho” (2004), “Copper Sun” (2006), and “November Blues” (2007), all published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.

Mildred L. Batchelder Award for an outstanding children’s book translated from a foreign language and subsequently published in the United States: “Mikis and the Donkey” is the 2015 Batchelder Award winner. The book was written by Bibi Dumon Tak, illustrated by Philip Hopman, translated by Laura Watkinson, and published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award honoring a Latino writer and illustrator whose children's books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience: “Viva Frida,” illustrated by Yuyi Morales, is the Belpré Illustrator Award winner. The book was written by Yuyi Morales and published by Roaring Brook Press, a Neal Porter Book.

Pura Belpré (Author) Award honoring Latino authors whose work best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience: "I Lived on Butterfly Hill" is the 2015 Pura Belpré (Author) Award winner. The book is written by Marjorie Agosín, illustrated by Lee White and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children: “The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus,” written by Jen Bryant, is the Sibert Award winner. The book is published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Stonewall Book Award - Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award given annually to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience: “This Day in June,” written by Gayle E. Pitman, Ph.D., illustrated by Kristyna Litten and published by Magination Press, an imprint of the American Psychological Association, is the winner of the 2015 Stonewall Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award.

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book: “You Are (Not) Small,” written by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyant, is the Seuss Award winner. The book is published by Two Lions, New York.

William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens: “Gabi, a Girl in Pieces,” written by Isabel Quintero, is the 2015 Morris Award winner. The book is published by Cinco Puntos Press.

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults: “Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek,” written by Maya Van Wagenen, is the 2015 Excellence winner. The book is published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group.

Check out the full list of winners and honorees here.

And happy reading!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Twitter View of #NY15SCBWI

What a conference!

The 2015 SCBWI Winter Conference hashtag, #NY15SCBWI, was popping up all over twitter Friday through Sunday, and at one point, #kwamerules, the hashtag Kwame Alexander suggested attendees use to tweet nuggets of wisdom from his Keynote, was trending - making it one of the most tweeted subjects on twitter!

#kwamerules - third down, #2 on the list (promotions don't count!) Go Kwame!

Here, in somewhat reverse order, are some twitter highlights:

Back from Maybe nicest people in the world are children's book writers and illustrators (& editors agents)

Couldn't sleep last night because of all the inspiration I got from . Lots of changes coming for my .

It is going to be a very long time before anyone will beat this autograph

Just when I thought it couldn't get better... one last special guest showed up. What a weekend. Thanks!  

Was the perfect final keynote? The answer is…YES!

"You can't have a dream come true if you don't have a dream. You can't write a book if you don't write." -

Don't let other peoples "no" define your "YES"!!! Thank you Kwame

CROSSOVER was rejected more than 20 times by publishers. Kwame Alexander almost self-published it.

with the best presentation I've ever seen.

. as promised... Your sketchnotes. Nice to meet you!

The best queries are good skirts: they're short enough to be compelling, long enough to cover everything important.

"My favorite word is 'Ahhhh!' If I can elicit that word from children I am very happy."

I LOVE how 's creative mind works. Can't stop thinking about her keynote... Inspired!

"... but you have no idea how grateful I am, every day, that I did not give up." James Dashner

"Harry Potter and the Divergent Games of Hunger" - hot Commercial Fiction idea from James Dashner

Advice at : : "You need to be an idea factory."

What I learned at : : "Thibk of drawing as a poem that gets more and more serious."

is everything that is right about right now. Beautiful books, beautiful person.

Picture book creator Herve Tullet said he leaves open space so a child can put in his own words. Good advice for writers, too.

Laura Vaccaro Seeger: "Sometimes a problem can make something so much better once you find a solution."

Amazing gathering of community last night social grateful to be in the room!

I see you ! Rn't you supposed to be working on our book!? : Illustrators gettin social

Thanks to for her encouragement of my work (she liked my book!!) Meant so much to me.

"Write the book that will change someone's life." Kami Garcia, author of Beautiful Creatures

Congratulations on your from all the people who love you at and

You Guys. YOU GUYS. If you ever get a chance to hear speak on diversity, TAKE IT. Best Breakout I've ever seen.

Write the kind of world you want your children to live, learn and love in.

The stakes can never be high enough. Ben Rosenthal on thrillers & mysteries.

"Be aware, as an illustrator, this is a life long journey." We never stop developing. Denise Cronin, Viking

"The book has something to say and we have something to say back...that is the mark of a literary novel."

Don't try to follow what's hot or popular now. Follow your own muse. Margaret Raymo

On revising: you want to make sure your plot is asking the RIGHT questions of your protagonist. -

So True! RT lose the preciousness of your illustrations. Revisions are part of the bookmaking process.

"Does your book entertain as much as it informs?" Ben Rosenthal on Nonfiction at

Stacy Whitman's tells us that you don't have to write diversity, but remember your audience, it is diverse. <3

For a series, set your characters up in situations that will involve continual growth or development. Aimee Friedman

Three act structure. Act 1 is always shorter than you think.

Wants and needs should be in direct conflict with each other.

"Writing for teens, not to be published, allowed us to take risks we never would have taken."-

"Finding the right book at the right time can save your life." Kami Garcia

Anthony Horowitz: The only difference between a successful writer and an unsuccessful writer is the unsuccessful writer gives up.

The round tables were fantastic! I got great feedback on my picture book manuscripts from an amazing agent and editor.Thank you.

Statue in lobby has been Harry Potterized! :-D

And there was so much more - explore for yourself at the twitter search for #NY15SCBWI