Thursday, December 29, 2016


New Year's eve is almost here...

Now is the perfect time to take a deep breath, grab a journal, and think, and brainstorm, and muse about your author/illustrator journey.

What are your goals moving forward into 2017?

Consider making a list of goals to accomplish that you control -

Selling a book isn't in your control. Submitting a manuscript to your dream agent is.
Making the best-seller lists isn't in your control. Making a book trailer is.
Having a theme park based on your book isn't in your control. Setting your butt-in-chair writing and illustrating goals (i.e., I'm going to devote two hours a day, five days a week to this endeavor) is in your control.

Set your own goals (make a list to help keep yourself accountable and on-track) and set your path to make those goals happen (do you need to schedule creative time into your calendar? Do it!)

Here's to taking control, and taking charge of our creative journeys in the year ahead!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Anne Lamott's advice on Writer's Block

"I no longer thing of it as block.

... The word block suggests that you are constipated or stuck, when the truth is that you're empty.

...If you accept the reality that you have been given--that you are not in a productive creative period--you free yourself to begin filling up again.

I encourage my students at times like these to get one page of anything written, three hundred words of memories or dreams or stream of consciousness on how much they hate writing--just for the hell of it, just to keep their fingers from becoming too arthritic, just because they have made a committment to try to write three hundred words every day. Then, on bad days and weeks, let things go at that.

...Everything you need is in your head and memories, in all that your senses provide, in all that you've seen and thought and absorbed. There in your unconscious, where the real creation goes on, is the little kid or the Dr. Seuss creature in the cellar, arranging and stitching things together. When this being is ready to hand things up to you, to give you the paragraph or a sudden move one character makes that will change the whole course of your novel, you will be entrusted with it. So, in the meantime, while the tailor is working, you might as well go get some fresh air. Do your three hundred words, and then go for a walk. Otherwise you'll want to sit there and try to contribute, and this will only get in the way. Your unconscious can't work when you are breathing down its neck. You'll sit there going, "Are you done in there yet, are you done in there yet?" But it is trying to tell you nicely, "Shut up and go away."

-Anne Lamott, from her chapter "Writer's Block", pg. 176-182 in the brilliant Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Holiday Shopping, this time for you...

Consider giving yourself the career boost of a winter weekend in New York City at the 2017 SCBWI Winter Conference (#NY17SCBWI), where you'll be inspired by Keynotes from Bryan Collier, Tahereh Mafi, and Sara Pennypacker. Where you'll learn from panels on the current landscape of children's publishing (with agents Adriana Dominguez and Carrie Howland and Edward Necarsulmer, publishers Ken Geist and Eileen Bishop Kreit, and senior editor Andrew Harwell) and on the Four Types of Picture Books (with Andrea Beaty, Andrea Pinkney, Greg Pizzoli, and Daniel Salmieri) and Children's Books in the Social Media World (with influencers Travis Jonkers, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Matthew Winner.) Where you'll get insights directly from your choice of three breakout sessions from a menu of 31 choices with editors, agents and art directors. Where there's a gala dinner and the portfolio showcase and socials (LGBTQ & Allies, Illustrators, New Members & First Time Attendees), the Friday intensives and so much craft, business, opportunity, inspiration, and community that we'll be generating our own supernova of creativity which should keep us all toasty in the midst of the New York winter.

The conference is February 10-12, 2017, and you can find all the faculty, schedule, and conference information here. It's on-track to sell out again this year, and we hope you'll be able to join us.

Illustrate and Write On, and Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

And the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Award Winners Are...

Congratulations to Jan Peck, author of The Green Mother Goose 

and Giant Peach Yodel,

for being the 2016 Winner of the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Award! Jan is an active member of SCBWI and helped build the vibrant North Texas chapter.

Jan's website

Cheers as well to the two Honor winners, Deborah Trotter and Joan Donaldson.

Jane Yolen, who both funds and chooses the winners, said,
"All of the submissions this year were top rate, and the stories of how these authors—many of them award-winners—who have all had some recent setbacks serves as a warning to all writers. We are at the whim of trends, changes in publishers, consolidation of publishing lists, cutbacks in educational spending and the development of newer ways of storytelling. These three winners are all really good at what they do. My one wish is that this small award will be a way of re-starting their book lives again. Selfish of me, really, I want to read more from each of them. They each have many more books, stories, poems inside that need to be seen by the reading public."

You can find out more about the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Award and all the SCBWI awards and grants here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Jambalaya, Diversity, and what one region is doing to make a difference - a Guest Post by Cheryl Mathis, Regional Advisor for Louisiana/Mississippi

It’s an honor and a pleasure to drop into the SCBWI blog today. I’m here in my writing cave in New Orleans and wanted to talk about the diversity movement in the children’s publishing industry and how a small membership region might make a difference.

Cheryl's writing cave

I know Lee and team leaders around the SCBWI world are as passionate as we in our region about addressing this challenge. You might ask, how can a small region like Louisiana/Mississippi be a part of the solution for such a large problem? We believe the real question is, how can we not? 

Our first regional conference, March 10-11, 2017, in New Orleans, presents a perfect opportunity to take active steps. We are making promotion of diversity a key ingredient in our recipe for the conference. First, we are offering a diversity scholarship. The conference scholarship is open to all Louisiana or Mississippi writers from diverse backgrounds who are not traditionally published. Submission deadline is January 10, 2017. (Details here.Our keynote speaker Cheryl Klein (Arthur Levine/Scholastic) has agreed to select the winner. We view our scholarship as not only supportive to the diverse writer who receives it, but as our public statement to kidlit writers in our region. We are here. We support diverse voices. We want to assist you on your path to publication.

Click here for all the JambaLAya Kitdlit Conference info

Then the universe sent us Angie Thomas. The publishing world is abuzz about her YA debut The Hate U Give (release date 2/2017), inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement. She lives in Jackson, Mississippi, less than three hours from our conference venue in New Orleans. Starred reviews are pouring in, and a movie is in the works. Our ARA Sarah Campbell approached Angie, asked her to speak at our conference, and she accepted. We are over the moon excited about that.

author Angie Thomas

Angie’s phenomenal publishing success for her novel that throws a spotlight on one of the most important civil rights issues in many, many years, is hopefully an inspiration to other writers from diverse backgrounds. As a region, we hope that Angie’s presence at our conference will also be a draw to those writers. We, as SCBWI Regional Teams, may not be the gatekeepers to the industry. But we can certainly help writers and illustrators from diverse backgrounds find their way to the door.  
SCBWI is well-known as a nurturing environment for all kidlit writers and illustrators – indie, traditionally published, and pre-published. Our conference will be a jambalaya-potful of all that. That’s why we named it JambaLAya because it is so representative of our region. The word has French and African origins and it’s based on a Spanish dish! The ingredients can include any of a range of different meats and seafood. Any combination works. And then there’s the assortment of seasoning. No two pots are exactly alike. 

Jambalaya wouldn’t be jambalaya without diversity! We know the years of exclusion cannot be remedied by one conference, but it’s our start. We will continue to seek diverse writers and editors and illustrators and agents to be a part of our conference faculty. And we will keep the diversity scholarship until it’s no longer necessary. What a wonderful world that would be.

-Cheryl Mathis, Regional Advisor Louisiana/Mississippi SCBWI

Apply for the Diversity Scholarship here, and find out all the information about the 2017 JambaLAya Kid Lit Conference here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Seven things "Best of" Lists can teach us

We are awash in "best books" lists this time of year. NPR's Book Concierge Guide to 2016's Great Reads. The New York Times Notable Children's Books of 2016. The Association of Library Service To Children's Notable Children's Books 2016. I could go on and on and on (but I won't... And heck, if you're reading this, and you want more, you have an internet connection. Go for it.)

Amid all the list-reading, I decided to work out what we can learn from and do with these lists. I've come up with seven, but feel free to add your additional ideas in comments.

And without further ado, here's my list of what to do with these lists:

1. Play the game - a "best of" list is a scorecard of sorts, where we get to ask ourselves, how many of these have I read? The more you read, and liked, on a list, the smarter that list's judging committee. Or isn't that obvious?

2. Play the other game - how many of the authors and illustrators of those books have you met and/or seen speak at an SCBWI conference or book signing?

3. A "best of" list can suggest books we haven't read yet that we simply must check out, helping us build our personal "to read" list.

4. A "best of" list can be aspirational. Are there qualities in the selected books that you see in your own work? As you shape and craft your current work-in-progress, what qualities would have you place it on a "best of" list?

5. It's inspiration to look back on our year of reading and create our own "Best Of" list. What books do we still remember? What books still move us, weeks (or months) after reading them?

6. A reminder that the value of what we create is not solely determined by best of (or best-seller, or award) lists. The value of our work is determined in many ways, including our personal satisfaction with what we've created, the impact on a single reader, the conversations our work sparks... success of our endeavors has many, many definitions, and we can't fall into the fame-or-nothing mindset trap. Creative value is more interesting (and nuanced and complex) than that.

7. The differences between the many lists should remind (and re-assure) us that this is all subjective – and maybe everyone shouldn't take these lists so seriously. But having said that, being included on a "best of" list is absolutely something to celebrate.

Cheers to everyone on a "Best Of" list - even if it's a list of our own design!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Are you all FOMO about #NY17SCBWI? You can still join us!

Okay, FOMO stands for "Fear of Missing Out" (if you didn't know that, don't worry about it - we're always learning, and I just learned it this week. Now we both know it!)

The SCBWI Winter Conference is on track to sell out again in 2017. You don't have to miss out, but if you're interested in the intensives or the portfolio showcase, you need to act fast!

There are only 25 spots left in the Writers Roundtable.

There are only 2 spots left in the Professional Authors Forum.

The portfolio showcase is SOLD OUT (and a waiting list has started) but...

and here's the cool work-around,

there are still 28 spots for the illustrator's intensive. And if you sign up for the illustrator's intensive, you automatically get a reserved spot in the portfolio showcase.

#NY17SCBWI is going to be epic. We hope you'll join us. Find all the conference information here.

Illustrate and Write On!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ever thought about writing merchandise tie-ins?

The brilliant Cynthia Leitich Smith hosts author Danica Davidson on the Cynsations blog, with Danica's story of writing Minecraft and Barbie tie-ins. (How Danica went from a "Tales From The Crypt" writing sample to being hired to write "Barbie's Puppy Party" is wild!)

Check out Danica's guest post here, and see if writing merchandise tie-ins is something you're interested in doing...

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Voice - a fun exercise that almost looks like procrastination (but isn't)

First, choose a song that's pretty popular. Our example will be singer-songwriter Barrett Strong's "I heard it through the grapevine." Treat yourself to the version you're familiar with

I like this live performance by Marvin Gaye, who made the song famous

Now, go to youtube and do a search for that song - but don't go right to that same version. Try to find different versions, other artists who made the song their own, who let you hear the song anew. Which ones feel "karaoke," and which ones feel original?

It's the same song, but different approaches, different arrangements, different voices make each unique (or not...)

Here's a sampling of some of the videos I found of "Heard It Through The Grapevine"

Gladys Knight and the Pips:

 Creedence Clearwater Revival:

John Legend:

Fantasia Barrino:

 Leo Moracchioli:

 Donna Summer:

 The Slits:

Ella Fitzgerald:


Birds of Tokyo:

 Now, think about the story you're working on. What are you bringing to the story that's uniquely YOU? How is what you're creating more than 'karakoe?" The answer... that's your voice.

Illustrate and Write On!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


“If you poured water on a great poem, you would get a novel.” 

-Gloria Steinem, from the New York Times Book Review, “By the Book” interview from Sunday November 1, 2015.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Poem About Gratitude (and a cool poetry resource)

Amid the tumult. Amid the noise.

Take a minute, and write a poem about what makes you grateful.

A haiku. A sonnet. Something that rhymes. Or something that doesn't. An acrostic. A fib. A pantoum...

Consider making it a Thanksgiving day activity for those you're sharing the holiday with. (And if you live in a country where Thanksgiving isn't a thing, maybe do it just because!)

Play with words. Have fun. And let your art, and the feeling of gratitude, inspire you...

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Butt-In-Chair Inspiration

Thanks to Bruce for including this gem of a quote in his new newsletter (which also contained a great piece by Martha Brockenbrough, "Object Lessons: How To Deepen Your Story With Metaphor")

More on David here and Bruce here and Martha here. (And I made the above meme on, a really fun and easy-to-use tool that lets even us writers create professional-looking visuals.)

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

#KidLitSafetyPins - our community stands against bullying and marginalization

The climate in the US, in the aftermath of Donald Trump's election as our 45th President, is loud and confusing. There are many people who feel unsafe. And there are many people who want to stand up as Allies to help keep others safe.

In response to this, a Safety Pin movement has sprung up. It started in Britain in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, and has come to be a way to communicate that the person who wears the safety pin is an ally to those who are in some way under-represented and marginalized.

Members of our Children's Literature community have joined in, creating images of their beloved characters wearing safety pins, and sharing messages of support. Here are a few, by Peter Reynolds, Dan Santat, Stephanie Olivieri, Salina Yoon, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Tom Angleberger, and Raina Telgemeier...

An important note about #KidLitSafetyPins was shared by author Kate Messner in a recent Facebook post,

Teacher & librarian friends... If this is something you plan to share with students, please also take time to talk about what it means to have someone's back when it comes to fighting bullying and bigotry. Wearing a safety pin (or putting up a poster) doesn't really help unless it's accompanied by a promise of action. Speaking up and standing beside people who are being targeted requires courage, commitment, and planning. Here's a resource that I think is great for talking with middle grade kids and older.
And, of course, children's literature is a great resource to have these conversations with younger people as well!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Kathleen Burkinshaw wins the Honor Book Award for the SCBWI Marketing Grant

I caught up with Kathleen to find out more...

Lee: Congratulations on The Last Cherry Blossom being the Honor Book Award-Winner for the SCBWI Marketing Grant! Please tell us about your book.

Kathleen: The Last Cherry Blossom is about a 12-year-old girl's life with her family in Hiroshima during the last year of WWII. She discovers a shocking family secret right before her world becomes a shadow of what it had been. It is through her eyes the reader witnesses the horror and destruction from the atomic bomb. 

Lee: Tell us how you plan to use the grant to spread the word about your book.

Kathleen: My hope is to present my mother’s story to various Japanese societies, middle schools, and nuclear disarmament organizations. I also would like to add my book to school reading lists and being able to visit additional schools, so I have sent proposals to School Library, Social Studies, and Reading Associations for their conferences (in some instances I also have to pay a membership fee to submit a proposal). I'm also working on a teacher's guide that could be downloaded from my website. I recently had to hire someone to help me with website development. And of course, I will also be utilizing SCBWI's Book Blast page opportunity. I am very excited to say that I have also been involved with the Green Legacy Hiroshima program through the United Nations office in Hiroshima. I have partnered Green Legacy and UNC Charlotte, so that a sapling from the seed of a tree that survived the atomic blast in Hiroshima may be planted in front of their Education building. This ginkgo sapling will be dedicated to my mother's family and to all the atomic bomb victims of August 6th and 9th. My husband and I had to travel down to Atlanta to pick up the sapling and bring it to UNCC. 

Lee: Is there something the grant enables you to do that you couldn’t do otherwise?

Kathleen: Because of this grant I will be able to travel and present to Peace Action Staten Island, New York, and do a presentation at the Japanese Embassy in Washington DC in Spring 2017! The actual dates are still being worked out. The grant will help me with travel expenses, since I live in Charlotte, NC. 

Thank you, Kathleen. And congratulations again! 

You can learn more about Kathleen and her novel The Last Cherry Blossom here. 

Illustrate and Write On, 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Caleb Krisp's "Five Habits of Highly Ineffective Authors"

This is snarky and funny good wisdom – Caleb Krisp on MyBookCorner, the "Five Habits of Highly Ineffective Authors."

Here's the first habit:
1) Limit your writing time to those moments when you are seized by a great burst of inspiration that bathes you in a golden light of free flowing creativity. These moments, when the words seem to flow from your very finger tips, may only strike a few days out of every month. Or a few minutes in every day. Or perhaps once or twice in a lifetime. But if you are patient and wait for lightning to strike, you'll finish your novel in no time. Assuming you are immortal.
Check out the full article here. 

Illustrate and Write On, 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Book Blast 10 Plus Club! (And members' chance to win $100 gift card, which could buy some great books!)

This is cool!

In the words of SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver,

The SCBWI Book Blast has been running since October 10 and, to date, we have had over 25,000 visitors browsing and buying the great children's books created by our membership.

Book Blast will be open until Friday, November 18. We want to encourage every SCBWI member to go on to browse and shop for books.

To add a little incentive for you to do this, we're establishing the 10 Plus Club Giveaway.

To enter all you have to do is browse the pages, pick 10 books and leave a comment in the Guestbook. Once you've left 10 comments, email us at BBfan (at) scbwi (dot) org by Sunday 11/13 with your list of the 10 books (just the title will do) you've commented on.

You will then be eligible for the drawing. The drawing will be on Tuesday 11/15. Five lucky winners will receive a $100 VISA gift card.

Join with our community in supporting Book Blast, and have a chance to spread book love and win some money, too!

So go on over and browse SCBWI Member's books and leave some comments in the Book Blast guestbooks! Have fun, and good luck!

Illustrate and Write On,

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Advice for writing "scary" from R.L. Stine (of Goosebumps fame!)

R.L. Stine photo from here

"I think you have to create a very close point of view. You have to be in the eyes of the narrator. Everything that happens, all the smells, all the sounds; then your reader starts to identify with that character and that’s what makes something really scary.

 ...The other big elements are shock and surprises! You don’t want a linear plot. You want to have twists in there that the reader will stop and say, 'Oh, I didn’t realize that.'"                    –R.L. Stine, from an interview at GalleyCat"

Want more R.L. Stine? check out this MTV interview Rachel Handler did where she visited Stine in his home, "What Scares R.L. Stine?"

Illustrate and Write On–and Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Nancy Bo Flood Guest Post On Winning the 2016 SCBWI Marketing Grant

Nancy Bo Flood won the 2016 SCBWI Marketing Grant. Nancy wanted to use the grant to share her book, "Soldier Sister, Fly Home" with Native American students through book talks and writing workshops. As Nancy wrote, "I want to encourage and support students' own writing. Less than 1% of books published for children are about contemporary American Indians. Every child should see themselves - their stories, their landscape, their people - in a book." 

 Here's Nancy's Guest Post about what she's done with the grant... 

Recently, early one morning I drove across the northern part of the Navajo Nation from Canyon de Chelly to Chilchinbeto Elementary School. The sky glowed scarlet and then gold as the sun rose. I scooted horses off the sandy road, slowed when two coyotes crossed, stopped and pulled off to the side to watch a grandma on horseback deftly guide her sheep from one pasture to a further one.

Canyon Des Chelly

I drove until I came to the school surrounded by piƱon and salmon-colored cliffs. There I began my day, sharing books and stories with students. We performed cowboy poetry together, imagining ourselves at a Navajo rodeo, riding bucking broncos and roping wild calves. We read about and then talked about the wonders of water – all the uses, forms, sounds and smells of water. Together we wrote a group poem, “Seven Ways of Looking at Water.”

 I read the beginning of Soldier Sister, Fly Home, and then we shared how it feels to have a sister or brother deployed. As I began my drive back home I took a photo of the Chilchinbeto sign to remind me about that sky, that horizon, that school full of students with stories to share, waiting to be written.

How could I return and guide students to do just that, to write their own stories?

This what I learned: Grant support was needed. As I wrestled with creating a successful SCBWI marketing application, I learned this - I needed to answer three critical questions. These questions are important to all authors as we prioritize how to spend time, energy, and money to market our books. And market we must if we want our books to thrive.

Why did I write this book?

Who do I hope will read it?

How do I reach those readers?

Why did I write this book? –So children who are Navajo or Native American can see themselves in a book. Fewer than 1% of children’s books are written about Native Americans. We need Native stories that are accurate, positive, and contemporary. Educators, librarians, and READERS need to know about these books.

Who do I hope will read it? –Native children as well as children who have never hiked to the top of a mesa or down into the depths of a canyon – or heard silence broken by the whoosh of raven’s wings - can open this book and step into this landscape.

Another reason I wrote Soldier Sister, Fly Home, is because the worries and cares of the heart are universal. When a sister, brother, father or mother is deployed, we all feel the same anger, frustration, worry and fear - how do we keep a loved one safe? How do we figure out who we are and who we want to be?

How do I reach those readers? –What’s my marketing plan and how do I implement it?

For the SCBWI grant application, I described the traditional tools – book launches, blog tours, and conference presentations. These are all important.

But I also wanted to reach readers where there are trading posts and tourist information centers, but few libraries and no bookstores. Marketing for these readers was less about selling but more about sharing. I wanted to excite these students about reading and then encourage them to write their own stories, their own books.

My marketing journey has begun. At Many Farms Elementary School, Navajo Nation, there are 500 students and no librarian. The school’s dynamo principal, Cheryl Tsosie, invited me for a return visit to share the excitement of books, the importance of reading.

I read the prologue of Soldier Sister, Fly Home to a room full of antsy seventh and eighth grade students. As I began to read, the room became quiet. Silent. I finished reading the first chapter. No one said a word, no one moved. Then one student raised her hand, “Could you read more?” Other students chimed in, “Please keep reading.”

I asked them, “What do you think this story is about?” Students began voicing ideas, “The story is about sisters, about rifles, shooting rifles, maybe about death … about deployment.”

My next question was, “How many of you have someone in your family deployed?” Over a third of the students raised their hands. A third.

Then I asked, “How does that feel?” Students began talking at once. They had many feelings they wanted to share, and stories they wanted to tell, their stories.

This is where this marketing grant has taken me.

Thank you, SCBWI.

Author and SCBWI Marketing Grant winner Nancy Bo Flood

Congratulations, Nancy! 

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Today (Tuesday October 25) at 10am Pacific Registration OPENS for #NY17SCBWI

The 18th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference (#NY17SCBWI) from February 10-12, 2017 in New York City is going to be amazing. There's

Friday intensives!




Inspiration from a stellar faculty

Opportunity! (The Writers Roundtables and Portfolio Showcase)




Get all the information here, and register now so you don't miss out. The conference sells out year after year, and we'd love for you to join us!

Illustrate and Write–and Conference–On,

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Illustrator Jon Burgerman's "20 top character design tips" on Creative Bloq

Illustrators, Authors -- we're all creating characters. For illustrators especially, these 20 Top Character Design Tips might come in handy. (And as a writer, I'll share that some of them sparked inspiration for me as well!)

From "Use Exaggerated Characteristics" to "Add Accessories" to "Give your characters goals and dreams," there's a lot of good stuff here, including this bit:

Often the incompleteness or flaws in a character design are what make it interesting.
Read the full article here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Curtis Sittenfeld shares "24 Things No One Tells You About Book Publishing"

A few of these made me nod my head in agreement - and one even got me to laugh out loud.

Some highlights:

4. There are very different ways people can ask a published writer for the same favor. Polite, succinct, and preemptively letting you off the hook is most effective.

 7. When your book is on best-seller lists, people find you more amusing and respond to your emails faster.

8. When your book isn’t on best-seller lists, your life is calmer and you have more time to write.
Enjoy the full list here.

Thanks, Curtis!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Awards! The SCBWI 2016 Work-In-Progress Grant Winners and the Karen Cushman Late Bloomer Award Winner

SCBWI Grant and Award Logos

Congratulations to...

Work-In-Progress Young Adult Fiction Winner:

The Edge of the Miraculous by Beth Navarro
 While mourning for her father, a bipolar teenager is interrupted in her suicide attempt by a strange boy who happens to be an alien. 

 Work-In-Progress Nonfiction Winner:

Nikola’s Visions: The Extraordinary Life of Nikola Tesla by Cindy Jenson-Elliott
 Follow the life of the visionary scientist Nikola Tesla, as expressed through vibrant poetry. Short poems alternate point-of-view from Tesla to significant people in his life. 

 Work-In-Progress Multicultural Fiction or Nonfiction Winner:

Finding Ma by DoanPhuong Nguyen
 Set during the Vietnam War, eleven-year-old Con endures abandonment, kidnapping, and abuse, before finally finding a loving home. 

 Work-In-Progress Picture Book Text Winner:
 A Father’s Love by Hannah Holt
 A colorful celebration of fathers in the animal kingdom, from penguins to lions to seahorses. 

 Work-In-Progress Middle Grade Fiction Winner:
Ruby in the Sky by Jeanne Zulick-Ferruolo
 A shy young girl befriends the neighborhood eccentric, a mysterious recluse called the Bird Lady. 

Work-In-Progress Chapter Books/Early Fiction Winner:
How To Be a Bad Guy, By Dallas Bottomley by Lauren LeBlanc
 Fed up with his friends’ obsession with superheroes, 8-year-old Dallas decides to become a villain instead. But when he discovers he would rather stand up for the underdog, he must redefine what villainy means to him. 

 Don Freeman Illustration Grant Winners: 
 Published Award: Rongyuan Ma (See Rongyuan’s illustrations:
 Pre-published Award: Alison Farrell  (See Alison’s illustrations:

Karen Cushman Late Bloomer Award Winner:

Stephen Baker: Prayers to Broken Stone
 Fourteen-year-old Milana lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo with her mother studying the wild gorillas in Virunga National Park, but soon Milana must save both her family and the gorillas from an oil company bent on destroying the habitat. 

 This grant was established by Newbery Award winner and Newbery Honor Book recipient Karen Cushman and her husband, Philip Cushman, in conjunction with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Karen published her first children’s book, Catherine Called Birdy, in 1994 (Newbery Honor Book), at the age of fifty-three and has gone on to become one of the field’s most acclaimed novelists. “The writing [in Prayers to Broken Stone] is very good, the setting unusual and intriguing, and there is the promise of a corporate villain we can root against,” said Karen. “I hope someday I get a chance to read the book and find out what happens.”

 The SCBWI will propel the winning manuscripts on the path to publication by exposing their work to hand-selected acquiring editors on a secure website for a period of time. This is an opportunity for the winners to gain exclusive access to some of the most sought after professionals in the business. The winners of the Don Freeman Grant will each receive $1,000 to further their understanding, training, and work in the picture book genre.

Find out more about all the SCBWI grants and award programs here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

SCBWI Book Blast Is Open To The Public!

#SCBWIBookBlast is live for the next six weeks!

The link:

The scoop: Explore new books from independent & traditionally published writers & illustrators with #SCBWIBookBlast

What's extra cool: Visitor incentives! For this week of October 10, post pictures of your favorite Book Blast picture book page on Twitter for a chance to win a $100 gift card, and SCBWI will match that with a donation to We Need Diverse Books!

Have SCBWI friends with books out in 2016? Drop by their book pages and sign their guestbook with a note of encouragement. And hey, you can buy copies, too...

Explore, and help us all spread the word about #SCBWIBookBlast!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Mark Your Calendars! #NY17SCBWI Registration Opens October 25

It sells out every year...

And this year, from February 10-12, 2017, the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City will include keynotes by:

Three-time Caldecott Honor Recipient, illustrator Bryan Collier

New York Times Best-selling author Tahereh Mafi

and New York Times Best-selling author Sara Pennypacker

There will be panels on Children's Books in the Social Media World, Four Types of Picture Books, and The Current Landscape for Children's Books.

There will be breakout sessions with editors, agents and art directors.

There will be a Portfolio Showcase,

and an optional Friday intensive for writers and illustrators who want to dive deep into their craft,

and, of course, the Gala!

The full conference schedule and information will be up on October 21, 2016

We hope you'll join us.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Chris Jackson on why a multicultural imprint matters

61 weeks and counting on the New York Times' best-seller list

From the October 14, 2016 issue of The Hollywood Reporter, Chris Jackson, editor-in-chief and publisher of Random House imprint One World, had these wise words to share:

"Not to overstate it, but I think current events -- from ongoing issues with police violence to the election to terroristic violence -- demonstrate a failure across our journalistic, storytelling and culture-making industries. In so many basic ways we still don't understand each other -- we don't ever really see each other. That's what multicultural storytelling is about. So I think it's more urgent than ever."

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A New Kind Of Censorship: One-Star Bigotry on Goodreads

Have you heard about what's been happening to debut YA author Laura Silverman @LJSilverman1 ? (This Huffington Post article by Claire Fallon, Neo-Nazi Trump Supporters Are Going After YA Books Now is a good catch-up.)

Laura's book, Girl Out Of Water (May 2017, Sourcebooks Fire) isn't out yet. The review copies aren't out yet. But suddenly the book's goodreads account had more than 1,500 ratings of the book. The book that almost NONE OF THEM, unless they were personal friends with the author, could have possibly read.

At first, the pile-on was of haters, and one-star reviews, including one that said she was "literally worse than Hitler." Laura sounded the alarm,

And then many people (including some famous authors) added their supportive 5-star reviews. As of this writing, the book's goodreads page had over 1,750 ratings and 506 reviews. And a 4.77 rating.

The Huffington Post article stated that according to Kathryn Lynch, a publicist at Sourcebooks, "Goodreads was able to remove the troll reviews and ratings by early this week."

Is this the new battleground for censorship? And is the response by a community trying to support an author under attack by adding their own 5-star reviews diluting the whole purpose of a community-based book review site? Is the real culprit the anonymous element, that people can create goodreads accounts not tied to their actual identities, and do so just to attack people like Laura?

I don't profess to have all the answers. But as we observe #BannedBooksWeek and celebrate the freedom to read, it's clear that these questions are something our community needs to engage with.

Illustrate and Write On,

ps - Goodreads did not respond to a request for comment.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How Are You Celebrating The Freedom To Read -- also known as Banned Books Week ?

The official Banned Books Week site is here, and it's packed with great stuff.

Another way I'm honoring the week is by checking out the hashtag #bannedbooksweek on social media, and so much great stuff comes up, like:


Katey Howes ‏@Kateywrites
Every story matters. Fight censorship. Celebrate fREADom. #BannedBooksWeek

 fREADom is really clever - thanks, Katey!

 And this Time Magazine article by Sarah Begley, What the List of Most Banned Books Says About Our Society’s Fears which includes these lines about the shift from banning bad language and sex to banning diversity:
The ALA’s list of the 10 most challenged books in 2015 bears this out: it includes I Am Jazz and Beyond Magenta, about young transgender people; Fun Home and Two Boys Kissing, which deal with homosexuality; Habibi and Nasreen’s Secret School, which feature Muslim characters; and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, which was cited for “atheism.” In contrast, the top 10 most-challenged books of 2001 were more straightforwardly banned for strong language, sexual content and drugs, like The Chocolate War and Go Ask Alice.

The shift seems to be linked to demographic changes in the country—and the political fear-mongering that can accompany those changes, LaRue says. “There’s a sense that a previous majority of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants are kind of moving into a minority, and there’s this lashing out to say, ‘Can we just please make things the way that they used to be?’” LaRue says. “We don’t get many challenges by diverse people,” he adds.
It's an observation echoed in Maggie Jacoby's article Why Diverse Books Are Commonly Banned.

How will you celebrate your freedom to read this week?

Illustrate and Write On!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Paul O. Zelinksy offers some great advice for Illustrators

SCBWI is just bursting with great information to share.

SCBWI Board Member and Illustrator Extraordinaire Paul O. Zelinsky did a skype visit this month with SCBWI Australia East and New Zealand. I don't live in New Zealand. I didn't get to be there. But... notes from the session are online, here: Chapter Two: Climax! The Craft Of Illustration

It's a really interesting recap, and I especially love how Paul describes the feeling he wants his illustrations to convey. Like for his "The Wheels On The Bus"

Paul explained:

 "It’s a jumpy song, bright and happy. The feeling that I wanted visually was not just colourful but also ‘chewy’ like bubblegum. The pictures should be something that you could want to chew on and they’d be sweet when you ate them. The song is bouncy. [So I went with] oil paint with a certain amount of thickness. The act of pushing oil paint across the page felt sort of like the feeling of singing the song."

Here's another highlight:

Q: We have a lot of people who are just starting out in their Illustrator career - what’s pearls of wisdom could you provide?

 Paul notes that this is just from his experience and not the only way.

I would encourage people to not limit your artistic vision to illustration, but think about the whole world of other kinds of art and everything. There are a lot of trends that happen in illustration… and if you look only at children's books then it’s limiting…and that’s just me because I didn’t study illustration.

I go to figure drawing and draw from the figure once a week if I can. Drawing from life is a great thing and is good for training.

In terms of ways that you can make images, I just look at different things. And copy Art. It’s amazing what you can learn if you just start copying it. Writers as an exercise will retype someone else’s story and the act of putting down someone’s words will give you insights. Drawing from life is similar to copying from art. It teaches you to see more things then you would otherwise see.

Great stuff! Thank you Paul, and thank you SCBWI Australia East and New Zealand!

You can find out more about Paul here. And more about SCBWI Australia East and New Zealand here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

To Honor Anna Dewdney, Read To A Child

Llama Llama series writer and illustrator Anna Dewdney died this month, and, in passing, she did something pretty remarkable. As it says in her Publishers Weekly obituary (which was picked up by the Washington Post),

She requested that in lieu of a funeral service that people read to a child instead.

That's a beautiful legacy. Go do it, now.

And after you've read to a young person in your life, take a moment and read this powerful piece Anna wrote a few years ago that was published in the Wall Street Journal, How Books Can Teach Your Child To Care, on how reading builds not just empathy, but human beings.

It includes these lines,

When we read with a child, we are doing so much more than teaching him to read or instilling in her a love of language. We are doing something that I believe is just as powerful, and it is something that we are losing as a culture: by reading with a child, we are teaching that child to be human. When we open a book, and share our voice and imagination with a child, that child learns to see the world through someone else’s eyes. I will go further and say that that child then learns to feel the world more deeply, becoming more aware of himself and others in a way that he simply cannot experience except in our laps, or in our classrooms, or in our reading circles.

Thank you, Anna.

Illustrate and Write, and Read to A Child On,

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A group of men can be 'guys,' but what do you call a group of women?

Ladies? Girls? Gals?

If you've ever been stumped by this (like I have), check out this great piece by Kashmir Hill over at Forbes. She quotes Shawna Hein saying,

“I first started thinking about it when Girl With A Dragon Tattoo came out,” says Hein by phone. “It’s a whole action series where the main character is a bad ass, and yet she’s called a girl. You never see an action hero with boy in his name.”

 It’s hard to imagine Robert Downey Jr. signing up to play “Iron Boy.” 

The piece also includes this extremely useful - and very funny - infographic by Shawna Hein.

Continue to choose your words carefully!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Brian Dettmer's TED Talk: Old books reborn as intricate art

This six minute video by book sculptor Brian Dettmer is amazing, kind of disturbing, and very thought-provoking...

This quote especially resonated:
“I think that the book will evolve, and just like people said painting would die when photography and printmaking became everyday materials, but what it really allowed painting to do was it allowed painting to quit its day job. It allowed painting to not have to have that everyday chore of telling the story, and painting became free and was allowed to tell its own story.” - Brian Dettmer
As we move into the future, Brian's point about non-linear information in books is striking... I don't really use my printed dictionary anymore, either.

Maybe the future of print is more about storytelling, and the book as a special object. I'm not sure. But it will be fascinating to see what evolves. And Brian's art is fascinating as well.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Gene Luen Yang's "Glare Of Disdain"

From the New York Times, our National Ambassador for Young People's Literature published this comic: Glare of Disdain, a self-searching exploration of the power of story...

The first few frames of Glare of Disdain

Check out the whole comic here. I hope it inspires you, too.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

John Parra tells us about his Golden Kite Award-Winning Illustrations for "Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans"

In which John talks about the palate and his color choices for illustrating "Marvelous Cornelius"...

Thanks, John! And cheers again on winning the Golden Kite Award for your illustrations!

And congratulations also to blog reader Lois, for the great question. Lois, please email me your mailing address at leewind (at) roadrunner (dot) com and I'll send you the copy of "Marvelous Cornelius" that John signed right before recording our interview.

Illustrate and Write On!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Margarita Engle tells us about her Golden Kite Award-Winning "Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings"

Margarita Engel's memoir won the 2016 Golden Kite Award for Nonfiction.

Blog reader jpetroroy's question for the author:
Did you find yourself self-censoring while writing this memoir to protect others' feelings?

Margarita writes in response,
"Yes, I did censor myself while writing Enchanted Air, Two Cultures, Two Wings. I made the decision to omit anything that would embarrass or endanger a family member. I did not include certain anecdotes about my sister that I regard as her stories to tell, not mine. I did not include any stories about relatives who are still in Cuba if I felt that their activities or attitudes a long time ago might still cause problems for them.

At the time when I wrote Enchanted Air, I worried about how it might be received by Miami relatives, but I did not censor my plea for peace and reconciliation. The time felt right for publicly admitting that I am against travel restrictions and the trade embargo."

Thanks, Margarita, and congratulations again on your award!

And cheers as well to jpetroroy for the the great question, and for winning a copy of "Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings!"