Thursday, April 28, 2016

Judy Blume on Character versus Plot, and her 'Security Blanket' for writing that first draft

In this archived interview on Cynthia Leitich Smith's amazing Cynsations blog, Judy Blume discusses her process.

Here are two highlights:

 On whether she's a Character or Plot-focused writer,

I'm a character writer but there wouldn't be a book if that character didn't have a story to tell. I tend to get ideas about a character in a situation. I don't like to think about "plot." I don't know everything that's going to happen when I begin. I know where I'm starting and where I'm hoping to wind up (though that sometimes changes along the way). The hardest part of writing for me is getting that first draft. I find it pure torture. 

To help with that first draft, Judy has a strategy,

I keep a notebook for months before I actually sit down to begin a new book. Before I start the notebook I have a vague idea of the characters and their story, usually something that's been brewing inside my head, sometimes for months, sometimes for years. I jot down anything that comes to mind during this period -- details about characters, bits of dialogue, chapter ideas, descriptions - sometimes even scenes. This way, when I actually begin, I have my "security blanket." 

It's a great interview (and very reassuring to hear that even Judy Blume revises multiple times!)

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Picture Book Craft Insight From Caldecott-Winning Author/Illustrator Dan Santat

Dan's new picture book

I moderated a panel of picture book creators at the LA Times Festival of Books earlier this month, and what Dan Santat shared about his process is still resonating for me.

For his picture books, Dan illustrates the entire book first without any words, and only then, once the story is working, does he add text, making sure the text isn't duplicating what the images have already said.

It seems like a brilliant strategy that even those of us who write but don't illustrate might try...

It's certainly working for Dan!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Got a recent review?

Was it good? Less than good?

Find out more about Thornton Wilder here

Either way, take these words of Thornton Wilder as good advice:
 "The important thing is that you make sure that neither the favorable nor the unfavorable critics move into your head and take part in the composition of your next work."
Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Registration for #LA16SCBWI Opens TODAY!

We're so excited!

The SCBWI Summer Conference is packed with:

Keynotes and inspiration,

Agents and Editors and Panels and insight

Breakout sessions on the craft and business of writing and illustrating for kids and teens,

Optional classroom-sized intensives with the amazing Conference Faculty (a who's who of children's literature!)

Optional one-on-one manuscript critiques and portfolio critiques for feedback from a publishing professional.

The Portfolio Showcase gives you an opportunity to display your work to faculty and participants alike. Come and be discovered!

The Golden Kite Awards Cocktail Reception and Dinner

Illustrator, International, and nonfiction socials and the LGBTQ & Allies Q&A

A PAL Booksale, Autograph party, even yoga,

And the conference gala... The Red Carpet Ball!

So bring your Hollywood Glamour, sense of career adventure, and dive into all the craft, business, inspiration, opportunity and community that the SCBWI Summer Conference has to offer. You'll find all the information and registration here. 

We hope to see you there!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Author Jason Hough's 5 Reasons To Listen To Audiobooks

Listening to to audiobooks as a way to up your craft? Check out this piece by author Jason Hough.

As Jason puts it,
"Audiobooks are a dynamite way to improve your writing,"

His five points included,
Unlike reading printed text, you can't really skim. You've trained yourself over the years to skip the "boring bits", to the point where you may not even realize you're doing it anymore, or why. And, this may be affecting your own writing. With an audiobook you're forced to hang on every word the author wrote. No eye-wandering past those large wall-of-text description paragraphs. No accidental glimpse at the big reveal in that next big line of dialog. And as a result, you'll gain newfound appreciation for the words themselves. 

What's the last audiobook you listened to? Did it help your own craft?

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Beverly Cleary is 100 today!

Winner of the Newbery and National Book Award, and named a Living Legend in 2000 by the Library of Congress, Beverly Cleary's books include...

Check out this lovely interview/profile with Beverly here.

a highlight:
For Cleary, the most rewarding thing about her writing career has been “the children who have discovered the pleasure of reading with my books,” she says. “I remember when I made the same discovery in third grade, and it was a turning point in my life.”

Happy Birthday, Beverly! And thank you for the books, your gift to all of us.

p.s. - my favorite Beverly Cleary book? The Mouse and The Motorcycle. What's yours?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Hugh Howey's empassioned argument for Amazon and self-publishing

In this Digital Book World interview by Daniel Berkowitz, successful self-published author Hugh Howey makes some fascinating points talking up the pros of self-publishing, like

"There’s a good route here for a livable wage if you can write entertaining stories and really pour energy into doing it right." 

and the cons of traditional publishing, like

"Publishers need to rebrand from the ground up. Get rid of ancient imprints that readers don’t care about. Stop paying seven- and eight-figure advances to people who are already millionaires, and instead pay more up-and-coming authors a livable wage."

Here's a highlight of their exchange:

Daniel: There’s some talk lately about Amazon being a monopoly or monopsony and the negative effects its share of the market has on the flourishing of literature. In your opinion, how worried should we be?

Hugh: I think the motives here are no secret, and they have historical precedent. When those who can’t compete on the open market realize this, they appeal to the public for sympathy and to the courts for protection. There are two very strident campaigns going on here, and both are ethically bankrupt.

Amazon has vastly increased the access to books. They have also vastly increased every author’s access to the market. They are lowering prices for consumers and increasing pay to producers. They are able to do this by operating very efficiently and by pouring all their earnings back into their business divisions.

What’s really Orwellian about these monopoly complaints isn’t just that Amazon is doing the opposite of what they’re being accused of; it’s that major publishers are the ones who have enjoyed a collaborative monopoly for many years and have used the lack of competition to calcify the reading experience, overcharge for their wares and underpay for work.

For a very long time, most aspiring writers had no hope of expressing themselves and having access to consumers. Amazon almost single handedly changed that. For an equally long time, many lower income and small-town readers have not had access to enough affordable books. Amazon almost single-handedly changed that.

Even better, Amazon is now hurting the big-box brick and mortar stores that decimated indie bookshops. Indie bookstores are making a comeback, and it’s largely because Amazon cleared out the wolves that were winnowing their kind. Those bookstores offer a shopping experience can’t emulate, so the two can exist in harmony. But there’s no doubting the positive effect Amazon has had on their numbers. Shoppers are showing they will support both.

So Amazon has been great for readers, writers and small bookstores. That leaves noncompetitive middlemen and the authors who were enriched by their system to complain. To be simultaneously pro-books and anti-Amazon requires some truly impressive mental gymnastics from anyone else.
It's a thought-provoking interview and well worth reading.

Illustrate and Write On, 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sneak Peek At #LA16SCBWI Keynotes!

SCBWI's 45th Annual Summer Conference, July 29-Aug 1, 2016, will feature keynotes from these bestselling and award-winning authors and illustrators:

Marie Lu

Sophie Blackall


Neal Shusterman

Carole Boston Weatherford

Deborah Halverson

Ellen Hopkins 

Drew Daywalt 


Jon Klasson

Pam Munoz Ryan


Jenni Holm

Registration will go live at on April 19, 10am Pacific Time!

We hope to see you there.

Illustrate and Write On,