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,