Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Diversity Initiatives: SCBWI Illinois' Diverse New Member Pathway

In this new Diversity Initiatives series, we'll be highlighting cool, inspiring, and replicable programs that are happening in SCBWI chapters around the world towards making children's literature more diverse, both the characters and the creators!

Today's post is from SCBWI Illinois New Member Chairperson and Diversity Committee Member Urania Smith, who writes in to tell us about their Diverse New Member Pathway:

SCBWI-IL has launched several initiatives in the past couple of years aimed to support diverse writers and illustrators. 2017 is the inaugural year of our new program, Diverse New Member Pathway. This outreach initiative gives members of underrepresented groups in the larger Illinois writing community, the opportunity to win a one year membership to SCBWI. In addition, the new member gets the benefits of having a peer guide to help them garner the most of their membership. Our 2017 Diverse New Member Pathway Peer Guide is Crystal Chan, author of Bird.

During a six month time frame, Crystal will meet with the new member, answer questions about SCBWI events and opportunities, attend a SCBWI-IL event with the new member, and help them connect with their closest Illinois Network. Our primary goal is to make the new member feel at home and to help forge a relationship with a seasoned writer that can aide them on their path.

When forming the DNMP, the diversity committee recognized that joining such a large organization as SCBWI can be overwhelming and complex to navigate for new members. We also realized these feelings can be multiplied for people in groups who are not typically represented in the publishing industry.

For me, forming connections with other writers and illustrators is the best part of being a member of SCBWI, so it's important to make our members feel like they have a place in our organization.

Urania Smith
New Member Chairperson & Diversity Committee Member

You can find out more about the Diverse New Member Pathway initiative here, and if you're an Illinois-region writer and/or illustrator who wants to apply, note the submission deadline is March 15.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Check out this wonderful conversation between Nikki Grimes and Kwame Alexander on the Power of Poetry

It's a wonderful discussion, shared with us at Publishers Weekly...

We learn about The Golden Shovel form of poetry, hear the latest on Kwame and Nikki's books coming out and in-the-pipeline, and hear them speak from the heart on the power of hope and poetry.

Two standout moments:

"...if you want to have something authentic and powerful to write about, you have to live an authentic, empowering life. I learned that from my parents, from my mentors like Nikki Giovanni, from writers, in particular black writers, who always believed that writing is just a tool to carve out our dreams." -Kwame Alexander


"The Harlem Renaissance poets were always writing with a larger intent than mere entertainment. Their work might have been—is— entertaining along the way, but that was never the point of the poetry. The poetry was about encouragement, about uplift, about planting seeds of hope. I am all about hope. It is the one thread I repeatedly use to stitch all my poems and stories together. " -Nikki Grimes 

The whole article is well worth reading!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Creative Habit Achieved!

Back on January 10, 2017, I asked, What's Your New Creative Habit Going To Be? 

Leveraging the science that 21 consecutive days of doing something helps it to become a habit, I shared that my own goal was to write for at least an hour every day.

I'm happy to share that today's hour and seven minutes of writing was day 43, and yes, I do feel that I have a healthy, creative new habit! (It was day 16 or 17 that I really felt the shift, from oh-yeah, I'm supposed to do that to I really want to do that!)

Your 21 days to a new creative habit can start any time, even today.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Literary Hub explores the use of sensitivity readers in publishing

Christine Ro interviewed author Becky Albertalli (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda), sensitivity reader Sangu Mandanna, and publisher Stacy Whitman (Tu Books), who together give a good picture of sensitivity reading, with lots to consider.

Read the piece here.

The article also recommends "Writing in the Margins" which has a Sensitivity Reader Database (from which Christine found Sangu Mandanna for the article.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Twitter Highlights and Resonant Moments of #NY17SCBWI

Some of the most popular conference moments, captured on twitter with the hashtag #NY17SCBWI...

"I never set out to have an audience. I set out to share what I love." Great social media advice from  at 

Feb 11
"Everything you are awkward about is the very thing that makes you so special." - Bryan Collier 

A lot of standing ovations at this conference. Why? Because we are fortifying ourselves to fight and write for the good of kids. 

Leave room for the reader. Don't do it all yourself. A book is not a monologue. --Sara Pennypacker 

51% of the kids in the US are POC. Repeat. -- 

NEW FOR 2017: 's nat'l (& internat'l!) BOOKS FOR READERS initiative, getting 📚 to the kids who need 'em. "Give Books. Build Dreams."

Feb 11
If you find something that inspires you, dig into that a little deeper. -Andrea Beaty 

Tomie dePaola at  (1/2): My wish for you: The joy of compassion, the joy of creating something that didn't exist before…

Tomie dePaola at  (2/2): The courage to do it in the first place, and to do it again, and again and again. And bit of good luck.

More moments that resonated for me:

"My thin skin allows me…to exhale emotions and humanity onto the page." -  inspires me at 

"Your passion is what's going to set your book apart" -great advice on Nonfiction for kids & teens from @ emily6560 

"The world is waiting for you to dream... You'll only get half. The kids get the other half." - Bryan Collier makes us feel 

What moments are still resonating for you?

And check out all the conference blog posts here.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Wait, what are you doing here?

The SCBWI Winter Conference party is over at the Official SCBWI Conference Blog

And on social media with the hashtag #NY17SCBWI

See you there!


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Always Learning: "People of Color" Does Not Accurately Include Native People

It came up this week, and to understand it further, a friend pointed me to Debbie Reese's indispensable "American Indians In Children's Literature" blog and the essay, Are we "People of Color?" 

Part of Debbie's essay reads:

A common phrase used to describe minority or underrepresented populations is "people of color." American Indians are not, to quote Elizabeth Cook Lynn, a member of the Crow Creek Sioux tribe and founding editor of Wicazo Sa (a leading journal in American Indian Studies), "people of color." Cook-Lynn writes:

Native populations in America are not "ethnic" populations; they are not "minority" populations, neither immigrant nor tourist, nor "people of color." They are the indigenous peoples of this continent. They are landlords, with very special political and cultural status in the realm of American identity and citizenship. Since 1924, they have possessed dual citizenship, tribal and U.S., and are the only population that has not been required to deny their previous national citizenship in order to possess U.S. citizenship. They are known and documented as citizens by their tribal nations. (1)

She goes on to say that placing us within a multicultural or ethnic studies category has a negative effect because those categories obliterate our political difference. The political dimension she refers to is our status as sovereign nations, a distinction based on treaty and trust agreements made between early European nations who came to what we now call the United States, and, later agreements made between the United States and Native Nations.

(1) Cook-Lynn, Elizabeth. "Scandal," in Wicazo Sa Review, Spring 2007, page 86.

The entire piece is well-worth reading.

We don't know what we don't know. But we can (and should) be open to learning, and to growing, and to listening. Particularly when we're discussing diversity and representation, listening to people share about their own identity and experience is key.

I've used "people of color" in the past, thinking that I've been including Native people within that category. Now I know better, and how to be more respectful. And I'm grateful for that.

I'm always learning...

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, February 2, 2017

SCBWI stands for freedom of expression, for inclusion, for absence of hate, and for equality of opportunity for all!

From the February 2017 Insight, the SCBWI member newsletter... 

A Timely Editorial

There's no doubt that we are living in a highly charged political environment. Everyone has an opinion and is expressing it vigorously, as well we should.  This freedom of expression is one of the precious rights guaranteed to Americans by the First Amendment. All of us at SCBWI cherish our First Amendment freedoms, which are so crucial to the work of writers and artists.

The SCBWI is made up of 25,000 individuals, individuals whose beliefs range broadly across the political spectrum. There is no one profile of an SCBWI member; nevertheless, we are bound together by a common goal. This goal, as stated in our mission statement, is "to support the creation and availability of quality children's books around the world by fostering a vibrant community...and to act as a consolidated voice for writers and illustrators of children's books worldwide."

In working towards this goal, we believe SCBWI members share certain core values. As creative people, we promote and advocate for freedom of expression. As providers of windows into all worlds, we support inclusion, diversity and equality of opportunity for all individuals. As visionaries for today's children, we strive to avoid hate and hate-speech while promoting acceptance and understanding. As teachers and role models, we hope to inspire young people to be curious, to question and think critically and humanely about the world they are inheriting.

The climate of our nation, and increasingly of the world, has become deeply polarized. It's easy for all of us to resort to social media to express our opinions, frustrations and feelings. With that fact in mind, it's important to state here that the SCBWI as an organization does not represent a particular political point of view. We would hope that you, our members, never confuse individual political points of view expressed by our staff, board or your fellow members, with those of SCBWI. Although we encourage the expression of individual ideas, they do not represent the organization. What does represent the SCBWI are the GOALS we've listed above. We stand for freedom of expression, for inclusion, for absence of hate, and for equality of opportunity for all. These are not political ideologies, but expressions of our shared human values.

Each and every one of us should be free to create. Children should be free to read. Our hope for these times is that our organization can stand for positivity, that our shared consolidated voice will be a beacon of freedom and love and civility, and that these values rise above ideology in support of the best possible future for our children.

 ---- Lin Oliver, Stephen Mooser and the SCBWI Board of Advisors