Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Only One More Day To Vote For Your Favorite Illustration For The Bologna Illustration Gallery Member's Choice Award!

It's a new award! Out of 500 entries, 43 finalists (selected by Simon and Schuster Art Director and Author/Illustrator Laurent Linn, Author/Illustrator Naomi Kojima & Author/Illustrator Doug Cushman) were displayed at the SCBWI booth at the 2016 Bologna Book Fair.

Now, members get to choose our winner from those 43 finalists. SCBWI members, go here to vote (you'll need to log in first.) Voting end May 31st.

And for everyone interested in seeing some wonderful children's book illustrations, check out all the entries.

Good luck to all the finalists!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Words of Pay-It-Forward Inspiration From Bram Stoker Award-winning author Jonathan Maberry

"...there really isn’t any competition in the writing biz, however too many writers are reluctant or even afraid to give advice to newbies for fear that they’re helping the upstart who might displace them. That’s nonsense. In truth, if we encourage new writers to enter the business, but to enter it with their A-game, bringing quality writing to market, then that will attract more readers. If a reader is drawn to a piece of writing it’s like getting hooked on crack. Once they have a taste they’re hooked, and they’ll keep coming back for more. So, the more good writers in the business, the more readers we’ll hook.

And, on a more personal level, I absolutely LOVE what I do. I can’t imagine a better job. Why wouldn’t I want everyone I know to have as much fun as I’m having? A pool party is more fun when a lot of kids are in there splashing around with you." - Jonathan Maberry

What a great mindset!

You can read Gretchen Haertsch's full interview with Jonathan at the Birth of a Novel blog here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Editor Rosemary Brosnan on Writing Dynamic, Three-Dimensional Secondary Characters

As featured on Epic Reads, Rosemary Brosnan, Vice-President and Editorial Director of HarperCollins Children’s Books/HarperTeen, uses an excerpt from her debut author Gillian French's novel Grit in this article on "How To Write Dynamic Secondary Characters."

The piece has great insights, including:
"As an editor, I often see novice writers describing their characters right on the first page by having the characters pass a mirror, or by using another artificial device. Take your time, trust yourself as a writer, and let your characters reveal themselves throughout the story."
Rosemary also suggests an intriguing writing prompt that involves a main character with two friends, one true, and one a backstabber. The main character doesn't know one is a backstabber, and the challenge is for you to write it in a way that shows the reader who is who. Rosemary suggests taking this prompt and using it to write four specific and different scenes.

An excellent exercise!

Check out the full article and writing prompt instructions here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The 2017 Crystal Kite Winners!

Congratulations to the 2017 Crystal Kite winners!

The Crystal Kite awards are a peer-voted honor bestowed for excellence in children’s books. SCBWI members vote in 15 regions across the world to recognize outstanding books written and illustrated by their peers. Over 1,000 books across all categories including picture books, middle grade, chapter books, young adult and nonfiction were entered in the competition.

And the winners are...

Atlantic (Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Wash DC, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland)
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy

Australia, New Zealand
Smile Cry by Tania McCartney & Jess Racklyeft
Australia NZ

California, Hawaii
Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, a Life in Nature by Cynthia Jenson-Elliott & Christy Hale
CA Hawaii

Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories in the Stars by Joan Marie Galat

Internationals Other
El jardín mágico by Carme Lemniscates

Mid South Division (Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana)
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Middle East, India, Asia
Somewhere Among by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu
Middle East

Mid West Division (Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio)
The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller (& Frank Morrison)

New England (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island)
FEARLESS FLYER: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine by Heather Lang (& Raul Colon)
New England

New York
Saving Kate's Flowers by Cindy Sommer (& Laurie Allen Klein)
New york

SouthEast Division (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama 
Wish by Barbara O’Connor

SouthWest Division (Nevada, Arizona, Utah, southern Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico)
Space Boy and the Space Pirate by Dian Curtis Regan

Texas, Oklahoma
Tiny Stitches – The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thoms by Gwendolyn Hooks

UK, Ireland
More of Me by Kathryn Evans
UK Ireland

Western Division (Washington, Oregon, Alaska, northern Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota)
The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox

Want to enter your book in next year's Crystal Kite competition? Go here for all the info.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

SCBWI Members! The latest podcast is available now: A Conversation with President and Publisher of Dutton Books, Julie Strauss-Gabel

We're really excited about our new season of podcasts -- another benefit of membership in the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

This month's episode is a backstage, intimate discussion with Julie Strauss-Gabel. Julie shares about the apprenticeship process of becoming an editor, what's important about YA, what makes it on her own list, her "tough" reputation, and so much more!

The trailer is available for everyone to listen to here.

Members, just log in at scbwi.org and click

resources -->

podcasts -->

members-only podcast page

to hear the full episode!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Anne Lamott Wisdom

This is from a couple of years ago, and reading it again now it is still so powerful. Maybe it's more impactful now, actually, since I'm a bit older, too. Here are three (of the fourteen) things New York Times Best-selling Author Anne Lamott shared with the world (via Facebook) when she was on the cusp of turning 61...

1. All truth is a paradox. Life is a precious unfathomably beautiful gift; and it is impossible here, on the incarnational side of things. It has been a very bad match for those of us who were born extremely sensitive. It is so hard and weird that we wonder if we are being punked. And it is filled with heartbreaking sweetness and beauty, floods and babies and acne and Mozart, all swirled together. 

6. Writing: shitty first drafts. Butt in chair. Just do it. You own everything that happened to you. You are going to feel like hell if you never write the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves in your heart — your stories, visions, memories, songs: your truth, your version of things, in your voice. That is really all you have to offer us, and it’s why you were born. 

7. Publication and temporary creative successes are something you have to recover from. They kill as many people as not. They will hurt, damage and change you in ways you cannot imagine. The most degraded and sometimes nearly evil men I have known were all writers who’d had bestsellers. Yet, it is also a miracle to get your work published (see #1). Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you, will fill the Swiss cheesey holes. It won’t, it can’t. But writing can. So can singing. 

Go here for the full piece, as republished on Salon.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Encouraging Reluctant/Dyslexic Readers: A Guest Post by Ela Lourenco

I have always loved reading and this simple pleasure was something I took for granted until my daughter, Larissa, was diagnosed with dyslexia and auditory processing disorder at the age of nine. 

Larissa told me that reading a sentence was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle piece by piece – first, she had to absorb the words and then put them together before then struggling to process them into a picture in her head. For her, reading took so much concentration it would give her headaches, and all of it combined put her off books altogether.

It was then that she asked me – a former political journalist and avid writer of fantasy stories – to write books for children and young adults. Books that would be designed for children like her who desperately wanted to read without getting lost in the words.

So I did my homework. I gained my diplomas in child psychology, dyslexia, and co-occurring difficulties. But my best source of knowledge was from Larissa herself and my students in my children’s creative writing workshops. They explained to me what would help them become engrossed in a book and how I, as an author, could make reading not only enjoyable but easier for them.

Every child with a learning difficulty is different and they each have different strengths and struggles but in my Dragon Born and Ascension series, I have endeavoured to tailor the writing to benefit as many reluctant readers as possible.

Here are some of the techniques I have used in writing my books for these readers:


Massively long books will not even be picked up by most dyslexic readers as they automatically think of how long it will take them to finish it. The same applies to books with overly long chapters with long paragraphs of descriptions – for a child who has to absorb each word individually there is nothing harder than having to read seemingly endless words strung together.

Keep the book short with chapters that do not go beyond seven to eight pages. This is visually more palatable for the dyslexic/reluctant reader. Make sure there is action and dialogue in each chapter to keep the story moving along.

In Radiant, I started with drama, adding action and mystery with few words, to pique the reader's interest:
One shall be born from the sanctity of three

In whom all powers combined shall be

Part Sky, part Earth, and something more

To bring a new future to the fore.

This messenger a prophet shall be

For the new world order this child is key

Nothing will endure, nor unchanged remain

All shall be transformed, nevermore the same.

When the time is come and the stars align

The child, touched by all that is divine,

Will awaken finally, powerful as never before

To strip away the world to its very core.


The general consensus amongst the children who gave me input into their various conditions was a fast-paced story with very graphic, yet concise, descriptions helped them to visualise the story better in their heads and made reading easier and fun for them.

Dyslexic readers find it much more palatable for descriptive passages to be interspersed with action and dialogue in between. Descriptions are concise and sensory descriptions help ground the reader. 

Avoid paragraph upon paragraph of descriptions and repetitions. The scene can be set most graphically in fewer words; this not only is better for the dyslexic reader but also for the imagination of all children.

Here’s a paragraph from Chapter 9, Origins, Book 2 of Ascension series:
Ishkan strode with the grace of the hunter that he was past the crowds. As intended no one noticed him – such were the advantages of having dominion over the darkness. The scent of spices wafted around him as he passed by where the food stalls were set up. Warming cinnamon and ginger mingled with a plethora of other smells piercing the frost in the night air.


Interestingly, research shows that the words dyslexic children are most likely to 'mix up' are the more common shorter words. Our brain is like a computer and when we are reading it looks at a word and quickly flicks past words which look similar that it has 'seen' before. Perhaps ironically, longer, less common words, are actually easier for the child to absorb whilst increasing their vocabulary at the same time (this is particularly the case for older children and young adults, in the case of younger children and those with severe dyslexia short words which are more phonetical are to be preferred). 

Here’s a line of description from Chapter 1, Radiant, Book 1 of the Ascension series:

Thick clusters of gargantuan trees rustled in the night’s damp earth scented breeze.

A word like 'big' is easily read as 'wig', 'jig', 'bit', 'bid', 'did'… and so on by a dyslexic mind. However, words such as immense, gargantuan, massive, and enormous are less similar visually to as many other words and more likely to be absorbed correctly.


Keeping the page layout staggered so that the reader is not confronted with a rectangular block of uninterrupted text is essential. Try to separate the text with dialogues and paragraph indents. This, alongside 1.5 or 2x line spacing breaks up the text making the reading experience more enjoyable and easier (many children with learning difficulties also have eye tracking difficulties – this benefits them greatly).

I did this in Chapter 11, Radiant, Book 1 of Ascension series:
     “Are you alright?” Sena asked softly, genuine concern in her face.

     “Yeah,” Kyan frowned. “One minute we were talking and the next, poof, you turned a ghastly shade of green like you had just seen a ghost.”

     Ari breathed in deeply to steady his racing heart. Kyan’s words were closer to the truth than he realised – he had seen a ghost – the ghost of the happy, loved boy he had once been… He gasped, doubling over as a sharp pain pierced his head.

     “Ari?” Kyan was calling his name repeatedly, but his voice sounded muffled as though coming from a great distance.

     Ari clutched his head as forgotten memories began to flood his mind, battering relentlessly at him. The sweet voice of his mother singing him to sleep as a young child, the perpetual twinkle in his prank-loving father’s warm brown eyes – a real home where he was wrapped in the warmth and unconditional love that he had never felt since. Images of birthdays and school days flicked past – the floodgates of his mind opened now in earnest.

With e-books the advantage is that the formatting can be personalised by and for the reader; some prefer back-lit screens, or larger font, or different font types. This is of course not the case for print books and there is no universally agreed font style or size better suited for dyslexic readers. The only consensus is that font size should be minimum 12 and that the font style be one where the letters are clearly defined. Arial and Calibri are two of the preferred choices.

If you are interested in learning more about how to help children with reading and learning disabilities enjoy books, please feel free to contact me at www.facebook.com/elaaysanlourenco/. You can also view my series of articles on learning difficulties and how to help through my LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ela-lourenco-71555071/.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Illustrators: Must-Read Advice on Your Portfolio from Art Director & Illustrator Giuseppe Castellano

There's a lot of great advice in this article, The Illustrator's Portfolio, including:

"When I look at portfolios, I don’t look for kids or cats. I look for your voice as an illustrator (“The Who”), and how well you execute your illustrations (“The How”). What should you put in your portfolio? Good art. That’s the answer. You should display art that’s executed at a high level. No matter what your visual handwriting is—from realism to abstract art—it must be done well. Show that you can convey a feeling or a narrative with a strong understanding of your medium." 

Giuseppe also covers whether you should show one style or multiple styles, presentation (like how many pieces to include) and much more. Oh, and this smart tip:
"Straighten Out! Do yourself a favor: remove all of the factory-inserted pages and burn them. You’re already printing your work, right? So why not create a Photoshop template at the actual size of the plastic sleeve? Make the background black (or a neutral, or whatever you want). Then you can place your art digitally onto this template. Hit PRINT. Voilà! Every page will fit perfectly in the sleeve, and you’ll never again need to tape one piece of paper crookedly onto another piece of paper."
He's even included a page template as a springboard for how you might organize your portfolio more like a book.

Go read the whole thing. And while you're at it, bookmark Giuseppe's Art Tips blog.

Illustrate and Write On! 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Creative Process and "The Key To Being Original"

Check out this moment (about 9:30 in) of this TED talk by Adam Grant, "The surprising habits of original thinkers."

First, Adam makes a distinction between self-doubt and idea-doubt. Then, he breaks down the Creative Process as:

1. This is awesome

2. This is tricky

3. This is crap

4. I am crap

5. This might be okay

6. This is awesome.

"And so the key to being original is just a simple thing of avoiding the leap from step three to step four. Instead of saying "I'm crap," you say "The first few drafts are always crap, and I'm just not there yet." - Adam Grant

Skipping step #4 takes self-doubt out of the process entirely. Imagine your creative process being:

1. This is awesome

2. This is tricky

3. This is crap

4. This might be okay

5. This is awesome.

Sounds a lot healthier, right?

The whole talk is worth watching, but this moment really resonated. I hope it's helpful for you, too.

Illustrate and Write On,