Thursday, July 18, 2019

Send YOUR Books to Donate via SCBWI's "Books For Readers" Program by July 31, 2019

There is still time to donate so please help make the lives better for the kids in the Madison Reading Project (their 2019 goal is "to provide 40,000 high-quality diverse books and 125 public events with literacy programming and outreach to underserved children in South Central Wisconsin.") and REACH, Inc. (an organization that "promotes literacy for children who are at-risk and homeless throughout Coastal Virginia") with new books written and illustrated by SCBWI PAL members.

You may send 2-6 copies per book written and/or illustrated by PAL members you'd like to donate to this address:

6363 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 425
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Attn: SCBWI Books for Readers

For more information about the program and donating, click here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Early Registration for #LA19SCBWI, The 2019 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, Ends July 17, 2019

The Keynotes! (including Pura Belpre and Caldecott Honor winner Yuyi Morales, National Book Award winner M.T. Anderson, Newbery Medal winner Meg Medina, and a rare U.S. appearance from picture book legend Mem Fox.)

The Panels! (including "Creating Memorable Main Characters for a Book Series," "Agent Panel: Trends and Evergreens: Selling Your Book in Today's Market," "Publishing Options in 2019," "Birth of a Picture Book," "Creating Books That Matter," and "Editor Panel: What Speaks To Me In The Books I Acquire.")

The 72 Breakout Sessions!

The Agents! The Editors!

The Portfolio Showcase! The Manuscript Critiques!

The Life Drawing Lunch! The Woodstock West: 50 Years Later Party!

There's so much more, and I'm practically running out of exclamation points...

Gift yourself all the Information, Inspiration, Opportunity, and Community of the 2019 SCBWI Summer Conference. Get all the details here. Early Registration ends tomorrow (Wednesday July 17, 2019.)

We hope to see you there!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The 2019 Newbery Medal Speech by Meg Medina

Meg Medina won the 2019 Newbery Medal for her middle grade novel, Merci Suárez Changes Gears.

She received the award and gave her acceptance speech at a gala dinner celebration on Sunday June 23, 2019.

Meg's speech was lovely, and personal, and universal, speaking of her own life (with the stories of her bike history) and sharing what she hoped to accomplish through the creation of this fictional bike, crafting:

“...a novel with a bike as Merci’s first longing, a way to steer herself through the sixth grade and all that awaits her during that wonderful and bewildering year. Merci Suárez and her family are a Cuban clan who live intergenerationally, interconnectedly, in Florida, as my mother dreamed of doing. And they’re a family that sacrifices for each other in large and small ways every day, which is, I think, the most important legacy the elders in my family left me.

And what does Merci find out? Just what I have, I suppose. That life is full of wonderful surprises, like new friends in the sixth grade, and lousy ones; like loneliness and family illnesses. She discovers — as always children will — that happiness and heartbreak coexist in a life well lived. Sometimes all there is to do is to switch to a different gear and push on, always with the hope of a better day.”
It's quite a speech, and you can read the whole thing here, courtesy of the Horn Book.

A moment of emotion captured on the giant screens during the standing ovation after Meg Medina's Newbery Medal Acceptance Speech

Find out more about Meg and her books here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Introverts Unite (Quietly, and in Your Own Way)! – A Guest Post by Author Chris Tebbetts

Chris Tebbetts and his many published books... with a special one on top!

Since 2001, when I took my first kidlit writing class with Barbara Seuling (who a lot of SCBWI folks will remember as fondly as I do), I’ve worked on thirty published novels. Of those thirty, twenty-nine have been ghostwritten, work-for-hire, or co-authored. Which is also to say that twenty-nine of my thirty published books have someone else’s name, and not mine, on the copyright page. But more about that in a minute.

I didn’t set out to become a professional co-author. It just kind of happened that way, through a series of unforeseen opportunities and coincidences. It turns out, though, that I like it. A lot. I like how it’s allowed me to write full time. I like the creative synthesis of working with other storytellers. And I really like having high-profile partners who take care of the marketing and promotion end of things. For a prototypically introverted writer like me, that’s no small thing.

All of this has afforded me some experiences that go way beyond the hopeful imaginings of my eighteen-years-ago self. The Middle School books I’ve written with James Patterson have sold millions of copies and been made into a movie. I also got to write two trilogies with Jeff Probst, the host of my honest-to-god favorite T.V. show of all time.

So yeah, no complaints.

But what I’ve never done—until now—is publish a book in the usual way: written on spec, sold through my agent, and with full ownership of the copyright at the end of the day.

That new book is a YA novel called Me, Myself, and Him, out July 9.

It’s a “Sliding Doors” story with parallel narratives that follow my 18-year-old protagonist through two different outcomes from the same inciting incident (an autobiographically drawn episode in which my character breaks his nose huffing whippets behind the ice cream store where he works). The story is one part memoir, a lot of parts fiction, and also the most personal thing I’ve ever written, by far.

That seems appropriate, too, since this is the first time I’m stepping out as a solo act, and, by extension, as the person in charge of selling my own work to its prospective audience. It’s been a whole new experience with a steep learning curve—not just about the business end of publishing, but also in terms of the emotional rigors of doing such a thing.

There’s a kind of cruel joke in the world of publishing. This is an industry that attracts some large number of people (like me) who thrive on working in quiet isolation, only to then ask them to turn around and shout “LOOK AT ME!” in the most convincing voice possible when it comes time to share that same work with the world. It tends to bring up an insecurity or two. Or three.

I’ve never needed skin so thick before. Never grappled with the kind of loin-girding that this level of self-promotion requires. And what’s more, I find myself feeling envious of other writers in a whole new way. I obsess about the things my publisher is (and isn’t) doing to promote the book. And I’m constantly measuring my own highs and lows against whatever it is my colleagues seem to be experiencing with their own 2019 releases. (Emphasis on the seems to be, given the slanted reality that is other peoples’ lives on social media.)

Should I even be admitting all of this publicly? Maybe not. As I said, I’m learning as I go. But I also know that talking about it has helped as much as anything. Naming these things out loud has been pretty good at taking away some of their power. It’s also come to show me how much I’m not alone in all of this anxiety.

The more I talk with other authors about this subject—the nasty grip of social anxiety in the face of self-promotion; the impossible odds of breaking through the white noise; the “who am I?” sting of impostor syndrome—the more I realize that it’s one of the most common themes in the lives of writers. None of that awareness takes away the stress, per se, but there is certainly something to be gained from recognizing it as a shared experience. (And tangentially, let me recommend this article from the Guardian, Everyone is totally just winging it, all the time.)

The good news is, we’re in the business of shining lights into dark places. We have a unique obligation to our audience, to offer some hope where it’s needed, and to show our readers how very much not alone they actually are. And that extends to the way we treat each other as well. My non-writer friends are always commenting to me about how cool it is to see all of my kidlit people on social media, cheering each other on, promoting one another’s work, and generally making this a wonderful industry to be a part of.

So, even as I’ve dipped my toe into these new waters, and even as I’ve found it to be distressingly chilly at times, I’ve also come to realize that if I raise my head and look around once in a while, I’ll find that I’m not swimming alone.

Not even close.

* * *

Thanks, Chris!

Find out more about Chris and his debut solo YA novel, Me, Myself, and Him at this website.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, July 4, 2019

The 2019 Caldecott Medal Speech by Sophie Blackall

Sophie Blackall won the 2019 Caldecott Medal for Hello, Lighthouse. (Her second time winning this highest honor for illustration of a children's book!) She gave her acceptance speech at a gala dinner on Sunday June 23, 2019.

It was a wonderful speech—interesting, profound, inspiring, and ultimately had the entire room of hundreds of librarians and children's book industry folk (including me) leaping to our feet to give her a standing ovation.

The standing ovation for Sophie Blackall

On one of the two big screens, Sophie just after her speech

Because yes,
Kids are smart. Girls can do anything. We can all be beacons.
Go read the entire speech here at The Horn Book. It's well-worth it!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Author Website Criteria - How Does Your Site Measure Up?

This excellent article by Diana Urban over at the BookBub Partners blog, 45+ Author Websites with Stellar Designs, includes the list of ten criteria that were used in choosing the author websites they would feature:

  • Include a list of published books

  • Prominently display new or impending releases

  • Provide an obvious way to subscribe for updates

  • Provide a way to contact the author

  • Include links to the author’s social media profiles

  • Display a list of upcoming events

  • Include a blog to showcase the author’s personality and/or writing process

  • Be easy to navigate

  • Have a clean, unique design

  • Be mobile friendly

It's great to see what the more than forty authors featured did, and, just as important, we get to take an inventory of our own author websites.

What changes might make our own website even better?

Read the full article and see all the examples of excellent author websites here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, June 27, 2019

A Conversation with Elizabeth Partridge - Listen to the Latest SCBWI Podcast Now!

Multi-award winning nonfiction author Elizabeth Partridge speaks to Theo Baker about how her upbringing impacted her storytelling, her way into oral histories, and the responsibility she feels towards the people she interviews. She considers how her work is “bearing witness” and shares what she’s learned about writing compelling nonfiction.

Listen to the episode trailer here.

Current SCBWI members can listen to the full episode here (log in first).

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Michelle Markel on Thriving as a Long-Time, Actively Publishing Children’s Author - from the Cynsations Blog

Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations blog is consistently amazing, and I'm obsessed with this series on "Survivors"—folks who have been long-time, actively publishing children's /YA authors. The interviews are informative and inspiring—this is the second one I'm highlighting, but you should go read them all!)

Highlights from the Michelle Markel interview:
“Writing about Henri was a healing experience. I channeled his rebellious attitude and broke a few rules myself, regarding picture book biographies (a breezy tone, fragmented sentences…). What did I have to lose?

In freeing myself up, I found my voice and a publisher. I was honored to receive a PEN award for picture book writing for The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau, illustrated by Amanda Hall (Eerdmans, 2012). Everything changed. I was validated, I got confident, I got attention. My ship was back on course.”


“I want to emphasize here a couple of things: taking risks, and loving the subject matter. I took a chance on writing about Rousseau, a self-taught artist who’s not as widely respected as the “masters.” I later went out on a limb with other picture biographies.”

Read the full interview with Michelle here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Debut YA Author Karol Ruth Silverstein On How Volunteering for SCBWI Led To Her #OwnVoices Breakthrough

SCBWI Volunteer Karol Ruth Silverstein's debut YA novel is called "Cursed" (June 25, Charlesbridge Teen).

Karol sporting her Disability Pride in a t-shirt she designed!

I interviewed Karol to find out more...

Lee: Hi Karol! So please tell us, how did volunteering for SCBWI lead to your getting a book deal?

Karol: Actually Lee, I have you to thank! My journey really started when you invited me to become a coordinator for the Westside Writers Schmooze (now called the Westside Writers Mingle) here in Los Angeles. For any readers who aren't familiar with the Mingles (or LitMingles), they are monthly meetings held by many local SCBWI regions where writers and/or illustrators get together to discuss topics related to children’s books. I ended up coordinating with fellow SCBWI-L.A. member Charlie Cohen for four years. Toward the end of our "reign," I was prepping for a Schmooze on social media for writers. Though I'd had a Twitter handle for a while, I barely used it. Twitter seemed so confusing! I went onto Twitter determined to familiarize myself with the various things one can do on the platform. I spent some time tweeting, retweeting and commenting, and then I decided to follow a few hashtags. I happened to stumble onto the last 15 minutes of a Twitter pitch event (#PitMad)--just enough time to get out a few pitches. Literary agent Jen Linnan “liked” one of my tweets, which meant she wanted to read my manuscript. Long story short, she signed me! (I think it would be responsible of me to add a disclaimer here: results not typical!)

Though my debut YA novel Cursed wasn't the book I'd pitched in the Twitter event, Jen read an excerpt and loved it. She helped me fine tune the manuscript before we went out on submission and we eventually found it a home with Charlesbridge Teen. Cursed was not necessarily an easy sale and I was extremely lucky to find an agent who fell in love with it. I was in the right (virtual) place at the right time. And I was there specifically due to my SCBWI volunteer gig.

Karol's debut YA comes out on June 25, 2019

Lee: Wow, what a story! Why do you say Cursed wasn’t an “easy” sale?

Karol: The easy/most direct answer is that the manuscript had a lot of profanity in it. Like - A LOT. Plus, my main character was originally 13 (though she's now been aged up to 14 to put the book more squarely into the YA category). The cursing is an integral part of the story, so it wasn't like I could cut it all out. The protagonist, Ricky, is newly diagnosed with a painful chronic illness and cursing is one of her main coping mechanisms. As she adjusts to her new reality, she does learn better ways of handling her anger and curses less. But it was important that she be able to fully and realistically vent her frustrations, anger, and fear at the beginning of the book. That meant real cursing—f-bombs and all. Using "darn" and "heck" was not going to cut it in terms of authenticity, which was tremendously important to me.

Cursed is also what some refer to as "younger YA" - for readers aged 12-15 or so. This can be a somewhat tough market in general. Publishers Weekly had an article a while back explaining that, while readers in this age range are underserved and definitely in need of great reading options, agents aren't always sure how to pitch these books, publishers struggle to market them, and booksellers aren't clear where to shelve them. So that added to the challenge.

Lastly, Cursed is about a teen with a chronic illness who experiences chronic pain. Despite the incredibly valuable push for all kinds of diversity in kids books over the last decade, books featuring physical disability and/or chronic medical issues are still not exactly abundant on bookshelves. My editor Monica Perez said that she noticed a lack of these kinds of books in YA in particular, and that was one of the things that drew her to Cursed. The fact that the book is #ownvoices was icing on the cake.

Lee: #Ownvoices of course leads to the question: How much of Ricky’s story is your story?

Karol: I'm glad you asked! While Cursed is very much drawn from my personal experience, it's definitely fiction. People who know me sometimes get confused on that front, I think because Ricky's voice is so similar to mine. The set-up of the story mirrors my life the most: Ricky is sent to live with her dentist dad at his ill-equipped one bedroom apartment (which she dubs the Batch Pad), as a way to make things easier on her physically. Getting to school is still really painful though. Since her dad leaves for work before she needs to leave for school, she realizes she can just pretend she's getting ready for school—and then go back to bed once her dad's gone. She ends up cutting six weeks of school before her truancy is discovered. Basically ALL of that is taken from my life—other than the snarky name for her dad's apartment. Most of what follows in the story is made up, but there are moments, emotions, lessons learned, etc. that are drawn from my experiences throughout my lifetime of living with a chronic illness and figuring out how to partner with medical professionals and advocate for myself.

I remember fabulous YA author Sonya Sones (who blurbed Cursed!) once saying that one of the great things about writing YA is that you can have your characters make the same mistakes you made but figure out better solutions and/or end up making better choices than you did. You can clean up your past and hopefully provide more agency for your teen readers. I condensed a lot of what I've learned about living a life like mine with some modicum of grace into the six month timeframe of the book. Hopefully the book can speed up the process for readers who are dealing with similar circumstances (which I feel can be broadened to include any situation that hinders self-acceptance).

Lee: As a writer with a disability, what do you think the industry can/should do to be more inclusive, equitable, and accessible?

Karol: One of the toughest parts of disability advocacy is how incredibly varied the folks huddled under the disability umbrella are. There simply is no singular way to address the needs, preferences, experiences and sensibilities of all people living with disabilities. Likewise, stories featuring disabled characters are going to be—or should be—of every stripe and color. I think for too long, the narrative for disabled characters has been sorely limited. That's thankfully beginning to change, with #ownvoices disability books—where the author has the same disability or medical condition as the book's protagonist—really moving the needle in terms of authenticity and variety.

The kid lit industry has been a frontrunner in the charge for more inclusion and representation of underrepresented groups, both on the page and "behind the pen." Amazing progress has been made. Still, disability isn't nearly as present in the diversity discussion as some other groups, with physical disability garnering less attention than neurodiversity (a blanket term referring to variations in the human brain). But—as I've seen in a snarky meme—inclusion isn't pie! There aren't a limited number of slices. The We Need Diverse Books website gives an incredibly far-reaching definition of disability and I encourage all people involved in the children's literature industry to check it out and keep it in mind whenever discussions of diversity come up.

Lee: For readers, here's that We Need Diverse Book's definition of diversity:
We Need Diverse Books: Our definition of diversity: We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, Native, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities*, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.

*We subscribe to a broad definition of disability, which includes but is not limited to physical, sensory, cognitive, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, chronic conditions, and mental illnesses (this may also include addiction). Furthermore, we subscribe to a social model of disability, which presents disability as created by barriers in the social environment, due to lack of equal access, stereotyping, and other forms of marginalization.
Okay, Karol, that totally makes me want to ask: can you shout out to some great disability books out there?

Karol: Interestingly, three that come to mind immediately all feature deaf characters - Cece Bell 's terrific #ownvoices graphic novel memoir, El Deafo; the amazing Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick and 2018 Schneider Family Book Award winner, You're Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner.

The Schneider Family Book Award is among the awards given annually by the ALA and honors books that embody the artistic expression of disability experiences for child and adolescent audiences. Their list of previous winners is a great place to start for anyone looking to learn and read more about disability, as is the website Disability in Kidlit.

I can also report that there are a number of 2019 debut novelists who've written books featuring characters with disabilities. This is definitely heartening! In particular, YA fantasy We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett completely blew me away. The book features a protagonist who's an amputee--and also training to be a fighter pilot. Bartlett handles the character beautifully and the whole book is an incredible thrill ride!

Lee: Any plans to write more books featuring characters with disabilities?

Karol: Yes actually! I'm in the early stages of a young middle grade novel that has a feline main character. But the human main character is young girl who uses a wheelchair. There's also another cat character who's been declawed--which many people don't realize is akin to amputation. This book is not #ownvoices because I'm not a regular wheelchair-user myself (or an amputee), but I liked the idea of including these characters because they exist in the world and should exist in books too! While the disabilities aren't a main focus in the story, they do resonate within the book's themes.

Lee: Thank you so much Karol! And congratulations on your debut!

You can find out more about Karol Ruth Silverstein and "Cursed" at her website here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson on Thriving as a Long-Time, Actively Publishing Children’s Author - On the Cynsations Blog

Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations blog is consistently amazing, and I'm obsessed with this series on "Survivors"—folks who have been long-time, actively publishing children's /YA authors. There's a lot of wisdom and encouragement shared, and I couldn't choose just one to highlight, so I'll share two. (One today, and the other next week.)

Highlights of the Vaunda Micheaux Nelson interview:

“I sometimes wonder where I’d be if I’d had the courage to take the leap sooner, to play it less safe.”

“My second book, Mayfield Crossing (Harper, 1994), wasn’t published until five years later.

Rejections filled the interim, and I lost confidence. I started to believe that Always Gramma was a fluke, that I would probably be a one-book author.

I learned I had to do what my heart kept telling me—live my life the best I could and write. Everything I submit isn’t successful. I still get rejections. But I try to be true to who I am and learn from the failures.”
Check out the full interview over at Cynsations here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Linda Sue Park Shares Lois Lowry's Advice on Novel Structure

Linda Sue Park, photograph by Sonya Sones

Newbery-Winning Author Linda Sue Park is a brilliant writer, and, to quote her, it's pretty clever to learn "from the best!" On her website, she shares advice on writing, including a section on Structure:
My outline for novel structure comes from author Lois Lowry (I’m a strong believer in learning from the best!). I read about how she builds her stories:

•Complications and choices

Once again, I've adapted another writer’s advice to suit the way I work. I divide “Quest” into two sections: Internal and External. In every scene I write, the character must either make progress toward or face impediments to the quest(s).
She continues by sharing how she applied this to her novel Seesaw Girl.

Go read Linda Sue's advice now. (There's great stuff there about reading 1,000 books before you write your own, and about discipline, too.)

Thanks, Linda Sue!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The 2019 Crystal Kite Winners!

Fifteen divisions.

Peer-selected winners.

Sixteen newly award-winning books published in 2018 to add to your must-read list!

Presenting this year's SCBWI Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards:

From the Atlantic division (Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Wash DC, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland), the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

Hawk Rising by Maria Gianferrari; illustrated by Brian Floca

From the Australia, New Zealand division, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

At The End of Holyrood Lane by Dimity Powell; illustrated by Nicky Johnston

From the California, Hawaii division, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lynn Fulton

From the Canada division, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

The Outlaw by Nancy Vo

From Europe, Latin America, Africa division, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

The Night Lion by Sanne Dufft

From the Mid South Division (Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana), the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

A Hippy-Hoppy Toad by Peggy Archer

From the Middle East, India, Asia division, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is a tie...

The Clever Tailor by Srividhya Venkat


All Eyes on Alexandra by Anna Levine

From the Mid West Division (Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio), the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

From the New England (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island), the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

The Rough Patch by Brian Lies

From the New York division, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Dee Romito; illustrated by Laura Freeman

From the South East Division (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama), the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

Evangeline of the Bayou by Jan Eldredge

From the South West Division (Nevada, Arizona, Utah, southern Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico), the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

The 11:11 Wish by Kim Tomsic

From the Texas, Oklahoma division, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast by Samantha Clark

From the UK, Ireland division, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

And finally, from the Western Division (Washington, Oregon, Alaska, northern Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota), the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have A Horse by Marcy Campbell illustrated by Corinna Luyken

Congratulations to all the winners, and to everyone who entered! You can find details about entering your 2019-published book for consideration in the 2020 SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Editor Harold Underdown Explains How To Use a Revision Grid

It's a powerful tool. You may have seen the legendary one created by J.K. Rowling for the entire Harry Potter series, on one piece of paper!

In this blog post over at the Highlights Foundation, Using a Revision Grid to Break a Story Down Into Elements, there are two videos with Harold walking us through, first, the revision grid concept, and second, how he used a customized grid to look at the first two chapters of Gail Carson Levine's Dave at Night.

A still-frame from the video where Harold walks us through what a Revision Grid is, and how it works.

The post even includes downloadable templates for creating your own Revision Grid for your story.

I'll add that making a revision grid works for picture book manuscripts as well—especially as a way for writers to track if there are enough different locations/visuals for an illustrator to explore with the 15 or 16 page turns.

The Highlights Foundation post is a generous teaser for their upcoming revision retreat (co-facilitated by Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson), and is well-worth checking out. Read the full post and watch the videos here.

Illustrate and Write—and Revise—On!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Inspiration for All of Us Storytellers From Brian McDonald

“Stories are the collective wisdom of everyone who has ever lived. Your job as a storyteller is not simply to entertain. Nor is it to be noticed for the way you turn a phrase. You have a very important job--one of the most important. Your job is to let people know that everyone shares their feelings--and that these feelings bind us. Your job is a healing art, and like all healers, you have a responsibility. Let people know they are not alone. You must make people understand that we are all the same.”

— Brian McDonald
From Lori Snyder's free Writers Happiness newsletter, I thought this quote was so powerful, and true.

I hope it inspires and empowers you, too!

If you'd like more storytelling wisdom from Brian, check out his blog, The Invisible Ink, here. He's also interviewed on the Paper Wings podcast here—which is packed with insights!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Conversation with Erin Entrada Kelly - Listen to the Latest SCBWI Podcast

Erin is the winner of the 2018 Newbery Medal for Hello, Universe. With many other awards and multiple books on the New York Times bestseller list, she is also a professor of children’s literature at Rosemont College. In this two-part interview with Theo Baker, Erin shares about her background in journalism, having the right mindset for feedback, how she developed her craft, and much more!

Listen to the episode trailer here.

Current SCBWI members can listen to the full episode here (log in first).

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Agent Jennifer Laughran Breaks Down The Why, Why Nots, Code Language, and How of Those Publishers Marketplace Deal Announcements

This blog piece (at her archived blog) by Jennifer Laughran, Senior Agent at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, is excellent foundational information.

Did you know that "nice deal" is anything between $1 - $49,000?

Or the seven reasons agents might not report sales?

Or that some agents, sometimes, report sales to "drum up some early foreign or other subrights interest"?

There's lots more to learn, and Jennifer's post is a great place start. Read the whole post here. And thanks, Jennifer!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Illustrators – Do You Know About the Portfolio Showcase at #LA19SCBWI?

It's a showcase.

It's a contest.

It's an amazing opportunity to get your work seen by SCBWI judges, mentors, and the art directors, editors, agents, and other publishing professionals attending the SCBWI Summer Conference.

Nifty illustration by Priscilla Burris, SCBWI U.S. Illustrator Coordinator & Advisor

It's a chance to meet a professional deadline.

It's a chance to get feedback on your work.

It's a chance to put your work out there!

Read all the details here.

We hope you'll join us at the 48th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, August 9-12, 2019. Find out all about the conference at this link:

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Funny, Harsh, and Even a Bit True: Harlan Coben's Writing Tips

Harlan Coben has written "dozens of novels," and over at Publishers Weekly's BookLife, he shares five writing tips.

#3 surprised me, though given Harlan's genre, maybe it shouldn't have:

3. Write like there is a knife against your throat.

The knife is right there and if you bore us, flick, you’re dead. Write with that kind of energy. Make every word count. The great Elmore Leonard said it best: “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

#4 felt very true.

4. The distance is nothing. It is only the first step that is difficult.

I don’t know who originally said this, but the first word you write each day is the hardest, the second word is the second hardest, and so on. Once you start, it does get easier.

Take a look, and see if these tips are helpful for you.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Matt de la Peña and Christopher Paul Curtis Create SCBWI Scholarships for IPOC Women

Two new scholarships are available for this summer's SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles (and there will be two new scholarship opportunities for #NY20SCBWI as well!)

SCBWI is proud to announce the creation of two new scholarship awards for SCBWI members to attend the international Winter and Summer Conferences. Four scholarships will be given in total: the two scholarships for the Los Angeles Summer Conference are sponsored by author, SCBWI Board member, and Newbery Award recipient Matt de la Peña; the two scholarships for the New York Winter Conference are sponsored by Newbery Award-winning author Christopher Paul Curtis. Both of these awards are for Indigenous and People of Color who identify as women.

All four winners of the two awards will receive an all-expense paid trip to one of the two SCBWI conferences, as well as two follow-up mentorship conversations with an industry professional. All expenses, such as travel and hotel, will be included, as well as a $250 stipend for additional costs, such as home or child care.

Eligible SCBWI members for the Summer Conference Matt de la Peña Award can apply from May 1 through June 15. The application form for the Summer Conference can be found here. Applications for the Christopher Paul Curtis Award will be available after October 1.

In sponsoring the scholarship, Matt de la Peña said,
“It is an honor to provide a small boost to hard-working and talented writers and artists in a time when it is such a challenge to make a career in the arts. I’m so thankful that SCBWI has provided me this opportunity to give back.”
Christopher Paul Curtis added this about his scholarship fund:
“My hope is that this scholarship serves as a nudge. A small encouragement to help a writer who is a woman of color get to the point where she listens to the voice that has asked day after day, ‘What are you waiting for? You are a writer. Do something about it.'”
SCBWI conferences provide a gateway for people to advance their careers. With the establishment of these awards, SCBWI hopes to increase the diversity of children’s books by providing four deserving IPOC women authors or illustrators a chance to seek creative and professional fulfillment and find a path to publication.

SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver noted,
“The generosity exemplified by Matt de la Peña and Christopher Paul Curtis in funding these scholarships will change the lives of four new children’s book creators, and help feed the pipeline for getting more diverse books into the hands of all children.”
Illustrate and Write On—and, if you are indigenous and/or a person of color who identifies as a woman, and you're ready to take your career as a writer and/or illustrator of work for children to the next level, apply!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

How Do You Know If You've Written a Picture Book?

This question comes up so often, I'm grateful to Darcy Pattison and Leslie Helakoski who, over at the Highlights Foundation blog, wrote a great piece that helps us writers figure it out, How Do You Know If You've Written a Picture Book?

They offer us nine questions off the bat, including:
Does the MC change or evolve over the course of the story? Is there tension and a narrative arc? and Does the story have a universal connection and kid-relatable problem?
And then, a breakdown of what each of the fourteen sections of a picture book must accomplish, from the foundational make the reader want to turn the page to the more meta If this section is left out does the story change or suffer?

Overall, it's well-worth reading—especially when you're trying to figure out if a new idea is a picture book, a magazine article, or something else entirely.

Illustrate and Write On, 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Janice Hardy on "Why Conflict Is so Hard to Create in Romance"

Recommended by the wonderful Cynsations blog, this article by Janice Hardy on "Why Conflict Is so Hard to Create in Romance" is well-worth reading.

With a helpful mini-synopsis of three different romance novels, Janice illustrates how:
"Unlike most novels, there is no mustache-twirling antagonist standing between the lovebirds and happiness. And since the protagonists need to come together in the end, you can’t have one defeat the other. Without these common antagonistic elements, finding a conflict strong enough to drive a plot can be quite the challenge.

Until you realize that most romance novels have a person vs. self conflict.

There is no bad guy in a romance. The issues keeping the two people apart are their own personal issues. A fear of commitment. An impulsive nature. A lack of communication skills. Some flaw that’s been getting in the way of their happiness that they need to overcome and/or learn to accept to find love and be happy."
Read the full article here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Netflix on a Book Acquisition Spree

The appetite for IP—sourced from books—is growing, according to this article in Publishers Weekly, The Netflix Literary Connection.

Standout quotes:
“There’s just no other substitute for the amount of work and creativity that goes into a book,” said Matt Thunell, v-p of original series at Netflix.

“The reason I love books—especially a book-to-series translation—is that they often provide this incredible landscape, mythology, and opportunity for worldbuilding that’s really hard to come by in the everyday pitches I’m hearing,” Thunell said.
Read the full article here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Registration is now OPEN for #LA19SCBWI - 2019 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles!

What a lineup!

The keynotes: M.T. Anderson, Meg Media, Yuyi Morales, Christian Robinson, Darcey Rosenblatt, Anna Shinoda, Raúl The Third, and Renée Watson!

A special lunch with Mem Fox!

A main stage editor panel, "What speaks to me in the books I aquire," moderated by Lin Oliver with Simon Boughton (Publishing Director, Norton Young Readers), Carol Hinz (Editorial Director, Millbrook Press & Carolrhoda Books), Tiff Liao (Editor, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers), Melissa Manlove (Senior Editor, Chronicle Books), Denene Miller (Editor, Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster), and Sara Sargent (Senior Executive Editor, Random House Books for Young Reader)!

A main stage "Creating Books That Matter" panel moderated by Linda Sue Park with Adib Khorram, Lesléa Newman, Elizabeth Partridge, Jewell Parker Rhodes, and Lilliam Rivera!

And more panels, on picture books, publishing options, agents, book series,

and 72 breakout sessions,

a day of optional intensives,

a portfolio show,

booksales and author signings,

socials for illustrators, nonfiction, diveristy, new members, and the LGBTQ and Allies social,

a life drawing lunch,

yoga and meditation,

and the Saturday night gala, "Woodstock West: 50 Years Later Party"!

There's so much fun, and community, and inspiration, and craft, and business, and opportunity available to us all... Check out all the conference offerings and register here.

Illustrate and Write and Conference On,

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A Conversation with Francesco Sedita - Listen to the Latest SCBWI Podcast!

Francesco Sedita is the president and publisher of Penguin Workshop at Penguin Young Readers, as well the author of the Miss Popularity series. In this two-part conversation with Theo Baker, Francesco speaks of his vision for Penguin Workshop, his approach as a publisher, the influence of books like “Wimpy Kid,” and how co-writing a graphic novel has helped his own writing.

Listen to the episode trailer here.

Current SCBWI members can listen to the full episode here (log in first).

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Elizabeth Partridge - The Golden Kite Award Interview—Non-Fiction for Older Readers Winner for "Boots on the Ground: America's War In Vietnam"

Elizabeth Partridge was awarded the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Non-Fiction for Older Readers for "Boots on the Ground: America's War In Vietnam" at the SCBWI 2019 Winter Conference in New York City on February 8, 2019. 

Award-winning author Elizabeth Partridge

 Here, we catch up with Elizabeth about her book and winning this honor... 

Lee: Congratulations, Elizabeth! Please tell us about finding out you’d won this Golden Kite Award.

Elizabeth: Lin Oliver called and left a message on my cell phone. I didn’t recognize the number, so I didn’t even check my message for a couple of days. Then I heard her message in which said she had “important news.” It didn’t even occur to me she was calling about the Golden Kite! I was working on a deadline, and my mind was far, far away. I was totally blown away when I called her back and she told me the important news was that I’d won the Golden Kite!

Lee: Pitch us to move Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam to the top of our To-Be-Read pile — What's it about?

Elizabeth: Nearly three million Americans served in Vietnam during the war, almost ten percent of their generation. They came home to a divided, disillusioned country. I interviewed men who fought, a nurse, a refugee, and a protestor to hear their stories of what the war was like for them. What did courage look like to them? Honor? How had their morals changed? Their answers were not what I expected.

The Vietnam War changed America forever. It cost the lives of nearly 60,000 young Americans, took down a president, and forced us to deal with a wave of refugees we were ill-prepared for.

We’re divided again as a nation, and the seeds of our divisiveness were planted during the Vietnam War. What lessons can we learn from the turmoil and anguish of the war, so that we can make better decisions for our country today?

Lee: I love how relevant to today you made it! Is there an Ah-ha! Moment from the book’s creation you can share?

Elizabeth: There were so many amazing, intense, overwhelming moments in putting together Boots on the Ground. One that struck me early in interviewing veterans is how the war was still totally vivid for every one of them. As they spoke with me, it was as if they were back in Vietnam.

As I got closer to finishing the book I realized that each individual story is both highly personal, and also woven deeply into the fabric of what makes history. I love the place where personal and political meet up. It’s an intense, powerful cross-current.

Lee: How long have you been a member of SCBWI, and how has SCBWI helped on your journey?

Elizabeth: I’ve been a member of SCBWI since before I was published, 25 years ago. At first, SCBWI helped me sort out my beginner questions: who can I submit to? What is the proper format for a manuscript? How do I write a picture book manuscript? After getting published, I started presenting at SCBWI chapters and really enjoyed meeting other authors and lending a hand/giving advice to the people coming up.

When my friend, illustrator Martha Weston, died unexpectedly, her family wanted to create a tribute to her, and asked me what would be the best organization to sponsor a grant in her name. Without hesitation I said SCBWI, and they set up a terrific grant that is going strong. Check it out.

I’ve always kept my membership current and have loved watching SCBWI stretch its wings to be helpful to more long-time published authors as well as aspiring authors. It really ticks me off when people label SCBWI as being just for beginners. It is so much more! The huge network of local groups all over the United States and a few overseas are invaluable for making our community a real community.

Lee: What advice do you have to share with other children’s book creators?

Elizabeth: Very few people are excellent at writing when they start out. It’s a craft, like cider-making, or weaving. Take classes, read, write. Try out different genres. And in our crazy-busy world, you have to make sure you actually DO it, not just think about doing it. Get your butt in the chair, and keep at it.

Lee: Super advice, yes, we must DO it! Thanks so much, Elizabeth, and again, congratulations!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

SCBWI Member Lee Wardlaw Leads Our Children's Literature Community To Restock Libraries in a Recovering California Town

This article in Publishers Weekly, Donations Help Rebuild Libraries in Paradise, Calif., made me so proud of Lee Wardlaw and our children's literature community!

The article covers Lee's personal stake in recovering from wildfires (her own life experience and her debut book for children in 1990) to her leading the effort in the last months to gather and sort 5,300 donated books, and then, this April 2019, driving more than 1,000 miles roundtrip to deliver them to Paradise, California where they are so needed!

 “The kids really needed books... Books bring a sense of familiarity, family, and normalcy—something that’s not chaotic in their lives." —Lee Wardlaw

Well done, Lee Wardlaw! We're cheering you on!

You can find out more about Lee Wardlaw here.

Illustrate and Write On,