Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Kyle Lukoff's Speeches Responding to the Controversy over His Easy Reader Series "Max and Friends"

Author Kyle Lukoff, photo by Erin Jones-Le

As Kyle explains:
The thumbnail version of what happened, for those who don’t know, is that first a young trans child in Utah brought a copy of my early reader “Call Me Max” to school and asked his teacher to read it. She did, and it sparked a tremendous controversy in the district about the appropriateness of a book written for first or second graders being read to third graders. Not surprisingly, their fears then targeted something called “Equity Book Bundles” and the idea that their children might learn about race and racism.

About a month later a similar situation developed in Austin, Texas. A fourth-grade teacher read “Call Me Max” aloud, and in the resulting hullabaloo an administrator sent a letter to every parent in the district, apologizing for the incident, assuring them that no other children had been “exposed” to the material, and promising that counselors had been dispatched to help children process the experience of reading an extremely basic and anodyne trans 101 early reader.


And from that keynote speech for ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom Awards 2021 are these words as well:

Children should be allowed to learn about their bodies, and what will happen to their bodies as they get older. Some people are trans, and that is a perfectly fine subject for children to learn about. It is wrong to remove children’s books about LGBTQ people from a children’s library, and it is right to fight back against any attempts to do so.

I also believe that I am correct in my conviction that blithely giving children books where other human beings are depicted as exotic, or extinct subjects of the distant past, or an animalistic dress-up opportunity, is a bad practice! I know that other people might think it’s okay for children to have some unexamined exposure to racism, whether backgrounded or foregrounded, and that there is plenty of time in their development to undo early prejudices or trauma. I think that approach is misguided, and I want to have no part in it. I do not have longitudinal studies to back up my belief, but I don’t know of studies that contradict it. But I wish that I had been given less as a child to unlearn as an adult.

And an earlier speech, given by Kyle and also posted to his blog, My speech at the FAM Rally in Salt Lake City includes this:

...sometimes being trans in America today feels like seeing these blocks rise up all around me, knowing that they are not natural outcroppings or inevitable outgrowths. They are made by people, and organized by people, and put in place by people. Most of them are not easy to avoid.

Because we know that there are more imposing blocks than the ones that would keep my books from finding readers. Higher ones. Removing books about trans kids from a school is followed by telling trans kids that they can go to school but they can’t use the right bathroom, or play on teams with their peers. Denying trans kids a reflection of themselves in books is a lower block, and denying us access to healthcare that allows us to see ourselves reflected in a mirror puts us square in the middle of the highest columns, hemmed in from all sides with no way out.
Read both speeches here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, June 24, 2021

What's Up With Your Subsidiary Rights?

The Harry Potter Wizarding World store in New York opened this month.

While not all of our work will end up as inspiration for amusement parks, movie franchises, and manhattan retail experiences, it does offer us the opportunity to consider some questions:

How deep and fascinating are the worlds we create? The characters we bring to life? How big can we dream?

How can what we create mean so much to readers that they want to be part of it beyond reading our words, our translations, our pictures?

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Lesléa Newman Reframes the "Submission" Process as an "Offer"

What if we thought of sending our work to an editor or agent as an offer? 

An offer that can be accepted or declined.

Rather than a submission that can result in an offer or be rejected?

Even the language of submission has a power differential attached to it that implies we creators have very little agency in the matter.

But if we think of it like Lesléa does, as an offer, then we keep our power. An offer can be declined, an offer can be accepted, but it is our offer of a work we've written, or translated, or illustrated.

(Frankly, this is a much healthier framework for many of the creative arts. Offering our work rather than submitting it.)

Lesléa Newman

I heard Lesléa speak about this in an excellent Highlights Foundation course taught by Lesléa Newman and Rob Sanders, "Writing the Rainbow", all about LGBTQ picture books. Learn more about Lesléa at her website here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, June 17, 2021

A Public Typewriter Goes Hybrid - "The World's Smallest Publishing House Is Still Accepting Submissions"

The Literati bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan has a public typewriter on the floor. An old fashioned one, with clacking keys and ringing carriage returns. It's there for anyone to type on.

And then, it was retired in the pandemic.

Now the typewriter is back(!)

On the plus side, in the meantime the nice folks at Literati Bookstore created an online version where any and all of us can leave our own missives to the world.

(It's pretty confounding and oddly liberating to NOT be able to delete, or go back. It's all forwards!)

Take the virtual public typewriter for a spin...

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

P.S. You can also check out what folks have written/published on the Public Typewriter on Instagram here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

And the Winners of the SCBWI Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards Are...

Presented annually, the SCBWI Crystal Kite is a peer-given award which recognizes great books from 15 SCBWI regional divisions around the world. We would like to congratulate our wonderful 2021 winners for books published in 2020, listed here by division. Atlantic (Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Wash DC, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland)

Meg Medina (Sonia Sánchez, illustrator)


Australia, New Zealand

Meg McKinlay (Matt Ottley, author)

California, Hawaii

Ernesto Cisneros


Ellie Arscott (Sara O’Leary, author)

Europe, Latin America, Africa

Helle Norup

Mid South Division (Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana)

THE OLDEST STUDENT: How Mary Walker Learned to Read
Rita Hubbard (Oge Mora, illustrator)

Middle East, India, Asia

Rachel Ip (Anneli Bray, illustrator)

Mid West Division (Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio)

OLD ROCK (is not boring!)
Deb Pilutti

New England (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island)

Valerie Bolling (Maine Diaz, illustrator)

New York

Jackie Azúa Kramer (Cindy Derby, illustrator)

South East Division (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama)

Kelly Jordan (Jessica Courtney-Tickle, illustrator)

South West Division (Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Southern Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico)

Fleur Bradley (Xavier Bonet, illustrator)

Texas, Oklahoma

Lindsay Leslie (Ellen Rooney, illustrator)

United Kingdom, Ireland

A.M. Dassu

Western Division (Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Northern Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota)

Faith Pray

Check out 14 of the winning books at the SCBWI Bookshop.org page here. (And more about the Last Garden is here.)

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, June 10, 2021

We Need Diverse Books Announces They Will No Longer Use The Hashtag or Term #OwnVoices

 It's a fascinating development. In their post, "Why We Need Diverse Books Is No Longer Using the Term #OwnVoices" they acknowledge that while the term started out as a way to raise the voices of under-represented creators of children's and teen literature, its use has shifted in ways that have become problematic. 

On June 6, 2021, We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) wrote:

"#OwnVoices was created as a hashtag by author Corinne Duyvis in September 2015. It was originally intended as a shorthand book recommendation tool in a Twitter thread, for readers to recommend books by authors who openly shared the diverse identity of their main characters. The hashtag was never intended to be used in a broader capacity, but it has since expanded in its use to become a “catch all” marketing term by the publishing industry. Using #OwnVoices in this capacity raises issues due to the vagueness of the term, which has then been used to place diverse creators in uncomfortable and potentially unsafe situations. It is important to use the language that authors want to celebrate about themselves and their characters."

This concern over the term's evolution to, at times: a marketing gimmick; a way to police who can tell what story; a determinant of which stories get marketing/publicity attention; and forcing some creators into unsafe situations with being outed for parts of their identities (usually the LGBGTQIA2+ parts) has been growing. Author Rin Chupeco tweeted back on March 2, 2021

"I am no longer using #ownvoices for my books and I encourage others to do the same.
Originally conceived to celebrate us, it’s now instead used by publishers as a cudgel to deny bipoc authors book deals, forcing them to come out to defend the truths in their books."


The efforts to amplify and support under-represented illustrators, translators, and writers are important - equally so is keeping up with how tools and terms are used so we help make things better.

WNDB wrote that they

"...will no longer use the term #OwnVoices to refer to children’s literature or its authors and we have removed mentions of #OwnVoices from previously published blog posts. Moving forward, WNDB will use specific descriptions that authors use for themselves and their characters whenever possible (for example, 'Korean American author,' or 'autistic protagonist')."

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

SCBWI Reading Lists Celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride

With completely charming art by Vincent X. Kirsch (starring characters from his picture book From Archie to Zack), SCBWI has compiled a list of recently published books for kids and teens that include LGBTQIA+ characters and themes

Celebrate Pride (LGBTQIA+)
This month we celebrate books that honor the affirmation, dignity, equality, and achievements of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or LGBTQIA+ people. On this list you will find OwnVoices books, biographies, historical events, memoirs, fiction, and more. So grab a great book and celebrate Pride Month!

These are SCBWI member books, from PAL publishers, and there are six lists in all: anthologies (1 title); Graphic novels (2 titles); middle grade (5 titles); nonfiction* (7 titles); picture books (19 titles); and Young Adult books (17 titles).

Each month, SCBWI features books written and illustrated by our members. And every month highlights a new theme that will foster discussions, activities, and enjoyment! Storytelling done right.

Check them all out, and support your fellow SCBWI members!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

*Full disclosure: my own nonfiction for readers age 11 and up, No Way, They Were Gay? Hidden Lives and Secret Loves is included in the nonfiction list. Hurray!

Thursday, June 3, 2021

SCBWI is on Bookshop!

If you've been to an in-person SCBWI event, you know that one of the highlights is browsing the bookstore with books from all the faculty. For local events, often a local indie bookseller has organized things, and at the international conferences in New York and Los Angeles, the conference bookstore becomes for that weekend one of the biggest sellers of children's and teen books in the country!

Even with SCBWI events having gone digital, there's still a way to browse the faculty books for different events – on Bookshop (which supports independent booksellers.)

The url is: https://bookshop.org/shop/SCBWI and you can browse books in these categories:

Digital Workshops 4.0 Faculty

Equity + Inclusion Book Club Selections

Crystal Kite Award Winners

Titles from SCBWI Advisory Board Members

Golden Kite Award Winners

Reference Books

Golden Kite Award Finalists

Sid Fleischman Award for Humor Finalists


NY21SCBWI Conference Faculty.

Have fun checking out all the books* - and know that buying them supports those authors, translators, illustrators, their publishers, and independent bookstores.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

*Worth noting is that for now, bookshop.org can only list books available through Ingram Wholesale. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Have You Been Attending These Free-For-Members Digital Workshops? Next Up: "Creating a Cast of Characters in Your Middle Grade Novel" with Meg Medina

Registration is open now for "Creating a Cast of Characters in Your Middle Grade Novel" with Meg Medina.

The workshop will take place this Thursday June 3, 2021 at 1pm Pacific/4pm Eastern. Here's the description:

Kids have busy lives - with their families, at school, and with their friends. How do you recreate those relationships authentically without confusing your readers with too many characters? Meg Medina, author of the3 Newbery award-winning novel Merci Suarez Changes Gears and its newly released follow-up Merci Suarez Can't Dance, leads a worskhop on how we build and manage memorable characters in service to the story we're trying to tell. Be prepared to work on exercises pertaining to your own work-in-progress.

Like all the SCBWI digital workshops, the video recording will remain up on the SCBWI Digital Workshops Archive page for four weeks... which means you can still see

Digital Workshop One: Transforming a Picture Book Manuscript Into a Visual Narrative
with Jacqueline Alcántara

Digital Workshop Two: SCBWI #OWNVOICES Celebrating Asian Voices
with Julie Abe, Samira Ahmed, Mike Jung, Emily X.R. Pan, Dow Phumiruk, Paula Yoo; moderated by Alvina Ling


Digital Workshop Three: Maximizing Your Social Media Presence and Effectiveness
with Greg Pincus

by logging into the archive.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On!