Thursday, December 29, 2022

Your Creative New Years Goals, Resolutions, and Making them Concrete

Many folks see the change from one year to another as a chance to set some new goals, like get in shape.

A goal gets achieved by setting a resolution - like, to get in shape, I'm going to go to the gym more.

And then, that resolution has to be made concrete: I'm putting time in my calendar to work out this upcoming Monday at 6pm.

So here's a chance to set your 'Creative' New Years Goals, Resolutions, and make them concrete...

What do you want to do for yourself, creatively, in 2023?

What's your goal? What's your resolution to achieve that goal? How can you make that concrete?

For me, the creative goal I want to achieve is to write the first draft of a new YA novel.

My resolution is that I'm going to put time into it every day, using Linda Sue Parks' brilliant 12-minute writing sprint advice.

I'm making it concrete by working my way through Lisa Cron's excellent "Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel" - I'm on chapter 12, and really enjoying working through the exercises as I go.

Your turn: 

What's your creative goal for 2023?
What's your resolution to achieve that goal?
How can you make that concrete?

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On, and YES -- Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The Troubling Ethics of Artificial Intelligence and How It Impacts Children's Book Creators (part 2: Writers)

Continuing this look at AI systems and their impact on those of us who create creative works for kids and teens, the Authors Guild released a statement earlier this month, How Will Authorship Be Defined in an AI Future?

screen shot of Authors Guild statement, "How Will Authorship Be Defined in an AI Future?"

In it, they look at the issue of both how AI systems are "trained" and how if those systems are learning from works that are protected by copyright, who can be held accountable for that violation of copyright?

A couple of highlights from the Authors Guild statement by Mary Rasenberger, their CEO:

“These AI-created ‘new’ works, as such, are not really new or truly creative. Rather, the AI system ingests existing works that have been broken down into data points, and then rehashes them—albeit in a very complex way.”


“We are confronting serious policy issues about the future of creativity: Do we want humans or AI creating our literature and other arts? As we have argued in multiple policy forums, if we want to ensure that our literature and arts continue to reflect our current experiences and our imagined ones, we need to ensure that human creators are compensated and their work is protected. AI cannot feel, think, or empathize. It lacks the essential human faculties that move the arts forward. While it is remarkable that engineers could create a “new” Rembrandt that so closely resembles an authentic one, we do not need new Rembrandts; we need new art and literature to reflect where we humans are now, and where we might be going.”

Definitely something to keep our eye on in 2023!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Starting an In-Person Book Club

During Covid, I really missed in-person events. This year we saw many restrictions being lifted. I started chatting with friends about books (of course) and what we enjoyed to read. We kept sharing book recs and we thought it would be fun to start exploring multiple genres through our own recommendations. It was a small group of about 5 friends who read romance, young adult, thrillers, nonfiction, etc. While still following Covid protocols, we started to plan a small book club. Here are some things I did to facilitate the group and add more members along the way. 

Book selection: FURIA by Yamile Saied Méndez

Tip #1 Start Small

I started with 5 close friends who were interested in chatting anything and everything about books. This kept the group manageable. It’s totally okay if your group is a group of two as you find book lovers to join. You can also join your public library events to meet book lovers in person too.

Tip #2 Set a Date

What is realistic for your group? If your group consists of school-aged children, then perhaps after school hours. If your group consists of mostly parents, maybe on a week-end or during a child-friendly event. If your group consists of couples, perhaps a Friday/weekend night. If your group is like mine (mid 30 career-focused with busy schedules), then once a month works best. With work and life in between, a month gave us enough time to read our book pick. Decide with your group if you want to meet weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, etc. 

Tip #3 Switch Hosts

Honestly, it would be too much for me to plan the date, location, and host friends every single month. We all decided to take on a month. Each month had a different friend assigned (hence the host) and the host was responsible for either hosting at their place or choosing a place of their choice. This was fun because we all had a monthly meet up to look forward to at a friend’s house or a cool restaurant. It definitely took the pressure off of being a host each time.

Tip #4 Choose the Book

Since we all wanted to explore different genres, we let the host of the month choose the book choice. Each month we got to know the host a bit more by their book selection and also by the host having us over (win-win). This year, each host chose a different book genre from romance, young adult, self-help, thriller, and more. We all branched out to explore new book genres.

Tip #5 Choose the Questions 

Initially, I started creating the questions for the beginning months but life got busy trying to pull questions for each book. Instead, the host of the month chooses the book choice and also leads the question discussion for the group. Some hosts have detailed questions and others are more laid back with the exploration of the general topics. Sometimes the questions were included with the book, other times we Googled questions, and sometimes questions were just casual and on the spot. 

Tip #6 Keep it Organized

We created a group chat where we shared anything relative to the upcoming book meetings. As the organizer, I chatted with the next 3 hosts so they could let me know the book choices coming up. We also voted on the date of the meeting in advance so we had it on our calendar and had enough time to plan in case the host decided on a potluck. Staying organized helped us all plan carpooling, set the date aside on our busy calendars, and request/buy the books ahead of time.

Lastly, have fun! Sharing a hobby with others is enjoyable. The in-person group has grown from 5 members to almost 25 people (we had friends recommend friends). We now have a host of the month up until the end of 2023. While not all members can join monthly, half of the group usually makes it with some people joining virtually too. Book clubs are such a great way to have deep discussions and spend quality time. What is your book club like? I'd love to know! Leave me a comment letting me know what works for your book club.

Delia Ruiz (she/her) is a Latinx author, content creator, and book reviewer. She has served as a judge for the Jose Marti Awards, International Latino Book Awards, and the Bookstagang Awards. She enjoys stories showcasing BIPOC joy and everyday life. Join her on social media @aventuras.en.esl

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

The Troubling Ethics of Artificial Intelligence and How It Impacts Children's Book Creators (part 1: Illustrators)

The theoretical issue of Artificial Intelligence (AI) illustrations and text has been more and more in the news lately, and this recent article in TIME made it concrete for illustrators: He Used AI to Publish a Children’s Book in a Weekend. Artists Are Not Happy About It.

screen shot of TIME magazine article, He Used AI to Publish a Children’s Book in a Weekend. Artists Are Not Happy About It, including 3 AI illustrations from the picture book

Basically, the way AI systems learn how to do the things they do is from studying the work of humans before it. As the TIME article explains, 

“Artificial intelligence systems like Midjourney are trained using datasets of millions of images that exist across the Internet, then teaching algorithms to recognize patterns in those images and generate new ones. That means any artist who uploads their work online could be feeding the algorithm without their consent.”

Picture book illustrator Adriane Tsai, who is interviewed in the article, put it this way in a post on social media that TIME screen-captured:

“I had to say this one too many times: Art created from stolen art, even if it looks “new” now, was still created from *gasp* stolen art! if AI was never trained on stolen work, you would not be able to make your “new” art. That’s the end of the story.”

So how do the original artists get compensated/credited when their work is used to "train" AI systems? Especially when AI systems are ingesting millions of examples?

More questions than answers right now, but it's good to know what's happening.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Authors on TikTok - What to Post? 15 Ideas to Incorporate

You published a book or will publish one some day. After a while, you run out of ideas of what to post using your book. Here are some things I do as an author to promote my book on TikTok and many other ideas I've seen from authors on TikTok I follow (with examples).

  1. Create a booklist with similar themes. You can do a book stack and list your title among those. You’ll be highlighting your book + other authors (win-win) example here.

  1. Do a shipping video! How do you ship your autographed copies? Do you add fun stickers, a bookmark, or simply wrap it up? Whatever the method, it’s fun to watch (example here).

  1. Join a trend! Are there catchy songs or audio clips that you can use your book in? If so, pull out your book for a song mimic, fun dance, book conversation, or simply have it in the background (example here and here).

  1. Go on a field trip to your local bookstore/ library. Give us a tour & walk through until you spot your book (example here and here).

  1. Keep up with national days (national hot dog day), holidays, and month celebrations that fit with your book. For example, November is Puerto Rican Heritage Month so I did an author collaboration featuring coqui books (example here).

  1. Share a writing tip! It can be websites/apps to organize your writing time or focusing on key elements such as your best tip for revision, plot, setting, etc. Meg Medina does an awesome job at this on her TikTok

  1. Day in the life video - I personally love these. I love watching how authors start their day (Pajamas, coffee, writing set up, etc). It allows the readers to get to know you more (example here).

  1. Discuss important topics in the publishing industry+introduce yourself and your book! So many things are going on and audiences on TikTok love tuning in. Try discussing something in the industry and in the middle of your conversation, pause to say “Hi I’m [Name] author of [book title]” and resume your discussion. Example brought to you by booktokker Carmen @TomesAndTextiles.

  1. Duet, stitch, and collaborate! This means either taking a piece of a video and adding on to it or collaborating side by side with a video. Try it out (example here).

  1. Author-illustrators, give us a sketchbook tour! I love this one by Kat Fajardo here.

  1. Do a video unboxing of your new books! I love seeing these across all socials and TikTok is no different. I love this unboxing by author Kelly Yang here.

  1. Does your book feature a fun recipe, restaurant, or mention a food dish? If so, replicate it and mention your book (example here).

  1. Share the book events or retreats you attended! I love learning about new conferences, book fairs, and bookish retreats (example here).

  1. Read a chapter, scene, or line from your book (example here).

  1. Have fun and be yourself! The best thing about the TikTok world is people truly being themselves (You don’t have the guilt trip that you must be dressed up with full makeup to do a video. You can, but many people do videos being authentic and real) two of my favorite author accounts who make me smile and are genuinely themselves are @angelamontoya_author and @mariadaguila.

Lastly, make it your own! Create a niche of content that’ll attract your readers. TikTok is one of my favorite platforms and it’s attracting more and more people each day (hey, even my mom uses it). If you’re interested in learning more and/or getting a TikTok tutorial course, I’d love to know! Leave a comment below.

Delia Ruiz (she/her) is the Latinx author of ROQUI’S PANDERO BEAT. She’s also a content creator and book reviewer. She currently serves on the marketing team for the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival and assists with their TikTok account. She enjoys reading stories showcasing BIPOC joy and everyday life. Follow her on TikTok and most socials as @aventuras.en.esl

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Teen Freedom-to-Read Advocates Talk with Lesléa Newman, Ellen Hopkins, and Mike Curato: "Are You Free to Read What You Want?"

Watch this 90 minute discussion, hosted by both SCBWI's Impact and Legacy Fund and the National Coalition Against Censorship.

screen shot from the YouTube video of the discussion "Are You Free To Read What You Want?"
Clockwise from top left: Lesléa Newman, Ellen Hopkins, Mike Curato, and Lin Oliver

Here's the official synopsis of the discussion:

Books play an essential role in how young people develop their identities and core values. Yet tensions around book-banning and censorship in public schools and libraries have limited their right to read what they want and need, without having to face down school boards, aggressive lobbying groups, and adults who want to control their right to information. Recorded on Wednesday November 30th the SCBWI Impact and Legacy Fund partnered with the National Coalition Against Censorship to host a critical and timely discussion: Are You Free to Read What You Want?

 Hear directly from the people most affected by attacks on intellectual freedom—high school student advocates for free speech and banned authors—as they discuss the impact of book banning on education and freedom of speech. Our renowned author panelists include Lesléa Newman, Mike Curato, and Ellen Hopkins, in conversation with high school student leaders representing the youth movement.

 It’s a frank and essential conversation. Tune in to hear the personal stories of three prominent banned authors and to participate in their interaction with outstanding student leaders.

Publishers Weekly covered the panel here, and you can watch the full recording here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, December 8, 2022

The Top 10 Latine Picture Books of 2022

As a book reviewer on @aventuras.en.esl and judge for the Bookstagang Awards, I read hundreds of picture book titles this year. So many wonderful titles stood out this year by Latine creators. These books highlighted Latine joy, events and celebrations by experience, creativity, and Latine history.

Latine Picture Books for 2022

Here are my top 10 Latine book picks that belong on all bookshelves.

Growing an Artist: The Story of a Landscaper and His Son by John Parra (Spanish translation by Adriana Domínguez)

Magic: Once Upon a Faraway Land by Mirelle Ortega (Spanish edition available)

Our Day of the Dead Celebration by Ana Aranda (Spanish edition forthcoming) 

Mi Ciudad Sings by Cynthia Harmony, illustrated by Teresa Martinez (Spanish edition available)

The Coquíes Still Sing: A Story of Home, Hope, and Rebuilding by Karina Nicole González, illustrated by Krystal Quiles (Spanish translation by Amparo Ortiz)

Beauty Woke by NoNieqa Ramos, illustrated by Paola Escobar

Mariana and Her Familia by Mónica Mancillas, illustrated by Erika Meza

With Lots of Love by Jenny Torres Sanchez, illustrated by André Ceolin (Spanish edition available)

Still Dreaming / Seguimos Soñando (English and Spanish Edition) by Claudia Guadalupe Martínez, illustrated by Magdalena Mora

Santiago's Dinosaurios by Mariana Ríos Ramírez, illustrated by Udayana Lugo

There are so many wonderful books by Latine creators. You can view the individual review of these books as well as many more 2022 book picks here. I can't wait for all the 2023 Latine releases!

Delia Ruiz (she/her) is the Latinx author of ROQUI'S PANDERO BEAT. She is also a content creator and book reviewer. She has served as a judge for the Jose Marti Awards, International Latino Book Awards, and the Bookstagang Awards. She enjoys reading stories that showcase Latine joy and everyday life. Join her on social media at @aventuras.en.esl /

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Thinking of Starting a Series? Check out this advice from Kwame Alexander, Roseanne A. Brown, Chloe Gong, Adalyn Grace, Joan He, and Aiden Thomas

There's a lot of wisdom in this article in Publishers Weekly where Iyana Jones interviewed all six authors with new series openers, "Series Openers: Six Authors on Their New Beginnings."

screen shot of the Publishers Weekly article "Series Openers: Six Authors on Their New Beginnings" with a picture of Kwame Alexander at the top.

Standout moments from the interviews (for me) include:

“I always feel like poets who write novels in verse have a much harder job, ’cause you have to write a poem and you gotta write a novel. You have to write a poem on each page, and it has to feel complete, and it has to feel like it’s incomplete enough for you to want to turn the page. That’s work! I feel like it’s the same thing with a trilogy. You want to complete it, but at the same time you want to leave just enough for the reader to crave and grow impatient waiting for that next book in the series. If you can figure that out, that’s great.” —Kwame Alexander


“With series, on the other hand, you’re playing the long game. You can plant seeds and hints in book one that don’t need to come to fruition for several more books. It definitely takes a lot of planning and is more taxing on me creatively to weave something so intricate, but it’s an amazing feeling when you get that payoff you can only get from a story that’s had that extended room to blossom.” — Roseanne A. Brown


“Before I write, I need a basic elevator pitch so that I’ve articulated to myself what I want to achieve in the book. Foul Lady Fortune’s pitch was: immortal girl wants to atone by saving her city from a conspiracy. Having that as a starting point means I can draw up the complete arc between “this is what the protagonist wants” and “is this achieved at the end of the series?” which I think is critical for keeping a reader interested! After that I can start building elements, such as giving the untrusting protagonist a devilish love interest, or researching true history so that my speculative elements interact with commentary in a meaningful way. But premise, to me, is like the spine that holds a book upright.” —Chloe Gong


“The first thing I knew about this story was its prologue, where we meet a baby who somehow manages to defy Death himself in this beautifully eerie backdrop. Throughout all the versions of this story, that scene has never changed. I always knew it was the opening, and from there I started asking myself who this baby would grow up to be. What kind of person is she? What does she want? Everything in the story is built around Signa, to further help tell her story.” — Adalyn Grace


“Like many kids of the Chinese diaspora, I was told stories from Romance of the Three Kingdoms growing up. Names such as Zhuge Liang and Liu Bei are basically synonymous with “clever and loyal” and “honorable righteousness,” respectively, within the culture. But it wasn’t until college that I really read and analyzed the text, and as I thought more deeply about the enduring legacy of its characters in contemporary Chinese society, I came up with a “what if” question that ultimately became my midpoint twist, from which my stories tend to spring.” —Joan He


“It’s wild to plan all the way to the very end of a book I haven’t even written [yet] before I could start writing the first book. It’s also a huge challenge to plot out two books and keep all that information in my head. It’s way easier to do a standalone because I’m in the moment and don’t have to fact check and make sure I don’t forget to tie up any loose ends. More than once I’ve come up with an idea and thought, “I should change this in Sunbearer!,” only to remember I can’t because it’s already been printed and now exists in the world! But then again, one thing that’s really cool about writing a series is that I get to see folks read The Sunbearer Trials and express their excitement, which characters they like best, and also fan theories. It makes working on the sequel a lot more exciting, and it’s nice having readers cheering me on as I go.” — Aiden Thomas

Even choosing those highlight quotes was hard. Go read the article, and read the books that open their series! Good luck with your series, too.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Friday, December 2, 2022

Bookstagang Book Awards

Three towers of picture books and board books are stacked in my studio. There are also eight unopened boxes, piles of books by themes, and books in my car waiting to be unpacked. This is the scene of a busy season as a judge for the Bookstagang Book Awards, a book award for children’s picture and board books judged by kid lit bookstagrammers. That’s right, children’s book influencers bringing you the best of the best via our Instagram channels. This year we had over 500 books submitted by many big publishers including Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins and smaller publishers including Soaring Kite, Little Feminist, and Moon Dust Press. 

About the Book Awards

The Bookstagang Awards began four years ago founded by Alessandra Requena, who’s on Instagram as @readwithriver. Originally called the Read with River Book Club, it then transitioned to Bookstagang. Bookstagang is a community and professional discussion hub for those with a passion for books. This group has grown over time with a community who works and collaborates together year round. I have formed genuine connections with the members and keep in touch with them. It truly is a wonderful community of members who help one another and always share the best book recs.

Book Categories 

Over 100 publishers submitted this year for 8 main categories:
️ -Biography
️ -Board Books
️ -Bookshelf Builders
️ -Conversation Starters
️ -Future Classics
️ -Illustration
️ -Innovative Nonfiction
️ -Read Aloud

We also had a new community award voted by the general public.
Kelly @inclusivestorytime, Corrie @thetinyactivists, and Jenna @kidlitbrain created detailed scoring spreadsheets and helped with logistics this year. 

The 2022 Winners

10 winners were chosen in each category for 80 total! Check out the winners on this post.
2022 Bookstagang Winners Post

Meet the Judges

16 judges participated this year in the book awards. Follow them all here for amazing book recommendations! 


“Each year, our panel of diverse judges reads, discusses, and assesses hundreds of books to find the very best picture books published in that calendar year. We’re honored that judges of all sizes (both large publishing houses and small) submit their favorite books of the year for consideration. We begin our process as early as August and it culminates in the release of our awards list in early December, just in time for holiday shopping.” -Jenna, Bookstagang Judge 

Learn more at

Delia Ruiz (she/her) is a Latinx author, content creator, and book reviewer. She has served as a judge for the Jose Marti Awards, International Latino Book Awards, and the Bookstagang Awards. She enjoys stories showcasing BIPOC joy and everyday life. Join her on social media at @aventuras.en.esl 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Remembering Author Ellen Wittlinger

Publishers Weekly Obituary for Ellen Wittlinger, with a photo of Ellen by Sonya Sones

Publishers Weekly announced the passing of Ellen Wittlinger earlier this November, 2022. Among other books, Ellen wrote Parrotfish, one of the first YA novels with a Trans main character. It was hopeful, had a sense of humor, and didn't have a tragic ending (thank you, Ellen!) She also wrote the YA novel Hard Love, which won a LOT of awards, and had a main character who identified as a lesbian.

Ellen did something else really remarkable. At the 2007 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, Ellen did a breakout session about writing LGBTQ characters. It was the first time the queer community was acknowledged in the programming since I'd started attending SCBWI events in 2004. It made a BIG impact.

Myself and a bunch of attendees of Ellen's breakout session hung out in the hallway to talk afterwards, and that evolved into the LGBTQ+ socials at both the summer and winter SCBWI conferences, which have happened at every major SCBWI conference since 2009! 

Ellen was also incredibly gracious in blurbing both my debut novel Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill and my debut nonfiction, No Way, They Were Gay? I'm really grateful for all she did. 

One person can make a difference, to readers, to a community, and to the individuals they connect with on the journey. 

Thanks, Ellen. Here's to your memory!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, November 24, 2022

The Hunt for a Twitter Replacement

 The recent acquirement of Twitter by Elon Musk has set off a chain of chaos and uncertainty for the platform, leaving many scrambling for ways to maintain their industry connections and bases online without it. In the past few years, Twitter has become a center for communities in publishing, comics, and other creative fields. It’s been a place for writers and artists to get their work in front of editors and agents outside of conventions, for collaborators to meet, and for creators to share their art. It’s also been home to numerous pitching events, many of which specifically aim to spotlight diverse creators and bring diverse voices into publishing, such as #DVPit, PitMad, #LatinxPitch, and APIpit. The uncertainty in the past few weeks has threatened all of that work and community.

To be clear, it’s unlikely that Twitter is going anywhere in the very near future. Sites like MySpace are still around, despite no longer being the dominant online space, and it’s likely that even if Twitter falls off it’ll continue to persist in some fashion for a while yet. Hopefully that helps relieve some related anxiety!

That said, creators have been looking for alternatives to reconnect and establish bases in the event of a Twitter shutdown. Discord has been used by many long before this to host and join communities. You can join and create private servers with invites from friends, or you can look for and join public servers. You can find some semi-public servers as well, as some professionals in comics and art have created servers to host industry chatter. Some pitching events such as APIpit already have their own discord servers. It doesn’t have the discoverability of Twitter or the equivalent of events, but it can be a good way to keep up with industry friends and share resources.

Tumblr has also seen a resurgence in the uncertainty surrounding Twitter. Tumblr downloads were up as high as 60% last week. Tumblr benefits from being a preexisting website and large social media platform, as well as having a robust tagging system, but it’s historically been a predominantly fandom driven site. There have been writers and artists that have gotten their starts and been discovered on Tumblr in its hey-day, but it remains to be seen if the industry will follow users back as well. 

Two recent contenders that have proposed as Twitter alternatives have been Mastodon and Hive Social. Mastodon is a network of serves that is meant to look and function similar to Twitter. It’s seen hundreds of thousands of users sign up in the last few weeks, but its decentralized format has led to some confusion (users sign up for a single server, but then can interact with other users through Mastodon). There are frequently boosted posts to explain how the app works. 

Hive Social is another app that’s been around since 2019, but has also seen an incredible boost the last few weeks, reaching a million users a few days ago. It’s formatted similarly to Twitter and appears relatively intuitive, but it currently doesn’t have a web app, and has experienced some crashes with its sudden influx of users. 

Only time will tell how Twitter will fare in these coming months, and if any of the proposed alternatives will be able to keep up the momentum and become a social media staple. What is sure, however, is that the publishing industry and community isn’t going anywhere fast.


Cindy Harris (she/they) is a Mexican American comics artist and illustrator that works in the publishing industry. She has worked as a letterer, editor, illustrator, and writer, and loves stories about identity, relationships, and growth.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

The New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Picture Books of 2022

Every year since 1952 the New York Times has put together a panel of judges to look at all the illustrated children's books to celebrate the ten best. This year, in conjunction with the New York Public Library, the judges were were children's book author Emily Jenkins; New York Public Library Children's Librarian Maggie Craig; and illustrator Raúl Colón, who has won this award twice.

The 2022 winners are:


Written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall


Written by Alice Faye Duncan. Illustrated by Chris Raschka


Written by Eric Fan. Illustrated by Dena Seiferling


Written by Gianni Rodari. Illustrated by Beatrice Alemagna. Translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar


Written by Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold. Illustrated by Mari Kanstad Johnsen. Translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson


Written by Stephen Barr. Illustrated by Gracey Zhang


Written and illustrated by Rilla Alexander


Written by Davide Cali. Illustrated by Monica Barengo


Written and illustrated by Zahra Marwan


Written by Buffy Sainte-Marie. Illustrated by Julie Flett

See more images from the winning titles here in the New York Times announcement.

Congratulations to all the winners - it certainly makes a great reading list for those of us who create illustrated works for children!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Goals of Lettering in Comics

 Mentors have told me that the best lettering in comics is the lettering that you don’t notice. It’s the pages where the lettering blends seamlessly into the art, where the reader is immersed into the story by the lettering. Lettering is, however, often noticed when a reader is confused on the reading order, or if it’s difficult to read. 

For those unaware, lettering is the name of the process of adding in the written dialogue, the speech bubbles, and sound effects. Sometimes the artist letters their own work, sometimes they draw in the bubbles and have someone else letter, or hand draw sound effects, and sometimes a letterer adds all of these parts on top of the final art file themself. It depends on the project, the team, and their process. 

The goals of lettering should be to be accessible and legible and to elevate the art and the story without distracting from it. Colors used, font choice, bubbling, and placement all contribute to the success of lettering. 

An example here I love is from Mamo by Sas Milledge. This page shows a conversation between characters, and the lettering guides the reader between each speaker in an S shape that also takes the reader throughout the page. When lettering, or planning for lettering as an artist, it’s good to think of ways you can use the bubbles to lead readers’ gaze, as well as the way readers would naturally read a page. For example, for English readers, one would naturally try to read left to right, top to bottom. While exceptions can be made, it’s important to do those intentionally, and to make sure that the page is clear with that in mind.

When it comes to accessibility, font and size can come into play here. Here I have a test panel I did as a student. While I loved the font (and still do!), I learned later that this style of ‘E,’ where it looks like a backwards 3, is particularly difficult for people with dyslexia. Most comic fonts are already dyslexia-friendly, most famously Comics Sans, but it’s important to check before putting out a book that could cause frustration, especially in children’s books. 

Lettering is often a quiet part of making comics and graphic novels (if the number of times I’ve had to explain to friends and family what lettering is or how it works is anything go by, anyways), but it’s a critical part of each book production. It’s often what makes a comic, well, a comic, and is what binds the writer’s words to the visual storytelling. 

Cindy Harris (she/they) is a Mexican American comics artist and illustrator that works in the publishing industry. She has worked as a letterer, editor, illustrator, and writer, and loves stories about identity, relationships, and growth.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Unfulfilled: Amazon and the American Retail Landscape - a Report from Civic Economics and the American Booksellers Assocation

graphic: "The True Cost of Buying From Amazon"

 Did you know that:

Approximately 29% of all revenue at independent bookstores immediately recirculates in the local economy. This translates to a local impact advantage of 109% that of chain competitor Barnes & Noble, and a massive 405% local impact advantage over Amazon. 

or that:

Civic Economics estimates that Amazon’s displacement of retail square footage increased from 621 million square feet in 2019 to 1.1 billion square feet in 2021. We further estimate that displaced retail jobs increased from roughly 1 million in 2019 to 1.75 million in 2021, even as Amazon’s distribution facilities became less labor-intensive.

To provide a visual reference to what has been lost, this displacement is the rough equivalent of 300 Malls of America, storefronts and space that simply do not exist, replaced by vast concrete boxes and tens of thousands of vehicles streaming out of distant industrial parks.

Check out the landing page for the study at Civic Economics here. and the PDF of the report here.

As we're all consumers as well as creators, this is well-worth considering.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,