Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Disability in Publishing Launches with a Virtual Town Hall and Website Resources


screen shot from the disability in publishing website with their logo and mission statement

Last month saw the virtual town hall announcing the formation and launch of Disability in Publishing! The group is cooking up lots of great things for disabled folks working in publishing...

Their mission reads: 

Our mission is to create community, provide resources, and increase accessibility across the industry in order to increase disability visibility and retain the talent of disabled publishing professionals. We will support each other through advocacy, education, networking, and community. We are committed to working from an intersectional perspective. 

And their website already includes some helpful resources that will grow over time, including:

An Agents Directory, "A list of agents who are interested in representing authors who have disabilities, and books with disability representation."

An Editor Directory, "A list of editors who are interesting in acquiring books with disability representation and working with writers with disabilities."

A Freelancer Directory, "A list of individuals who are open to freelance or work-for-hire work  and identify as a Person with Disability"

There will be a listing for jobs and an accessibility guide for employers as well!

You can learn more about Disability in Publishing here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Friday, August 26, 2022

An Interview with Marietta Zacker - A Guest Post by Moth Detlaf

Marietta Zacker of Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency

Can you tell me a little bit about your journey in the industry and the formation of Gallt & Zacker? 
 My love, admiration for, and respect of children’s literature came from my experiences as a native Spanish speaker who relied on stories to make sense of the world. My abuelo opened that world for me. After college, I taught children and young adults where I witnessed and came to understand how stories and books transformed their learning. I was then convinced that I had to be involved in the creation of children’s books. And because of my personal experiences and the experiences of my students, I desperately wanted to ensure that others who didn’t see their own lives reflected in the pages of books could start to do so. I worked one-on-one with authors and illustrators, connecting their work to schools and libraries, then worked on the editorial side of publishing. I found my way to Nancy in 2008 and haven’t left her side since. We cemented our partnership In 2016. 

 What makes for the best relationship between an agent and author/illustrator? 
 Without a doubt, honesty and communication. Every relationship is different, so there is not a script to follow. Instead, like any other collaboration, as long as there is heartfelt and open conversation, it can and often does work. 

 What would you advise authors/illustrators to look for when querying agents? 
 Look for people who you feel will ‘get you.’ Our job is to sell your work, but I firmly believe that we do our job best when we are fully invested in the idea that people NEED to read the stories and see the images you create. I would also suggest to authors and illustrators to hop on a phone or video chat and talk with an agent before signing on. There needs to be a comfort level and a basic understanding of how the partnership will work. It’s important to note that this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to develop a friendship, but at the very least, there should be a certain ease to the back and forth! 

 With all the changes to the landscape in publishing, do you see the role of the agent changing at all? 
 I don’t know that our role will change that much. After all, our most important role is to wholeheartedly believe that the world would be a better place because of those stories we are presenting — whether told in words or images — and that should never change, in my opinion! What I hope will change is the inclusion of many more voices in the publishing industry because that will lead to finding untold stories, which will then lead to all readers seeing themselves and their lives reflected in our books. Abuelo and I would be proud if we accomplished that!

Moth Detlaf (they/them) is a bookseller and the social media manager for Books of Wonder in NYC. They can often be found huddled in a corner somewhere surrounded by a palace of queer books for all ages--bonus points if there are dragons involved. Finding the books that make kids of all ages and demographics (including the grown up ones) feel the way they have always felt as a reader is one of their favorite things.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Emotions are Complex: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions can help us convey that for our characters

So back in 2001 Robert Plutchik, a professor emeritus at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and adjunct professor at the University of South Florida, published a paper in American Scientist called The Nature of Emotions about... our emotions. In that paper, he shared (figure 6) a visual model of human emotions, both in cone form and unfolded like an origami star.

Robert Plutchik's cone and wheel of emotions - screen shot from the 2001 paper in American Scientist

The idea is that there are eight basic emotions, presented as four pairs of opposites: Joy/Sadness; Trust/Disgust; Fear/Anger, and Surprise/Anticipation. Emotions get more intense closer to the center (like anger intensifying to rage or mellowing to annoyance.)

Interestingly, the space in-between the colors of the unfolded star allows for the intersectionality of emotions (like labeling the space between surprise and sadness as disapproval.) We can feel more than one emotion at the same time, and often do -- likewise for our characters!

For your work in progress, I hope this visual model is a helpful tool as you craft and shape your characters' emotional reactions!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, August 18, 2022

For the Love of Angry Girls - a Guest Post by Moth Detlaf

This is not a guide for making your angry girls feminine.

This is not a guide to make them likeable.

This is not a guide to tone down their anger to make them palatable.

ID: dark paneled wood serves as the background for painted flowers
This is examining how the angry girl functions in literature.

This is supporting the young readers who identify with her anger.

This is showing that her rage at the injustice around her can change her world.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Jason Reynolds on Writing -- Well, NOT Writing -- Heroes and Villains

screen shot of the Jason Reynolds podcast page

In this 2022 PrintMag Design Matters podcast interview, Jason Reynolds said:

“Well, I’m so glad you brought up this idea around heroism. I don’t believe in that. I try not to ever write heroes and villains because I just don’t believe in heroes and villains. I believe in journey folk. That we’re all just sort of on the journey, you know what I mean? And whether one is heroic or villainous is contextualized by whatever particular part of the journey that they’re on, but that swings and changes.”

Jason continues, speaking about his novel Ghost:

“Ghost does a lot of things that some people would look down on, and then he does other things that some people would applaud him for, and that’s just what it is to be a person. And all I ever want to do in my books is just show, for me, specifically, Black children as human beings, as people. And that’s all he is, a person with a heart, and fear, and jokes, and ambition, and anger and doubt. He’s just a person...”

Inspiration for us all!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, August 11, 2022

In Defense of Fanfiction - A Guest Post by Moth Detlaf

        I am a firm believer that cringe culture is dead--there's way too much to worry about right now without being concerned about whether your hobbies will be viewed as cool or cringey. In particular, I would like to call attention to the death of cringe surrounding the writing of fanfiction.

    Many authors I've met recently during events have started suggesting, ever so tentatively, that fanfiction can be a good way to flex writing muscles.

    I, for one, would like to climb to the roof of my apartment building and shout that to every young writer in Brooklyn (and to all of you, dear friends, who have decided to absorb the words I send into the ether). I know that even as recently as when I was in high school and college, fanfiction was a secret word saved for your carefully curated Tumblr--people never discussed it, and teachers rarely acknowledged it. But, if you give it a chance, I think there's a lot of value to using fanfiction as a writing exercise.

    Just as many visual artists talk about the first steps into developing your own style (tracing and imitation of artists you admire is something I've seen endorsed quite a bit for learning purposes), I think fanfiction serves that function for authors. In my experience, too, it's a great way to quiet the imposter syndrome and turn off editor brain for a bit. It can also help spark inspiration if you've got writer's block. When you're playing in already-established IPs, there's less pressure and more wiggle-room for off the wall ideas.
    If you want to work on worldbuilding, take characters you know well and bring them into an unfamiliar environment.

    To work on dialogue, you can put two characters into a situation and see how you interpret their reactions.
    To write a specific genre (or a common trope in a genre), you can just as easily put other characters into that situation and allow the scene to play out.

    I could certainly go on and on about why I think fanfiction is so easily dismissed by many, but that is a soapbox for another day. For now, I would like to leave you with a small challenge:

    Find an aspect of your writing you would like to improve upon, pick a show/movie/etc you know intimately, and just write. If you've got a case of writer's block, exploring new relationships with characters you're already familiar with is a great way to keep the creativity going while giving your brain a rest. Be cringey, write that coffeeshop AU, make the crossover you've always wondered about. Let the story take charge and see how that affects your other writing.

Moth Detlaf (they/them) is a bookseller and the social media manager for Books of Wonder in NYC. They can often be found huddled in a corner somewhere surrounded by a palace of queer books for all ages--bonus points if there are dragons involved. Finding the books that make kids of all ages and demographics (including the grown up ones) feel the way they have always felt as a reader is one of their favorite things.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

10 Gems of Wisdom and Inspiration from the #scbwiSummer22 Conference

The banner for the 2022 SCBWI Summer Conference

The coolest thing about the virtual conference with so many breakout sessions (all of which will be available on video through September 11, 2022) is that you can choose your own path through the offerings, and go back and look at different ones! 

The takeaways and inspiration each of us gets from an SCBWI conference is unique, and so any list of those highlights is going to be subjective and personal. With that caveat, here are some moments from this past weekend's conference that have stayed with me:

Dhonielle Clayton had 345 rejected queries before getting her first YES. In her keynote, she said, "Remember there is a child reader on the other side of all this, waiting" for what we're creating.

In the Editors and Agents panel the discussion of some of the silver lining from the pandemic, including the decentralizing of publishing from New York city. And Elena Giovinazzo urging us to "Continue to be fearless in your creativity." And James Mustelier speaking about not being willing to wait for things to clear up to experience joy -- because things may never clear up. 

Jessixa Bagley saying "You'll always be able to find someone to discourage you." And, "If you love it, pursue it regardless of the outcome."

Dela Wilson quoting Deepak Chopra, "What you pay attention to, grows." And tying that into growing more diversity in publishing.

Martha Brockenbrough saying, "If your book is in your heart, I think that's the best path to get into others' hearts."

Lexie Bean commenting on their debut middle grade novel, The Ship We Built, "This book is a gift to my 10-year-old self."

Kelly Starling Lyons asking us to think of a picture book page turn like a "mini-cliffhanger."

Colleen Paeff's advice to "find your community."

Karol Silverstein sharing in her "Disability Reset" breakout how she learned the euphemistic words crazy and insane are disrespectful (and maybe lazy writing) after her book Cursed was published, and how she was able to replace those in the paperback edition. 

Donna Barba Higuera's advice, "Never forget who you are. Keep nurturing yourself, and your dreams, and the child inside you that needs your stories.

What are the conference moments that resonated most for you? Feel free to share in the comments!

Illustrate and Translate and Write On,

Thursday, August 4, 2022

The Elevator Pitch (Or: The Mortifying Ordeal of Being Known)

If there's anything I've noticed, it's the extreme love/hate relationship authors have with the elevator pitch. In the words of my favorite tag on AO3, #themortifyingordealofbeingknown. There's something... absolutely terrifying about talking about something you made to strangers, something that hits different than writing up the summaries. A lot of the folks I've talked to don't even think about the elevator pitch until they're asked for one (virtual event greenrooms are the ultimate procrastinators' playground).

So I figured "hey, I do elevator pitches for other people for a living, maybe I can help" and thus, this madness was born. I spied on my coworkers' interactions with customers and thought deeply about how I approach it and came up with a few ideas I think might help if you're also struggling with formatting an elevator pitch (or if you've stumbled upon this article 10 minutes before a virtual panel).

ID: a swirling purple background. The phrase "going up!" is written in big block letters, and there's a cartoon outline of an elevator

Part 1: How do I even explain the plot?

  • Cheat a little and take favorite sections from the flap copy and string them together into something vaguely coherent; the more you practice it, the more your brain will choose what phrases it likes in what order.
  • Zero in on the big themes and concepts.
    • I find it way too easy to get bogged down by my favorite details (and then I just start rambling because they need context darn it!)

Part 2: I think I've got words, how do I put them into people's ears?

  • Focus on the ✨vibes✨
  • Tell us the tropes! All of them. Yes, even that one. 
  • If for social media: Do a silly trend or if you're feeling extra, make a skit 
    • Be ridiculous. Look at some of the people whose entire pages are skits. Relish in the bad wigs and silly acting. Embrace it.
  • Get on the radar of the fandoms of some of your comps--especially effective if the fandom is in a hiatus period and a drought of content.
    • Nothing has made my day more than when I saw someone wearing a shirt related to Our Flag Means Death, called them out, and sent them home with four books to read until season 2.
  • Don't worry about getting it right every time or getting everything you want into a pitch every time.
    • Sometimes the words don't want to word, and that's okay.
On a slightly more serious note, if I've learned anything, it's that people are so much more forgiving than we think they will be. They want to want your books. I think the number of times I've been called a danger to parents' wallets can show that, even if you don't yet believe it yourself. Go forth and be silly and weird on the internet! 

Moth Detlaf (they/them) is a bookseller and the social media manager for Books of Wonder in NYC. They can often be found huddled in a corner somewhere surrounded by a palace of queer books for all ages--bonus points if there are dragons involved. Finding the books that make kids of all ages and demographics (including the grown up ones) feel the way they have always felt as a reader is one of their favorite things.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Will the Proposed Merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster Happen? The Department of Justice Trial Has Begun...

As reported in Publishers Weekly and elsewhere, the trial to block or not block the merger of Penguin Random House with Simon and Schuster has begun. It's expected to last three weeks.

Screen Shot of the Publishers Weekly Article, "DOJ Trial to Block PRH/SandS Merger Begins" - Aug 2022

From the PW piece by Andrew Albanese,

“On November 25, 2020 Bertelsmann, the parent company of Penguin Random House, emerged as the winning bidder for Simon & Schuster from ViacomCBS for $2.175 billion. On November 2, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice sued to block the acquisition.”

The Department of Justice's view is that “Penguin Random House’s proposed acquisition of Simon & Schuster would further entrench the largest publishing giant in the United States (and the world) and give the merged company control of nearly half of the market to acquire anticipated top-selling books from authors.”

Penguin Random House lawyers argue that “this acquisition will benefit readers, booksellers, and authors alike.”

The Authors Guild, in a position statement from November 2021, is against the merger, writing, “The proposed merger would enable the merged firm and the few competitors left to pay less and extract more from authors who often work for years at their craft before producing a book. By reducing author pay, the merger would make it harder for authors to earn a living by writing books, which would, in turn, lead to a reduction in the quantity and diversity of books—which subsequently harms consumers.”

Porter Anderson at Publishing Perspectives offers this analysis:

“In the States, antitrust challenges often are based on questions of monopolies—companies that become the sole or main providers of certain products or services. But this one is positioned by the Department of Justice as a question of what the government says is a risk of monopsony—in which a company might become the sole or main buyer of certain products or services. The question at its most simplistic level, then, becomes whether a PRH-S&S merger would create a company so large that it would control the vast majority of “top-selling” authors’ payments.”

It's important news to be aware of - will our US Publishing industry go down from a "Big Five" corporate publishers to a "Big Four"? Stay tuned...

Illustrate and Translate and Write On,