Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Reservations for the SCBWI In-Person Winter Conference 2024 Are Now Open!


Hold the dates (February 9-11, 2024) and check out the schedule for the #scbwiNY24 here. There will be:

Amazing Keynotes (Cece Bell, Joseph Coelho, and James Ransome!)

A panel on "The Outlook for Children's Publishing in 2024 (with agent Patrice Caldwell, Editor Susan Van Metre, Editor Mallory Loehr, and Editor Jess Harold, moderated by TeMika Grooms)

In-depth creative labs (choose from eight different sessions Saturday and eight on Sunday)

As well as manuscript and portfolio consultations, social media consultations, website consultations, and the always-amazing (and often career-changing) portfolio showcase for illustrators, and nine optional socials.

Check out all the conference offerings here.

We hope you'll join us. (And for those who can't make it to New York in February 2024, there will be a virtual conference option... stay tuned for more on that!)

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, October 26, 2023

CURES FOR LONELINESS: Writing & Illustrating Disability



by Charlotte Sullivan Wild

Photo by C. S. Wild 2021 - Nighttime window with a reflection/ silhouette of a figure with hair in a loose bun, lamp and dressers from a living room, looking out on fading sunset, silhouette of trees and a barn. The moon looks like a small jewel or tear on the figure's face.


While every disabled person is unique, I suspect at some point, we all share loneliness. Isolation has absolutely been the hardest part of becoming chronically ill. Yet, I’m not alone.

A former student started using a wheelchair at age twelve and moved shortly thereafter. This kid full of macabre humor suddenly felt shy. They didn’t make many friends. Or fit in.

A neurodiverse elder recently told me, they’d felt “different” their whole life. They longed for connection, but got beaten up as a kid, and still feel left out.

Sometimes disability itself isolates us. 

Too often, inaccessibility and prejudice do, too. 
And no wonder. Most of us grew up without affirming disability stories. Instead - we got infantilizing or villainous or gas-lighting images of disabled people. Or inspiration porn (a term coined by Stella Young) created for able people

A grainy, sepia image of carnations against a blue sky with white text in the sky: "The only disability in life is a bad attitude."
Inspiration porn quote by Scott Hamilton: "The only disability in life is a bad attitude." The grainy, sepia image of pink carnations against a cloudless sky doesn't change the insult of this platitude. Disabilities are real. As are barriers and prejudice. Objectifying disabled people to make able people feel good, signals that disabled people are indeed alone.

But unlike many of our disabilities, loneliness is curable.

Little Cures

As book makers, we can dream a less lonely world into being. Imagine what authentic disability stories would have meant to my elder. My student. Their peers and teachers. When I was first cut off with illness, I was lost. Some of your books were lifelines. 

Authentic stories can reassure disabled kids: they aren't alone. Model that it's okay to ask for what you need, to draw boundaries, and care for yourself.
They can normalize hanging with the new kid who uses a wheelchair or noise-cancelling headphones. 

There is no cure for my illness. But sometimes the smallest help is life-changing. 

Likewise, one book can’t solve everything. But authentic books 
can affirm kids, model friendship, and dismantle ableism - page by page. 

Little cures can change lives. 

Pictured: Sepia photo of the book Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens, edited by Marieke Nijkamp on a wooden table, surrounded by my other little cures: pill organization box, liquid brown medicine bottle and syringe, sprays, salt, electrolyte packs, compression socks, sunglasses, hot and cold packs, wrist heart rate monitor, bandana to cover unwashed hair, since bathing takes a 2-3 day recovery.

My little cures: Sepia photo of the book Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens, edited by Marieke Nijkamp, on a wooden table, surrounded by pill organization box, liquid brown medicine bottle and syringe, sprays, salt, electrolyte packs, compression socks, sunglasses, hot and cold packs, wrist heart rate monitor, bandana to cover unwashed hair (bathing = 2-3 day recovery).

Curing Loneliness Together

How do we make little cures?

For me, disability makes writing harder. Beyond physical and mental limits, I've struggled most with the loss of contact: 
school visits, conferences, agent and editor talks, critique groups, and social support. To cure kids' loneliness, disabled artists need accessible community themselves. This requires flexibility and cooperation from able allies.

Second, all of us 
(with limits) can create disability representation. For that, able people need us

We do this together:

  1. Disability Groups 
    My peers are invaluable! They remind me our stories matter. Gently correct my mistakes. Model how to survive, strategize, and confront ableism. And rest. They teach me to keep learning. To keep writing cures for loneliness. 

  2. Able Allies - invaluable, too!

    1. Illustrators, continue portraying more diverse disabilities and bodies. Yet push beyond defaults, like old manual wheelchairs. (Resources below)

    2. Writers, avoid ableist tropes (see below). Consider whether you should write a disabled main character. Involve and compensate us in research, even if you have disabled family. (My perspective can differ from that of even loving caregivers.) 

    3. Community leaders, reach out. Ask us what barriers remain. Center us in every discussion on disability. 

  3. Everyone!
    Boost disability books, especially with intersectional representation.

by lessening the loneliness of disabled creators, 
by collaborating,

we can create for kids

bookshelves full of cures 
for loneliness.

The author is being wheeled through the woods, over grass, in her reclining "Franken-Chair" (as it's affectionately called) with elevated foot rests. I have a big, silly, open-mouthed grin on my face. I've a blonde bob, blue hoodie, gray pants and rainbow socks. A smiling friend in a baseball cap and beard is pushing the chair, another man walks along side. We were on the way to the boat - first time in four years!

Rare moment with friends! The author is being wheeled through the woods, over grass, in a reclining manual wheelchair with elevated foot rests, which I affectionately call The Franken-Chair. I have a big, silly, open-mouthed grin on my face. I've a blonde bob, blue hoodie, gray pants and rainbow socks. A smiling friend in a baseball cap and beard is pushing the chair; another man walks along side.


For Disabled Creatives:

Illustrating More Diverse Aids/ Disabilities (Please!) and Manual Wheelchairs

Avoiding Ableist Tropes (Authors/ Illustrators)

The author, a white woman with long, blonde hair and glasses and violet shirt holds the picture book LOVE, VIOLET beside a window. The book cover: The cover of the picture book LOVE, VIOLET: In a snowscape with warm, sunset sky and falling snow, a peach-skinned girl with short, asymmetrical red hair, cowgirl hat, and purple coat holds a pink valentine heart to her chin, smiling toward a girl smiling back, who has brown skin and thick curly black hair and is wearing violet stocking cap and winter coat and is running happily toward the edge of the book.

Author Charlotte Sullivan Wild (light skin with long, honey-colored hair, glasses, violet shirt, smiling) sitting/ leaning in a window corner, holding up the picture book Love, Violet (illus. Charlene Chua, FSG), which features Violet with short, red hair in her cowgirl hat, peach skin, holding a valentine and smiling at Mira, who smiles back, with thick curly dark hair and brown skin, running into the snowy sunset.

Cover of the picture book The Amazing Idea of You. Blue background with red script words fo the title curved over a circle of vines. Inside the circle is an Asian girl with bob hair, eyes closed, arms extended up; beside her are a yellow gosling and apple with a bite out of it.
Charlotte Sullivan Wild 
is the author of several picture books. LOVE, VIOLET, (illus. Charlene ChuaFarrar, Straus and Giroux; 2022), is a Stonewall Book Award winner, Charlotte Huck Honor Book, Lambda Literary Award Finalist, and Bookstagang’s Best of 2022 winner for Future Classics and Community Favorites (video). THE AMAZING IDEA OF YOU was illustrated by Mary Lundquist (Bloomsbury, 2019). Before becoming chronically ill with ME/CFS and POTS, she worked as an educator, bookseller, and volunteer radio host. She founded the Picture Book Salon of San Antonio and served as the RA for SCBWI Southwest Texas. Originally from frosty Minnesota, she now lives wherever her wife is stationed, recently in Texas, then Italy (with chickens!), and now Colorado. Learn more: www.charlotteswild.com

Picture book cover of The Amazing Idea of You (illus. Mary Lundquist, Bloomsbury). Blue watercolor around edges, red script for title in an arc over a circle of vines. Inside the circle, an Asian girl kneels, smiling, eyes closed, with straight, bobbed hair, arms extended up and out in a peaceful, open gesture; beside her are a curious yellow gosling and apple with a bite out of it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Scholastic Book Fairs Lets Schools "Opt Out" of Selected Diverse Titles

***UPDATE: Oct 25, 2023: Scholastic apologizes and, as reported by Publishers Weekly, "Will End Controversial Bookfair Offering."

“I want to apologize on behalf of Scholastic,” Scholastic Trade Publishing president Ellie Berger wrote in the letter addressed to authors and illustrators, which was shared on social media on October 24. “Even if the decision was made with good intention, we understand now that it was a mistake to segregate diverse books in an elective case.”


The new ability for school book fair organizers to opt-out of a separate collection of books primarily by Black and LGBTQ+ creators and about Black and LGBTQ+ characters and themes been much in the news (including herehere, and here.)

screenshot of the NBC news article, "Scholastic Book Fairs face criticism for isolating titles on race and gender"

Scholastic made a statement defending its position, saying, in part:

“We don’t pretend this solution is perfect – but the other option would be to not offer these books at all – which is not something we’d consider.”

As of Sunday Oct 22, over 1,400 authors and illustrators* have signed a statement urging Scholastic to do better. That statement reads:

“We, the undersigned authors and illustrators, are asking Scholastic Book Fairs to discontinue their “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” program and include those books with the other books in their fairs.

“As authors and illustrators, we cannot stand by while some of our books are offered to readers, while other works are separated and deemed as possibly dangerous to children.

“While the Scholastic trade division does publish many diverse books, the fairs division must follow that through and commit to actually getting those books to kids. The books separated for optional exclusion are almost entirely written about or by people of color or the LGBTQIA+ community. Deciding that the subject matter of these books might go against a state’s law capitulates to the idea that these books are not suitable for children. That is harmful, and wrong.

“Putting diverse books in a separate, optional collection is a form of censorship that cannot be supported. All children deserve to see themselves in books so that they can become engaged and empowered readers. Children also benefit from reading about others with different experiences than their own. Authors from marginalized communities need the same opportunities as other authors to succeed and shine.

“We are asking Scholastic Book Fairs to find another solution—one that does not compromise the integrity of the product they provide, which is access to diverse books for all kids. Accommodating and making it easier to concede to book banning cannot be the answer. In times of trial, we need to work and fight for people who want to do the right thing, not defer to the oppressors.

“Scholastic Book Fairs should be using their clout to fight book banning and support the teachers and librarians who are also fighting for access to books for their kids. Simply, there has to be a better way.”

Scholastic, as reported by NBC news, "manages sales at 120,000 book fairs nationwide." and according to statistics shared by WordsRated is "the largest Children’s book publisher in the US, making over a quarter (28.6%) of the industry revenue in the market. They publish over 750 new books every year." Additionally, WordsRated reported that for its Fiscal Year 2022, “Scholastic achieved a revenue of $946.5 million in children’s book publishing and distribution."

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

*Dislosure: As an individual and author myself, I signed this statement as well.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Disability Doesn’t Have to be Scary, Not Even for Children

The first time a publishing professional commented that my chronic illness disability might be too scary for children, I was a bit taken aback. After all, my own children live this reality every day.

Yes, it can be scary. But is it the kind of scary that we need to shield our children from or is that doing them a disservice? Is it the kind of scary that has no value to the consciousness of children, and all people, as they consider their own lives and how they interact in their community?

There is a balance, and the question “Isn’t this too scary for kids?” can be valid. But perhaps the answer can be “So how can we show the scary without it being overwhelming?”

This is something already happening in children’s literature outside of chronic illness representation. In How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons, the dangling feet from hanged Black people are certainly scary, and they should be. 

But disability in children’s literature too often has an element of comedy or there’s a message that the disability isn’t too bad or as hard as you might think. In Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, for instance, the plucky armless heroine who grabs life by the horns is loveable and brave, but I love more the times when she admits her disability is hard. Scary even.

There seems to be a stigma with chronic illness and medical disabilities in particular. Perhaps this stems from a fear of hospitals and medical procedures which small children often fear. In my picture book, Same Love, Different Hug, a child is lying in bed with a glucose monitor. We thought that wouldn’t be too scary and I am glad to have this representation in my book. But what about children who need breathing machines, drip bags, ostomies, etc.? Too scary?

It’s important to show that disabled people can play baseball, make friends at school, and live life to the fullest. Because that’s real. But it’s also important to show that sometimes we may need to stay in bed for long periods of time, be stuck in the hospital, or have medical equipment attached to us. Because that’s real, too.

Children who have “scary” disabilities aren’t shielded from it by pretending it doesn’t exist or it’s not as bad as it seems. They are supported through it by being shown that some might struggle more, they might struggle more, and it’s OK to admit that and it’s OK to sometimes lay in bed for weeks and not try to make your life like everyone else’s. And I think that’s a view everyone can get on board with in children’s literature.

By Sarah Hovorka, author of Same Love, Different Hug


Sarah Hovorka is the author of several picture books and short stories for children and adults. As a bookworm and self-proclaimed homebody, she aims to share a little of her world through her writings. Beyond reading and writing, Sarah loves to play games, homeschool, and enjoy trees with her husband and three sons in California. You can find out more about her, her books, and follow her blog at www.SarahHovorka.com.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Before You Quit Your Day Job

The fantasy of writing (and/or translating, and/or illustrating) books for kids and teens and making a living doing so is certainly alive and well. 

We all listen to the wisdom of the award-winners and best-sellers who've achieved that -- and yet, it's helpful to set our expectations by knowing that most folks who are published are not making a living from their creative work alone.

I've heard it takes 40 books, or 100 books, or really just one that's such a huge bestseller that it changes the math.

screen shot of Publishers Weekly article, "Writing Books Remains a Tough Way to Make a Living"

It's always good to have some data. The Authors Guild released the results of their recent survey, and while it's on authors of everything, the results are eye-opening. Reported by Jim Milliot in Publishers Weekly on September 29, 2023, Writing Books Remains a Tough Way to Make a Living, here are a number of highlights:

The survey, which drew responses from 5,699 published authors, found that in 2022, their median gross pre-tax income from their books was $2,000.

While the combined income (book income plus other writing-related income) of full-time, established authors (those who had written a book in 2018 or before) rose 21% in 2022 (to $23,329) from 2018, the median income was still below poverty level. 

The report did have some good news for aspiring authors, finding that the top 10% of established authors who participated in the survey had median book income of $275,000 last year. On the flip side, the bottom 50% had median book income of $1,300.

A fascinating note about those who publish their own work:

While in 2022, the median book-related income for full-time self-published authors was $10,200—much less than full-time traditionally published trade authors, who earned $15,000—established (five-plus years of publishing experience) full-time self-published authors more than doubled their book income in 2022 compared to 2018, to $19,000. Over that time, established full-time traditionally published trade authors’ book income only rose 11%, to $15,000, demonstrating that experienced self-published authors are now significantly more effective at boosting their earnings than their experienced traditionally published counterparts.

The full PW article is well-worth checking out.

A note as you digest this: money is just one measure of success, and it's important to include all the other measures of success creating work for kids and teens has for each of us when we think about the value of our work. 

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Five Tips for Managing Your Mental Health as a Disabled Writer

A bouquet of pink flowers on top of a notebook with writing. “Nobody will want to read about your…difference.”

“It’s not possible for kids with two hands to relate to kids with one.”

“Writing about disability is weird.”

These are a few of the things I’ve been told as a disabled writer who writes about her amputation. For disabled people, the mental weight of discrimination, especially as it relates to our disability status, can be a major obstacle in telling our stories. While nobody should be told that their voice is “weird” or unrelatable or unwanted, the unfortunate reality is that this ableism, or disability discrimination, happens far too often. Learning to take care of your mental health in the face of such discrimination can be challenging. In honor of World Mental Health Day this week (Oct. 10), here are five ways that disabled writers can support their mental health:

1.       Disability Community

Having a community of individuals with similar experiences of discrimination and disability can be a great way to find validation and support through mentally challenging days.

2.       Take a break!

Especially when writing about topics relating to disability and discrimination, it can be mentally taxing to continue projects for extended periods of time. Every now and then, make time to get away from the keyboard, the notebook, the speech-to-text technology...whatever you use to write.

3.       Channel anger into writing

Sometimes, writing about ableism can be cathartic! Try journaling or freewriting about discrimination when it’s all you can think about.

4.       Self-care

Take a moment to participate in your favorite self-care activity. From bubble baths to enjoying a favorite dessert, self-care helps you to recover from some of the emotional side effects that stem from living with ableism.

5.       Mentorship

Having someone who is also facing ableism and can help you find a path forward is always helpful. With Disability Mentoring Day coming up on Oct. 18, now is a great time to reach out to the mentors in our lives, especially those who help us through those challenging times.

While these are all great ways to address ableism after it happens, one of the best things that can happen to address the mental strain of ableism is by working towards a more inclusive, accessible society. The biggest thing non-disabled allies can do to support disabled colleagues is working with us to ensure our access needs are met. It’s important not only that we can physically access a space via ramps, adaptive furniture, and other physical modifications, but also that we have social access. Valuing disabled voices, ensuring that people with disabilities are included in decision-making processes, and including disabled people in every part of our society is an important way to show allyship and value disabled voices. By valuing disabled people in all areas of life, we can combat the ableism that can be so mentally taxing.

What are some other ways that you support your mental health as a disabled writer?

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

What's the Line Between "Upper Middle Grade" and "Lower Young Adult"? - Deborah Halverson Explains

screenshot of Deborah Halverson's Instagram post

With Deborah's kind permission, we're sharing this from her Oct 6, 2023 DearEditorDotCom Instagram Post:

“Look at your character journey. Even if the external journey is as big as saving the world, a middle grade protagonist's internal journey is about identity and relationships within one's immediate social group. It tends to be more inward-focused, working out identity within that small circle.

“YA tends to look more outward, as characters try to establish themselves as independent individuals in a bigger world. Friends and family still matter, but the young adult's world view is expanding.”

I certainly know writers who have been asked to age their characters up or down when close to this boundary. Hopefully, better understanding this distinction can be helpful to us all.

Thanks, Deborah!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Disabled Representation in Recent British Middle Grade Literature

 In the past two years, readers have been spoiled by own-voices, middle grade books with disabled main characters from British writers. Authors including Lisette Auton and Laura Noakes are paving the way for disabled authors in mainstream publishing.  Their characters have a range of physical and neurological disabilities as well as neurodiversities.

Here are a few recommendations of brilliant middle grade books;

The Secret of Haven Point (2022) and The Stickleback Catchers (2023) by Lisette Auton, Puffin Books 

My favourite thing about these two books are that they fit into my new favorite genre of book; disabled kids having adventures. Both books are magical explorations of disability and family.

The main character of The Secret of Haven Point, Alpha, has facial burn scars and monocular vision. Her family of ‘wrecklings’ have different disabilities and are a beautiful cast of diverse characters. Auton’s second novel, The Stickleback Catchers protagonist uses crutches and is neurodiverse. Auton authentically uses humour to talk frankly about disability in a way I’m in awe of.

Cosima Unfortunate Steals A Star by Laura Noakes (2023), HarperCollins

A historical adventure set in a home for disabled girls. The protagonist, Cosima, has hypermobile spectrum disorder and the other girls in the home have a range of disabilities. Cosima and her friends go on a quest across London to solve the mystery of who Cosima’s mother was. I love how this book is explicitly anti-eugenics and teaches young readers about ableism.

Jayben and the Golden Torch by Thomas Leeds (2023), Hodder 

Leeds’ protagonist Jayben has a brain injury and epilepsy. He wakes up in a magical world with no memories and goes on a quest to save the world. This book is inspired by the authors experiences with his brain injury and memory loss. 

Vivi Conway and the Sword of Legend (2023) by Lizzie Huxley-Jones 

Vivi is an autistic main character who discovers Excalibur and gains magical powers. The book is a perfect example of having a neurodivergent main character without making it an ‘issue book’.

The books I’ve recommended include representation of facial differences, autism, brain injuries, cerebral palsy, hypermobility spectrum disorder and even more. I wholeheartedly recommend them for all readers but they certainly mean something more to disabled readers. Where were these books when I was ten?! It has been so refreshing to see these writers excel and I hope this trend continues. 

I can’t wait to see what the future holds for these disabled authors!

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Banned Books Week - A Survey of Independent Publishers and the Chilling Effect of "Shadow Banning"

The results of this survey of members of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) were very telling:

17 percent of the IBPA member publishers who responded said they’ve had a book challenged or banned. And more than double that number – 40 percent – believe book bans are impacting their business.

Click through to read the interviews with two independent publishers deeply affected by the current rise in book banning and challenges, Missy Zombor of Rethinking Schools and Arthur Levine of Levine Querido.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,