Thursday, May 24, 2018

Michelle Morgan wins the 2017 SCBWI Spark Award (Older Readers) for "Flying Through Clouds"

The Award-Winning Book:


The Author:



The Interview:

Lee: Please tell us about Flying Through Clouds.

Michelle: Flying Through Clouds is about a teenage boy's dream of becoming an aviator amid the pressures and hardships of growing up in Australia during the Depression. Themes such as adolescence, survival, loss, family, friendship, truth and gambling resonate with readers. With a compelling mix of drama, adventure and humour, Flying Through Clouds appeals to teens and the young at heart.

Lee: How is this book non-traditionally published, and can you share the decision process behind taking this path?

Michelle: I am the author and publisher of Flying Through Clouds, and managed the entire publishing process myself. After attending a weekend workshop on self-publishing at the NSW Writers’ Centre in 2016, I was so impressed by the speakers and their clear practical advice that I came away determined to publish Flying through Clouds. The day after the workshop I developed a publishing plan and bought ISBNs.

Because my first novel, Racing the Moon, was traditionally published I wanted Flying Through Clouds to be of comparable quality. I engaged a structural editor, copyeditor, and proofreader at different stages of the publishing process and commissioned a cover designer to design the cover and layout of the book. I obtained quotes for printing and negotiated with a distributor to distribute Flying Through Clouds in Australia. I did all the publicity and marketing myself, which involved a book tour, blog tour, social media engagement, seeking reviews, writing articles, doing interviews, sending numerous emails, running writing workshops and participating in other literary events. I published the eBook of Flying Through Clouds simultaneously on Amazon Kindle and three months later made it available in other eBook formats. I also published Flying Through Clouds in paperback on Amazon to facilitate distribution to international readers.

Lee: What was (or is) the biggest challenge of publishing in this non-traditional way?

Michelle: The biggest challenges were the time-consuming tasks of editing and marketing /publicity. Editing a manuscript is challenging whatever route you take to publishing. So I guess my biggest challenge of publishing independently was the enormous task of marketing and publicity. Prior to proofreading and the final printing of Flying Through Clouds, I had one hundred plain cover review copies printed to send to potential reviewers, distributors, and selected bookshops. I also sent copies to other authors who write in a similar genre and whose work and opinions I value. I was fortunate in obtaining two endorsements that I included on the cover and front page of Flying Through Clouds. To launch Flying Through Clouds, I arranged a book tour with events in bookshops, libraries, an art gallery, and a museum. I also prepared the content for a blog tour, which involved articles and interviews posted on a series of kids’ lit and author blogs. More articles, media interviews, and literary events followed, and I also entered Flying Through Clouds in award contests such as the SCBWI Spark Award.

Lee: What’s the greatest benefit?

Michelle: The greatest benefit of independent publishing has been the immense satisfaction and level of control over the publishing process. It was very satisfying to have direct contact with all editors and be able to choose the cover design myself from the four concepts presented by the cover and layout artist. I have learnt a lot about publishing and marketing, much more than I did with my first book, which was traditionally published. To date, I have earned enough from sales of Flying Through Clouds to cover publishing costs. It is gratifying to find so many people and organisations willing to help you publish your book – Writers’ Centres, professional organisations such as SCBWI, self-publishing websites such as the Creative Penn, Createspace, Amazon, Smashwords as well as bloggers and other authors. I’m really glad I had the courage to publish my book as well as write it.

Lee: Anything else you'd like to share about the adventure so far?

Michelle: I’d recommend independent publishing of print books for authors who have the time to devote themselves full-time to the publishing process and who can afford the up-front costs of professional editing, cover art, layout and printing to produce a quality book.

Lee: Thank you, Michelle, and again—Congratulations!

Michelle: Thank you so much for the opportunity.

You can learn more about Michelle and Flying Through Clouds at her website here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Inspiration from James Baldwin

Photo of James Baldwin by Carl Van Vechten from Wikimedia
"Whatever you describe to another person is also a revelation of who you are and who you think you are. You can not describe anything without betraying your point of view, your aspirations, your fears, your hopes. Everything." —James Baldwin

Thanks to Jon Winokur @AdviceToWriters for posting this gem on twitter, where I saw it.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Inspiration on writing Intersectional Diversity from Kelly Loy Gilbert in this School Library Journal Interview



One of the great exchanges in this Shelley Diaz interview of YA author Kelly Loy Gilbert:
Shelley Diaz: Picture Us in the Light addresses multiple facets of identity: class, immigration status, nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, languages spoken, mental health, religion. Why did you think it was so important to approach this story with an intersectional lens?

Kelly Loy Gilbert: When I was younger there was a long period when reading books about Asian American characters meant the whole story was about being Asian American, and what I really wanted, I think, was to read more stories where the characters’ race shaped and informed but didn’t define them. I wanted stories that explored the diversity within diversity, stories with characters who were as complicated and contradictory and interesting as the communities they were reflecting. And that’s always been important to me and always something I wanted to strive for whenever I got to write my book about the world I grew up in, but at the same time I don’t think I consciously set out to write this as an intersectional book as some kind of statement or issue. I think as I developed the characters their identities were intersectional as an honest reflection of who we are and the way we live. Because I don’t have “My Asian American Year,” where all I have to deal with is what race means, and then I solve that and move on to “My Mental Health Year,” and so on—we are so many things, all the time, and each of those things informs the others, and I think telling the truth in fiction reflects that reality.
Read the full interview here.

Illustrate and Write On, 
Lee

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Book Swag: One Bookstore's Perspective

Bookmarks. Buttons. Posters. Book-Branded Lip Balm. Storytime Kits. Kid-Friendly give-aways. Samplers.

Besides an ARC, what do bookstores actually use/want? What swag helps your book succeed—and what might not be worth the expense?



To help us figure it out, Meghan Dietsche Goel, the Children's Book Buyer and Programming Director for BookPeople in Austin, Texas, shared her take in this PW article, "Book Treats Brought by the Postal Service."

It's great to hear from the bookstore's perspective about what has value, and how issues like simplicity of packaging and display space considerations fit in the mix. The article is well-worth reading.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Larry James's tips on making your next book signing "an event!"




This article by Larry James includes some great ideas, including:

DON'T - Don't just sit at the table they have for you. Most authors do that. Be different! I always tell the person booking the signing not to worry about putting a chair behind the table. This will always get their attention. Let them know you will be the store's official greeter while you are there. Walk around the store with several copies of your book and introduce yourself to everyone. If those you introduce yourself to show the least bit of interest, hand them a book. They will almost always take it. Tell them to look at it and bring it back to the table when they are finished. On average, I more than tripled my book sales at signings by implementing this tip!
DO - Have your book covers enlarged in color to an 11 x 17 poster, laminate them and have them put them on a poster type board with a stand up thing on the back. Always bring them with you to the signings! Anything else you can think of to call attention to your table is also GREAT!
DON'T - Don't complain if you don't sell lots of books. Signings make those who bought your book feel good, but they really don't sell lots of books while you are there, UNLESS you create a presence WHILE YOU ARE THERE! I've sold as few as none to as many as 56 in a two hour period. According to book store managers, on average, book sales for a non-celebrity author will range from about 4 to 7. If you sell more, you're doing great!
and
DO - Get there no less than 15 to 20 minutes early and if you can, stay late. At a signing in Tucson, I sold more books in the extra 30 minutes after the signing than in the previous two hours.

Check out the full article here.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

"There's No Serendipity Online" - Inspiration and Wisdom about Discovering Books from Tom Cheesewright on Shelf Awareness



When thinking about the many roles bookstores can play (including community building, thought-leadership, and offering a safe space for diversity to be celebrated), this insight into serendipitous discovery felt profound and, worth sharing:
"Machines remain really bad at giving us a good discovery experience. The most sophisticated engines of personalization in the world are bad at finding us products that we don't know we want. They're good at helping us find things we absolutely know we want, and we know how to describe, but they're terrible at finding us those serendipitous discoveries, and human beings remain much better at that. It's why browsing a bookshop is so much a nicer experience if you don't know what you want, than browsing an online store. There's no serendipity online."

—Tom Cheesewright, an applied futurist, replying to the Bookseller's question: "If we're all reading e-books, is there still a place for bookshops?"
From the Thursday April 19, 2018 edition of Shelf Awareness.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Listen to SCBWI's Newest Podcast, a Conversation with Mike Curato



Mike Curato is the award-winning author-illustrator of the Little Elliot series of picture books. There are now four books in the series, with the first, Little Elliot, Big City winning several awards and being translated into over ten languages. Mike has also illustrated picture books by other authors, including Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle, and most recently, What If... by Samantha Berger.

In this two-part conversation with Theo Baker, Mike speaks about his inspirations, his career journey, and the SCBWI breakthrough that changed everything. He also discusses the role of research, the evolution of his own style, and more!

Listen to the episode trailer here.

Current SCBWI members can listen to the full podcast here (log in first!)

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Monday, April 30, 2018

It's the last day to vote in the Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards!



SCBWI Members, don't miss your chance to vote in the final round of the SCBWI Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards! Voting closes at 5pm April 30, 2018—and that's today!

To cast your vote, log on to www.scbwi.org. Once you are on your Member Home page, go to the left navigation bar, scroll to the bottom, and click on

Vote in the Crystal Kite Awards.

That takes you right to the voting page where all of the books in your division appear.

Then click the VOTE FOR THIS BOOK button below your chosen book and you are done!

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Exercise Part Two: Advice on Writing a Synopsis of Your Novel

If you played along earlier this week, you have a plot outline. Now, you can take that and create a synopsis!

Synopses can be tricky, but this article by Glen C. Strathy on "How to Write a Synopsis of Your Novel*," based in part on Dramatica theory created by Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley, has some smart insights.



A highlight:

What makes a hockey game or a novel mesmerizing is not a step-by-step description of what happens, but the emotions that accompany the actions, the anticipation, fear, hope, excitement, and disappointment at each turn of events. The elation of victory at the end, or the agony of defeat. It is the emotional twists and turns that make a novel or a hockey game appealing. Just as a good sports writer can describe a game in terms that capture the emotions, the secret of how to write a synopsis is to incorporate the emotional twists and turns of your characters – especially your main character – at the same time as you describe your sequence of plot events.
and then Glen walks us through a seven-step process (24 index cards) that sounds like not just a great way to write a synopsis, but also a pretty powerful way to diagnose what might be amiss with a work-in-progress.

It's well-worth reading, fun to try, and might help you write a synopsis of your novel.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Exercise Part One: An Eight-Part Way To Outline Your Plot

This week, we have two exercises to challenge us and enjoy, posted by Glen C. Strathy on "How to Write a Book Now."

Today, we dive into "How To Create A Plot Outline In 8 Easy Steps*," based on the Dramatica theory of story created by Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley.




With the challenge (and assurance) that the whole plot outline can be completed in less than an hour, Glen lays out eight basic plot elements.

The first one is choosing a Story Goal, and then Glen takes it somewhere interesting:
After we have chosen a Story Goal, we will build a world around our protagonist that includes many perspectives on the problem and makes the goal important to everyone in that world.
The second plot element is Consequence.
Once you have decided on a Story Goal, your next step is to ask yourself, “What disaster will happen if the goal is not achieved? What is my protagonist afraid will happen if he/she doesn't achieve the goal or solve the problem?”

The answer to these questions is the Consequence of the story. The Consequence is the negative situation or event that will result if the Goal is not achieved. Avoiding the Consequence justifies the effort required in pursuing the Story Goal, both to the characters in your novel and the reader, and that makes it an important part of your plot outline.

The combination of goal and consequence creates the main dramatic tension in your plot. It's a carrot and stick approach that makes the plot meaningful.
Check out the next six plot elements and the full article/exercise here.

No matter where you are in your work-in-progress, this may be worth trying out.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Check out this virtual YA panel on The Brown Bookshelf with Justina Ireland, Brandy Colbert, and Dhonielle Clayton, moderated by Paula Chase Hyman

This two-part panel at The Brown Bookshelf is well-worth reading!

screen shot of the panel discussion, as posted at The Brown Bookshelf

The authors talk about expanding the range of published books featuring characters of color (and, importantly, by authors of color), sensitivity reading, authors speaking up (or not) on social media, reader expectations, and much more. A few stand-out quotes:

Brandy: "I remember the first time I saw the African American section in a bookstore. It was a very strange feeling. Like, yay! But also—why do we have to be shelved in a different section entirely?"

Paula: "Own voices shouldn’t be a fad. My concern is this type of thing becomes a campaign. We have far too much catching up to do for it to be that."

Justina: "There’s a section of the population that wants the media they consume to be from people who uphold their values. Authors are going to have to learn to cocoon themselves or accept being more involved in reader response."

Dhonielle: "Now, it’s times for marginalized and black content creators to get the same roll outs that white women have gotten for decades for their books. Tours, big marketing campaigns. Our books deserve a shot at big audiences."


Read the full panel discussion here:

Part One

Part Two



Find out more about Justina Ireland here.



Learn more about Brandy Colbert here.



Dhonielle Clayton's online site with more on her is here.



And Paula Chase Hyman's website is here.

Thanks to Justina, Brandy, Dhonielle, and Paula for sharing!

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Registration for the SCBWI 2018 Summer Conference (#LA18SCBWI) Opens Today!

Join us!

There's new programming this year, including the "A Closer Look" sessions on Monday August 6 that let you explore specific areas of your craft in a small group setting. Those craft areas include Openings, Endings, Dialog, Voice, and many more.

There are panels, and breakout sessions, socials and consultations, the portfolio showcase and the Artists and Writers Ball... 

It's going to be remarkable. Full of craft, business, inspiration, opportunity, and community... We hope you'll be there, too!

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee