Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Happy Book Birthday! A New Benefit For SCBWI Members

SCBWI is thrilled to launch a new member benefit—the Happy Book Birthday program. Beginning in February, 2018, our Happy Book Birthday program invites all members to announce their new book in the month that it is released.

Every month, authors and illustrators can send an image of their soon-to-be-published book cover and a 25-word summary to bookbirthday@scbwi.org. On the first of each month, we’ll display all of the books on our beautiful Book Birthday page, and advertise them through our social media channels to drive traffic to the Birthday page. We’ll leave the Book Birthday announcements up on our site for two weeks.

 We hope that all of our traditionally and independently published members will take advantage of this opportunity to celebrate their achievement and launch their work into the book-buying community.

The first Book Birthday will be for all books published in February 2018. On December 15th, members with February books can start submitting their information. The deadline is January 10th, no exceptions.

Please send the following to bookbirthday@scbwi.org
1.) Title of book,
2.) name of author and/or illustrator,
3.) book cover, and
4.) summary or statement maximum 25 words

Illustrate and Write and Celebrate On,

Thursday, December 7, 2017

When To Cheat On Your Book - A Guest Post by Lori Snyder

This post originally ran on Lori's Splendid Mola blog. With her kind permission, we get to enjoy it here...

When To Cheat On Your Book

I’ve been working on my current WIP for about eight months, a new middle grade (or possibly young adult) work that mashes together a bunch of things I love: Sufi poetry. The nature of hope. Finding your tribe. Quantum physics. You know, just the usual.
I’ve been thinking about this book for years, so when I sent off my final revision of my last book to my agent, I was completely excited to sit down and start working. I had decided to try a new method, based on the Al Watt book The 90-Day Novel. It wasn’t really that different from my last method, which entails me writing what I call an “outline” but which is actually 20-50K of stream-of-consciousness notes about the world, the characters, the story. These notes include things like “YAY! I love this!” and “Nope. Wrong” or, most eloquently, “Ack.”
Anyway, The 90-Day Novel is designed to walk you through completing your first draft in (you guessed it) 90 days. The first 30 days are dedicated to getting to know your main character and antagonist through a series of writing prompts. I don’t write everyday, so this part took me a little while longer. I liked this method a lot. After the first 30 days, I knew my character better than I usually do (main characters are often my writing nemesis), but I also knew I wasn’t ready to start writing the book. There wasn’t a story yet. Or, to be more accurate, stories had presented themselves but they were the wrong ones, not the ones this book needed.
So I abandoned the schedule of 90 days and wrote more notes. After a few months, even though I wasn’t really sure where the story was going, I felt the pull to start the actual draft, so I wrote the first couple of chapters. They didn’t feel right. I took more notes and wrote a new set of first chapters—which were also wrong.
And, again: more notes, new first chapters.
Still wrong.
No matter what I did, I couldn’t find my way into this book.
It was very not fun.
About this time I turned 50 and, for my birthday, gave myself a week off to just be. At this point I wasn’t spinning only on my book; I was also spinning on my businesses and the meaning of my life and money and way too many other things. Stopping was exactly what needed to happen. (Also, my dear friend and writing group partner Frances sent me this Ask Polly article, which had the effect of completely upending my world view in a truly wonderful and unexpected way…but, as Michael Ende says in The Neverending Story, that’s a different story and shall be told a different time. However, I hope you enjoy the article.)
During my week of being I didn’t plan to do anything in particular. I gave myself permission to do whatever seemed right. I ended up going for a lot of walks on the beach while listening to podcasts about creativity, flow, happiness, and writing, four of my favorite topics.
One of the podcasts was Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons (love her!!!), particularly this episode where she spoke with a woman in her mid-50s, an art teacher who wanted to do the art that was calling to her and didn’t feel allowed, somehow. Elizabeth Gilbert suggested that to this woman that she run off and have an affair with her art: Do it in secret, maybe even sneaking off at 3 am or grabbing a stolen ten minutes in the stairwell. Most of all, don’t tell anybody.
Now, I don’t like affairs/betrayal/cheating, so the use of that language, even though it wasn’t meant that way, did give me pause. But, suddenly, as I listened, I thought…you know what? I think need to have an affair with a different book.
I’m an odd kind of writer, the kind who has one idea at a time and isn’t seduced by the shiny new book waiting to happen. I’m in awe of writers who have lists of ideas and don’t know how to choose which one to do. My next ideas don’t come until I’m almost finished with a book. I’ve learned not to panic about that, because an idea always does come. Still, when I talk to writers who have lists of books they want to write, I marvel.
This time, though, it was different. I had a snippet of a beginning I’d written over a decade ago, something I’ve kept all this time because I love it so. And, strangely, ideas for that story had been popping up as I struggled with my WIP.
So I decided to do what Liz Gilbert had suggested to that other woman. I would try working on the new book and just see what happened. I would do it in secret. I wouldn’t tell anybody.
Those of you who know me know that, when it comes to things about myself, “secret” isn’t how I operate. (This is different if I’m holding someone else’s secret, but for me, I do best with total transparency. I’m a big fan of talking about things.) So, of course, that night when my husband came home, I told him about it immediately. And then when Frances, who had sent me the Ask Polly article above, called, I told her, too. And these conversations were key.
My husband rightly pointed out that a couple of years ago, when I first started talking about my current WIP (which, you may recall, is partly about the nature of hope), I was in a different place. A lot has happened in the last two years, to put it mildly, and he suggested that maybe “hope” meant something very different to me than it does now. (He was right.) And, he added, maybe I hadn’t quite figured out what my relationship with hope was now, which would make writing a rumination on it a little difficult. (Yes. He is wonderful. And brilliant. Not that I’m biased.)
Frances told me that she had been thinking that perhaps it wasn’t the right time for my current book. She reassured me that I didn’t have to worry that I was just running after the new, shiny idea because my current book was a little difficult. “In fact,” she said thoughtfully, which is how she says most things, “if anything, you have the opposite problem.” (She was also right. Also brilliant and wonderful.)
This all happened on the Thursday and Friday of my week off. That next Monday, I started my affair. I put my WIP aside and began writing notes for the new book. My usual way to work is to write notes for six to eight months before I start the first draft.
Not this book, though. This book took a mere three days of notes (!!) for the story to unfold itself in such a gorgeous and luminous way that I kept worrying that maybe I had actually stolen the whole thing from something that already existed, and only thought it was original. (I don’t think I did. But I’m still a little worried.)
And then I started writing. Two weeks in, I’m on the third chapter, and I know exactly where it’s going. It’s flowing in a way my other WIP never did (sorry, dear, sweet cheated-on book!). Best of all, it’s making me happy.
I don’t know if the whole book will fly out of me the way these past few chapters have, but I do know this: it was the absolute right decision to go after this sparkly new book. I’m pretty sure we’re in love.
How do you know when it’s the right time to cheat on your WIP with a new book or idea? For me, it’s like everything else: You know it’s the right time when you know who you are and what makes you happy, and then (this is key, I’ve discovered) take the time to stop every now and then and remember those things. That’s when it becomes clear. That’s when everything becomes clear. The pauses are key. They don’t have to be long: a couple hours of truly clearing your schedule and letting yourself just be might do it. The permission is what makes the difference, though—if you spend the time thinking or feeling bad about all the things you “should” be doing, the magic won’t happen.
So if you’re confused, or spinning, give it a shot. Take as long as you possibly can…maybe even a tad longer. Brené Brown, a researcher and author I love, writes herself a permission note, the same as a parent would write their kid to get out of school. Do that if you have to. Give yourself permission to be and not do during that time. And see what happens. (Note: this is useful no matter what’s going on in your life. I highly recommend trying it on a regular basis.)
I definitely plan to go back to the other book. That relationship isn’t over, not by a long shot. It just needs some time to sit and mature, to grow into what it needs to be.
In the meantime, my new book and I are very, very happy.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Results are in for Hannah Holt's survey of 48 YA authors - "Writing for Young Adults - A Look at the Numbers"

The results of this survey, "Writing for Young Adults - A Look at the Numbers," are so interesting. Thanks to Hannah and the 48 anonymous YA authors for sharing this information with us all!

Here's are some highlights:

It took about 70% of young adult authors four or more years to publish their first book.

Large houses average debut copies sold: 22,200
Small houses with advance: 7,800 copies
Small houses without advance: 2,000 copies


Most young adult authors are rejected by publishers before their manuscript is accepted for publication. In fact, 8.5% receive more than 100 rejections.

It's well-worth reading.

Overall, it's helpful to have realistic expectations of the career-side of being an author.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Stuck on your Work In Progress? Janet Fox wrote a treatment

Janet Fox, a pantser, explains how she tried something new with her latest revision:

"I had to take drastic, desperate action. Which meant…making a plan.

But here’s the catch. I couldn’t bring myself to make a detailed outline, even with this mess. I needed direction and focus, not constraints that would make me hate the work. I needed to understand deeper motivation and theme, I had to expand my character analysis, and I wanted to be certain that the plot was not only clear but also included the twists and turns that I love to incorporate in my stories.

So I wrote a 'treatment.' It’s the kind of thing that filmmakers write as they are about to begin storyboarding."
Go here to read the full post.

Illustrate and Write On (and maybe try writing a treatment!)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Creative Life - The example of Fred Gwynne

Andy Wright over at Atlas Obscura wrote this article on Fred Gwynne. Gwynne is the actor who played Herman Munster, and also the author/illustrator of punny children's picture books including "The King Who Rained."

Is it another example of a celebrity publishing a children's book because they can (and there's an audience for more from them) or is it an example of a full creative life, well-lived? As the article's author puts it, "Gwynne’s books are the real deal."

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect is the challenge it puts forth to all of us who create -- are we putting up boundaries and barriers to our own creative expression? And yet, if we are too spread out and lack focus, will we be able to achieve anything in any of the realms we work in?

Good issues to contemplate. Where is our focus? What else might we achieve if we allowed ourselves to envision our fullest creative life?

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Craft Exercise

If Santa Claus is in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, what's your character up to? (Photo by By tweber (Santa Claus arrives.) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Okay, it's not building a turkey out of construction paper and feathers (not that there's anything wrong with that!) but consider taking a few minutes over this holiday weekend, and imagine what your character in your current work-in-progress would be doing on Thanksgiving. Who are they spending it with? What are they dreading? What are they excited about?

Are they going to a sports game? To a protest? Will they eat turkey? Are they going to get the wishbone? What's their wish?

Whether you're an illustrator or an author (or both) this can be a fun way to better understand your main character, and get those creative juices flowing on a day that doesn't always allow for lots of sit-down-and-be-creative time.

So when you're passing the mashed potatoes, or watching your kids squirm under Aunt so-and-so's kisses, invite your character to join you... and see how your creativity is yet another thing to be grateful for!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Listen to SCBWI's Newest Podcast: A Conversation with Stephanie Garber

Stephanie's debut YA fantasy Caraval was a New York Times Bestselling breakout success. In this interview with Theo Baker, Stephanie opens up about her writing process, her publishing journey, and all things Caraval!

Listen to the episode trailer here.

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

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Elisha Cooper's meditation on the Life Cycle of a Book

Author/Illustrator Elisha Cooper's essay in Publisher's Weekly, "The Life Cycle of a Book" is thoughtful and poignant, and inspires all of us who create content for children to consider what's the life cycle of our creative projects...

Here are a few quotes from the piece:

"And though no writer, especially one describing the writing process in a Publishers Weekly essay, should be trusted entirely, the idea for my book Big Cat, Little Cat was conceived in minutes, and those minutes remain a mystery to me, and I was there."

"If a book’s conception is a mystery, I find its making to be the opposite. At least, the painting of a book. There’s a straightforward physicality to it. Paint, brush, paper. Using one’s hands. Taking an idea and nurturing it, teaching it to walk and talk. The happiness of raising a child, without the confusion."

"My idea, my meditation on my daughters’ grief, the paintings that had covered the walls around my desk, now belonged to someone else. My book was no longer my book, not quite, and knowing this was both sad and right. Humbling. It had become another person’s story, or room, a space in which they could dream or draw comfort. Their mystery." 

Elisha's essay is well-worth reading.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Working on a series idea? Janice Hardy has 6 Questions for You to Consider

Will your protagonist grow and change or stay the same?


 Can the series be read out of order?

 are two of the points to consider.

The whole piece is well-worth reading.

Thanks to Cynthia Leitich Smith for spotting Janice's blog post, and to Janice for pulling the questions together! Good stuff.

Illustrate and Write On, 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The New York Times Book Review and the New York Public LIbrary's Top 10 "Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2017"

For the first time, the New York Times Book Review has teamed up with the New York Public Library to present this list.

The Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2017 announcement in Publishers Weekly

The winning titles are:

Feather by Rémi Courgeon (Enchanted Lion)

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown, illus. by John Parra (NorthSouth)

King of the Sky by Nicola Davies, illus. by Laura Carlin (Candlewick)

Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters by Michael Mahin, illus. by Evan Turk (S&S/Atheneum)

On a Magical, Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna (Harper)

Plume by Isabelle Simler (Eerdmans)

A River by Marc Martin (Chronicle)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality by Jonah Winter, illus. by Stacy Innerst (Abrams)

Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illus. by Sydney Smith (Groundwood)

The Way Home in the Night by Akiko Miyakoshi (Kids Can)

Congrats to the winners - It's a wonderful reading list for us all! You can click here to see large images from each of the ten titles.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Tips for NaNoWriMo - Are you planning to write an entire novel this November?

NaNoWriMo =

National Novel Writing Month

Check out author Kim Ventrella's post over at Middle Grade Minded, "Three Tips for NaNoWriMo"

The tips are solid, including "Turn off your inner critic." And though Kim brings it up, one more reminder from me: Have fun with it!

click here to read the full piece

Having the privilege to write and/or illustrate, the luxury of the time and space to create (even if it's just a few minutes a day), is awesome. And should be something we do with appreciation and yeah, even a sense of wondrous fun.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, November 2, 2017

#NY18SCBWI has a new "Master Class" format, and is selling out fast!

This is exciting!

The 2018 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City offers an array of masterclasses with agents, editors, and luminaries in the children's book field, featuring keynotes by Caldecott-winner Dan Santat and best-selling author Angie Thomas, an agent panel, and an editor panel.

There's a Golden Kite Gala, a portfolio showcase, socials, peer roundtable critiques, a networking dinner, an autography party...

And with all that, the real star is you – and how much you can advance your career, both in craft and in the business of our industry know-how.

The masterclass format promises attendees a chance to delve deeply into their work with hands-on, smaller group sessions. As a result, space is extremely limited, but there are still a few spots left in these exclusive masterclasses.

Check out what's still available and register here.

Hope to see you there!

Illustrate and Write On, 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Listen to SCBWI's Newest Podcast: A Conversation with Javaka Steptoe

He's won the Caldecott. The Coretta Scott King Award. And he's a New York Times Bestselling Author/Illustrator.

Our latest podcast is an in-depth interview with Javaka Steptoe, covering art, creativity, curiosity, building a career, and so much more!

Listen to the episode trailer here

And SCBWI members can hear the full pocast here (log in first!)

Illustrate and Write On, 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Money, Diversity, and Creativity - part two

We're back with more wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert and her book, Big Magic:

These wise words are from the section "Your Day Job" on pages 152 - 154.

"...over the years, I have watched so many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay the bills. I've seen artists drive themselves broke and crazy because of this insistence that they are not legitimate creators unless they can exclusively live off their creativity...

I've always felt this is so cruel to your work—to demand a regular paycheck from it, as if creativity were a government job, or a trust fund. Look, if you can manage to live comfortable off your inspiration forever, that's fantastic. That's everyone's dream, right? But don't let that dream turn into a nightmare. Financial demands can put so much pressure on the delicacies and vagaries of inspiration. You must be smart about providing for yourself.

...You can look after yourself in this world while looking after your creativity at the same time—just as people have done for ages.

...So many times I have longed to say to stressed-out, financially strapped artists, "Just take the pressure off yourself, dude, and get a job!"

There's no dishonor in having a job. What is dishonorable is scaring away your creativity by demanding that it pay for your entire existence."

- Elizabeth Gilbert

Illustrate and Write On,

A New Children's Book Award for Comedy - From Author, Librarian, and School Library Journal Blogger Betsy Bird

Named in honor of Paula Danzinger, Betsy Bird recently announced "The Danzinger Awards For Hilarious Kids Books"

completely crowdsourced, the awards will be given in five categories:

– The Funniest Picture Book of 2017
– The Funniest Fiction for Older Children of 2017
– The Funniest Debut Author for Kids of 2017
– The Funniest Debut Illustrator for Kids of 2017
– The Memorial Dead Funny Person Award (2017)

You can vote here.

Shouting out to SCBWI's own Sid Fleischman Humor Awards, Betsy writes, "What this country wants, nay, needs is not one but MANY humor awards for children’s books."

 Sounds great!

 Illustrate and Write On - and go vote! 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Money, Diversity, and Creativity - part one

The intersection of these three things, money (and having the financial resources to pursue writing and illustrating for kids and teens), diversity of creators and the projects created, and creativity - how we best empower ourselves to live healthy creative lives, and nurture our creativity - is much on my mind, and seems to be popping up in many different places.

Today, let's look at K-Fai Steele's post at KidLitArtists.com, "Why we can’t talk about diversity in kidlit without talking about money"

K-Fai contacted over 100 creators and asked them about how they make money work, to explore the idea that

"Perhaps kidlit being a cost-prohibitive industry to begin with is one of the contributing factors to the lack of diverse books and diverse creators."

You can read the full piece here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, October 19, 2017

An excellent article by Mikki Kendall on writing "the Other"

From Mikki Kendall's blog, this article "Diversity, Political Correctness and the Power of Language"

"...a huge part of the problem is the assumption that the Other does not read. Does not consume art. Does not have a right to a voice in how they are represented. Because your bigoted depiction of them is a key component of the kind of gatekeeping that locks marginalized communities out."
"There’s this weird myth that bigotry only looks like physical violence, and yes that’s awful, but deep down the physical violence is only a symptom. Bigotry, real harmful sustained across generations bigotry is much more covert. It lends itself to creating fictional characters that paint Black people as violent thugs, it lends itself to Black motherhood being depicted as loveless, it lends itself to trans characters that are villains, to killing lesbians off for loving, to disability as a burden on families, to a million and one seemingly individual stories that paint a comprehensive picture of anyone who is not cis, white, straight, and able bodied as unworthy of existence, much less of equality."


Writers have the power to create brand new worlds, so we should always stop and ask ourselves why we are so hung on replicating everything wrong in the old one?

Read the whole piece. It's well worth it.

And while you're at it, read the brilliant "Fiction, Research, Reality, More Research" by Mikki, as well. It has this gem:

"Literally do some research, ask yourself why you think the past or future was white, cis, straight, able bodied, and slim. The past wasn’t that way, the present isn’t that way and despite the best work of bigots, the future is browner, rounder, and more complicated than anything you’ve been trained to expect."

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Diversity Awards and Grants for authors and illustrators

Do you know all 13 of these?

SCBWI Diversity Awards and Grants – Emerging Voices Award and Multi Cultural Work in Progress Award.
ALA Awards: Coretta Scott King Book Awards recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults.
Schneider Family Book Awards for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience.
Pura Belpré Awards honoring a Latino illustrator whose children's books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience.
Stonewall Book Award – Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award given annually to English-language works of exceptional merit for children or teens relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience.
 Asian Pacific Library Association: Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature honors and recognizes individual work about Asian/Pacific Americans and their heritage, based on literary and artistic merit.
American Indian Library Award: The American Indian Youth Literature Awards: presented every two years. The awards were established as a way to identify and honor the very best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians. Books selected to receive the award will present American Indians in the fullness of their humanity in the present and past contexts. 
Texas State University College of Education: Tomás Rivera Book Award:  to honor authors and illustrators who create literature that depicts the Mexican American experience. 
Association of Jewish Libraries: Sydney Taylor Book Awards given to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience. 
University of Wisconsin Madison: South Asia Book Awards: recognizes the year’s best among children’s and young adult literature that portray South Asia or South Asians living abroad.
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee; Américas Book Awards: honoring books that authentically and engagingly portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States. 
The Jane Addams Peace Association: The Jane Addams Children's Book Awards are given annually to the children's books that effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence. 
Scholastic Asia and National Book Council of Singapore:  The Scholastic Asian Book Award (SABA) SABA recognizes children’s writers of Asian origin who are taking the experiences of life, spirit, and thinking in different parts of Asia to the world at large.

Find out more at the SCBWI website Diversity Resources page here.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert's "BIG MAGIC: Creative Living Beyond Fear"

Just started reading Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I had to share what's at the end of chapter one:
"But I will never forget what the real Jack Gilbert told somebody else––an actual flesh-and-blood person, a shy University of Tennessee student. This young woman recounted to me that one afternoon, after his poetry class, Jack had taken her aside. He complimented her work, then asked what she wanted to do with her life. Hesitantly, she admitted that perhaps she wanted to be a writer.

He smiled at the girl with infinite compassion and asked, "Do you have the courage? Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes."

Thank you, Elizabeth. And thank you Jack, for those words.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Racism, Growth of an Author/Illustrator, and Context: A Museum and Children's Book Creators Grapple with the "right" thing to do

So the Dr. Seuss museum had a mural painted on a main museum wall, illustrations from Dr. Seuss' first book, "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.." (Mulberry street is only blocks from the museum's Springfield, Massachusetts location.) These illustrations included what today is understood to be a racist stereotype of a Chinese man.

Three children's book creators, Lisa Yee, Mike Curato, and Mo Willems were invited to a festival at the museum. They pulled out to protest the museum's lack of context for the mural, protesting the idea that the image would be seen by children and not interpreted in the scope of Dr. Seuss' evolution as an artist and a human being.

The festival was cancelled and the mural will be "replaced."

It's been reported in multiple sources, but I'd suggest you read the very well-considered post about this at Grace Lin's blog here.

It's interesting to consider both our power as children's book creators and how people (and even institutions) can evolve over time and go from buying into racial stereotypes to promoting tolerance, acceptance, and even celebrating differences.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Continuity of Subject: A Portfolio Checklist from Rosanne Kakos-Main courtesy of Harold Underdown's

Getting out of the Art File over at Harold Underdown's The Purple Crayon website has lots of great advice for illustrators.

Harold's amazing resource, Writing, Illustrating, and Publishing Children's Books: The Purple Crayon website

What struck me most was the list of tips from designer Rosanne Kakos-Main for illustrators to consider when putting together their portfolios, that included:

Continuity of Subject: Can you illustrate the same subject from different points of view, in different situations, showing different feelings?
It's a point well-worth considering, because it can prove to an editor and art director that you're ready to handle a project where we visually follow the same character in different circumstances.

Read the full article here.

Thanks, Rosanne and Harold!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

#PubForPR! An Auction to Aid Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief

A very worthy cause!

The Publishing for Puerto Rico auction starts Monday, October 2nd at 9 AM Eastern and ends Thursday, October 5th at 10 PM Eastern.

Find out more (and get bidding) at http://pubforpr.wordpress.com

And as Lily Meade explains in the video above, if you can't contribute money, know you can still help by amplifying the message!

Here's to doing good, and moving our career journeys forward at the same time!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Melissa Stewart's Nonfiction resource on the four year journey to writing her picture book, "Can an Aardvark Bark?"

Created for teachers, but with lots of value for all of us who write picture books, Melissa Stewart's timeline of her creative process for "Can an Aardvark BARK? is packed with information,


and insights.

It's well worth exploring, and then considering the elements that might help you with your own creative process.

Can an Aardvark BARK? Maybe not, but Melissa's process can certainly inspire!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Zareen Jaffery On The Latest Episode of the SCBWI Podcast

Zareen Jaffery wears two hats as an editor at Simon & Schuster - she focuses on commercial and literary young adult and middle grade fiction and teen nonfiction, and she also acquires picture books through young adult for Salaam Reads, an imprint that focuses on publishing books about Muslim children and families.

In this in-depth, behind-the-scenes interview with Theo Baker, Zareen shares about the challenges of being an editor, her thoughts on world-building and character, the drive behind Salaam Reads, and much, much more.

Listen to the episode trailer here.

And SCBWI members can hear the full pocast here (log in first!)

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Wrong Hands "Horror Movie Plot Generator" -- or, a useful list of clichés to avoid for everyone creating scary stories

This is brilliant! (And next month there is a pre-Halloween Friday the 13th - maybe you'll be inspired!)

Cheers to John Atkinson for the Chartoon fun!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Crystal Kite Interviews: Heather Lang's FEARLESS FLYER: RUTH LAW AND HER FLYING MACHINE wins in the New England Division (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island)

The Crystal Kite-winning Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine, written by Heather Lang, illustrated by Raúl Colón 

Lee: Please tell us about your Crystal-Kite winning book!

Heather: Every book I write is a new adventure, and this one was packed with exciting discoveries and personal growth. FEARLESS FLYER: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine tells the true story of a daring early aviator, who made up her mind to fly nonstop from Chicago to New York City in 1916. No one had done it in before. Aviation experts thought the flight was doomed, but that didn’t stop Ruth Law!

I am a fearFUL flyer, so friends were surprised to hear I was writing a book about an early aviator. Actually, exploring my own fears has been the spark for several of my books. When I read about Ruth Law, I couldn’t imagine the courage it took to navigate from an open cockpit in a flimsy flying machine made from bamboo and cloth. And what about the huge obstacles Ruth faced as a woman? Her persistence was remarkable. I especially admired how she immersed herself in her passion, becoming a mechanic and learning every nut and bolt on her machine.

Early on in my research, I read that Ruth kept a scrapbook. I tracked down the enormous book at the National Air and Space Museum archives. It was a gold mine, filled with hundreds of articles, ribbons, photos, and Ruth’s own handwritten notes. With so much material I could really focus the book and bring readers along on Ruth’s thrilling flight.

When it came time to do my experiential research for this book, I knew I needed to dig deep and find my own courage. What was it like to fly in an open cockpit? Since I couldn’t find an early biplane, paragliding seemed like a good alternative. As I stood on the edge of the mountain, ready to jump, I tried to internalize Ruth’s words: “I wouldn’t give a cent for any experience that didn’t scare me a little. The scare is part of the thrill.” Once I recovered from the initial panic, it was a wonderful experience—soaring up and down like a bird. It inspired me to weave the theme of liberty into the story—the freedom Ruth felt as a pilot and sought as a woman. Raúl Colón’s stunning art captured this so beautifully. He lifted my words to a higher level. I am still in awe when I look at the illustrations.

Author Heather Lang

Lee: How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you’ve gained by being a member?

Heather: I can honestly say I wouldn’t be a published author without SCBWI. That’s why receiving this award from my New England peers is so incredibly meaningful.

In 2003 when I first started writing children’s books, I became an SCBWI member and joined an SCBWI critique group at the Concord Library in Massachusetts. I immediately gained a community of writers, as well as inspiration and encouragement to keep pursuing my dream. I attended SCBWI conferences and learned invaluable skills that helped me grow as a writer. I began volunteering at our regional conferences. From managing the new members’ table to helping with freebies to organizing critiques, my connections in the community grew. SCBWI gave me the confidence to have faith in myself and take my writing seriously. I am deeply grateful for the many gifts SCBWI has given me.

Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children’s book writers and illustrators?

Heather: Surround yourself with writers and illustrators. Go to book launches, kid lit events, kid lit drink nights, conferences, and workshops. Go on writing retreats. Join a critique group! You will improve your craft immeasurably by critiquing others’ work and getting feedback on your own.

Just as important is the emotional support you will share with each other. This is a tough business with lots of ups and downs. Whether you are struggling with a revision or discouraged about a tough critique or a rejection, support from peers will get you through the rough patches. And there’s nothing like celebrating each other’s successes. I have made life-long friends during my journey and rely on them tremendously for support.

And don’t forget to treat writing like your profession, not a hobby. Take yourself seriously as a writer, be open to feedback, work hard, and NEVER GIVE UP!

Thanks, Heather, and congratulations again (to you and Raúl) on Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine winning the Crystal Kite Award! 

You can find out more about Heather at her website here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

How Do Publishers Find Their Illustrators? Editorial Director Amy Dean of Blue Manatee Press Shares Their Publisher-SCBWI Success Story!

As an illustrator, you have probably felt the worry of trying to find new projects from publishers; wondering when and how you will get your artwork matched with the right book project. If it helps, I can assure you that at times, we publishers have this same worry in reverse. Sure, we often have a bevy of illustrators that we have worked with in the past that we may reach out to for a specific project, but what happens when a project comes along for which we don’t already have a match? 

Pairing an illustrator with an upcoming board or picture book project is of the utmost importance. The text of a project is always key, but finding the right illustrator can really bring the words to life. And while it’s great to find a talented illustrator (and to my mind all of you are crazy talented—anybody want to see my sad stick drawings?), as a publisher, when pairing artists to projects, we are mostly looking for that illustrator that really “gets” the new project, and in doing so, can bring that extra magic to the book.

Happily, we have had such luck with SCBWI by posting call-for-artists on the job thread of the SCBWI Blueboard. Allow me to share with you a little behind the scenes of what this looks like from my perspective as Editorial Director for blue manatee press. First, we start with the text. I’ll select passages from the text and I’ll make them available in our call-for-artist posting. I ask for illustration submissions based on the provided text. The passages I select are typically either passages that are essential to the heart of the story, or have some tricky element to them that I am curious to see how an illustrator might approach. For example, here is a post for what became our picture book, Sleepy Solar System:
Project 2: A children's picture book on the Solar System, that will serve as an introduction to the planets as they get ready for bed. We're looking for something blending accurate portrayals of the planets with gentle whimsy. Below are three lines from the book, anyone interested should do his or her best interpretation of how he or she would illustrate the book based on these three lines. Candidates need only provide a single illustration for the line of their choice:

It’s been a long, busy day in the starry Milky Way. --> Opening Spread (2 pages)
Sleepy, setting Sun whispers, “Bedtime, everyone."
Saturn brushes rainbow rings with a bubbly toothbrush thing. --> a single page later in the book
Next, we wait. Waiting is tough. Soon enough though, the submissions start pouring in, and my Inbox is filled with delightful artwork.

For the next step in the process, I’ll let you hear directly from the selected artist for this project: Doug Cenko:
“What illustrator wouldn't want to draw the planets getting ready for bed? It's such a great idea for a book and I knew right away that I wanted to work on it. Once I submitted my artwork, it seemed like an extremely long wait before I heard back from them. [They] let me know that they narrowed the submissions down to me and one other illustrator. Fortunately, [they] gave me some feedback on what they liked and didn't like about my submission. I took that feedback and created an entirely new piece which ended up sealing the deal.”
Yes, yes, remember all that delightful artwork I mentioned earlier? Well, it often takes a long time to consider each piece and reach out to the illustrators we’re considering with additional feedback. Again, waiting is tough, and we’re often working on numerous projects at once. We do try to be as quick as possible.

Finally, the moment comes when we have selected an illustrator and everyone is on board with the project. It’s a happy moment. From this point, it becomes a straight forward editing process of sketches, feedback and approval progressing to final artwork.

For us, using the SCBWI job board resulted in an adorable picture book: Sleepy Solar System (yes, I’m a little biased, but look at it!).

Sleepy Solar System was a 2016 Foreword INDIES Finalist, and recently we were honored when it won the 2017 Gold Medal in the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards.

Furthermore, in reaching out to the SCBWI community we were able to connect with Doug Cenko, who has since gone on to illustrate two more projects for us: Dogs! (April 2017),

and its follow up, Cats!,

which will release this month. All three of the books that Doug has illustrated for us were written by Dr. John Hutton—a pairing of words and illustration that has been a fruitful one and we look forward to future collaborations.

If you’re not doing so already, I absolutely encourage you to make use of the SCBWI job board. I will certainly continue to do so. As Doug says, “It’s pretty amazing when you first get to hold your own book.” This is very true. The first step is submitting to a call-for-artists. Perhaps, I’ll next see your illustrations in my Inbox—I hope so!

Amy Dean is the Editorial Director of Blue Manatee Press.

The SCBWI Blueboard Discussion Boards is a benefit of membership, and can be found here.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

World Kid Lit Month Interview: Helen Wang talks with Cathy Hirano, Translator of Batchelder and Andersen Award Winners

September is World Kid Lit Month, a time to notice if global stories are reaching kids in the form of translations. Translator is now a member category in SCBWI, and two translator members are Helen Wang, winner of the 2017 Marsh Award and translator of 2016 Andersen Award laureate Cao Wenxuan from Chinese—and Cathy Hirano, translator of two Batchelder Award winners, and of 2014 Andersen laureate Nahoko Uehashi from Japanese.

The Andersen Award, conferred in alternate years on one writer and one illustrator, is a prestigious prize sometimes dubbed the Nobel prize for children’s literature.

It is an honor to have the translators of the two most recent Andersen winners in SCBWI. Here, Helen Wang asks Cathy Hirano about her life, career and latest publication.

Helen: Cathy, it’s a pleasure to meet you on Skype. Please tell me your life story!

Cathy: I was born and raised in Canada, and lived there until I was twenty, when I went to Japan. It wasn’t really about going to Japan; it was more about how I was going to live my life. When I was twelve, I ran into the teachings of Baha’u’llah, a 19th century Persian teacher. His words resonated with me, in particular, “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” I decided that one day, when I was grown up, I would travel the world.

Cathy Hirano

Helen: What happened when you were twenty that took you to Japan?

Cathy: I realized I was grown up! Instead of going to university (I didn’t want to study at the time), I had learned carpentry. But it wasn’t a good time to be a carpenter, let alone a woman-carpenter, because there were no jobs. My Japanese-Canadian friend wrote to me from France, saying her parents were moving back to Japan, and although she looked Japanese, she didn’t feel Japanese, and was scared to go. Would I go with her?

So I went to Japan, and stayed with her parents. My plan was to stay for a year, master Japanese, then go traveling, and master the language of every country I went to! But after six months in Japan, I realized that one year would not be enough to learn Japanese. By this time, I also wanted to study what makes Japanese and Canadian people so different. We feel the same emotions, things like love, sorrow and joy, in response to similar circumstances, and yet we express them so differently. So I went to university in Japan, and studied cultural anthropology.

Helen: Then did you go straight into translation?

Cathy: Not exactly. I went back to Canada, but felt I didn’t really belong there, that I wasn’t meant to be there. So I came back to Japan, and found a job translating for a Japanese construction company. They were doing international development work, and I was there for three years, translating project reports into English. I learned on the job, and my experience as a carpenter came in useful.

Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara, translated by Cathy Hirano (YA fantasy)

Helen: And you’ve been in Japan ever since?

Cathy: I’ve been in Japan for 39 years. I don’t feel particularly Canadian, and I will never be Japanese. Mostly I feel human. When you live with two cultures, it forces you to confront and let go of many assumptions. You belong to the world not to one culture. That’s probably why I enjoy translating.

Helen: I imagine you translate from home, mostly on your own.

Cathy: Yes, while I was working for the construction company, I got married, and when our first child was on the way, we decided to move out of the big city to a smaller one (the Japanese would call it a “rural” city) in southern Japan. When we moved here, I began translating freelance while raising the kids.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit  and Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness, by Nahoko Uehashi, translated by Cathy Hirano (YA fantasy), winner of Batchelder Award and Batchelder Honor, respectively for Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Inc.

Helen: How did you start translating children’s books?

Cathy: A friend who worked for a Japanese publisher asked if I’d read some Japanese children’s books and give an opinion on them. I enjoyed that so much that when she asked me if I’d try translating, I said, “Yes!” It was just as well I enjoyed it, as there wasn’t any money in it.

Learning Japanese had expanded my ability to think and perceive things in different ways. I found working on children’s books an enriching experience. And through translation, I was in a position to give children another way of seeing the world.

Hannah's Night by Komako Sakai, translated by Cathy Hirano (picture book)

Helen: When I myself started translating again after a long hiatus about seven years ago, it was a revelation to discover a friendly and supportive community of literary translators. I wonder if you have the same experience?

Cathy: Actually, until a few years ago, I didn’t know of any such community, and, living out in the “country”, I hardly ever met other J-E translators, let alone anyone involved in children’s and YA lit. Then, a few years ago, Avery Udagawa and Sako Ikegami of SCBWI Japan came to visit me, and invited me to a translators’ workshop. Thanks to Avery, Sako, author Holly Thompson and others, there is now a thriving kidlit translation community in Japan—the SCBWI Japan Translation Group.

For the translators, it’s wonderful to feel part of a community, to know there are others like you, where you can ask questions of all kinds and receive practical advice about contracts and copyright, things that before I had never thought to pay attention to. SCBWI Japan has organized workshops with translators, discussing and critiquing samples, introducing useful tools and so on.

The Friends by Kazumi Yumoto,  translated by Cathy Hirano (MG realistic contemporary), winner of the  Batchelder Award for Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Helen: I’ve noticed how dynamic the SCBWI Japan translators are!

Cathy: It’s a very inclusive group. There is a strong desire to provide opportunities for developing skills, for sharing knowledge, and for providing much needed moral support. There is so little out there for many of us. But they also see it as a platform to increase awareness of the role and importance of kidlit translation among people of related professions, including writers, publishers and agents. If we want quality translators and quality translations, we need to raise awareness of what translators do so that they can be recognized and compensated appropriately.

In recent years, dedicated SCBWI members have also introduced Translator as a third member category, along with Writer and Illustrator, and lobbied to have content for translators included SCBWI-wide.

The "Translator" box ticked on an SCBWI profile

Helen: Your most recent book is Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa, illustrated by Jun Takabatake. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Cathy: It’s about a giraffe who writes to a penguin, and then decides to visit him dressed up as a penguin. But he doesn’t know what a penguin looks like, and he gets it wrong. But everyone has a good laugh about it, and everything works out fine in the end. It’s a lovely, warm, humorous book.

Helen: I heard there’s an interesting story behind the story?

Cathy: Yes, there is. Megumi was not a writer, but one day she dreamed that she published a book called “The Giraffe that Pretended to be a Penguin”. When she told her husband, he asked what the story was about, but she didn’t know! So she jotted her ideas down in a notebook and put it away, waiting until the time felt right.

After her two sons were born, she kept thinking of the story, but the timing still didn’t seem right. She tried drawing the story, but that didn’t work either. One day her husband bought a copy of A Picture Book of Fathers by Jun Takabatake. She loved his work. After that, whenever she thought of her story, she saw it with Jun’s illustrations!  

One night, Megumi decided to read the giraffe story-so-far to her sons. By then, her youngest son was eight. “What happens next?” they asked, “tell us tomorrow.” This, she felt, was a sign that the timing was right and she completed the story.

Sometime later, she attended a storytelling event at her son’s school. And who should she meet there but the illustrator Jun Takabatake! He just happened to be visiting and had tagged along with the storyteller who was his friend. Megumi told Jun about her story. A few months later, he sent her an invitation to his solo exhibition in Tokyo, near where she lived. She went with her whole family, and Jun asked what had happened to her story. They exchanged a couple of letters, after which Jun asked if he could show the unfinished book to a publisher, and if the publisher was interested, if he could do the illustrations. And so the book came about. Megumi had never intended to be a writer, but a series of little miracles had made her one.

Helen: It’s funny how some things come into our lives, and stay with us, sometimes latent for years.

Cathy: Yes! And the story doesn’t end there! The Japanese edition was published in 2001. The publisher, Kaiseisha in Tokyo, and Yurika Yoshida at The Japan Foreign Rights Centre (JFC) worked together to promote it at book fairs. Somewhere along the way, someone also provided an English translation, but still no publishers expressed interest. One year, at the Bologna Book Fair, Yurika was yet again telling Julia Marshall at Gecko Press how humorous the book was, when Julia remarked that she had read the English, but didn’t find it that funny. Julia wondered why Yurika was so persistent in promoting the book.

Realizing that the humour was not getting through, Yurika and Julia decided to ask me what I thought. I found the Japanese very funny, in an understated way. The humour is in the situation, rather than in the storytelling. It warms the heart and makes the reader chuckle, rather than drawing out big belly laughs.

Humour, however, is one of the hardest things to translate. I decided to try my hand at it to see if I could get it across. Fortunately, it seems to have worked! Looking back over how the Japanese and English editions of this book came into being, I think that this story was meant to be, but it liked to take its own good time being born.

Helen: What is it that draws you to translating children’s books?

Cathy: There’s an innocence, a kindness, in some Japanese children’s books that I find inspiring. When I first came to Japan, it was understood that children were children; young children in particular were allowed to just be, whereas I came from a background where children were expected to behave almost like little adults.

I also think that books like Yours Sincerely, Giraffe speak to our common humanity. It isn’t being cool or sophisticated that brightens our livesit’s things like the warm bonds of family and friendship and little acts of kindness that we do for or receive from others. Books like Giraffe also encourage us to enjoy and celebrate our differences, rather than fearing them.

I have received so much from being in Japan, and translating is a chance to give back. I hope to share through my work all the gifts I have received, to open a door for someone and let them see with a new perspective.

Helen Wang is the Marsh Award-winning translator of Bronze and Sunflower by 2016 Andersen laureate Cao Wenxuan. Wang was interviewed by fellow SCBWI member translator Nanette McGuinness earlier this year on SCBWI: The Blog.

Our thanks to Helen and Cathy for this interview, and to SCBWI's International Translator Coordinator, Avery Fischer Udagawa, for coordinating.

Illustrate and Write – and Translate! – on,