Category Archives: SCBWI

Lee Wind is a blogger, author and speaker, a co-Regional Advisor for SCBWI Los Angeles, the Captain of Team Blog and your official SCBWI blogger!

SCBWI: Registration for #NY13SCBWI Opens Friday Oct 19, 2012!

From: The Official SCBWI Blog
October 18, 2012 at 11:19AM

It’s the biggest event of the winter, in New York City!  (Feb 1-3, 2013)

Check out the faculty and schedule announced so far and more details are rolling out…

There will be a private portfolio showcase for illustrators, a Gala Party on Saturday evening, and a new Elements of the Novel intensive on Friday (as well as the Writers Roundtable where you get to read your work to an acquiring agent or editor and the Illustrators Intensive – Lessons Learned: A Candid Conversation about Arriving, Surviving, and Thriving as a Picture Book Illustrator.)

The roster of faculty and keynote presenters is beyond impressive:  Mo Willems! Shaun Tan! Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton! Margaret Peterson Haddix! Meg Rosoff! Matthew Kirby! Lewin! Krista Marino! Floyd Cooper! Barbara McClintock! David Ezra Stein! Jane Yolen! Linda Sue Park!

Registration opens tomorrow (Friday, October 19, 2012) at 10am pacific standard time at
(There’s even a discount rate on a block of hotel rooms.)

This Winter Conference will be full of amazing opportunities, craft, business, inspiration and community… and we hope to see you there!

Illustrate and Write On,


SCBWI: Tomie dePaola Wins The Society of Illustrators’ Lifetime Achievement Award – Our Interview, Part Two

From: The Official SCBWI Blog
October 16, 2012 at 06:00AM

Here’s part two of my conversation with Tomie…

Lee:  You’ve done a number of stories based on your own life, from the 26 Fairmont Avenue chapter book series to picture books like “The Baby Sister” and “The Art Lesson.”  Are you proof of write what you know?

Tomie:  Yeah.  That’s kind of a recurring theme in literature over the years, isn’t it?  I remember two examples really well from literature, one was Little Women, where Jo wrote this grandiose, romantic story and the Professor, who she eventually marries, says to her, ‘yes, you’re a good writer, but you’ve written a story about something that really doesn’t exist, only in your head, and you should write what you know’ and she wrote My Beth.

And the same in Mama’s bank Account, or, I Remember Mama, the character of Mama takes Kathryn’s manuscript to a writer, a lady writer, and asks her to read it, and the lady writer says the same thing that she’s not writing about what she knows, she’s writing about something that she’s in love with or romanticizing about.  So Kathryn sits down and writes I Remember Mama, and it becomes a huge success.

And I think that’s something that young writers have to learn, and they don’t often learn it until they have some dismal failures.  That’s what school’s for, I think, to have dismal failures, one after the other, and then Eureka, you’ve found it, and usually it’s right there at home. 

That theme of looking where you live, or looking inside yourself, is recurrent all through the history of literature and art.  When I got brave enough to write – the picture books were easy.  In fact, in the first picture books, I felt I could take a little bit of license, I could leave stuff out.  I could not get adamant about no, no, that happened in second grade, not in first grade, etc…  I even spelled my name differently, I spelled it T-O-M-M-Y.

Lee:  I noticed that.  Yeah, in “The Art Lesson.”

Tomie:  Yeah, and in some of the other autobiographical picture books, but in the 26 Fairmount Avenue books, I was adamant about making those books as honest and as truthful as I could remember.   The poor editors that worked with me on those – I’d say, ‘No, I’m not going to over-dramatize that because that’s not the way it happened.’  (Laughs)  It was a bore for an editor.

If someone had told me thirty, forty years ago.  I started out… almost fifty years ago.  My first illustrations were published in 1964.  If someone had told me that I would be writing the story of my own life, I would have told them they were out of their minds.  Because none of us think our lives are interesting enough.  But it was the children who said, ‘we want to hear more about your life.’  I’ve got one more in me – one more 26 Fairmount Avenue book in me.  I’m just trying to find the time and the health to do it.

Lee:  But, then again, you were never chased out of your house by an overflowing pot of pasta [like in “Strega Nona”] were you?

Tomie:  No… but I had to face a Mount Vesuvius of pasta by my Italian grandmother when I was only five and I wasn’t allowed to leave the table until I finished it.

Lee:  Ah, so maybe it’s ‘Write the emotional truth you know?’

Tomie:  (Laughs)  Exactly!  But I got even, you know what I did?  I finished the pasta.  I think it took hours.  My older brother, he was like a vacuum cleaner.  Anything you put in front of him, it was gone in two seconds.  I was a very picky eater with certain things, and one of the things I didn’t like was this pasta, with… well of course, Italian Americans call it ‘gravy,’ you know, tomato sauce on it.  And because a child, with my Italian grandmother, you didn’t get any meat or vegetables until you got a job.  All you got was the pasta.  And my mother couldn’t say, ‘no, he’s eaten enough.’  My Italian grandmother, besides saying ‘hello’ she said ‘mangia’ – eat.

And so, what I did, and I tried to put it in the book, and the editor at the time was too timid to let me do it.  I wanted to call it ‘The pisgetti book.’  Because of course no child can pronounce spaghetti until they’re in high school.  Every child I know says ‘pisgetti.’  I ate the big dish of spaghetti and then I promptly threw it up.  (Laughs) And my grandmother never made me eat a big plate of it again!

Lee:  (Laughs)  Oh man, I want the re-issued version of that!  You have to go back to that one – that’s awesome.  That’s so much more honest, right? 

Two of my favorite books of yours have really strong messages about social issues.  One is “Oliver Button is a Sissy.” 

Tomie:  Oh, thank you.

Lee:  And I’ll let you know that the final page turn has me fighting back tears every time I read it.

Tomie:  You know, that’s based on something that actually happened to me.

Lee:  Wow.  I didn’t know that.

Tomie:  Yeah, I wasn’t brave enough to sort of say it, back when that book… that book was way ahead of it’s time, and Barbara Lucas, my editor, was very very brave to let me use the word “Sissy” in the title.  And it’s amazing – as far as I know, that book was never banned from a library.  For whatever reason.  This is Banned Books week, and there have been all these articles about “Heather Has Two Mommies” and “My Daddy’s Roommate” and “My Uncle’s Wedding” – there’s a whole list of them online about which books have been banned and how many times over the years people have asked for them to be taken out of libraries. 

I’ve had books of mine that they’ve asked to take out of the libraries, but not anything because of being a sissy, I had the Chicken – I can’t remember the exact name of it – but it was like the ‘Poultry Benevolent Society’ on my back for two or three years because of my book “Tom,” about my grandfather. 

Because in that book, my grandfather actually gave me, every week, he was a butcher, he gave me chicken feet to take home.  And I would take the nails, and I learned how to move them by moving the tendons.  And they thought that was… First of all, it was terrible that someone actually cut the chicken feet off the dead chickens… this is the way some people think, you know? 

But Oliver Button, thank you.  And what was the other one?

Lee:  “The Knight and The Dragon”

Tomie:  Oh, really?  Oh, that’s interesting.

Lee:  It also has a twist at the end in a way that gets me so strongly.  I was wondering, do you see a responsibility for illustrators and authors to tackle social issues like bullying and war?

Tomie:  Only if it comes from a real personal experience.  I think that there are a bunch of children’s book writers out there, and some of them very successful, and they look in the newspaper to see what the recent social issue is and they write about stuff without having any personal knowledge.  “Oliver Button is a Sissy” actually happened to me.  I think in the second or third 26 Fairmount Avenue book I address it as my brother standing on the side watching the older boys play tag with my tap shoes in the school yard.  For some reason, I got this connection with this name, Oliver Button.  This is way before Benjamin Button, by the way.  I just liked the sound of it.  I wanted to tell the story of name calling and bullying because it had happened to me.  And I was rescued by some of the girls in the school, and I was rescued by somebody who I still don’t know, who crossed that word “sissy” off the school building wall in chalk, and wrote “star” above it. 

Lee:  I love how that really happened.

Tomie:  Yeah, it really happened.  I’m glad, you know, that book was done a long time ago and it’s still having impact, which is great.

Lee:  So is making sure what you’re writing is coming from a personal experience – not necessarily it is the personal experience – but at least the truth of your own personal experience coming through, is that how an author or illustrator can wade into those dangerous waters without getting too preachy?

Tomie:  I’m going to be perfectly honest here.  I don’t think that a straight person could write about a homosexual experience, because they’re writing about it from outside the window looking in.  Now, you can be a straight person and write about what happened with a friend of yours, but how can you… that’s fabricated emotion, isn’t it?

Lee:  I wonder.  I mean if, authors write females characters if you’re male, or there are white authors who write characters of color.  You have to get the details right, but I wonder if it’s about getting the emotional truth of it, like, feeling excluded?

Tomie:  Do you know Jackie Woodson’s books?

Lee: Yeah.

Tomie:   I love Jackie, and I marvel at her books.  Talk about… She’s experienced every feeling that’s been in those books…  You’re on to something here.  Sure, you can write about… Well, we have to become our characters, but then there’s that line.  And if you step over the line…  I could relate to Cinderella, frankly, growing up.  Because I had an older brother.   I was the little girl sitting by the fire, never going to the ball.  I could relate to Dorothy.  I wanted to be Shirley Temple and Judy Garland, I didn’t want to be Buck Rogers or Dick Tracy or Joe Palooka, those were images my brother had as a child. 

I think that somewhere there has to be an emotional connect to the experiences of the characters that we write.  And there are several ways to get that.  One way is personal experience, and then conjuring up those feelings of what it was like.  Not necessarily the historical event, but the feeling that was inside.  If you’ve never been bullied, then you don’t know what it feels like to be bullied.  You can write it as a clinician, as a clinical psychologist – this is what happens when a child is bullied – but only if you have been bullied can you feel it in your gut and then you can put that onto the page.  At least that’s how I feel about it.

Lee:  Yeah.  So your Story “Settin” in your folk-tale compilation “Front Porch Tales and North Country Whoppers” has two really unexpected elements – one was that fish-out-of-water experience of the couple of non-New-Hampshire natives experiencing an authentic “Settin,” which totally cracked me up.

Tomie:  That’s a true story!

Lee:  And then that the couple are “two young fellas livin’ in an old fahmhouse out theyah on the Greendale Road.” 

Tomie:  That’s right.  I could show you the farmhouse tomorrow if you come up. (Laughs)

Lee:  Is that a gay couple?  Or did you intend to leave it up to the reader to decide who they are to each other?

Tomie:  Actually, we didn’t know we were gay at the time.  We were both, we were living in this farmhouse because we had a spiritual ideal, we were going to become – this was a very popular thing in the far-out Catholic Church in the 50’s – it was called a Lay Institute, I think.  We met in a monastery, and we wanted to have kind of like a little, simple monastery.  And we had no idea that we were… I mean, I knew I was gay, but Jack, he was older than I was and he didn’t know he was gay.  And we didn’t live a gay life, we lived a life of two friends.  And that actually happened, that whole thing of sitting there with no one saying a word!  (Laughs.)

Lee:  That hysterical.  For me, as a reader looking at it, I got really excited.   I was like, ‘wow, it’s a gay couple in this great story, and it’s not really about their being gay, it’s just this hysterical story.’

Tomie:  That’s actually what it is, yeah.  And it was very interesting, because it wasn’t that long after that we both realized that oh, wait a minute.  This is more than a religious experience here, our living together.  But talk about being accepted…  Jack and I were terribly accepted in this little village in Western Vermont.  People loved us.  They called us ‘the two fellas,’ you know?  So I guess, if you don’t walk down the street in a dress, you’re all right.

Lee:  We’ll get the world to where people can walk down the street wearing whatever they want.

Tomie:  Yeah. That’s right.  Exactly.  You can in Vermont now. Vermont was one of the first New England states to legalize Gay Marriage, you know?

Lee:  Yeah, that’s terrific.

Tomie:  Yeah!


Come back on Tuesday October 23, 2012 for the third and final installment of my interview with Tomie dePaola, where we talk about Tomie’s books with religious themes, get his best advice for other children’s books illustrators and writers, and find out what winning the Society of Illustrators’ Lifetime Achievement Award means to him!

You can read part one of our interview here

Illustrate and Write On,

SCBWI: EXTRA! #NY13SCBWI – Registration Opens Friday October 19, 2012 For The SCBWI Winter Conference!

From: The Official SCBWI Blog
October 14, 2012 at 05:21PM

Exciting News!

The 2013 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City (tweetily known as #NY13SCBWI) is happening February 1st to 3rd, 2013. The conference runs two days (Saturday and Sunday) with an optional Friday intensive.  It promises to be an incredible weekend of craft, business, inspiration, opportunity and community!

You want details?

Here are just some of the Keynote presenters:

Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton

Margaret Peterson Haddix

Meg Rosoff

Mo Willems


Shaun Tan

There will also be a Booksellers Panel on “What’s Selling Now” and smaller breakout sessions called “What Hooks Me” featuring ELEVEN acquiring editors and art directors from publishing houses including HarperCollins, Scholastic, Penguin, Candlewick, Little Brown and Simon and Schuster.

There are three different Friday Intensives to select from:

The Writer’s Roundtable – A small-group critique of your work by an acquiring editor or agent plus two panels.

Illustrator’s Intensive – Lessons Learned:  Candid Conversations about Arriving, Surviving and Thriving as a Picture Book Illustrator featuring acclaimed illustrators including Floyd Cooper, Barbara McClintock, David Ezra Stein and Shaun Tan.

Elements of the Novel – A 50-person workshop that will explore and examine the elements of novel writing with Margaret Peterson Haddix, Jane Yolen, Mathew Kirby, Linda Sue Park, Krista Marino and Ari Lewin.

Three days to take your career writing and illustrating for children and teens to the next level! 

More details will be released at throughout the week, leading up to registration opening this upcoming Friday, October 19, 2012 at 10am Pacific Time!

Be Aware:  This conference will sell out!

Want more insight into what a SCBWI New York International Conference is like?  Check out our Official SCBWI Conference Blog for SCBWI Team Blog’s take on the last one! 

Hope to see you there,

Illustrate and Write On,

SCBWI: Tomie DePaola Wins The Society of Illustrators Lifetime Achievement Award – Our Interview, Part One

From: The Official SCBWI Blog
October 11, 2012 at 06:00AM

Tomie DePaola (pronounced Tommy Da-POW-la) is a Powerhouse!

Tomie DePaolo, photo credit: Julie Maris/Semel

He’s written and/or illustrated nearly 250 books for children, has been a long time member of the SCBWI Board of Advisors (he is now emeritus), founded the Illustrator’s Committee of the SCBWI board which produces events especially for illustrators, taught the first master class at an SCBWI conference, and so much more.

I had the great fortune to chat with Tomie about his recent honor, his career, and the craft of writing and illustrating for children.

Here’s part one of our interview:

Lee:  Hi Tomie!  You’re the man who put the “I” in SCBWI and now you’re the man with the Society of Illustrators Lifetime Achievement Award!

Tomie:  Yeah, how’s that.  Wow, huh?

Lee:  Congratulations!

Tomie:  Thank you.

Lee:  I wanted to jump into some questions… Do you think visually?

Tomie:  I guess so.  Yeah… You know, I don’t really know.  I think that when I have a visual problem, like doing an illustration or a painting or doing a room or doing a table or whatever, I do think visually.  I hear my stories rather than… the written word isn’t that important to me as much as for my voice.  When I was a kid, my mother loved the movies.  And my father really didn’t care for the movies so much.  He was a barber, my mother was, you know, just a housewife.  I came along and my brother was four years older than me.  So by the time he got off to school, I was still pretty young.  So my mother would go to the matinees and take me along with her.  And I learned sort of movie theater etiquette at a very early age.  And I have home movies of me at three years old imitating Mae West!  So, I think in terms of visual and sound.  When Lin [Oliver] was visiting, she said to me, What have you got on your CD player?  And I said, oh, I play lots of soundtracks, movie soundtracks.  Classical-type movie soundtracks, or exciting ones, like Babel.  I think if I hadn’t been an illustrator, if I hadn’t been a visual artist, I think I probably would have tried to get into movies.

Lee: I guess music is a way to help yourself get tone, right?

Tomie:  Yeah, yeah.  Well, I never saw a movie that didn’t have background music.  I think if I could carry around background music with me all my life, I’d be happy.  I see my life as a dramatic event!

Lee:  That’s good.  Hopefully it’s a happy event.

Tomie: Well, sometimes, you know.  Sometimes not. (Laughs)

Lee:  E.B. Lewis, in a session he gave on “Mastering the Visual Language” at the 2012 SCBWI Summer Conference, discussed how it’s not just writers who need to have a voice, illustrators need to develop a voice as well, and you just mentioned voice.  When E.B. was describing his own illustrator voice, he called it “emotion.”  How would you describe your own voice as an illustrator?

Tomie:  For me, there’s three things that are important in both my writing voice and my visual voice, my picture voice.  The first one is honesty.  I have to really be honest to myself and the material.  And not show off.  And not use the platform as a springboard for how fantastic I am.  But it has to be very honest, and I always keep the audience in mind.  I think that comes also from theater training, which is a wonderful training for anybody doing books or illustration.

The other thing is that I really love humor.  I like it when children laugh out loud at my pictures. 

I don’t try to – for a trained illustrator… ‘Cause you know, I went to Pratt Institute in the early days when discipline was very strict, and had to do lots and lots and lots of drawings, but the important thing that we had to do, we had to learn all the technical aspects, and the formal aspects of making a picture.  And then we had to forget it and make sure that all of that was behind us, and in our souls and in our fingers, and then we could create what would be any kind of an emotion.  And you learn how do that from getting assignments.  I didn’t want to just draw little duckies and chickies.  I wanted to draw young people having angst and opera singers throwing themselves off of buildings and all the wonderful things that I saw as a child in film and on stage and in puppet shows and in books.

If you do a lot of interviews, I’m sure you know that people have different vocabularies?

Lee:  Yeah,

Tomie:  Doing an illustration, it’s just honing the visual vocabulary that you choose or you are born with or that you train into.

Lee:  I want to make sure I got that.  It was honesty, humor and then I guess, the training, right?

Tomie:  Yup.  That’s absolutely it.  Honesty – I think that’s one of the hardest things for young people to grasp.  Because they’re trying to become famous, they’re trying to make a splash, they’re trying to get noticed.  And in this day and age, we have so many imitators.  Everywhere.  You have to find your own center.  And that’s where the honesty starts, being honest with yourself and then being honest with your audience.

Lee:  Like that moment in the 26 Fairmount Avenue series [in the first book] when you as a little boy find the chocolate laxatives?

Tomie:  Yes!  (Laughs)

Lee:  Uh!  Such an honest moment and painful to read but funny at the same time… It makes me think of how the best actors are the ones that don’t always look pretty…

Tomie:  Right!

Lee:  That are willing to look bad and are willing to go to those hard places.  That was a moment that made me think, Wow, this is an author-illustrator just being so honest.

Tomie:  Oh, thank you.  Thank you very much.

Lee:  And honestly, going to be one of my daughter’s favorite moments in a book ever.

Tomie:  (Laughs)  The awful thing is that they don’t make chocolate X-Lax anymore, just because of accidents like I had when I was a child.

Lee:  (Laughs)  When you’ve illustrated books for other authors, like “The Tale of Rabbit and Coyote” by Tony Johnston, and even in some of your own work, I’m thinking of “The Parables of Jesus,” you use different visual styles with different works.  I’m wondering if you can talk about the process you go through of matching the tone of the art to the tone of the words.

Tomie:  The minute I get a project that’s not my own story, let me just back up a minute…  I think the most important thing for me is to try to hold off on how I’m going to illustrate something – including my own work – until the story is in my hands.   In other words, it’s very tempting to try to start to figure out how I’m going to illustrate a book while I’m working on the manuscript, for my own stories.  But I really have learned over the years to not even think about what’s going to happen until the story is finished.  Then, I can let my wild illustrator imagination let go, and then it becomes the illustrator’s book instead of the writer’s book.

I remember years ago Wally Trip said at a conference – this was maybe thirty years ago – Wally Trip was quite a wonderful illustrator of animals especially, very very humorous illustrations.  He said, when he gets the manuscript about Helen’s bunny rabbit, it becomes Wally’s bunny rabbit.

(Tomie and Lee Laugh)

And that’s the way I try to approach manuscripts that I haven’t written as well as the ones I have written.  I let the manuscript soak into my head and say okay, Tony Johnston’s Rabbit and Coyote, Tony and I had talked about the project personally, and she wrote that book because she had lived in Mexico for a while.  She had met this Mexican-Indian storyteller, and he had some of these wonderful stories in a very ancient – not Spanish – but ancient Indian language.  And he told them to her.  And so she actually kind of translated them into Spanish or English.  So I immediately knew that I wanted to do that book in a more folk art, Mexican folk art style.  So I just immersed myself in Mexican folk art.  And then let it seep through and come out the other end the way it’s supposed to, or the way I wanted it to, or the way I was surprised by it coming out through my fingers.

And the same way with the “Parables of Jesus.” 

I had a choice, you know, my attraction to religious art, or sacred art, has always been pre-Renaissance.  The Romanesque, very stylized, not superhuman, but very stylized line and form.  So I chose to emulate that kind of style instead of an overblown or a sentimental style – which just drives me nuts, when I see anything done with a sentimental, whether it’s a religious story or a fairy tale or a Mommy-Loves-Me book.  Sentimentality has no place in my life.  Sentiment does.  But I learned years ago that there’s a difference between Sentimentality and Sentiment.  Sentiment is true feeling.  Sentimentality is a romantization of feeling so you don’t have to really feel – it’s a feel-good feeling instead of a genuine feeling.

So I really immerse myself in the story and let the story dictate… part of my job as an illustrator and  a visual artist, was, when I was younger, and I continue to do it, was to learn as much about the way other artists painted and how they saw the world so that I would have some little leg up on how I saw the world.  And you see the world slowly slowly slowly as an artist.  So I have a lot of resources built in that I’ve developed over the years.  And I have a huge research library here at my studio.  All the art that I love.  If I have a free day or free time, I often will just sit and open a book and look.  I’ve increased my vocabulary over the forty-five-plus years I’ve been working.  So I have a good backlog inside my head that I can visually match the story or the intent of the story to an illustration style.

Lee:  That’s so cool, thanks for sharing that.   I also love hearing that you have that pass-off of the manuscript from the writer to the illustrator even with your own work.

Tomie:  Yup!

Lee:  That’s fascinating… 

Come back on Tuesday October 16, 2012 for Part Two of my three part interview with Tomie DePaolo!  We talk about the maxim “Write What You Know,” discuss whether artists have a responsibility to tackle social issues, and much more!

Illustrate and Write On,

SCBWI: The 2013 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market – A Great Resource Features SCBWI!

From: The Official SCBWI Blog
October 09, 2012 at 06:00AM

Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market – 2013 – is out!

A wonderful reference work, this latest edition from Writer’s Digest Books, edited by Chuck Sambuchino, features – in addition to very useful lists of book publishers, magazines, agents and art reps, conferences and workshops, and contests, awards and grants ten informative articles (like “Picture Book Pacing” by Jodell Sadler and “Building Your Author Platform” by Mary Kole) and ten wonderful interviews (like Kristen Grace’s interview of Tamora Pierce exploring how she creates and works with numerous characters and Ricki Schultz’ interview of Rae Carson where they discuss, among other things, how the world you build for your novel needs to match up with how your characters think.)

One of the highlights of the 2013 CWIM is the “Meet The SCBWI Regional Advisors” interview (pg. 144) by the edition’s editor, where Chuck contacted 30 regional advisors all around the country – and the world – and got them to share about their regions, events, personal motivations for volunteering and their best piece of advice for a new writer or illustrator.  It’s a wonderful feature that starts out with Chuck saying in the first lines of the introduction,

“If you want to write or illustrate books for kids, the number one piece of advice you’re going to hear is “Join the SCBWI.”  I’d bet money on it.”

We certainly agree, and are delighted to be featured in this treasure-trove of great information!

Illustrate and Write On,

SCBWI: Publishers Weekly “Books I Love” Series… and an Exercise!

From: The Official SCBWI Blog
October 04, 2012 at 06:00AM

Publishers Weekly has started a column where authors like Libba Bray share the books that have been important for them… and why.

Books I Love: Libba Bray is, like Libba herself and her books, searingly honest and funny (or is it searingly funny and honest?) It’s her takes on ten books that made her laugh, made her wistful, made her love gothic, and made her “understand the power of story to witness, to fight back, to unite, to heal, and to transform.”

It’s an exercise well worth doing:  What are the ten books that have shaped YOU as a writer?  As an illustrator? 

PW describes the series as: “Books I Love is a series where writers talk about the books that inspired them, the books they keep coming back to, and the books they’ll always remember.”  

Write out the list of your favorites (and why) and see what you learn about yourself as an artist.  Then let us know here in comments how it went.  Did you learn anything?  See a pattern you hadn’t considered before?  Is there something your favorite books share that you could add to a work-in-progress?  Let us know!

Illustrate and Write On,

SCBWI: How Will YOU Celebrate The Right To Read? It’s Banned Books Week 2012!

From: The Official SCBWI Blog
October 02, 2012 at 03:00AM

Banned Books Week is a calling-out of the efforts to censor books, as well as a celebration of the Freedom to Read.

As writers and illustrators of creative content for children, we’re affected by the efforts to censor books, even when it’s someone else’s book being challenged. 

It’s happened to authors and illustrators, of fiction and nonfiction, picture books and middle grade and Young Adult! 

It’s happened to Lauren Myracle, Sherman Alexie, Ellen Hopkins, Suzanne Collins, Sonya Sones, Peter Parnell, Justin Richardson, Henry Cole, Phillip Pullman, Sarah Brannen, Amy Sonnie, and so many more!

How will you acknowledge the importance of the right to read this week?

There are lots of suggestions at the American Library Association website, and as galvanizing inspiration, here’s a video from Thomas University, made last year for Banned Books Week:


Share your Banned Books Week celebration in comments! 

Illustrate and Write… and Read On,

SCBWI: The 2012 Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award Winner (and Honorees!)

From: The Official SCBWI Blog
September 27, 2012 at 06:00AM

Selected from manuscripts submitted for individual critique at the recent #LA12SCBWI, the Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award is given to the manuscript deemed most promising for publication. Critiquers at the Los Angeles conference determine the finalists. Until her sudden death in July 2008, Ms. Alexander made the final selection. Now, a three-member panel from Sue’s writing group of 20 years makes a final selection after the conference.

The winner receives an expense-paid trip to New York to meet with interested editors.

This year’s winner is…

Kat Yeh!

Kat Yeh, the 2012 Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award Winner

I had the chance to interview Kat about her win…

Lee:  Hi Kat!  Congratulations!

Kat:  aw, thanks Lee

Lee:  Tell me about finding out that your manuscript was first nominated and then WON the Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award!

Kat:  It was pretty surreal. I had first intended to submit a MG for critique at the LA conference. It was something I had written last year during NANOWRIMO. But for some reason, the voice just wasn’t resonating with me. I wasn’t Feeling It (if you know what I mean.)  At the last minute, I decided to have a new YA critiqued, GIRL OF SHADOW.  It was a work in progress and, even though I knew the whole story, it wasn’t close to being finished. But I was Feeling It. I decided that I should have it critiqued to see if I was just talking to myself – or if my critiquer would Feel It too. The first day of the conference, I found out that I was lucky enough to have Josh Adams, of Adams Literary, for my critique. He represents friends of mine and I knew he was a terrific agent with an amazing track record, so I was excited. Josh was so great and supportive. Right away, he let me know how much he liked it and that he was nominating me for Sue Alexander. The funny thing is that when I was nominated last year – I kinda kept thinking that I just might win (which I didn’t). But this year, it didn’t seem likely to me. It was just a work in progress with a good start. That was all. I was happy – but mostly because I felt that I had gotten reinforcement that I was on the right track. So I was able to relax and not think about it. When I got the call, I was actually screening. I had been getting sales calls all morning and I really wanted to get work done. Then I heard this sweet voice on the answering machine say something about Sue Alexander. Of course I ran to grab it – and when they told me I won, I started jumping up and down and babbling. My daughter was home and we just kept laughing and jumping.

Lee:  Aww, that’s so sweet!  So, have you been writing furiously to finish GIRL OF SHADOW?

Kat:  Yes! Actually I’ve been writing furiously on several different project right now -though furious usually isn’t my style.

Lee:  So you win (in addition to all the attention and the huge vote of confidence) a trip to the New York SCBWI winter conference. Have you figured out your plans yet?

Kat:  I’m already in New York, so I was planning on attending the SCBWI Winter Conference anyway. It’s a such a great conference and the keynotes are always inspiring and weep-inducing. Right before I won Sue Alexander, I had been working on final revisions for a MG, getting ready to submit to agents. So a lot of things started happening at the same time. But now the agent process is just about finished and I’m very excited that I will be making an announcement soon. With that in mind, I guess The Plan is to keep working on GIRL OF SHADOW – as well as my other projects. Just keep trying to get them all to that next level.

Lee:  Well we’re very excited for you and will be cheering you on!  Thanks, Kat!

Kat:  Thanks, Lee 🙂 See you in New York!

There were also three honorees, Karen Bonner for “Oakatee,” Barbara Herkert for “Sewing Stories: The Life of Harriet Powers,” and Allison Crotzer Kimmel for “Toots.”  Additionally, Jenni Bielicki won most promising picture book for “Starry Kalahari.”

Congratulations to all!

Illustrate and Write On,

SCBWI: Editorial Anonymous – an excellent resource for Kid LIt Industry Vocabulary and More

From: The Official SCBWI Blog
September 25, 2012 at 06:00AM

Every industry has its own jargon, and it’s important to know ours.

Want to better understand royalties (both “on list” and “on net”) and earning out?  What’s meant when an editor says they’re looking for a “high concept” picture book?  What expected on a one-sheet?  What’s a lay-down date?  What’s behind the term “picture story book?”

Beyond our own lexicon, this anonymous editor shares some clear-eyed takes on what self publishers don’t tell their clients and what’s the real scoop on Merchandising and Ancillary Rights (like the plush toy you imagine being sold with your picture book…)

And if you want to snort water (or whatever else you happen to be drinking) out your nose, check out Editorial Anonymous’ take on the term “pre-published.”

Editorial Anonymous’ Publishing Dictionary posts are a great resource.

Go read them.

Illustrate and Write On,

SCBWI: Consumer Book Reviews and a Question of Ethics

From: The Official SCBWI Blog
September 20, 2012 at 06:00AM

It was reported recently in the New York Times (and “THE WEEK” Sept 7, 2012 edition) that

At least one third of “consumer” reviews of books and other products found on the internet are fake.  The fake reviews are written by marketers, retailers, authors, friends of the sellers, and even third-party companies paid to churn out positive reviews.

Some choice quotes:

“Twenty percent of Amazon’s top-selling e-books are self-published. They do not get to the top without adulation, lots and lots of it.”

Todd Jason Rutherford, who ran a business that sold positive reviews of books – for the rates of $99 for one online review,  $499 for 20 and $999 for fifty – said,

“These were marketing reviews, not editorial reviews.” 

“One of Mr. Rutherford’s clients, who confidently commissioned hundreds of reviews and didn’t even require them to be favorable, subsequently became a best seller. This is proof, Mr. Rutherford said, that his notion was correct. Attention, despite being contrived, draws more attention.”

“Amazon and other e-commerce sites have policies against paying for reviews. But Mr. Rutherford did not spend much time worrying about that. “I was just a pure capitalist,” he said. Amazon declined to comment.”

John Locke, who has sold more than a million ebooks through Amazon had purchased over 300 reviews through Mr. Rutherford.  Locke said,

“Reviews are the smallest piece of being successful,” he said. “But it’s a lot easier to buy them than cultivating an audience.”

While Rutherford’s initial venture into selling reviews has folded (in part because “Google suspended his advertising account, saying it did not approve of ads for favorable reviews. At about the same time, Amazon took down some, though not all, of his reviews.”)  Now he’s launching a service where 

“for $99, he blogs and tweets about a book — he has 33,000 Twitter followers”

You can read the full article by David Streitfeld, “The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy” here.

This brings up a really important issue about where the ethical line is and should be drawn.

Should “consumer” reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads be from people the author and illustrator don’t know?  

Should all reviews have disclaimers on the connection of the reviewer to the author/illustrator?  

How can the system be more honest?

If paying for favorable reviews is going too far, what about asking a friend to write a review of your book?  

Recently, a publicist at a publishing house contacted a blogger who had reviewed a book they’d put out… requesting that blogger re-post their review as a consumer review on Amazon.  Is that too far?

Where do you draw the line?  Tell us in comments!

We each need to consider the answer for ourselves… and our industry.

Illustrate and Write On,

SCBWI: Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk: A new way to think about creativity

From: The Official SCBWI Blog
September 18, 2012 at 06:00AM

This is a fascinating presentation about creativity and how to relate to our own creative process.

It’s well worth the 20 minutes to watch for everyone doing creative work – and that certainly includes us, the writers and illustrators of books and creative content for children and teens!

Illustrate and Write On,

SCBWI: Craft: Martha Alderson (a.k.a. The Plot Whisperer) Talks Plot

From: The Official SCBWI Blog
September 13, 2012 at 06:00AM

Martha Alderson has a series of 27 videos on YouTube that walk writers through the steps of plotting our stories.

Each video explains what you need to do, and then gives a bunch of examples to illustrate her points.  They are a wonderful resource.

Here’s the first one:

Martha’s latest book, The Plot Whisperer Workbook, has just been released.

Thanks to literary agent Jill Corcoran for letting me know about Martha and her books and videos on plot!

Illustrate and Write On,

SCBWI: KidLitCon 2012

From: The Official SCBWI Blog
September 11, 2012 at 06:00AM

Patience, south of the main steps
Your KidLitCon 2012 Greeter, Patience

KidLitCon is the annual conference for people who blog about children’s literature.

This year the conference will be held on September 28 and 29 at the main branch of the New York Public Library in New York city, and it’s being put together by School Library Journal Fuse #8 blogger Elizabeth Bird, who is also an author and the New York Public Library’s Youth Materials Collections Specialist. 

The schedule for the Saturday conference has been released, and I chatted (via instant messaging) with my friend, social media expert, author, and conference faculty member Greg Pincus to find out more…

Lee:  Hi Greg! Tell us about Kidlitcon!

Greg: Hi Lee!  It’s a great conference (now in its 6th year) about blogging and children’s literature. But it’s also about social media, books, writing, book reviewing, promotion, libraries, and much more… all with a children’s and YA lit focus.

Lee: I saw on the schedule that Maureen Johnson will be giving the closing Keynote!

Greg: Yes! I can’t wait to hear her. She’s one of my favorite Twitter folk to follow. Oh, and she can write a little, too 🙂

Lee: For authors and illustrators of books for kids, it sounds like there’s a lot of sessions focused on platform, marketing and the benefits of being an online presence.

Greg: There are, indeed. And I think the panels on book reviewing – why bloggers do it, how they do it, how they want (or don’t) to interact with authors and illustrators – are really valuable, too.

Lee: I thought the title of your session was really intriguing: Avoiding the Echo Chamber. Tell us more about what you’re going to address.

Greg: I love folks in children’s literature. A lot. I’m flying to New York to hang out with some, in fact. That said, when we’re talking about “spreading the word” about books, whether our own or children’s literature related in general, I often feel that we spend a lot of time preaching to the converted and not much time talking to the rest of the world. And I think that’s a missed opportunity online. Folks are many things – that standup comedian or social media strategist online is also very likely a parent or aunt or uncle or or or. They can become champions and word-spreaders and buyers. But not if we don’t include them in the conversation.

Lee: And you’ll be sharing the things authors and illustrators can do to get past that echo chamber of other authors and illustrators (and our families and friends?)

Greg: I will! And they are magical secrets! Or, really, some basic ways of thinking about what we do online as well as tips and ideas and actions to take.

Lee: Love leaving a session with a plan of action! Any more thoughts to share about KidLitCon?

Greg: The conference itself is free this year – always a plus. And if it’s like prior years, the attendees are wonderful, passionate, children’s lit loving folks, and hanging out with them for a day is inspiring. And it’s a great way to forge new relationships. (And, as an aside, I hope publishers take advantage of the con being in NYC and send some folks to check out the kidlitosphere space….)

Lee: The day does end with a New York City kid lit drink night!

Greg: It does, indeed.

Lee: Have a great time, and thanks for telling us about Kidlitcon 2012!

Greg: Thanks for asking, Lee!

You can find out more about KidLitCon 2012 here.

Greg Pincus blogs about children’s literature and poetry at GottaBook and social media at The Happy Accident. He is the author of a poetry collection, The Late Bird, and his debut novel, The 14 Fabulous Fibs of Gregory K., is due out from Arthur A. Levine Books. 

And here’s Maureen Johnson’s twitter feed.

Illustrate and Write On,

SCBWI: The 2012 Crystal Kite Winner Profiles: California’s LEE WARDLAW and EUGENE YELCHIN

From: The Official SCBWI Blog
September 06, 2012 at 06:00AM

The last of our 15 winner profiles…

In the USA California/Hawaii division, the 2012 Crystal Kite Member Choice Award Winner was WON TON – A CAT TALE TOLD IN HAIKU by Lee Wardlaw, Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin (Henry Holt.)

I had the chance to find out more from Lee Wardlaw…

Lee Wind:  Hi Lee, congratulations!  Tell us about your book, please.

Lee Wardlaw:  Won Ton – A Cat Tale Told in Haiku is the story of a wary, opinionated shelter cat and the boy who takes him home.  It’s also based on truth:  When my son, Patterson, was eight, his best buddy, our cat Beau, died of cancer. We were all devastated –especially Patterson, because he and Beau had literally grown up together.  After a few months of mourning, Patterson suggested we adopt a new cat, so we visited our local animal shelter to “interview” kittens, an experience which resembled something out of “The Story of the Three Bears”:

“That one is too shy, Mom. This one bites. Ewww! – that one is napping in his litter box! This one…ohhh, this one is just right.”

We adopted the striped Tabby with an orange tummy, and brought him home – where he skittered under a bed and hid for two days. Patterson lured him out at last by dangling a shell lei. We named him Papaya.

As the weeks passed, Papaya and Patterson became comrades-in-paws – snuggling together under blankets, reading together, playing “Chase the Ping-Pong Ball”, even lapping out of the same cereal bowl – and I had a great idea for a new picture book.

But how best to tell the story of a boy, a cat and their growing friendship?

At first, I tried traditional prose – too humdrum.  Then I tried rhyme.  That felt forced, too cutesy, and too young: I wanted this book to appeal to all ages. 

…and then, one day, I thought of haiku. Cats are haiku: they are both deceptively simple; both are beautiful and elegant; they live in the moment; and they both speak volumes in a few meows.  (Haiku aren’t furry, but hey, you can’t have everything.)

If Papaya could talk human, I KNEW he would tell his tale in this unembellished form of poetry. So I started writing the poems from Papya’s point of view, and the rest is hisstory…

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

Lee Wardlaw:  I’ve been a member since ’82 or ’83.  (Can’t remember exactly, as that was at least 7 cats ago.)  As for what I’ve gained in those 30 years?  Whew!   Lots.  But I think I can express it with the acronym CAT:

C is for Connection:  with authors, editors, agents, and other professionals in the field;

A is for Answers:  to questions ranging from ‘How do I format a picture book manuscript?’ to ‘To Tweet or Not to Tweet?’;

T is for Tools:  that help me integrate what I’ve learned from those Connections and Answers to be the best author I can be – – today and tomorrow.  =^..^=

Wow – excellent!  And she even ended it with a cat emoticon!

I also touched base with Eugene to find out about his perspective as the winning illustrator…

Lee Wind:  Hi, Eugene, congratulations!  Can you tell us about the book from your point of view?

Eugene:  Won Ton is about tension between the tough and proud stance and the longing of a lonely heart.

Lee Wind:  That sounds like poetry, too!  Can you share with us what being a member of SCBWI has meant for you?

Eugene:  SCBWI turns you from the outsider into the insider, welcomes you into the community of like-minded artists, and gives you the tools to learn (if you keep your eyes peeled). In 2006 Tomie DePaola chose me to receive his most generous award at the Winter Conference in New York and that gave me confidence to pursue the book making in earnest.

Lee:  I love those SCBWI success stories!  Do you have any advice to share with other children’s book writers and illustrators?

Eugene:  Look within yourself for the stories to tell, learn to steal from the right people, and tell the truth.

Ha!  Funny and profound.  And I love hearing those two descriptions of the same book.

I also contacted Alexis O’Neill, Regional Advisor for Lee Wardlaw’s SCBWI Central-Coastal California region.  Here’s what she wrote:

The SCBWI Central-Coastal California region (formerly known as the Ventura/Santa Barbara region), is small but incredibly active. We run three “big” events including an annual Writers’ Day, a Retreat and a bi-annual ArtWorks intensive for illustrators.  We also offer smaller events in each of our four counties (Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Kern) including workshops, critiquenics and illustrator gatherings. Our listserv is known for lively discussions about the art and craft of writing for children, monthly book talks and updates on market information. 

Members in the Central-Coastal California region are absolutely thrilled that WON TON: A CAT TALE TOLD IN HAIKU won the Crystal Kite Award in the California/Hawaii Division! And we’re especially proud that Lee Wardlaw, Eugene Yelchin and their editor, Sally Doherty of Henry Holt spoke at our Writers’ Day event in 2011 and walked us through the fascinating process of this book’s development. We’re very excited that she will be accepting her Crystal Kite at our CenCal Writers’ Day on October 27, 2012.–  a lovely full-circle experience for all of our members who have been cheering this book on from the start.

In addition to being a terrific writer, Lee, a resident of Santa Barbara and an SCBWI member since 1983, has been an incredible support to writers through the years, generous with her advice, time and talents. She helped plan several regional events during my own transition into the position as regional advisor in the1990s and continues to be a respected voice on our regional listserv.  
-Alexis O’Neill, Regional Advisor for Lee Wardlaw’s SCBWI Central-Coastal California region.

In a lovely coincidence, I am the co-Regional Advisor, along with Sarah Laurenson, for the SCBWI Los Angeles region, and we’re delighted to celebrate our member, Eugene’s, success!  

SCBWI Los Angeles holds over 70 free schmoozes a year for members and non-members alike.  In addition, we have six major annual events:

1.  Our upcoming Working Writer’s Retreat in September, a three-day, two-night retreat featuring editors, agents, and intensive critiquing and revising.  (Sold out again this year!)

2.  Illustrator’s Day – This year on November 3rd – a one-day conference featuring speakers (editors, art directors, and illustrators), juried art competition, contests, and portfolio reviews/display.  Details here!

3.  Writer’s Days – Spring – a two-day conference featuring speakers, a professional forum, writing contests, and awards.  The first day focuses on speakers exploring an issue in depth (Diversity is the theme for 2013), the second day offers intensive sessions with the conference faculty.

4.  Creative Toolbox – A one day workshop featuring a speaker demonstrating nuts and bolts techniques on the craft of writing and illustrating for children. 

5.  Critiquenic – Summer – free, informal critiquing sessions for writers and illustrators facilitated by published authors/illustrators, held after a picnic lunch.

6.  Down the Rabbit Hole Field Trip – a hands-on creative field trip for writers and illustrators.

We have a lot of fun in our Los Angeles region, which I can prove with this eleven second video from our regional meeting at the recent SCBWI Summer Conference…

To find out more about Lee Wardlaw, visit her website here.

For more of Eugene Yelchin (he’s a writer and an illustrator!) visit his site, here.

To find out more about SCBWI Central-Coastal California, check out their region’s website.

And to learn more about SCBWI Los Angeles, here’s the link.

My thanks to Alexis, and Cheers to both Lee Wardlaw and Eugene Yelchin on winning the Crystal Kite Member Choice Award for WON TON: A CAT TALE TOLD IN HAIKU!

SCBWI: 4th Annual Random Acts of Publicity 2012

From: The Official SCBWI Blog
September 04, 2012 at 06:00AM

Running September 4-7, 2012, this year’s Random Acts of Publicity event is designed to take the focus off you and your books for a week and instead focus on a friend’s book or a favorite book. How can you help that book’s sales?

The brain child of Darcy Pattison, Random Acts of Publicity asks each of us to Blog, link, Like, review, or talk about a friend’s book.  Or as Darcy likes to put it:  BLLuRT it Out!

This year, the event will focus on Conversations about Books. Consider…

What are the talking points of the book you want to feature?
How can you start a conversation?
Are there behind-the-scenes stories that make the book sound more interesting?
Do different audiences require different talking points and different conversations?
How do you create online conversations?

And how often do we start in-person conversations about a book? Let’s TALK about Talking about Books this week.

In conjunction with the event, there’s a contest where Susan Raab of Raab Associates is offering 10 free marking consults. 

The catch? You can’t enter.  You can only enter a friend’s name!

See the posting on the Facebook Random Acts of Publicity Event page on September 6 for full contest details–you’ll have 24 hours to enter.

It’s a great twist on marketing and community building in the kid lit world…

so help out a friend or another author whose book you love

feel great about it,

and see what you learn from the experience that you can apply to promoting your own work!

For more about Random Acts of Publicity, check out the FAQ at Darcy’s blog and the facebook Random Acts of Publicity event page!

Illustrate and Write On,

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