Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Are You Using Night Time Logic or Day Time Logic in Your Work-In-Progress?

Author Kelly Link speaks in this "All Things Considered" Interview about her latest collection of short stories, "Get In Trouble." In the interview, the concept of Day Time Logic versus Night Time Logic is shared...

Daytime logic is the world as we know it. Clocks turn clockwise. The sun always rises from the east and sets in the west.

But Night Time logic is different. As Kelly says,
"Night time logic it's much more like dream logic. Except that, you know, when you wake up from a dream, you think, well, that didn't make sense. And I think night time logic in stories you think, I don't understand why that made sense but I feel there was kind of an emotional truth to it."

Maybe that's why classics like "Where the Wild Things Are" are so resonant... they play with Night Time logic.

Consider what's the logic underpinning your current work in progress. Are you writing in Day Time or Night Time logic?

And could it be that it's not an either/or choice, but that perhaps some opposite logic could add something powerful to your craft?

Kelly's book is "Get In Trouble"

and you can find out more about her at her website here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Wendy Ulmer and Sandy Crabtree's MY TWELVE MAINE CHRISTMAS DAYS – The Spark Award Interviews & a Chance to Win This Award-Winning Book!

Wendy Ulmer wrote and Sandy Crabtree illustrated THE TWELVE MAINE CHRISTMAS DAYS, one of three books that won SCBWI's 2014 Spark Awards!

Here's our interview, and see below for your chance to win a copy... 

Lee: Congratulations on winning the 2014 SCBWI SPARK Award!

Wendy: Thank you. I would like to express my gratitude to SCBWI for recognizing the work of independent and non-traditional publishing. 

Sandy: Thank you to everyone for this amazing recognition. 

Lee: Please tell us about My Twelve Maine Christmas Days.

Wendy: I was a music and English teacher and those two passions tend to merge in my writing. I was doing a book signing with my previous books in a Maine based store during the holidays. A familiar carol began to play in the background and as I looked around I saw a stuffed moose, blueberry jam, a sand dollar wreath, etc. That was the beginning – I wrote the first draft during the signing. From the very beginning, watercolor illustrations seemed the only choice and Sandy’s watercolors were perfect to illustrate the gifts of Maine. 

Sandy: I have always loved the original song and enjoyed creating the new images and having them reflect places and traditions that are such a wonderful part of Maine life. My family has always loved the outdoors and collected shells, picked blueberries as well as appreciated such an unspoiled place to live in. Winslow Homer's quote "The sun will not rise nor set without my notice nor my thanks." has always given me inspiration to love the gift of each day. Also being able to use some of my family members as subjects in the pictures was a lot of fun. 

Lee: The SPARK Award is to recognize excellence in children’s books published through a non-traditional publishing route. Tell us about the journey to getting your book published.

Wendy: I published three books through traditional publishing and am very happy with them. I had a vision for this book that entailed the verses, watercolor illustrations, and specific back matter. I felt the only way to fulfill that vision was to publish it myself. My editor from my previous books opened Book Bridge Press to help authors publish children’s picture books. I met with her and decided it was the right place to fulfill my vision for the book. 

Lee: Did doing this picture book outside of traditional publishing allow the process to be more collaborative between you as author and illustrator?

Wendy: Interestingly, Sandy and I were requested not to talk with each other during the production process. Although it was difficult to not talk about it when we saw each other, not discussing the illustrations definitely resulted in a better book. I saw all the stages of the art work, but didn’t talk directly with Sandy about any changes or questions. 

Sandy: I don't know how traditional publishing works but I loved the interchange of ideas thru e-mail between the author, art director, editor, and me. I felt my input was valued and sometimes very humorously corrected and that Wendy and I followed the rule of not talking to each other for three months to keep our friendship free from critiques we might not have agreed with but actually didn't know whose input it was. We are dear friends and still are thanks to this kind of think tank approach. 

Lee: Did the book have a designer and/or editor and/or other experts involved, or was it just the two of you doing everything?

Wendy: We worked with Book Bridge Press in Minneapolis, MN. We had an editor, art director, copy editor and print manager. Because all of the folks at Book Bridge worked in traditional children’s publishing for many years, we received excellent advice throughout the entire process. 

Sandy: Actually four of us were involved and although it might have taken longer to get all the sketches approved, we all had a say with Wendy being the final vote. 

Lee: What do you see as the biggest challenge of publishing independently?

Wendy: The biggest challenge for me has been the marketing. In addition to social media, it is face to face marketing that gets a book placed in book stores and gift shops. It helps to think about other possible venues, like museum shops, toy stores, etc. Another challenge is learning the business side of publishing – bookkeeping, inventory control, etc. Both the marketing and business work take time from writing. That is difficult to deal with at times! 

Sandy: For me, as the artist, the time to get all the sketches okayed left me with only two and a half months to do twelve paintings and that was the most difficult part. 

Lee: What’s been the best thing about publishing this way?

Wendy: The best thing about independent publishing is being involved in every aspect of the book. From the original vision through to holding the book in your hand, there is hard work, great joy and a deep sense of accomplishment. 

Sandy: Wonderful people, amazing ideas and challenges. 

Lee: How long have each of you been involved with SCBWI, and has that helped you on your professional journey?

Wendy: I have been a member of SCBWI for over 20 years. The regional conferences provide a wealth of information and inspiration as well as giving authors a chance to network and learn from each other. I encourage anyone interested in writing for children to join SCBWI! 

Sandy: I have only joined this year, thanks to Wendy. 

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

Wendy: I couldn’t be happier with the adventure, so far, and I’m ready for the next chapter. 

Sandy: Having the backstory on each subject and including actual approximate locations has been really appreciated by people. Some have been inspired to go there and in the case of three blue lobsters/Fort Popham have been surprised by the lighthouse in the painting that does not exist there... I've had many discussions about my "artistic license" as a result. 

Lee: Thanks so much, Wendy and Sandy! And once again, Congratulations!

Wendy: Our thanks, again to SCBWI and the Spark Committee for recognizing independent publishing. 

Sandy: Thanks again for this wonderful honor. 

Leave a comment below for your chance to win a copy of MY TWELVE MAINE CHRISTMAS DAYS. We'll randomly choose our winner from the comments in one week. 

Illustrate and Write On, 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

It's The 2015 Crystal Kite Award Winners!

The SCBWI is excited to announce the winners of the 2015 Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards for our fifteen regional divisions:

Atlantic (Pennsylvania/Delaware/New Jersey/Wash DC/Virginia/West Virginia/Maryland)

Yvonne Ventresca –

Pandemic (Sky Pony Press)

Australia/New Zealand

Karen Blair, written by Raewyn Caisley –

Hello From Nowhere (Penguin Books Australia)


Connie Goldsmith –

Bombs Over Bikini: The World’s First Nuclear Disaster (Lerner Publishing Group/Twenty-First Century Books)


Karen Krossing –

Bog (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)

International Other

Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper –

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream (Philomel Books)

Mid-South (Kansas/Louisiana/Arkansas/Tennessee/Kentucky/Missouri/Mississippi)

Courtney Stevens –

Faking Normal (HarperTeen)

and Laura Roach Dragon –

Hurricane Boy (Pelican Publishing)

Middle East/India/Asia

Arundhati Venkatesh –

Petu Pumpkin: Tooth Troubles (Duckbill Books)

Midwest (Minnesota/Iowa/Nebraska/Wisconsin/Illinois/Michigan/Indiana/Ohio)

Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Gus Gordon –

I am Cow, Hear Me Moo (Dial Books)

New England (Maine/Vermont/New Hampshire/Connecticut/Massachusetts/Rhode Island)

Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah Brannen –

Feathers: Not Just for Flying (Charlesbridge)

New York

Nancy Castaldo –

Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (And Their Noses) are Saving The World (HMH)

Southeast (Florida/Georgia/South Carolina/North Carolina/Alabama)

Kerry Cerra, illustrated by Katy Betz –

Just a Drop of Water (Sky Pony Press)

Southwest (Nevada/Arizona/Utah/Colorado/Wyoming/New Mexico)

Tara Dairman –

All Four Stars (Puffin Books)


Varsha Bajaj –

Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood (Albert Whitman & Company)


Claire Furniss –

The Year of the Rat (Margaret K. McElderry Books)

West (Washington/Oregon/Alaska/Idaho/Montana/North Dakota/South Dakota)

Laurie Ann Thompson –

Be a Change Maker: How to Start Something That Matters (Simon Pulse)

Congratulations to all the winners!

You can find out more about SCBWI's annual Crystal Kite Awards here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 14, 2015

W. Nikola-Lisa's THE MEN WHO MADE THE YANKEES -- The Spark Award Interviews & a Chance To Win This Award-Winning Book!

W. Nikola-Lisa, who goes by Nikola, wrote and independently published THE MEN WHO MADE THE YANKEES -- and it's one of three books that won SCBWI's 2014 Spark Awards!

Here's our interview, and see below for a chance to win a copy...

Lee: Congratulations on winning the 2014 SCBWI SPARK Award!

Nikola: Yes, thank you. It is quite an honor and I'm very appreciative of it.

Lee: Please tell us about The Men Who Made the Yankees. I read that it was inspired by research on a fiction novel you were working on?

Nikola: The Men Who Made the Yankees has been a labor of love for many years. I spent most of my childhood summers at my grandmother's beach house on Staten Island and occasionally my uncle would grab a couple of tickets to Yankee Stadium and off we'd go, just the two of us. So, I grew up a Yankees' fan from the get-go. 

I had been struggling with a story about the Yankees years ago when I landed upon an idea for a piece of historical fiction set in 1918 when Babe Ruth pitched for the Red Sox. I published that piece in 2011, under the title Dear Frank: Babe Ruth, the Red Sox, and the Great War, and as I worked on it I became curious as to why it took two years for the American League to place a team in the New York market. That question or curiosity was the genesis of The Men Who Made the Yankees. 

Lee: The SPARK Award is to recognize excellence in children’s books published through a non-traditional publishing route. You’ve had a number of books traditionally published - Tell us about the choice and journey to publish this through your own independent publishing company, Gyroscope Books.

Nikola: A bit of luck, chance, and daring. Before the Crash of 2008 I had published 21 trade children's books over a 25 year period. And then the crash happened and everything stood still. You know how it is for mid-career authors; they're not always first in line: they often have to stand in line behind new talent, marquee authors, and celebrities. 

Well, I've never been too good at standing in line, so I looked around and at the same time the market was falling, the digital publishing world was rising; So, I jumped on board. The Men Who Made the Yankees is my fifth independently published book, and the second one to win a national award. 

Lee: Did doing this book outside of traditional publishing change the process of creating this nonfiction book?

Nikola: I don't really think so, other than I had to attend to more parts of the production process. After I finished my second independently published book I kind of got hooked: I realized I really like being in charge of the entire process. As an author of mostly illustrated books, I'm often kicked out of the production process early on with the editor, book designer, and illustrator completing most of the process. As an independent author/publisher, I keep a steady hand on the production process from start to finish--and I've found I really like that. 

Lee: Did the book have a designer and/or editor and/or other experts involved, or was it just you doing everything?

Nikola: I work with a terrific graphic artist who is trained in medieval bookmaking and calligraphy. He has quite an eye for design, and we go back and forth quite a bit hammering out our ideas. I make a physical book first. That's a must because I'm still in love with the physicality of books. I love holding them, looking at them, smelling them. A book is like a bouquet of flowers to me. In my home office, I surround myself with quite a few of them, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves surround me. In terms of editing, I do everything. Oops, that's a no-no, right? Well, I have a Ph.D. in education and spent 25 years editing over 400 graduate theses. So, I guess you could say I have the requisite skill set to write, edit, and proof-read a manuscript. The latter are actually my strong suit. 

Lee: What do you see as the biggest challenge of publishing independently?

Nikola: Ideas are my thing, so I have to pick and choose what I'm going to publish with some thought. In other words, I could easily produce 3-4 books a year, because I get so excited about making them. My biggest challenge is slowing down and choosing a good, solid, meaningful project. Actually, being an independent publisher has really made me look at manuscripts in a very different way; I don't toss them into the world quite as quickly and thoughtlessly. 

Lee: That's fascinating. What’s been the best thing about publishing this way?

Nikola: It enables me to live in a unique parallel universe. It may seem weird, but publishing independently allows me to live outside of the traditional publishing world and in my own fantasy world, which has always been a gratifying place to be. I'm not in it for the money, don't have to be at this point in my life; I'm in it because I love making books. I consider myself a "book artisan" the way other people consider themselves potters, musicians, painters, or what have you. I live in Chicago and hand sell many of my books at street fairs and odd book events, and usually I show up on my bicycle with my bike trailer laden with a few suitcases filled with books. I could have easily been a magician; it just happens I make books.

Lee: How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and has that helped you on your professional journey?

Nikola: I've been a member of the SCBWI since the early 1980s. In my early days I thought I would illustrate as well. I even entered the Don Freeman Award and was a runner-up for an early manuscript that I illustrated. The SCBWI has been a good, long-term friend of mine, and I'm glad to see that they are beginning to open the doors a bit--still more to go, I'm afraid--to independently published authors. 

Oh, and my claim to fame with the SCBWI. I have a few, but here's my favorite. Once I was at a local SCBWI chapter meeting that was organizing a children's literature event and they needed a driver for Tomie dePaola, who was the keynote speaker. No hand went up, except for mine, which went up like a bolt of lightning, and I spent one of the best weekends of my life driving Tomie around. 

Lee: Oh, Tomie's a gem! Anything else you’d like to share about the adventure so far?

Nikola: I once had an astrological chart reading. It was mesmerizing. I mean the guy (he was a computer programmer at a local university) nailed it on every level. When it came to writing, he said that I had all of the writer's destiny marks except one--contact with publishers! I mean, talk about the kiss of death. In many ways, however, it's been true. I've never kept a long-term relationship with an editor or with a publishing house. Then I published my first book independently. Bingo! The light went on. Hey, if I become my own editor/publisher, then I don't have to worry about that writer's destiny mark anymore. And that's what it feels like right now. 

Finally, for those of you who'd like know more about my independently published books, please visit my website at gyroscopebooks.com 

Thanks so much, Nikola!

Leave a comment below for your chance to win a copy of THE MEN WHO MADE THE YANKEES. We'll randomly choose our winner in one week.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Handling The Truth - A Book On Writing Memoir

National Book Award Finalist Beth Kephart is the author of five memoirs (in addition to writing poetry and short stories.) She teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, and wrote this book on the craft of writing memoir, "Handling The Truth."

In an interview with Barbra DeMarco-Barrett on the Writers and Writing podcast (around 19 minutes in) Beth says,
"I am not a fan...of the purely chronological retelling of a story. Of a life story. I think that you have the responsibility, as a memoirist, to carefully structure your story, your memoir, around the themes that you are working toward.  What are the questions you are trying to answer in your book? And that's going to dictate themes. And that's going to dictate tone and mood and voice, and it's going to break things open for you."

"The real suspense in reading memoir, I believe, should be not what happened, because often in a prologue or preface or because we've read the press we already know that somebody got down the mountain or whatever else happened, but how are the over-riding questions of this memoir going to be answered? How is this writer going to come to terms with the big themes? And that's the lovely suspense that we find in memoir."

Fascinating - and great advice.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 7, 2015

#UnReadBook It Up - A Fantastic Bruno Mars Uptown Funk Parody: UnRead Book

Love the original song, love reading, and really love this parody version of Uptown Funk:


Thanks to author/illustrator Elizabeth O. Dulemba for sharing this video in her newsletter, where I first saw it!

Illustrate and Write – and Read! – On,

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A New (Monthly!) Opportunity For Illustrators

What will YOU draw?

Are you ready to BOUNCE?

(And that's only this month's prompt!)

Here's the news...

Calling All Illustrators!

We are excited to announce a great new feature for our illustrator members, Draw This!: a monthly art prompt that will be part of the new SCBWI Insider. Members will have the opportunity each month to show their artwork in the online gallery and two pieces will be featured in the email itself. The online gallery will be open to public viewing, so agents, art directors and editors have yet another way of finding our illustrators.

The June 2015 Draw This! prompt word is: Bounce 

Deadline for the June Draw This! is May 25

Tweet, Facebook and Instagram your submissions! Tag your art #scbwidrawthis

The Draw This! guidelines are different from our Bulletin art submission guidelines, so please read carefully.

 •You must be a current SCBWI member to submit to Draw This!
•Artwork must be inspired by the prompt word in some way
•Art may be black & white, grayscale or RGB color
•File resolution must be 72 dpi
•Jpegs only
•No image dimensions larger than 8.5 x 11 (or 11 x 8.5)
•Vignettes, line art and full bleed art are welcome
•File must be titled as follows: Prompt word_First name_Last name.jpg (Bounce_Sarah_Baker.jpg)
•Each member may only submit one entry per prompt word
•Put "Prompt word Draw This" in the subject line
•Email your file as an attachment, NOT in the body of the email, to: scbwidrawthis@scbwi.org

**Failure to follow these guidelines will result in exclusion from the online gallery. For questions, write to scbwidrawthis@scbwi.org.

Good luck, and Illustrate On!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The ALA's Top 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2014 are... (and a great story about a book banning that backfired!)

Important to know.

Every book on this top 10 "banned books" list was either written for or about kids and teens. Note the 'reasons' cited reflect not so much the books' content but the prejudices of (and lack of careful reading by) the challengers.

 The top ten most frequently challenged books of 2014 are:

1) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
 Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”

 2) Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
 Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”

 3) And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
 Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”

4) The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
 Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”

5) It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
 Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”

6) Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
 Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group. Additional reasons:

7) The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence

8) The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
 Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”

9) A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard
 Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group

10) Drama, by Raina Telgemeier
 Reasons: sexually explicit 

 The American Library Association's Office For Intellectual Freedom estimates "that for every reported challenge, four or five remain unreported."

Now here's the great story: Parents in Idaho successfully got "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" removed from their school's curriculum.

In response, a group of students circulated a petition to bring it back. They got 350 teen signatures. Then they teamed up with their local bookstore and did a crowd-funding project to raise the money to buy a copy of Sherman Alexie's book for every teen on that list of 350. They raised the money!

When some of the parents found out about the books being given away for free, they called the police. The police came to the bookstore during the give-away, but weren't really sure what do to, and the free book hand-out continued.

When Hachette (Alexie's publisher) found out about this, they sent an additional 350 copies of "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" to the bookstore, so any teen can walk in and get the book for free.

Cheers for the freedom to read!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Gayle Forman's advice on success... and it's pretty brilliant

I loved this moment from Sara Zarr's interview with New York Times bestselling YA Author Gayle Forman (who also had a successful movie made of her novel "If I Stay.")

Author Gayle Forman

It's about 16:30 into episode 39 of Sara's This Creative Life podcast...

Gayle says,

"If your validation comes from an external source, you are f***-ed. You are in trouble. Because that is so fickle. And you are completely dependent on things that are so outside your control, and that is such a terrifying feeling. You are dependent on how your publisher is going to publish your book, and what the market is like at that point and what the reviews say... it's just all of this external validation. Which, when it goes in your direction, feels really good – let's not lie about that. But it can only feel so good, there's that little voice telling you, it will not always be so. So, the important thing then is to kind of come back to the things that give you a sense of internal validation, and that can be whatever, it can be family, it can be friends. But if we're going to talk about publishing, it's the work. It's the satisfaction you get from producing the work.
...So whenever all that other crazy stuff is kind of driving me crazy, I try and kind of bring it back to the one thing I can control – and that is the work. And that's the thing that brings me so much satisfaction."

Wise words. Thanks Gayle! (And thanks Sara, as well!)

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Reading Can Transport Your Brain... And Not Just As A Figure Of Speech

This article in Emory University's eScience Commons by Carol Clark, summarizing the latest research on reading and our brains, was fascinating.

The University's researchers, lead by neuroscientist Gregory Berns, found:
“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” Berns says. “We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”

...“It remains an open question how long these neural changes might last,” Berns says. “But the fact that we’re detecting them over a few days for a randomly assigned novel suggests that your favorite novels could certainly have a bigger and longer-lasting effect on the biology of your brain.”

Pretty heady stuff!

Their research was published by the journal "Brain Connectivity."

Illustrate, Write, and Keep Changing Brains On!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Crystal Kite Round Two Voting Is Open Now!

Have your voice heard in who your division selects as your Crystal Kite Winning Book!

Voting will close on April 30th, 2015.

Go to scbwi.org and log in,

Then at the top right of the screen, click on "my home"

At the bottom of the left-side menu is the link "Vote In The Crystal Kite Awards" - click that

Then vote! 

Simple. Fun. Empowering!

Good luck to all the round two authors and illustrators. To learn more about the SCBWI Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards, go here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Heidi Kim, 2014 Winner of the SCBWI On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award

One of two winners of this 2014 Award, I contacted Heidi Kim to find out more...

Lee: Congratulations, Heidi! Tell us about finding out you'd won the On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award.

Heidi: Thank you so much, Lee. I still can’t believe it. When SCBWI called to tell me, I actually didn’t answer the phone since I didn’t recognize the number! It was a while later that I listened to the voicemail and discovered it was from Stephen Mooser. I listened to it three times because he had said, “Congratulations! You’ve won..” without saying my name. I convinced myself that he had called the wrong number. When I finally called Stephen back and spoke to him, well, let’s just say there was some vigorous touchdown-celebration-dancing behind my best professional phone voice. I think it was a full hour before I stopped trembling. 

Lee: Awww! You won for your young adult novel "The Certainty of Tides." Tell us about that project.

Heidi: “The Certainty of Tides” is a young adult novel about Magdalyn Ro, a seventeen-year-old who is living with end-stage renal disease. Placed on the kidney transplant list, Maddie learns that there are fewer Koreans and people of color who donate, affecting her prospects for a good match. Her future is in question, and Maddie wants to be living, not just alive. By her side Maddie has her closest friend since childhood, Sabine. As Maddie struggles to define her life outside of her illness, her friendships with Sabine, Abel, and Grace are tested and evolve. I would say that this is a story about living, about enduring friendship, profound love, and unpredictable life. 

While working on this project, one of the biggest challenges has been trying to tell a story where culture and class are not the main conflict, but both greatly affect the main character’s emotional and physical journey. It was my intent to weave the cultural elements into the story in a way that makes Maddie’s world accessible and relatable to mainstream readers. 

Lee: Can you share about your journey so far in children's literature?

Heidi: My aunt was a children’s librarian who fostered my love for children’s literature. Libraries and bookstores were my babysitters. I had always wanted to write for children, but my hard-working immigrant parents had sacrificed everything to give me a good education that would lead to a stable career. Deep gratitude and obligation led me to the corporate world. Writing for children seemed like a dream I would have to postpone to a later, more practical time. It was actually SCBWI that started me on this journey. I found out about the organization and joined in 2009. Meeting so many people (at my first LA conference) who shared this same passion and hearing authors and illustrators I had grown up admiring — it all stirred something in me. Soon after that I experienced an unexpected illness, and I came to realize that there was no better time to chase my dreams. I joined a critique group and took classes at local universities. Eventually I was able to devote myself to the craft and completed an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I poured myself into learning about writing picture books, middle-grade and young adult novels, but “The Certainty of Tides” is the first young adult manuscript I completed. It means so much to me to come full circle and receive recognition for it from SCBWI. 

Lee: Part of your prize for winning the award is an all-expense paid trip to the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, where you'll have "several private meetings with editors and other industry professionals." What are your hopes/plans for the conference?

Heidi: Isn’t it wonderful? It’s all thanks to SCBWI and the generosity of Martin and Sue Schmitt. I’m really excited. I would love to meet more people who are passionate about the same things as I am, in particular those who are excited about books that feature under-represented characters and who see a long-term place for these stories on the mainstream bookshelf. With the grassroots push for more diversity in children’s literature, all of this is happening during a time of momentum. As for specific plans, I’m really looking forward to meeting Sue Schmitt, Adria Quinones, and previous Emerging Voices recipients at the conference. From what I have seen so far, children’s book writers and illustrators are creative, hard-working, and earnest people. I just hope to get to know more of them, more personally. If I am fortunate enough to meet anyone who is interested in my manuscript or my writing, that would just be an added bonus. 

Lee: What’s the best piece of advice you've gotten about writing for young people that you'd like to share?

Heidi: Hold onto the love of writing, the things about it that make you feel that happy-dance kind of jubilee. Gather those moments where you feel joy — independent of any external validation — and hoard them because this writing journey can have some long winters. Write every day so that you will keep giving yourself the chance to re-discover what you love about writing and then, keep going, keep going.

Thank you, Heidi! We wish you much success on the adventure ahead!

Established by SCBWI and funded by Martin and Sue Schmitt, the On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award is given to two writers or illustrators who are from ethnic and/or cultural backgrounds that are traditionally under-represented in children's literature in America and who have a ready-to-submit complete work for children.

You can find out more about the award here.

And you can learn more about Heidi here.

Illustrate and Write On,