Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sage Words For Our Careers As Writers and Illustrators

"The future is not a destination, it is a direction." - Edwin E. Catmull
I've been thinking about the wisdom in this line for weeks now, having read it in Edwin's book, Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.

It's good advice.

Illustrate and Write on,

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Listen to a Marginalized Teen Reader Talk About YA From Their Perspective

Last week, YA author Justine Larbalestier hosted this guest post by teen reader and aspiring author Bysshe.

It's a fascinating insight into sex, violence, dystopia, romance, the lack of diversity and really, what's missing... from a teen perspective.

And it's a passionate message to we adults in the world of Children's Literature, from writers to editors to publishers to marketing professionals, about what teens want and need to see.

Thanks to Justine, for giving Bysshe the platform, and cheers to Bysshe, for being brave enough to put it out there and have their voice heard!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Winning Season...

Our Blog-Reading (and commenting) Winners of the SCBWI 2014 Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Award-Winning Books are...

Kimberly Callard has won a copy of "Sophie's Squash," written by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf. Pat won the Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Text for this title. You can read the official SCBWI Blog interview with Pat here.

Andrea Ebert has won a copy of "Mr. Tiger Goes Wild," written and illustrated by Peter Brown. Peter won the Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Illustration for it! You can read the official SCBWI Blog interview with Peter here.

Keila Dawson has won a copy of "Better Nate Than Ever," written by Tim Federle. Tim won the Golden Kite Award for Fiction for the book! You can read the official SCBWI Blog interview with Tim here.

Book Mama has won a copy of "Call of the Klondike," by David Meissner and Kim Richardon. David won the Golden Kite Award for Nonfiction for it! You can read the official SCBWI Blog interview with David here.

And Carl Scott has won a copy of "Openly Straight," by Bill Konigsberg. Bill won the Sid Fleischman Humor Award for "Openly Straight!" You can read the official SCBWI Blog interview with Bill here.

Congratulations to our SCBWI Award-Winners, and to our blog commenters who have won copies of these award-winning books!

Illustrate and Write On,

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Last Chance to Register for the 2014 SCBWI Summer Conference!

Craft... Business... Inspiration... Opportunity... Community!

The 2014 SCBWI Summer Conference is jam-packed with Keynotes,

Workshops (in the tracks: General, Pro, Illustration and Nonfiction), Socials and Peer Critique opportunities.

There's the Golden Kite Luncheon, The Tomie dePaola 80th Birthday Bash - A Night In Old Italy, and the Portfolio Showcase.

There's a diversity panel, a marketing and sales panel, an agents panel, and a palpable buzz of excitement as the stars of our world of children's literature gather with us for four remarkable days August 1-4, 2014 (the fourth day being the incredible intensives!)

The conference is on the verge of selling out - only a few spaces remain.

Want to know more? Check out the Pre-conference interviews with these faculty members:

Executive Editor Jill Santopolo

Newbery Award-Winning and Best-Selling Author Linda Sue Park

Editor Sara Sargent

Associate Publisher and Editor Bonnie Bader

National Book Award Winner and Newbery Medalist Cynthia Kadohata

Editor and Author of "Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies" Deborah Halverson

and the interviews with this year's Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Award Winners (who will all be teaching workshops and accepting their awards at the Golden Kite Luncheon)...

David Meissner, nonfiction winner for "Call of the Klondike"

Tim Federle, fiction winner for "Better NATE Than Ever"

Peter Brown, illustration winner for "Mr. Tiger Goes Wild"

Pat Zietlow Miller, picture book text winner for "Sophie's Squash"


Bill Konigsberg, Sid Fleischman Humor Award Winner for "Openly Straight"

It's going to be an awesome conference - but if you want to join us, you'll need to act fast.

You can find conference details and registration here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Innovations in Book Marketing: Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson and Peter D. Sieruta's "Deleted Scenes" Blog for WILD THINGS

Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature is forthcoming from Candlewick Press (releasing August 5, 2014.)

Written by three librarian-bloggers, the book is a collection of "the stories behind the stories of your favorite children's books," including "some of the feuds and fights of the children's book world."

And yet... the authors found there were too many stories.

"Truth be told we didn't really notice this until we turned in our preliminary manuscript to our editor. The page count? 700+
"Pick up the book now and you'll find it a svelte 272 pages. That meant cutting out content. A LOT of content. Great stories that will intrigue and entice you but just didn't quite fit in with the book as a whole."

So to promote the book, Betsy Bird (of Fuse #8) and Julie Danielson (of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast)* have put together the WILD THINGS website/blog, where they are "repurposing" the stories that otherwise would have just sat there on the cutting room floor.

A screen shot of the WILD THINGS site

So now, we can:

Find out about the horse that was an honorary member of the American Library Association.

Hear the kind, the snippy, and the consistent of Maurice Sendak's advice to other illustrators and aspiring children's book creators.

And see both sides of Hans Christian Andersen's visit with Charles Dickens.

It's a very clever use for all that material the authors worked so hard on, and it certainly whets our appetite for the stories that did make the cut and are included in the final book!

Illustrate and Write ...and Market On,

*The book's third author, Peter D. Sieruta, passed away in 2012, with "all his contributions to Wild Things completed."

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Purpose of Illustration...

"The main function of illustration is to illuminate text, to throw light on words. In fact, illustration in medieval books is called illumination and the term illustration derives from the Latin verb meaning "to light up," "to illuminate."

- pg. 120 of "Writing With Pictures: How To Write and Illustrate Children's Books" by Uri Shuilevitz.

This is just one of many inspirations from this number one most-recommended craft book on illustrating for children and teens!

Who said was it number one?

I asked twenty-five of the top authors, illustrators, and author/illustrators working in children's literature today. Also a book seller, an agent, an art director, a lawyer, a few poets, and an editor. I asked these experts for the books on craft that inspire them, that are must-reads, and that they recommend - and "Writing with Pictures" won the race, being included on ten short-lists!

You can check out the entire recommended bibliography in my "Essential Reference Books on Writing & Illustrating for Children & Teens" article in SCBWI's "The Book: The Essential Guide to Publishing for Children."

Thursday, July 3, 2014

SCBWI's Podcast Series!

Have you checked out SCBWI Conversations?

One of the benefits of SCBWI membership is access to this great new series of podcast conversations with leaders in the field of children's publishing.

There are four episodes to listen to right now!

The latest epidsode is an interview with New York times best-selling author and two-time National Book Award finalist Laurie Halse Anderson. SCBWI friend Theo Baker and Laurie discuss her writing Picture Books, Historical and Contemporary teen novels - or, as Laurie puts it:

"I like to say there are three halves to my brain."

It's a discussion full of inspiration and insights from Laurie, including:

"I think that the artist is called to write outside of their experience... but you have to do it with humility and respect..."

"Historical fiction is multi-cultural fiction: because even if you are writing about somebody who is of your ethnic and your orientation and your gender and your faith background, if they lived 200 years ago, they're not in your culture."

"The condition of the human heart is timeless."


"The quality of my work improved to the point where people wanted to publish it when I tapped into my own passions."

The three other podcast conversations available as of this posting are:

SCBWI's Executive Director Lin Oliver talking with Publisher, Editor and Picture Book Author Arthur A. Levine

Theo's conversation with Young Adult Author Matt de La Peña


Theo's conversation with Chronicle Editor Melissa Manlove

Enjoy listening and learning from SCBWI's Conversations!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Why Teenagers Act Crazy - Some Fascinating Insights From A Professor of Clinical Psychiatry

I learned a few years ago that adolescent brains don't finish developing until the age of 25.

Taking that one step further in this great opinion piece in the New York Times, Richard A. Friedman explains that

"Different regions and circuits of the brain mature at very different rates. It turns out that the brain circuit for processing fear — the amygdala — is precocious and develops way ahead of the prefrontal cortex, the seat of reasoning and executive control. This means that adolescents have a brain that is wired with an enhanced capacity for fear and anxiety, but is relatively underdeveloped when it comes to calm reasoning."

Add to that his explanation that

"the brain’s reward center, just like its fear circuit, matures earlier than the prefrontal cortex."   

and that the reward center "drives much of teenagers’ risky behavior"

and you have a recipe for the drama of being a teenager.

It can also be a wellspring of inspiration and insight as we write and illustrate for teens!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, June 26, 2014

David Meissner on "Call of the Klondike" - The 2014 Golden Kite Award For Nonfiction Interview ...And your chance to WIN a copy!

This year's Golden Kite Award for Nonfiction goes to David Meissner, for his middle grade title, "Call of the Klondike!"

Winner of the 2014 Golden Kite Award for Nonfiction and #LA14SCBWI Faculty David Meissner

I connected with David to find out more...

* * *

Lee: Can you tell us about finding out you'd won the 2014 Golden Kite Award for nonfiction for "Call of the Klondike?"

David: I was in France for work and opened my email after a long day to discover the wonderful news. It was no doubt a great thrill, honor, and surprise. 

Lee: Your book is packed with reproductions of primary source materials - photos, telegrams, newspaper articles, even letters written on the back of envelopes! What was the process of organizing and choosing the ones that would make it in the book, from what must have been a sea of material?

David: It was definitely a sea of material! The first step was to cull through everything we had in order to find the arc of the story. Kim Richardson sent me a long Word document with all of the correspondence from his relative, Stanley Pearce. Even though Kim had already done much of the hard work by deciphering old handwriting and typing it up, the amount of material was no doubt intimidating. 

I read through Pearce’s writing multiple times and highlighted key portions. While fascinating, it still didn’t seem like the story was complete. Pearce wrote long, descriptive letters and articles, but there were big gaps of time without any information. I soon discovered that Marshall Bond had written a daily diary during their adventure and that it was in the special collections library at Yale. That was the key. Once I went through Bond’s diary and other writings, I could finally see the full story. Bond’s daily updates filled in the gaps. The next challenge was the more tangible, though still tedious task, of selecting the best writing, editing out redundancies, and doing external research for additional photos and material. 

Lee: In addition to attending #LA14SCBWI - The 2014 SCBWI Summer Conference - to accept your Golden Kite Award, you'll also be on faculty, giving the Sunday breakout session "Digging Deeper: How Authentic Research Leads To Authentic Writing." Can you tell us more about that workshop? 

David: This workshop will focus on how to conduct authentic research before and during the writing process. While writing Call of the Klondike, I realized how vital it is to truly understand your subject. Having this larger context translates into more confident writing with richer detail and greater authenticity. 

Lee: Kim Richardson, the great-great-nephew of Stanley Pearce, one of the two gold rush stampeders the book follows, is credited as co-author. How did the two of you collaborate on this?

David: Kim was the visionary behind this book. Ten years before we discussed the project, Kim had already typed up the century-old letters, articles, and telegrams that had been passed down to him through relatives. Over the course of a decade, he had approached publishers, editors, and writers. Ultimately, he found a talented, experienced, and interested editor in Carolyn P. Yoder, who had her own American history imprint, Calkins Creek, at Boys Mills Press. Carolyn and Kim had initially looked for an expert on the Klondike Gold Rush to write the book, but weren’t able to find an expert who could also shape this material into a book for young people. 

When I was living in New York, Kim came to town and told me about his book idea over dinner one night. A few days later, he emailed to ask if I wanted to write the book. He started by emailing me all of the typed correspondence and telling me everything he knew about Pearce and Bond’s adventure. Kim made it clear that he was not a children’s book author and that he would provide general guidance, support, and feedback. He also followed through on many details relating to photo research and Pearce’s writings. Kim was amazingly gracious in allowing me the freedom to shape this material that was so dear to him. Whenever I got stuck, had questions, or needed some clarity or moral support, Kim was just a trans-Atlantic Skype away. 

Lee: Why the Klondike Gold Rush? What made this the story you wanted to tell?

David: During middle school and high school, I learned about gold rushes superficially and they never really interested me. That sentiment continued into adulthood. It was only when I read Pearce and Bond’s first-hand writings that this gold rush came to life. This makes me think that we need to spend more time personalizing history and less time memorizing generic facts and dates. As a teacher and learner, I definitely prefer depth over breadth. As I wrote in the Author’s Note, I now find the Klondike Gold Rush absolutely fascinating. If you ask me about it, I will talk your ear off. 

Lee: In the author's note, you explain about going to Alaska and Canada in 2010 to re-trace the steps of the Klondike Gold Rush stampeders, including hiking the famous Chilkoot Trail. How did that personal experience change your approach to the manuscript?

David: I could have written Call of the Klondike without taking that trip, but the book would have been missing something. By traveling to Alaska and Canada, I was able to experience the landscape and gain a first-hand understanding of the geography of the trail, which allowed me to write about the context with greater confidence. Through that trip, I also met with experts, visited museums, dug through archives, and learned more about the gold rush than I ever could have through books and online research. I also found historical photographs and took a number of photos myself that we used in the book. Two of the experts I met ended up providing invaluable feedback on the final draft. That research trip took this book to a higher level and I thank Kent Brown, head of Boyds Mills Press at the time, for understanding this and funding the trip. 

Lee: There are two teachers guides available on your website for "Call of the Klondike" - how important is it to have a teacher guide for a nonfiction book for young readers?

David: As a teacher myself, I know how nice it is to come across a book or curriculum that has clear and thoughtful suggestions for engaging students, while still allowing room for the teacher to customize the learning process. Boyds Mills Press developed a guide relating to the Common Core. My guide includes discussion questions by chapter as well as ideas for pairing the book with The Call of the Wild. Both are free and available for download at

Lee: When did you first join SCBWI, and can you share how that's helped you on your journey as an author?

David: I believe that I first joined SCBWI in 2002, just after I decided I wanted to write children’s books. I went the summer conference in L.A. and then the winter conference in New York a few years later. I found it amazing that an organization like SCBWI existed⎯one that provided a forum for well-known professionals and aspiring writers to mingle, connect, and elevate the quality of children’s literature through collaboration. Attending workshops, reading the bulletins, and meeting others in the field helped improve my writing and better understand the realities of the publishing industry. It’ll be fun to return to L.A. to lead a workshop for fellow writers. 

Lee: What advice do you have for other writers working on nonfiction projects?

David: Researching and writing a nonfiction book is so much work that you must be fascinated by and passionate about the topic. Thoughts of book sales, fame, and private yachts will not be enough fuel to propel you through the challenging times.

* * *

Thanks, David!

If you'd like to learn from, listen to and cheer David on as he receives his 2014 Golden Kite Award for Nonfiction, join us at the upcoming SCBWI Summer Conference, August 1-4 in Los Angeles, CA.

Information and Registration here.

To find out more about David and "Call of the Klondike," visit his website here.

Would you like to win a free copy of "Call of the Klondike?"

Leave a comment here on this post in the next seven days, and we'll randomly choose one winner! 

(Make sure to include your contact email in the comment - if we can't reach you to let you know you've won, we'll have to choose another winner.)

Good luck!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

When is a character a character?

First page of the court ruling

Sherlock Holmes, the creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, might call it "Elementary," but whether or not a character is fully formed in their first appearance or only once their original author has finished telling all the stories about them (and thus made them "more round") was recently in court.

 As reported recently in Publisher's Lunch,

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2013 lower court ruling holding that 46 Sherlock Holmes stories and four novels created by Arthur Conan Doyle before 1923, along with the signature characters in those books such as Holmes and Dr. Watson, are in the public domain.
In the appeal ruling, written by Judge Richard A. Posner, the issue was once more whether copyright should continue to apply because of 10 additional Sherlock Holmes stories published after 1923 that made the characters "more round." Posner rejected that notion outright: "Flat characters thus don't evolve. Round characters do; Holmes and Watson, the estate argues, were not fully rounded off until the last story written by Doyle. What this has to do with copyright law eludes us." The ruling added: "it appears that the Doyle estate is concerned not with specific alterations in the depiction of Holmes or Watson in Holmes-Watson stories written by authors other than Arthur Conan Doyle, but with any such story that is published without payment to the estate of a licensing fee."

It's a fascinating judgement, that you can read here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tim Federle on "Better NATE Than Ever!" - The 2014 Golden Kite Award for Fiction Interview ...And your chance to WIN a copy!

This year's Golden Kite Award for fiction goes to Tim Federle, for his middle grade novel "Better NATE Than Ever!"

Winner of the 2014 Golden Kite Award and #LA14SCBWI Faculty Tim Federle

I contacted Tim to find out more...

* * *

Lee: Hi Tim - congratulations! Can you tell us about finding out you'd won the 2014 Golden Kite Award for fiction for "Better Nate Than Ever?"

Tim: I was at a Texas high school for the performing arts, about to give a presentation on books and Broadway for several hundred kids. Lin Oliver and Steven Mooser phoned me up and I believe I screamed and then hung up and walked out onstage with shaky legs. But it's a blur. 

Lee: Your bio describes you as "raised in character-building Pittsburgh" and says you "fled to New York City as a teenager." That's sounding a lot like Nate's journey, escaping a small-minded town and fleeing to Broadway... It's classified as fiction, but how much of Nate is you?

Tim: Aren't all first novels semi-to-majorly autobiographical? There is a lot of Nate and Tim overlap, though Nate's family isn't as supportive of his wacky ambitions as mine was in real life.

Lee: In addition to attending #LA14SCBWI - The 2014 SCBWI Summer Conference - to accept your Golden Kite Award, you'll also be on faculty, giving the breakout session "The 10 Things Nobody Tells You About Being A Debut Novelist." Can you tell us more about that workshop?

Tim: Yes! It's going to be a (hopefully) fun and funny and frank discussion about all the surprises and occasional setbacks that I hit as a very naive new writer. My goal is to inspire and inform other SCBWI members with some practical tips and tools. 

Lee: How are you dealing with the challenge of constantly switching gears between winning awards for and talking about "Better Nate Than Ever" and promoting the book's sequel, "Five, Six, Seven, Nate!" which came out this January?

Tim: It's a good problem to have. I'm also adapting the first "Nate" book into a screenplay and working on a followup to my cocktail recipe book, "Tequila Mockingbird." I either sleep 2 hours a night or 10. But no complaints. 

Lee: Your background as a broadway dancer (and auditioner) is palpable in the book's audition scenes where there's such a crazy power-disparity between the people in charge and the people there to audition. Was there a bit of 'revenge of the writer' now that in telling the story, you got to be in charge of it all?

Tim: The greatest thing about writing -- especially novels -- is that you get to be the casting director, set designer, and all the actors, too. So it was fun to borrow and heighten from scenes in my own life, going back to my early days as a dancing polar bear in the Radio City Christmas Show. I always tell kids at my visits: wait long enough and every setback you have in life can be used as a plot point in your book, someday! 

Lee: I like that - it reminds me of that T-shirt that reads, "Careful or you'll end up in my novel." There are so many funny moments, but also a lot of heart in this book - like the relationship between Nate and his best friend, Libby, and between Nate's Mom and her sister, Nate's aunt. Tell us about finding that balance.

Tim: I have an incredibly limited attention span, so I'm trying to keep my own self awake and entertained when writing. With that said: it can be a challenge for kids to access books without a parent/librarian/educator's endorsement, so I always try to write with an ear for keeping those gatekeeper adults entertained too.

Lee: At one point, Nate experiences all these emotions on seeing two men dancing together in the big city. It's one of a number of not-quite-coming-out moments for him, and yet, it all adds up to a kid who's figuring out that there just may be a place for him, and for boys who dance with other boys, in our world. Can you share about how you handled Nate's being gay?

Tim: I have a post-it note above my desk that says "Tell the truth." My whole life, I've relied on jokes and sarcasm and punch lines to get out of everything from gym class to parking tickets. And so as much as I hope people laugh during the "Nate" books, I also pushed myself to tell the truth about what it was like for me to be a 13-year-old boy who was starting to notice other boys. Which isn't always funny, believe me. I tried to write about that in a way that was age-appropriate for my middle school audience but that wouldn't overwhelm the story with "message." 

Lee: And in the sequel, there's a boy-boy kiss, right?

Tim: Spoiler alert! 

Lee: When did you first join SCBWI, and can you share how that's helped you on your journey as an author?

Tim: I joined SCBWI right after "Nate" sold, a couple of summers ago. There is a gigantic sense of relief knowing there are thousands and thousands of other writers and illustrators out there who are psychically linked by this incredible organization. Also, the magazine is really pretty. SCBWI helped me with everything from practical articles on taxes to a deep sense of belonging. 

Lee: What advice do you have for other writers working on their novels for young readers?

Tim: Enjoy every step, and celebrate each of them too. You may end up cutting entire chapters and characters, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't say a little prayer of thanks when you first encounter them in your first drafts. Also, read "Tiny Beautiful Things" by Cheryl Strayed and "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott. We're all in this together.

* * *

Thanks, Tim!

If you'd like to learn from, listen to and cheer Tim on as he receives his 2014 Golden Kite Award for Fiction, join us at the upcoming SCBWI Summer Conference, August 1-4 in Los Angeles, CA.

Information and registration here.

And to find out more about Tim and all his books, visit his website here.

Would you like to win a free copy of "Better Nate Than Ever?"

Leave a comment here on this post in the next seven days, and we'll randomly choose one winner!

(Make sure to include your contact email in the comment - if we can't reach you to let you know you've won, we'll have to choose another winner.)

Good luck!

Illustrate and Write On,