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Results 1 - 25 of 133,034
1. An In-Depth Interview with Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell (rhymes with towel) is the beloved bestselling author of books for adults and teens.

SCBWI executive director Lin Oliver, herself a bestselling author, conducted a warm fireside chat with Rainbow about her books and her life. And yeah, there really was a fireplace projected on the screen, because the SCBWI does things right.

Here are some of the highlights:

Rainbow started her career as a journalist and columnist for the Omaha World-Herald. There were some useful things. For example, she didn't get writers block. "At a newspaper, writer's block means tomorrow you're fired." There were also some downsides—working as a journalist was hard on her writerly voice.

During that time, someone asked her what sort of writing she was doing for herself, and after a while, she realized the only writing she'd done for herself was love letters—that may or may not have been read. ("Mine were too long. They needed editing.")

She started writing THE ATTACHMENTS to do something for herself. She wrote that in third person past tense.

CARRY ON, though, was written in first person."I think when you're writing first person, you're really writing monologues," she said.

Her characters have little pieces of her in them. "Human beings are more complicated than fictional characters, and there's enough of you to split into seeds (which become the characters of your books)."

As she writes, she doesn't think about how they're being marketed. ELEANOR & PARK was released as an adult title in the UK, where it "bombed," as hard as it is to believe that. St. Martins Press published it as YA in the states—and Rainbow says they were the only publisher who wanted it. It might have been different had they taken it to YA publishers instead of adult. St. Martins does both.

Her agent describes her work as "funny/sad," which means it's sad but still makes you laugh a lot. "It's so much harder to be funny than it is to be sad," she said. "You can read the newspaper if it's sad. I personally like things better if they're both."

"Sometimes the pressure of writing makes you want to sound official, so you aspire toward something that's not you because it sounds more professional," she said. When she was a journalist, she used to imagine telling the stories she was writing to her husband or her mom.

When writing fiction, she gave herself permission just to write—not to go back in and edit and change things. If it made her laugh, it was good enough.

Lin observed that many of Rainbow's characters seem to be outsiders. But to Rainbow, more people feel like the outside than feel on the inside, especially young people.  It wouldn't have occurred to her to write people who don't feel this way. "It's who we are."

Rainbow likes to talk about her characters with her agent. The characters appear to her pretty well formed and compelling. But talking to good listeners who don't try to build on her characters, and instead just let her develop them, is helpful. She adds details as she's talking about it. She also builds playlists that help her fill her characters out a bit.

Sometimes her characters don't do what she expected them to do in scenes. She gets to know them better as she writes.

CARRY ON has Star Wars, Superman, Harry Potter and Twilight references. It's a book she wrote for people who had some of the same pop culture references as she does. This meant she didn't have to explain a lot of references, but that she could also play against people's expectations.

Rainbow has a lovely and resonant philosophy about her characters and their stories (and about human beings in the real world too): We're all good people trying hard. And there is value in trying hard. 

She shared so much advice and insight for us and really showed us where her magical books come from: her generous heart. Her voice on the page is her voice in real life. If you haven't read her books, you're in for an extraordinary experience. Move them to the top of your pile.

Rainbow's website
Rainbow on Twitter
Rainbow on Facebook

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2. Alvina Ling: Plotting Your Novel

Alvina Ling is vp and editor-in-chief at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." ~ W. Somerset Maugham

Aristotle: Character is plot revealed by action.

Alvina believes conflict is the most important element of plot.

The cat sat on a mat is not a story. The cat sat on another cat's mat is a story.

7 basic plots

  • overcoming the monster
  • rags to riches
  • the quest 
  • voyage and return
  • comedy
  • tragedy
  • rebirth
3 plots
  • boy meets girl (human meets human)
  • the little tailor (power to slay giants)
  • man learns a lesson
2 plots
  • a person goes on a journey
  • a stranger comes to town
Know what the rules are, then break them. 

Elements of plot Alvina looks for:
  • believability 
  • pacing
  • high stakes and emotional impact

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3. Jacquelyn Mitchard: How to Wow an Editor: You Have Three Pages to Win Me Over

Jacquelyn Mitchard is the number one New York Times best-selling author of ten novels for adults, seven novels for teens, and five children's books. She is also editor-in-chief of Merit Press, a realistic young adult imprint.

Make your cover letters personal and smart. Don't make it to artsy and elevated, but show me who you are from the first word.

You have a chapter, maybe ten pages to win her over. When you start that conversation with her in those first pages of the book, she wants to be unable to stop reading.

"I need to recognize the emotionally validity of the story right away."

"Why do something this difficult if your not going to publish?...The dance isn't completed until the reader takes your hand."

Jacquelyn says, as writers, we need to do what it takes.

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4. Rainbow Rowell and Martha Brockenbrough: Creating Teen Characters

I'm so excited about this session! Rainbow Rowell is the New York Times bestselling author of the Young Adult novels Eleanor & Park and Fangirl and Carry On. She's even received a Printz Honor for Eleanor & Park!*

Martha Brockenbrough is our very own team blogger, author of the YA novels The Game of Love and Death and Devine Intervention.**

They're talking about Creating Teen Characters, and you'd think it would feel like this:

But it really felt like this:

Rainbow and Martha had great, in-depth discussion and we were right there. They spoke about the shift that happens for writing a teen's perspective, and the shift that happens for a teen reader (versus an adult.) Rainbow said,

"I don't think about audience... I can get stalled."

They both worked as journalists, and Rainbow spoke of the good training that was (like how it was great for dialog and made her not so precious about her writing) and the challenges that same background created (her voice got "slammed out.") Rainbow joked about her contemporary realistic novels,

"What I'm doing is journalism, but lying."

Martha played the song "Hast Thou Considered The Tetrapod" by The Mountain Goats so we could all hear a bit of it. Rainbow then told us about how the song (and the whole album) inspired her novel Eleanor & Park, and "how it unlocked me." They spoke about different tools they use to get into the writing. Martha used period photos for The Game of Love and Death. Rainbow uses music as a "shortcut to get back to the emotion of that scene," describing a particular scene from Eleanor & Park and how it had a specific song.

They spoke about diversity of characters, aspirational characters versus real characters, and Rainbow's breakthrough in writing fantasy. It was a great story, about research and tropes (and playing with tropes) and how Rainbow ultimately realized that for fantasy, "I've read enough to find my own voice in it."

There was so much more, and Rainbow also answered questions from the rapt audience.

Two final bits of wisdom:

Speaking about today's teens versus the teens of the 1980s, Martha Brockenbrough said,

"We've been this age, we know what we need to know." 

Telling us of a particular character she found challenging to write, (Agatha in Carry On), Rainbow said,

"As an author, you need to find your way in."

And then she explained how she found her way into Agatha... So fascinating!

Useful. Inspiring. Very special.

What a breakout session!

*Check out all of Rainbow's titles here.

**Check out all of Martha's titles here.

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5. Illustrators social

The illustrators were getting their party on this evening at the SCBWI Illustrator's Social, with big nods to Tomie dePaola for putting the  "I" in SCBWI! Peter Brown started off the festivities by introducing members of the SCBWI Illustration leadership team. "It's important for us to get to know one another and network, said Brown.

David Diaz, Peter Brown, Sarah Baker, Paul O. Zelinsky, Laurent Linn

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6. Andrea Papenheimer: The Big Picture: Children’s Publishing: Now and in the Near Future, panel discussion

“The Big Picture” was a unique panel made up of publishing's biggest big-wigs, leaders of the children’s divisions of their publishing houses. 

The takeaway: Children’s books at publishing houses are now the most important revenue stream, they are no longer seen as the “publishing stepchild.” 

Andrea Pappenheimer, director of sales and associate publisher at HarperCollins Children’s Books, spoke about how children’s divisions are the innovators, demonstrating the most growth—back lists and big hits. 

When describing the mission statement at HarperCollins, Pappenheimer spoke about not only making great books, but being an author focused company. HarperCollins produces great books by attracting the most talented writers and illustrators.

"It's an exciting time for children’s books," Pappenheimer said. She spoke about how more space for children's books are being allotted at outlets like Target, Walmart and bookstores in general.

She also spoke about the resurgence of independent bookstores, and how at one time they were closing, new stores are now opening, Amazon being an example. "We'll have to see what happens with that," she said. "But it means there is a market."

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7. Giuseppe Castellano: Building an Effective Portfolio

Giuseppe Castellano, senior art director at Penguin Random House, gave a great talk on children's book illustration in general, not just as it relates to single portfolio pieces.

He feels a lot of artists' work is often too 'children's booky' looking. A lot of the samples he sees have very standard color choices and character choices—the skies are blue, the grass is green, the girl is white, the details aren't necessarily different enough to be interesting, or they seem there to over explain the scene to kids, not allowing them to use their imaginations to fill in the story gaps.

Giuseppe picked out a few Tomie dePaola Award gallery pieces from this year's contest to highlight what images WERE NOT too 'children's booky' looking and had clearly been developed beyond the standard tropes he is hoping we learn to avoid.

The first piece he liked was by Tatiana Escallon. Giuseppe loved that it looks handmade, and not cleaned up/shiny digital. The play and pull of the shapes with each other and within the composition are dynamic, the colors are fun, there are a lot of "gaps" for the reader to fill in with their imagination.

Tatiana Escallon

The next piece he liked was by Claire Lordon. Also has a handmade look, this time it's a screenprint. He liked the play of the colors against each other.

Claire Lordon

Rivkah LaFille's piece appealed to Giuseppe because of its great line work and limited palette. He felt like this piece looked like a sophisticated piece of art you'd see up on a wall and told us, "Children's books should be like mini art galleries... Give kids more credit that they can appreciate fine, complex art."

Rivkah LaFille

Giuseppe gave the room a very cool handout and had them do some simple but awesome, in-class exercises. I'll leave you with a little bit of his thoughts about color:

Color is absolutely a character in your story, says Giuseppe, it's the foundation you build a piece of art on. That doesn't mean it has to be loud, wild crayon color everywhere, he says, "Color choices are like music, you can have loud and soft areas."

Some examples of great color Giuseppe shared are M. Sasek and Ezra Jack Keats's work:

And holy crap, you guys, follow Giuseppe on Twitter and check out the classes he offers via The Illustration Department! I know I will.

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8. Hey nerds! How about some conference statistics?

Children's authors and illustrators are well known around the world for their love of math, which is why we start each conference with some statistics about our attendees.

Here's how this New York international conference breaks down:

  • 1,151 attendees - a record numer
  • 337 are published authors and illustrators
  • 813 pre-published

Yes, we know these numbers don't quite add up. "We're one number off and I'm damn proud of it," SCBWI founder Lin Oliver said.

Attendees travel from 48 states. The missing ones? Hawaii and North Dakota.

They also traveled from 19 countries including the United States.

And we come from many different professional backgrounds, including a ventriloquist, a psychic, and a dressage trainer. (But these are not the same person.)

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9. Jon Anderson: Big Picture Panel, Simon & Schuster

Jon Anderson, President and Publisher of the S&S Children's Division, has been at his job for seven years, but in the book business since high school—as a B Dalton bookseller!

At Simon & Schuster Jon presides over the nine different children's imprints, which publish for toddlers to teens: There is Little Simon, which is predominantly preschool/boardbooks, all the way up to Simon Pulse, which is the S&S teen imprint.

Jon says S&S has five publishers who oversee the nine children's imprints. Each imprint reflects the tastes of their individual editorial directors. The nine editorial directors also share a sales force and two marketing teams. The editorial directors are nine, living/normal human beings, not to be confused with any other famous group of nine, they are absolutely not Tolkienian ring-wraiths—could a person as delightful as someone like Justin Chanda ever be allied with something as evil as Mordor? I don't think so.

Justin Chanda works for Jon, this is how he greets Jon at the office every day.

Lin asks about the health of the market:

Jon says his adult colleagues are very jealous of the never-ending revenue stream that is a children's book publisher's backlist.

Lin asks for Jon's interpretation of the S&S mission statement and it is:

Do good books. 

"We always look for quality first. We have a huge commitment to cover diversity with our books, cover all age ranges with our books."

All of the presidents/publishers on the panel ask for authors and illustrators to have realistic expectations in all areas of publishing: advance amounts, marketing, potential sales...

Jon mentions a surprise success story, a book that everyone on the publishing team loved, but was bought for not too much money (a realistic amount) as it was considered a bit of a niche book that would only reach a certain sales level. But that book—look at all the awards it's got on its cover(!)—has gone on to sell over 200,000 copies.

How do you break in and/or succeed in a children's book career? Jon says attending events like this can help, not only because there are opportunities to learn about the craft and the competition, but to be in proximity to the industry professionals and gatekeepers. And at events like this, you are much more likely to meet those people in person in organic ways (unlike the less organic way of accosting an editor in a bathroom at a tradeshow like BEA).

Maybe, if there is time for Q&A, Jon will finally clear up the age-old riddle: Is this a picture of Simon? OR SCHUSTER?

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10. Jean Feiwel: Children's Publishing Now and in the Near Future panel

Jean Feiwel is a senior vice president and publisher at Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, where her eponymous imprint has published wonderful books such as Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles Series.

She also oversees Squarefish, Swoon Reads, and Henry Holt. (Macmillan has nine imprints in all, including one called Imprint—ha!)

Her career in publishing is incredibly distinguished: at Scholastic she invented the Baby-Sitter's Club series, and published Goosebumps, Animorphs, Harry Potter and other blockbuster series.

And it's not just novels; the picture book On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman was the first title she published at her imprint, and more than 3.5 million copies are in print.

She was one of five editors featured on a panel about publishing and its future.

At Macmillan, the company compiled imprints that had all been independent. "The decision was made to create what I call the Star Wars Alliance," Jean said. This unified their sales and marketing and retained the individuality of the imprints. As a result, their net business has grown 70 percent.

The growth of the industry has changed things, she said. After Harry Potter, it wasn't enough to have a bestselling book. You had to have a phenomenally bestselling book.

"If your bar is that high, you can miss a lot of things happening under that bar," she said. At Macmillan, they're supposed to grow by a certain percentage overall, and they're supposed to make great books.

"Slow and steady wins the race. It's pressure, but it's not the kind of pressure that's a carrot on a stick getting higher and further away."

Jean described different kinds of excitement. One is when you place a big bet on something—as she did with Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles. It's the No. 1 bestselling series on the NYT list this week.

There are other kinds of risks—like a book called MY BIG FAT ZOMBIE GOLDFISH. "It's whizzing along nicely."

She loves being able to build things from the ground up. Risk-taking and developing new ideas is the hallmark of what Macmillan loves to do, she said.

She urged writers to do what they do best, and do it well. Stick to it and believe in it. It's not about trying to write to a trend.

Starting a crowdsourced imprint, Swoon Books, let her see a broader variety of manuscripts than agents were sending (they were too swamped for a slush pile). Seeing a range of submissions and mining self-published work is interesting and useful for publishers.

MacKids: the homepage of Macmillan Children's Publishing
Feiwel and Friends website
Feiwel and Friends on Facebook
Follow Feiwel and Friends on Twitter

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11. Catching Up

Posting here is likely to continue to be sparse for a while, aside from occasional announcement-type notes such as this one. I'm preparing for Ph.D. qualifying exams and anything not related to that and/or to the impending release of Blood: Stories has been cut from my waking hours since this summer.

Blood: Stories has an official release date of February 20. It is at the printer now as I write this, and can be ordered not only from the publisher, but also from Amazon (U.S.), Barnes & Noble, and Small Press Distribution. (It hasn't hit Book Depository yet, but when/if it does, I'll post a link, as that's often the least expensive way to order internationally.) There will be an e-book version eventually, but not until this summer at the earliest. BLP also has a new subscription series for their books, which has various options, all of which are less expensive than buying the books individually.

I'll be in New York City this coming weekend to read at the Sunday Salon series on February 21 at Jimmy's No. 43 (43 E. 7th St.) at 7pm alongside Alison Kinney, Thaddeus Rutkowski, and Terese Svoboda. If you're in the area, stop by!

Various other events are coming up, too. I'll mention them here, but you can also keep up with things via Twitter, my newsletter, and/or the book's Facebook page.

Speaking of books, Eric Schaller's debut story collection, Meet Me in the Middle of the Air, has now been released by Undertow Publications (and is available as both a bookbook and an e-book at the usual outlets). It's a marvelous concatenation of stories of horror, dark fantasy, and general weirdness. Some are disturbing, some are amusing, some are both. It's a really smart, entertaining book. I'm especially pleased it's coming out now, near to the release of my own collection, because Eric has been my erstwhile partner in a number of crimes, including The Revelator (a new issue of which is impending. Even more than its been impending before). Eric hasn't always gotten the credit he deserves as fiction writer because he only publishes stories now and then, and often in somewhat esoteric places, so it's a real pleasure and even a (dare I say it?) revelation to have a whole book of his work and to get to see the range and complexity of his writing.

Finally, in terms of new work, I have exciting news (well, exciting to me) -- my story "Mass" will appear in the next print issue (issue 66) of Conjunctions. It's a tale of academia, mass shootings, and theoretical physics. Having it published by Conjunctions is almost as exciting for me as having a book out, because Conjunctions is my favorite literary journal, the place where the aesthetic feels most convivial to my own, and I've been submitting to it for almost 20 years. I've had stories on the website twice ("The Art of Comedy" and "The Last Vanishing Man"), and numerous stories that came close, but were not quite right for the theme of the issue or didn't quite fit with other material or just weren't quite to the editors' tastes. Getting into the pages of Conjunctions means more to me than getting into The New Yorker or any other magazine would (although I'd love the New Yorker paycheck!).

I think that's it for news. Thanks for reading, and thanks for bearing with me!

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12. Art Browse: A Chance to View the Portfolios

The #NY16SCBWI Art Browse was a blast! This year's portfolios were as polished as never before. New friends were made and old friends were reunited. And art directors were definitely impressed. 

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13. The #NY16SCBWI Publisher Panel Begins!

From Left to right, SCBWI's Lin Oliver (at podium), Megan Tingley (Executive Vice President and Publisher, Little Brown Books for Young Readers), Andrea Pappenheimer (Senior Vice President, Director of Sales/Associate Publisher HarperCollins Publishers), next at the table and shown on screen is Mallory Loehr (Vice President, Publishing Director, Random House/Golden/Doubleday Books for Young Readers), Jean Feiwel (Senior Vice President and Director, Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan Children's Publishing Group), and Jon Anderson (President and Publisher, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division.)

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14. Laurent Linn: Illustrating for Middle Grade, Graphic Novels, and YA

Laurent Linn is an Art Director at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, designing up to 40 books at a time. In addition, he's the author and illustrator of an upcoming teen novel called DRAW THE LINE (Simon & Schuster, May 2016).  His breakout session was a standing room only event of published and pre-published illustrators, authors and graphic novelists.

Linn offered a few key points: 

What’s the next big thing in children’s books: Illustration! It’s a great time for illustration and to be an illustrator. 

Kids are more visually astute today, because there is so much imagery out there competing for their attention. So feel free to break boundaries. Your art director will reel you in, if necessary.

For middle grade novels, the text drives the story. However, an illustrator can use art to enhance key moments in a story. Don’t simply illustrate a scene, go deeper. Think of yourself as a designer, consider the placement of text with the illustration. Use illustration to punctuate a story. 

For young adult novels, remember that the art is often meant to represent art that is "drawn" by the characters in a story. Channel the character's personality. Ask yourself how he/she draw this ? For example, Sherman Alexie's THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN.

Graphic novels are now being recognized as legitimate pieces of literature, as with Cece Bell's El Deafo winning a Newbery.

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15. Elizabeth Bicknell: Writing Picture Book Text

Elizabeth Bicknell is Executive Vice President, Executive Editorial Director & Associate Publisher at Candlewick Press. She edits picture books, fiction, poetry and nonfiction. Two recent picture book projects include Mac Barnett and John Klassen's Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

and Carole Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes' Voice of Freedom

Liz spoke about the different kinds of picture books, using examples of 12 books she's published to, well, illustrate her points. Story picture books, concept books, biography, poetry collections...

It's fascinating that she's able to break those twelve down into six that had an author/illustrator create them, and six books that had different authors and illustrators. (Additionally, eight of the eighteen people were not agented at the time she acquired their work.)

She tells us that she's "a sucker for dog stories," and jokes that now that she's said that, "everyone feverishly changes their main characters to dogs."

Some quotes:

"I am very fond of poetry."

"I like books that are a little bit wicked."

"There are no rules you can never break."

Liz tells us more about what she's looking for, breaks down the reasons she really doesn't like rhyme, and talks about those critical first (and last) lines.

There's lots more good stuff, some handouts, and so much wisdom. Here's one last bit of wisdom:

"If the ending isn't working, really the whole thing isn't working."

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16. #NY16SCBWI is about to begin!

The air

is humming

And something great is coming!

(If you know the musical that's from, you can chime in--or sing along--in comments!)

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17. Kate Messner & Linda Urban: Music, Mountains, and Mocha Lattes: Sustaining a Creative Life

Kate Messner and Linda Urban are both award-winning writers of many books for kids, from picture books to middle grade novels.

Together they will present a mini-keynote.

Kate tells us there are times when it's more important to get your butt out of the chair. Counter to what we are often told. Sounds good!

Science supports taking a walk when we are stuck.

At a point when Kate was stuck, she started hiking, and found climbing a mountain is exactly like writing a first draft: the beginning was full of roots, it was muddy in the middle, toward the top it started to rain, and when she was ready for the million dollar view, it was cloudy.

But that hike gave her an idea for the book. It's not always the big things. Sometimes we just need a small thing to keep going.

Kate climbed that same trail again and this time the summit was different. Sometimes when we go away and come back, even with writing, things can look a lot different.

Other lessons Kate learned from hiking that can be applied to writing:

  • Even when the trail is unmarked, you can find ways of moving forward and you can benefit from those who were there before you.
  • Sometimes a trail can start out one way and then you realize it wasn't the way you thought it was going to be.  
  • Thing that look impossible to climb can be managed. You only have to find one next place to go.

For Linda, getting out of the chair is not going for a walk, it's getting up and moving to another chair.

At a time Linda was stuck, she came across a red ukulele in a window. She bought it and started to play. Learning and playing released dopamine and quieted the existential hecklers that had her stuck on her latest novel.

The release of dopamine and small success allowed her get back to the novel and make progress. Her story was free to run a little wild. As she kept playing and learning the ukulele, Linda was seeing and hearing things in different way.

The experience was also a reminder that learning new things can be really hard and that is what kids go through too.

At this point in the talk, Linda has been coaxed by Kate, and the crowd, to sing her sad-ogre-cowboy song.

So worth it! Huge applause for Linda. And proof, that as writing buddies, Kate pushes Linda out of her comfort zone, and we learn that Linda helps Kate to slow down. Kate and Linda share that they are writing buddies, and it is evident as they interact onstage. While they live 2 hours apart, they meet over lattes or lunch every month. They leave us with a  final thought: We need people in this writing world. Connect with your writing community. Find your writing buddies.

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18. William Joyce: Books are Like the Ice Cream Sandwich: How New Technology Doesn't Change Much of Anything but it's all Kinda Cool

William Joyce, the creator of so many amazing books and now movies, is here! You may remember The Leaf Men, Dinosaur Bob, Santa Calls, Bentley & Egg, A Day with Wilbur Robinson, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore???

Joyce compares a traditional printed book to an icecream sandwich: The hard stuff's on the outside, the good stuff is in the middle.

When asked by technology companies to help them achieve true interactivity with their products, Joyce asks them what the hell they think happens when a kid opens a book.

Joyce appreciates the apprenticeship style of the publishing industry like he felt he received decades ago. Getting the time, maybe 5 or 6 years, to get to know the people working at a publisher, getting to learn how to craft a book with them by working on smaller books, forging creative projects together.

Joyce's advice: Befriend/understand/know the problems/trials/process of the people publishing your book.

"Most of the people in publishing are in it for the same reason you are, they love books."

Joyce talks about getting a phone call from a guy named John Lasseter. He knows we understand how solitary the typical children's book creator's creative daily life is. But with his film work, Joyce was excited by the collaborative nature of such projects and finds balancing both makes a much nicer work life.

After his time in Hollywood, Joyce decided he might try his hand at his own film production company, but closer to home, which is when Moonbot Studios became a reality. The idea of making an animated movie in Louisiana, he says, would have gotten you escorted from the room [to a looniebin]. But Joyce and his partners wanted to prove it could be done in Shreveport, and so they did, and in 2012 it won the Oscar for Best Animated Short. (Fun fact! They made FIVE THOUSAND MINIATURE BOOKS for this short!)

Bill describes their (Moonbot's) thought process behind making their Lessmore story app unique from both the paper book and animated short. He shares a mini tirade with us about simulated page gutters that's pretty entertaining.

Bill's advice for bookmakers looking to develop online versions of their work:

"Don't just regurgitate what you've done. Make it separate, make it special."

Check out his delightful Instagram feed! Here's a cool piece, don't you want to know what happens to the snowman??!!

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19. Megan Tingley: The Big Picture: Children's Publishing: Now and in the Near Future

Megan Tingley is the executive VP and publisher of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. She oversee the entire Young Reader's publishing program as well as acquires and edits a small list of titles for her own list.

Little, Brown has one division and they all work collaboratively to publish board books to young adult.

Mission statement : Publish great books well. They are committed to growth, innovation, and transparency.

The children's book division has gone from being the stepchild to the favorite child in their larger companies, and they are leaders in the diversity of their lists.

The huge successes in the children's book industry are very noticeable and people are then asking where is the next one. But this has also shown that children's books can behave like big adult titles. This gives children's publishing an opportunity to make more decisions.

This is an incredible time to be in publishing. The business has changed so much. The opportunity to get representation is better than before, there's far more exposure with social media, as well as a lot more media stories about the industry. Seeing a picture book win the Newbery and graphic novels winning awards shows an openness to different formats that are a great opportunity.

The notion that print books are going to go away, nobody is worrying about that.

Book creators often wonder, what is the measure of success?

Megan says the thing editors love most to do is discover new talent. Success can be becoming a New York Times bestseller or winning a Newbery or Caldecott, but don't see those as the only markers. Megan discovered a young artist Naoko Stoop walking in Brooklyn when Noako's paintings in a widow caught her eye. She then saw her work on Etsy and met with her about creating a book for kids. That book became Red Knit Cap Girl, both a personal and professional success.

Because of technology the industry has a chance to move more quickly and jump on trends.

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20. Sarah Davies: Writing Salable Middle Grade

Sarah Davies is the founder of The Greenhouse Literary Agency, which represents authors of YA, MG, and picture books.

Sarah loves literary fiction with a strong commercial hook. Middle grade fiction is really the first that immerses young readers in new worlds and introduces them to empathy. These books often are among the most important people read.

We are in a fabulous, golden time for middle grade. Librarians and educators play a bigger role in linking readers with books, and it's sometimes a slow process.

How can you raise the level of your writing and make your manuscript stand out?

She has identified eight common denominators of great, salable middle grade. Here are a few things she looks for:

1. Know your market. What is middle grade? Her submissions inbox tells her a lot of people don't know what they're trying to do or who they're writing for.

At the younger end, it's chapter books that are typically 15,000-25,000 words long and illustrated with line art. Her client Tricia Springstubb writes these. They can be character led or concept driven. Clementine by Sara Pennypacker is an example. The Magic Treehouse is concept driven.

Novels for older middle grade readers run 30,000-60,000 words. (If it's longer, ask yourself why.) These core middle grade novels are about characters from 10 to 13, with a sweet spot of 11 to 13. THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE by Kat Yeh is an absolutely delightful middle grade that received a lot of buzz.

There's also a "tween" category that tends to be pinker and fluffier and deals with crushes, clothes, and friendships. Aladdin does this sort of book well.

2. Know your reader. How is MG different from YA? The YA protagonist is older, with a protagonist who is 15 to 17. But it's not just simply about age. The interior world of the pre-teen child is different from the older teen. If all good fiction has some rite of passage in it, the older teen's right of passage is "who will I be as an adult." For a middle grader, it's about firsts, the beginnings of finding an identity separate from your parents. Asking who am I, what am I?

3. Voice. Her client Mark Maciejewski had a funny voice. His submission needed work, but that voice struck her. Sometimes she can hear the adult behind the voice--and adult who is trying to remember how they think children sound. "Can you access the real thing? If you can, you're two-thirds of the way there. If you can an agent will spot you."

Let your voice shine through in the opening, rather than dumping plot info up front.

Read a lot and listen to children speak and understand their phrasing and logic. "You've got to develop your voice muscle."

The Greenhouse Literary Agency
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21. Day 13: Jessixa Bagley

Jessixa Bagley_headshot_small2Jessixa Bagley burst onto the children’s literature stage last year with the debut of her beautiful picture book “Boats For Papa,” a gentle story of loss, healing, and ultimately persevering. Bagley is both author and illustrator. The book has received numerous starred reviews, and it has been widely praised by children, the children’s literature community, and beyond.
Her gentle watercolors are richly detailed, and her characters–a loving family of anthropomorphic beavers–will delight young readers.
I appreciate the generosity Bagley put in to participating in this interview:
Don: Tell us about your path to publishing. How did you get that first trade contract?
Jessixa: It’s been a long road for me to get where I am today, but every step has held a lot of value. I pretty much always wanted to make picture books. Ever since I was a small child, I was writing and drawing my own stories, books, and comics, creating characters and their worlds. Right after graduating college in 2004, I started writing picture books and submitting them to publishers left and right. I had been published for comics already at that point, so I figured I could finally get my real dream going and jump into children’s publishing. I think I made every wrong mistake possible with submitting my work for about 6-7 years. I just really didn’t know what I was doing and I thought I could go it on my own and I had a nice big stack of rejection letters to prove it. I was at a loss for what to do.
Then I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in 2010. I was an Boats-for-Papa-jacket_sminactive member still for a while- thinking arrogantly that I didn’t need to be part of a club to get published (and just not knowing what SCBWI had to offer). And, shocker, I still wasn’t getting published and didn’t understand why. Then one year I made the leap and decided to go to their annual summer conference in Los Angeles having never attended any previous SCBWI events at all. And that’s when things started to make more sense. I got to see first hand what my portfolio needed to look like and I got to hear about how the business of books worked-the real ins and outs of submitting work and what editors and art directors really cared about.
After some  tears, I went home and started over. It still took me some time, and lots more tears, but I finally started to find my voice as an illustrator and then as a writer. That’s when things began to click inside of me and that’s when things started to change. Once I found this “voice” inside of me that people would always talk about, the awards and opportunities started to show up. Then I did another Hail Mary in 2013 and went to the SCBWI NY Winter Conference and I was runner up for the portfolio showcase and that is where I attended a workshop by Alexandra Penfold (my soon to be future agent). Alex believed in my work, offered me representation shortly thereafter and then went to work submitting my book dummy for Boats for Papa (then called Drift). She put the book in front of Neal Porter- one of the most loveable men on Earth- and then rest is history.
Don: What primary medium do you use in your work?
Jessixa: I use very fine waterproof black pens and watercolor for my illustrations. I use pretty inexpensive watercolor paper to help create my pooling affect in my paintings (pooling is what I call when the watercolor builds up in areas to create unique textures). I also use an eyedropper to help me spread my paint- a technique I created for myself so I can paint large areas fairly evenly with small brushes to retain the right look I want for my pooling. I like to do everything by hand and prefer not to work digitally, except for small touch-ups.
Don: Tell us about your most recent book

Jessixa: My most recent book, “Before I Leave,” is about a little hedgehog named Zelda that finds out that she has to move away from her best friend (Aaron the anteater) and instead of being sad about leaving, they decided to cherish those last moments they have together. It’s a story pulled from my own experiences having to move when I was young and how hard it is to leave your friends. I wanted to use a style of writing that was very different than Boats for Papa so I wrote it in more of a letter format, like one friend writing a letter to the other. I was trying to approach it with a more open and poetic quality.
Don: Talk about the research process for the book
Jessixa: This was so much different than my research for “Boats for Papa”-which was much more technical because of the boats and the nautical elements. For “Before I Leave” I looked at tons and tons of photos of hedgehogs and anteaters to familiarize myself with them for the book. (By the way, researching pictures of hedgehogs is probably the CUTEST research anyone could ever have to do.) I read a lot of facts about both animals, where they live, their everyday habits. They are both very fascinating animals. Fun fact: Both hedgehogs and anteaters have very poor eyesight. I thought that was a weird coincidence that I learned after I picked the animals. It seems like a good basis of a friendship, being able to relate to one another!
Don: Any important things you learned about the subject while researching the book?
Jessixa: I got very interested in the idea of having a hedgehog for a pet when working on my book! Once again, they are the cutest animals and you sort of can’t help falling in love with them when you are staring at photographs of them all day. But I found out that like reptiles they have salmonella on their bodies, which because I was about to have a baby, didn’t seem like a good idea. That and they are nocturnal and poop when they run. I figured we should only have one animal in the house that is awake all night and poops while it’s running.
Don: If you could spend one day in a studio, working with any artist — past or present — who would that be, and why?
Jessixa: I have a really hard time with choosing a favorite anything (except for food- hamburgers are my favorite food). For dream artists will have to be a current top five list:
Pieter Bruegel the Elder– He was a master painter and the intricacies of his work are amazing. I’d love to see his traditional painting process. Heck, I’d take the Younger Bruegel too!
Beatrix Potter– She is magic and I think she would be a kindred spirit. I’d love to see how she worked in nature and how her environment shaped her relationship with her characters.
Richard Scarry– He would be SO fun to see work. I imagine he talks to his characters when he draws (like I do). I’d love to hear the backstories he created for his characters and why he thinks pigs would be such terrible drivers.
Mary Blair– She was an amazing painter and I’d love to see her design approach and how that graphic eye influenced her art decisions.
Frances Glessner Lee– She was an aristocrat in the 1940’s who made all of those dioramas of crime scenes that police used for forensic training. I love miniatures and it would be incredible to see how she worked (And just a little creepy).
Don: What would be your dream manuscript? Your dream author to work with?24140_669[1].jpg
Jessixa: I’d love the chance to get to illustrate “The Wind in the Willows.” Those characters speak to my soul as an artist and feel like a part of me lives in that world that Kenneth Grahame wrote. I don’t know how I could do it justice, but I’d love to try! One of my favorite authors right now is Matt de la Peña. I thought the writing in Last Stop on Market Street was simply exquisite. I was really moved by the poetic quality to his work. It did more than just tell a story, it really made you feel. I’d love to see what stories he could create for my little woodland animal world!
Don: Can you talk a bit about your process of illustrating a book?
Jessixa: Because I am a VERY unorganized person, I try to set myself up for success with my books by being very organized in my process. I start off by making a list of how many and what kind of illustrations I have to do and how long I have to do them all. Also because I have a full time job and am a mother to a burgeoning toddler, my time is very limited so knowing how long a painting will take me and knowing how much time I have to paint it is a huge help for time management. I pretty much have a standard process for my illustrations:  thumbnails, dummy, final sketches, transfer sketches to watercolor paper, pen over the pencil art, then watercolor. I also end up doing a lot of paint tests and color tests before I start working on the final art so I know I have my palette right where I want it.
I work at actual size of the final book so I know exactly how fine the details will end up being (and also because I have a hard time using math to figure out percentages for scaling up and down). I usually work on one piece at a time but if I have several pieces that have similar backgrounds- like they are in the same room or it’s the same day- I’ll mix up a huge batch of the watercolor wash and paint the larger areas (like the sky) at the same time to maintain consistency. I also have a really great rhythm with my AMAZING book designer Jennifer Browne and my editor Neal Porter, so once I have a little chunk of final work to show, I scan it and email it into them so we can all make sure everything is looking good. It’s so great that they are willing to work this way because it saves me from illustrating an entire book, then having to turn around and make a ton of changes in the end. Altering as I go is much more efficient and less stressful for me- plus I get to talk to them more frequently which I love because they are just the best people!

Creating thumbnail sketches

Creating character sketches Before I go_anteater1

Final painting for BEFORE I LEAVE

Don: Who are your cheerleaders, those who encourage you?
Jessixa: I am lucky that I feel like I have too many cheerleaders to count within my friends and family! My husband though is my biggest fan and supporter and he’s really helped me keep up the will power to keep going when things were (and are) really challenging. And my amazing picture book friends are just the best. My community of my crit groups, writer friends, and SCBWI partners in crime has really given me so much love and encouragement that I can’t imagine this journey being possible without them. I’ve made incredible friends by getting involved in the community of the picture book world. You think you can do this alone, but I’ve found that making books is an extremely collaborative process and the more people you have to support you, the better- and the work is better for it as well.
Don: What’s on the horizon, what can your fans expect to see from you?
Jessixa: I’ve got two great projects on the horizon! Next winter (2017) my third picture book, Laundry Day comes out and it’s such a fun and silly book and I’m really looking forward to its release! It’s about two twin badger brothers named Tic and Tac who are bored one late summer day and they decide to help their mother with the laundry and of course some wackiness ensues-as of course it always does with laundry. It’s very different in tone than my first two books which I hope readers will enjoy. And my next project-which is very dear to my heart-is a picture book collaboration with my husband, Aaron Bagley. We’ve always collaborated on art and this will be our first picture book together. We both wrote the story and are both painting the illustrations. The book is called Vincent Comes Home and is about a cat that lives on a cargo ship. It’s a very sweet story and that much sweeter to get to work on it with my best friend! It comes out winter 2018.

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22. Bonnie Bader: Nonfiction

For many years Bonnie Bader worked as an Associate Publisher of Frederick Warne & Co., as well as the editor-in-chief of Penguin Young Readers/Early Readers. Today she is a member of the SCBWI Board of Advisors, and the PAW (Published and Listed) point person. 

When she first started in publishing, Bader said that she hated nonfiction. What changed her mind? The narrative voice.

In her session today, Bader spoke about what publishers are doing and what sellers are saying. She also offered tips for authors seeking to write nonfiction. It was a lively interactive session, with high audience participation. 

Here are a few bullet points:

• What sells? Nonfiction pegged to a holiday: First Thanksgiving

• Smaller publishers do well with nonfiction. They tend to have more people designated to target the school library market. 

• Bookstores have seen an uptick in nonfiction sales: biography, weird-but-true stories (Ripley's Believe It or Not!)
Who Was? nonfiction books are hot sellers,
selling more than 20 million copies to date.

• Write about tension in a character's life. 

• Develop your voice.

• Always offer sources for dialog. 

• Write grabby first lines.

• Decide who your audience is. Who are you writing for?

• Pick your subject, explore your own interests. What excites you? What are you passionate about?

• Research, research, research!

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23. Welcome, from SCBWI Team Blog

We're so glad you're here -- in person and/or following along on this blog.

SCBWI Team Blog, from Left to Right: Jolie Stekly, Martha Brockenbrough (standing), Lee Wind, Don Tate and Jaime Temairik

Welcome to #NY16SCBWI, the 17th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference!

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24. Join the ALSC Community Forum on Summer Reading & Learning

ALSC Community ForumThe ALSC Board of Directors and ALSC President Andrew Medlar will be hosting an ALSC Community Forum live chat on the topic of summer reading & learning. This forum will include a live text discussion with the newly appointed ALSC Summer Reading & Learning Task Force.

Join us to discuss how libraries across the country are finding new and engaging ways to keep kids reading and learning in their communities and explore ways in which ALSC can help assist members in their work.

ALSC’s next forum will be held on Thursday, February 25, 2016 at:

  • 2pm Eastern
  • 1pm Central
  • 12pm Mountain
  • 11am Pacific

Members are invited to check out the National Summer Learning Association’s new Summer Learning Policy Snapshot in preparation for this discussion.

Accessing the Forum

ALSC Community Forums take place on Adobe Connect. A few days prior to the event, ALSC members will receive an email with a URL link to the forum. You can also find a direct link to the forum from the Community Forum site (member login required). A recorded webcast of the forum will be available after the live session has completed.

Participate via Twitter

Members who cannot participate in the live chat can participate via Twitter using the hashtag #alscforum. Questions and answers will be submitted to the forum as time allows.

Questions? Contact ALSC Membership and Marketing Manager, Dan Bostrom or by phone, 800-545-2433 ext 2164.

The post Join the ALSC Community Forum on Summer Reading & Learning appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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25. Mallory Loehr: The Big Picture Panel: Children's Publishing Now and in the Future

Mallory Loehr is Vice President, Publishing Director for the Random House, Golden Books and Doubleday children's imprints--representing everything from board books to young adult hard covers and trade books to licensed books.

With Random House Books for Young Readers since 1990, she's edited household name titles and authors including Dr. Seuss books, the Magic Treehouse series, Bruce Coville and Tamora Pierce!

Some highlights from what Mallory shared:

On the advantage Children's publishing has over adult publishing:

"Children's books backlist, which means they live on and on and on."

On Random House Books for Young Readers' mission, how they're

"thinking about that kid reader, wanting them to be totally engaged... and make them a reader for life."

and when asked what defines success for her, Mallory tells the room about an illustrator/author she discovered on Etsy, Emily Winfield Martin.

Mallory Loehr on screen talking about E

Mallory speaks of how Emily's career has grown, defining success as the growth of an author/illustrator's career. Emily's first book, a middle grade, did well but wasn't huge, her next book, a picture book, sold less than they'd hoped, and it's her current, third book, the picture book, The Wonderful Things You Will Be, that hit the Best Seller lists and has been there for 20 weeks! So it's not just the single book's success, but the growth of this author/illustrator's career--and how success will continue to happen for her--that Mallory defines as success.

The optimistic panel also discusses changes in the retail environment, ebooks, publisher expectations of their authors and illustrators and much more.

It's an amazing window into children's publishing today!

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