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Newbery-winning author of THE CROSSOVER, Kwame Alexander, delivered a riveting final keynote for #LA15SCBWI. Using a poetry-slam style of call-and-response, he had the audience bopping along with him, interactively, throughout. His keynote, appropriately entitled, #Basketball rules, ended with an uproarious standing ovation. What a way to end #LA15SCBWI!
Come, let me take your hand. (Wow. That is cold. We’ll talk about your circulation issues later.) We both know what needs to happen, and I’m here to help you do it.
Take a deep breath and repeat after me: “I am a writer.”
I can’t hear you, my little petunia. Try a-gain. Whisper it, if that helps. “I am a writer.”
See? I knew you could say it. (Do your hands always get this clammy?) Now, eat your cookie.
Earlier this summer I was at a conference where I met dozens of new writer kin and what ghasted my flabber was that several of these real writers (not dabblers or sometimers–the actual writing writer variety–with an agent no less!) were reluctant to call themselves a writer.
Now, I know the reasons for this reluctance are legion . . .
I’m “pre-published,” so I feel like an imposter. Writers are people who write. Authors are writers who are published. If you write novels/picture books/articles/manuscripts or copy of any kind, you, my darlin’, are a writer. If you’ve spent years thinking about/intending to/wanting to but never really writing, then sorry, you’re probably right not to call yourself a writer. You’re more of a writer in waiting. And that’s okay too.
I want to avoid the inevitable questions/unwelcome comments/unsolicited advice. You don’t want to be asked, “Where can I buy your book?” (if you don’t have one yet or it’s gone out of print). You don’t want to hear, “You’re going to be rich and famous! You’re going to be the next Harry . . .” you know the rest. Don’t deny who you are because you’re shy about silly, innocent, well-meaning questions or comments. Those will morph over time, but they won’t go away. Learn to nod and smile. You’re cool. You can handle this.
I don’t want the pressure. You know what? Maybe it’s not a bad thing. Instead of pressure, maybe let’s think of it as motivation. Show the world you’re for reals.
I’m not worthy of the title. Do you need a hard pinch? Stop that silliness right now. You love words. You care about craft. You’re willing to spend hours in isolation to revise and polish. You seek feedback. You take risks. You spend dollars you could devote to shoe-shopping so you can go to workshops to improve your skills. Heck, if you work any harder, you’re going to be OVER-worthy. You can wear the title of writer with pride. You’re stone cold legit.
I’m afraid I’ll be asked to perform an emergency tracheotomy. No, no, lamb chop. That’s what might happen if you say you’re a doctor. Stick with writer. No incisions needed.
You recognize your reluctance. Now, acknowledge your fear. Then do the right thing anyway. Come on out. Say it loud and proud–I am a WRITER!
Enjoy that feeling of empowerment. Your bravery will be rewarded. And, yes, of course, you can have a cookie.
The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong. ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder
#BookADay: CIRCUS MIRANDUS by Cassie Beasley ( Dial Books for Young Readers, June 2015). Finished this middle grade book on the weekend. It was one of those experiences where I was enjoying the book soooo much that I began reading slower when I got to the last few chapters because I DIDN'T WANT IT TO END. This would make a fantastic read aloud.
I was also lucky enough to meet Cassie at Nerd Camp in June. She's so easygoing and friendly, plus drew me a picture of an elephant butt! She says it's the only thing she knows how to draw. grin emoticon I keep her drawing in the front of my copy of her book.
Rachelle wrote this about herself: Rachelle Meyer was born in the state of Texas and spent most of her childhood with her nose in a book. Reading became the wellspring for her continuing passions in life: drawing, storytelling and traveling. She graduated with a degree in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin and then spent eight years in New York City working as a graphic artist and designer. She has since moved to Europe and launched a successful career as an illustrator, specializing in children's books and editorial interpretations. Her talents have been used to interpret the work of contemporary best-selling authors such as Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler's Wife) and Nick Ortner (The Tapping Solution). She also writes and illustrates her own picture books and graphic novels. She volunteers as the International Illustrator Coordinator for SCBWI. She now lives in Amsterdam with her English husband, her Dutch son, and her cranky old New York cat.
This is the cover of a webcomic that I put together from the artwork of kids in a cartooning class at the New London Maritime Museum where I was the instructor. I drew the building, which is supposed to represent the old Customs House which houses the museum, and each of the kids in the class contributed the various details that I combined and colored in the computer. I don't know if the kids learned anything, but I learned a lot.
Poster art for the Princeton Children's Book Festival.
While I shudder at the thought of summer being over, I wanted to share dates for some exciting events I have coming up this fall. (OK, take a look below and forget that I just made a reference to any time after summer!)
The surprising problem arising in our culture is that good, active, creative reading is on the decline.
I'm not sure to what extent this isn't actually just another facet of the perennial problem/complaint, but, hey, I'm always up for some support of 'creative', careful, and engaged reading
So I'm certainly on board with her conclusion:
Let's not stop reading the kind of books that keep teaching us to read.
The "Witch Castle" adventure is really just picking up. King Bronty and Prince Podoee have encountered some scary witches and are being pursued into the dark, ancient hallways of the creepy, old fortress.
I hope you enjoy this blog. I truly enjoy making "King Bronty"! "King Bronty" is drawn on paper then transferred to bristol board using tracing paper and a carbon-like paper. The transferred drawing is then inked in lack lines with either ink and a brush or a brush pen or a Sharpie marker.
Next, I use combinations of Crayola Markers, Pitt Artist's Markers, Prismacolor Markers, gouache paint and colored pencils. Then, of course, I scan each page, re-size it and post the strip for you to enjoy!
Please use the little PayPal button below to support "King Bronty" with any amount you wish.
In The Sun Henry Akubuiro has a Q & A with Tade Ipadeola, NNLG laureate: I have no time for literary zombies -- which is certainly a nice headline.
Admirable that he's translated (well, hmmm ... "more of 'traduction' in the sense of what translation means in a Romance language such as French. It was a whim" ...) Auden into Yoruba -- and disappointing that they're still:
unpublished translations of Daniel Fagunwa Yoruba classical novels, into English The Divine Cryptograph [Aditu] and The Pleasant Potentate of Ibudo [Ireke Onibudo].
“The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot . . . These are strange and breathless days, the dog days.”
Odds are that at least one of your Facebook friends will post the above quote this week—and for good reason, as this is, IMO, one of the best descriptions of summer ever to come from an ALSC Notable Children’s Book. Tuck Everlasting was named a Notable Children’s Book after its 1975 publication and is now widely hailed as a classic. Announced each year after Midwinter, the Notables lists of books, recordings, and videos, bring well-deserved attention to those titles which are “worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding” and make superb resources for curating collections in libraries and homes. And Notables seals, just like those of the Newbery and its kin, help your library community discover these great titles. I’ve found that a great late summer project can be making sure that all of the Notables in the collection have this honor glinting from their cover, and you can buy Notables seals in sets of 24 here, or if you need 1,000 or more you can go here.
Thanks to all of the hard-working Notables committees over the years and best of luck to this years’!
Here are some other great summer-themed Notables from recent decades:
Blackout. By John Rocco, Illus. by the author. Disney/Hyperion Books (2012 Books list)
Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Summer Vacation. By Tommy Greenwald, read by MacLeod Andrews. Brilliance. (2014 Recordings list)
A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever. By Marla Frazee. Harcourt. (2009 Books list)
The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester. By Barbara O’Connor. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. (2011 Books list)
Garmann’s Summer. By Stian Hole, translated by Don Bartlett. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. (2009 Books list)
Georgie Lee. By Sharon Philips Denslow, illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins. Greenwillow. (2003 Books list)
Horse Song: The Naadam of Mongolia. By Ted and Betsy Lewin. Lee & Low Books. (2009 Books list)
Hot Day on Abbott Avenue. By Karen English, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe. Clarion. (2005 Books list)
A Long Way from Chicago: A Novel in Stories. By Richard Peck. Dial. (1999 Books list)
My Louisiana Sky. Based on the novel by Kimberly Willis Holt. Hallmark Entertainment (2002 Videos list)
One Crazy Summer. By Rita Williams-Garcia. Harper/Amistad. (2011 Books & Recordings lists)
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy. By Jeanne Birdsall. Knopf. (2006 Books list)
Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time. By Lisa Yee. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. (2006 Books list)
Summersongs. By John McCutcheon. Rounder Records. (1996 Recordings list)
Sweet Corn. By James Stevenson. Greenwillow. (1996 Books list)
Congratulations to everyone who is now beginning to wind down their summer programming, and warm wishes for an enjoyable rest-of-summer, and here’s hoping that these titles whet the appetites of our southern hemisphere colleagues for the season headed your way. Happy reading, viewing, and listening to all!
My favorite spot on the Lake Michigan shore by my house to read in the summer. Photo source: Andrew Medlar
We Need Diverse Books™team members Miranda Paul and Nicola Yoon presented an enormously informational session on writing outside of your own diversity. Paul, who is married to a black African man, wished for more books featuring characters that looked like her biracial family—particularly when her daugher questioned why so many books featuring characters that looked like her were about slavery. Yoon also comes from a biracial family and shared her concern. Here are a few things to think about when writing outside of your own race, background, experience:
• Honest Reflection. Consider your own motivations, biases, ignorances for writing a particular story. What is your connection to the topic?
Identity experts with whom you might work with or co-author a book. They can help you to realize things you didn't realize you don't know.
Make research trips, take notes, watch, listen (Cavet: You are still an outsider at this phase)
Be honest with your reader, explain literary choices, share your research process, extend beyond the book
• Tell the truth Write characters, not caricatures. If you’re writing a stereotype, you’re not telling the truth. All Asians are not good with math. All black girls aren’t sassy. People are complicated, create complex characters. Know what makes your character tick— What do they love? What do they want
• Diversify your life Include more types of people in your own life, it will not only make you a better writer, it will make you a better person.
by Julie MurphyHardcover: 384 pagesPublisher: Balzer + Bray (September 15, 2015)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon
Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always
Here’s where I finally release what’s left of our SDCC audio content…as a follow-up to last week’s set of DC and Marvel Television interviews, here are our chats on the animated side of things including discussions with Dan Harmon, Justin Roiland, Bruce Timm, Andrea Romano, Ike Barinholtz, Seth Meyers, and more! Additionally, here are the audio […]
The introduction for Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey begins by noting that Jane Goodall "has been chosen as the most recognized scientist in the Western world." Regardless of how accurate that statement is, the fact remains that Jane Goodall is still alive, has been working in her field for over 50 years and her subject is something that is almost universally appealing
One of the coolest things about attending the SCBWI Summer Conference is that when you're wowed by a faculty member's breakout session – if you time it right – you can go to their other session as well. To dig deeper. To learn more. So, after being wowed by Jordan's breakout session on Voice, I attended (and here blog) his second breakout session, on Revision...
Jordan Brown is an executive editor with the imprints Walden Pond Press and Balzer + Bray at HarperCollins Children's Books.
The room is packed, every seat filled, people sitting on the floor.
Jordan starts us out the way he starts out when creating an editorial letter for a book he's editing. He aims to define the core of the manuscript.
The core is three important qualities:
1. A central element of the story to which all readers can ideally relate - the universal. 2. What is the most formative experience of your young character's life? That's what your book should be about. 3. Something your character chooses, or has agency.
He illustrates the core of the manuscript with Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games":
1. The concept is survival. 2. The most formative experience of Katniss's life is being in the Hunger Games. 3. It's her choice. She volunteers to save her sister.
It's these core concepts that Jordan uses to ground his revision notes, to make sure he and the author share a vision of what the book is.
He walks us through his five principles of revision. I'll share one of them.
Character Drives Plot
You want your plot to ask the right questions of your character: 1. What does my character want? 2. What are the stakes for my character? What happens if she doesn't get what she wants? 3. What complicates things. Why can't the character get what they want?
As full as the room is, Jordan's speech is still more full of great content, tips and examples. He ends with his explaining how to know if your book is ready... or if it's not ready.
A final note:
Jordan reminds us that our manuscripts don't have to be perfect, that
"As editors, we're not acquiring your pages. We're acquiring the vision they represent."
And revision is the way to get our books to match our vision.
Whether you’re traditionally published, self-published or still trying, the pressure to promote yourself has never been greater. We’re exhorted to “get out there and build a platform” via social media and word of mouth. But while some authors manage this transition gracefully, there are others who undergo a Jekyll and Hyde transformation, turning into publicity-hungry monsters. Read more »Add a Comment
Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.
Here's what's on my mind today:
Our Little Secret Cover Reveal I'm having a cover reveal this Thursday, August 6th. It's going to be a social media blitz, which means you don't need a blog to join in. You can share the cover on any social media site. If you'd like to be part of it, you can sign up here.
Open Submissions For Leap Books Seek I'm open to unagented submissions until August 14th. If you have a middle grade book between 30,000 and 40,000 words, you can submit your query (in the body of the email) along with your synopsis and first 3 chapters (as Word attachments) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your subject line should read OPEN SUBMISSIONS: TITLE OF YOUR BOOK.
Editing Somehow, I'm booked through the rest of the year with edits, so I'm editing all the time. LOL
Drafting I'm trying to draft a novella in between editing. It's going very slowly, which isn't like me at all. I need some help from my muse on this one.
Free Monthly Newsletter My FREE monthly newsletter goes out this evening. If you aren't signed up to receive it, but would like to click here.