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1. Brandy Colbert: Diversity in Children's: Challenges and Solutions

Brandy Colbert is the author of POINTE, winner of the 2014 Cybils Award for young adult fiction, and was named book of 2014 by Publishers Weekly. Her next book LITTLE & LION will be published by Little, Brown in spring 2017.

We Need Diverse Books

Brandy says that there are so many different experiences in each group. Treat the characters as human first and do the research from there.

Brandy's book POINTE tackles many issues. She didn't realize there was a lot going on until people told her. She didn't look at it as a barrier, just as a book she was proud of and wanted to submit.

Brandy wrote three books before POINTE and queried for 4 years. She wondered if she should mention the race of her character in the query. She doesn't believe she did. She believes now, she probably shouldn't have worried about it. The book came out right around the time We Need Diverse Books came off the ground and she's very grateful for it.

When writing POINTE Brandy wanted to be as honest as possible.




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2. National Coloring Day is August 2nd! GIVEAWAY time!

Tomorrow is NATIONAL COLORING BOOK DAY so to celebrate, I am having a GIVEAWAY! To win 3 of my Coloring Books just released a month ago...Be sure to follow all the steps below.

1. LIKE my Phyllis Harris Designs Facebook page and

2. SHARE this post and be sure you share from this post directly so I can document the shares.

3. I will pick a random winner on Sunday, August 9th at NOON, EST!

4. Double your chances by following and re-posting my Instagram post as well over at https://instagram.com/phyllisharrisdesigns/

Be sure to get your copy with FREE US SHIPPING by using the coupon code USShipFree at: http://phyllisharrisdesigns.com/collections/top-sellers/products/coloring-book-for-adults-and-children-the-heart-of-childhood-by-phyllis-harris


https://www.facebook.com/PhyllisHarrisDesigns/photos/a.395728017135129.84738.392779124096685/924782264229699/?type=1&theater

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3. Nicola Yoon: Diversity In Children's Books Panel



Nicola Yoon grew up in Jamaica (the island) and Brooklyn (part of Long Island). She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband and their daughter, both of whom she loves beyond all reason. Her first novel, Everything, Everything, will be published by Random House\Delacorte Press on September 1, 2015. Follow her on Twitter @nicolayoon.



Here's the synopsis of Nicola's book:

Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. She is content enough—until a boy with eyes the color of the Atlantic Ocean moves in next door. Their complicated romance begins over IM and grows through a wunderkammer of vignettes, illustrations, charts, and more.

Highlights of Nicola's comments:


"The job of a writer is to tell the truth. To see people as they are."

Miranda asks Nicola about having a character with a serious disease, and at the same time being of mixed heritage.

"The story is about her, she's not the sidekick."

A book about the diversity (like coming out stories) can be "incredibly important."

And, Nicola says, "a non-issue book is just as important."

"If Harry Potter were black, that would be awesome. Or if he were gay."

Nicola speaks of what happens when you have only one of a category of people.

When you have only one black or gay character, then they become representative of that category. If you have only one character who is black and they're a drug dealer, that can be problematic. But if you have ten characters who are black, it's not so troubling. Because that one character is no longer a representative of everyone who is part of that category, too.

"No one represents everyone."


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4. Kary Lee: #LA15SCBWI Conference Illustrator Journal






Kary Lee


Kary wrote this about herself:

I wrote and illustrated my first book the summer before third grade; a pollywog pond action-adventure, with a little fantasy twist. My career began as an art director in Dallas, but something was missing. I found my way back to books through my kids. I attended my first SCBWI Conference in 2003 and realized I had ‘found my people.’ - even won a portfolio award! (who knew?) Five books and several years later I’m still at it. Two years ago I became the Illustrator Coordinator for my Northwest Region of SCBWI which has become the icing on the cake.

Growing up in Southern California in an artistic family, expression and storytelling were second nature. Instead of coloring books I was given a pad of newsprint and a huge basket of crayons. Summers were spent barefoot in a perpetual bathingsuit and lasted for about five years. On sunny days I would mix powdered tempera paints with the garden hose and use the sliding glass door as my canvas. On rainy days we would read. Laura Ingalls was my invisible friend. Raggedy Ann & Andy were my first character inspirations. Our little pollywog pond was my Narnia. And then there was Judy Blume, easing me through the tweens.

By nature, I am a story teller. It makes the rest of my world fall into place. And, I'm famous in the eyes of the local 5 year olds. Some years ago my daughters play group was discussing what their parents did for a living. “Well,” my daughter stated, “my mommy colors for a living.” Silence fell over the room. I’m totally cool!



You can find out more about Kary and see more of her work at www.karyleeillustration.com

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5. Portfolio Showcase and Reception!







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6. Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet Videos

The award acceptance videos from the 2015 Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet are now available. These speeches took place at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco. Below are the three videos from each of the winners. You can also watch the video of the full banquet (running time 1 hour 45 minutes 54 seconds). Enjoy!

Kwame Alexander – Newbery Speech

Dan Santat – Caldecott Speech

Donald Crews – Wilder Speech

The post Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet Videos appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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7. Mem Fox and Allyn Johnston: Let's Talk Picture Books... Q&A and Some Read Aloud Fun!

Mem and Allyn
Beach Lane editor Allyn Johnston and author Mem Fox are available for questions! Here are a few of their answers:

Someone asks about Mem's process, she tells us the manuscript can continue to change and be edited after Allyn's acquired it, and Mem is well known for having tremendously tiny word counts (powerful but tiny!) Mem says an easy trick for reducing your word count is to cover up the first paragraph of your story with your hand... You can probably live without it. Now do the same thing to the second paragraph, your story can probably live without that, too. She tells us we spend so much time setting up our stories and rarely do we (or the story) need that.

Someone asks Allyn whether or not an author should submit their manuscript with pagebreaks? And Allyn reiterates that your submission manuscript should not mark out pagination, but if you want to be a picturebook author, YOU do have to spend a lot of time figuring out pagination and building your own text-only dummies and understanding page breaks. Mem doesn't think about page breaks until after she's written a draft. And then she makes a dummy. The most important page turn, to Mem, is the page turn between 31 and 32. Mem says, therefore, you should start backwards when paginating.

Some of the books Mem read us and it was magical:







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8. Monitoring the literary judges in China ?

       In Xinhua they report that Chinese literature prize guards against corrupt judging, as

The organizers of one of China's top literary awards have set up a team to supervise the judging process and make sure it is fair and free of corruption.
       I'm very curious as to how exactly they will do their monitoring -- corruption would seem hard to detect unless it's truly blatant (like a judge handing out money during deliberations to literally buy other judges' votes). Still, I kind of like the idea of uniformed guards watching over the deliberating judges, billy clubs at the ready to thwack any argument or voicing of support they deem improper.

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9. Kristy Dempsey: How To Not Have a Nervous Breakdown While Waiting

Kristy Dempsey was the winner of the 2015 Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Text, for her book A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream. She is also the author of the sweet and charming Me With Youand the humorous Surfer Chick.

Dempsey traveled all the way from Brazil to present at  #LA15SCBWI, where she shared the journey of figuring herself out as a creative person, finding herself as a writer, and becoming published (and how not to have a nervous breakdown while waiting). The answer, in short: learn how to balance the business side of children's publishing with the creative.

On the business side, she advised, study the vast amout of information online. Websites like the Nerdy Book Club, A Fuse #8 Production, Matthew Winner's Let's Get Busy Podcasts and others.

On the creative side, Dempsey offered a wonderfully illustrated, hand lettered worksheet (some pages used below with permission).







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10. Joe Cepeda: Diversity in Children's Books panel

As per their website, We Need Diverse Books™ is a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people. #LA15SCBWI  tackled the issue today with a panel of esteemed writers and illustrators. Illustrator Joe Cepeda was one of the speakers.

Cepeda is the illustrator of numerous award-winning picture books that feature diverse characters, such as Nappy Hair, From North to South: Del Norte al Sure, Swing Sisters: The Story of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, and so many others.



Years ago, however, Cepeda illustrated a book that became an issue: Nappy Hair. Some people were offended by the use of the word “nappy,”  and Cepeda wasn’t aware of the baggage the word carried. When the book published, there was somewhat a media outcry. “If we had more books that featured diversity,  things like this wouldn't be an issue,” said Cepeda.


After college, Cepeda did what many illustrators do: he went to New York, where he was discovered by none other than Arthur Levine. He's been working consistently ever since. The first manuscripts offered were mostly stories about people of color—Chicano or African American. Starting to feel boxed in, he voiced his concerns to editors. "The result was more diversity," Cepedia said, holding up his books featuring hamsters as the main characters, to which the audience roared in laughter. 
“I’m proud to be a Chicano,” he said, “but I’m an illustrator and I want to be able to illustrate everything. 

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11. Reading Roundup: July 2015

By the Numbers
Teen: 10
Tween: 2
Children: 5

Sources
Review Copies: 7
Library: 7

Standouts
Teen: Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
The rich world of Puerto Rican Brooklyn comes to life, with a plot and powers that have their roots in Sierra's heritage and everyday life. I wanted to spend a lot more time there.

Tween: The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Wilson
Calpurnia Tate, that science-minded girl, is back. While this was fairly episodic in nature and had an oddly abrupt ending, I still loved seeing how she matures, starts to understand what she wants and how the world may not be willing to give it to her without a fight.
Children: Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot by Anna Branford, illustrated by Elanna Allen
In order to get what you want, you have to have a plan. But it may not go as . . . well . . . planned. I loved how this book respected the deep and imaginative inner life and turmoil of its young narrator.

Because I Want To Awards
Addictively Readable: Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu
This look at escaping from the Quiverfull ideal takes its heroine out of her family and shows her struggle to adjust to the world outside, as well as her longing to retain a connection with God.
Sniff: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler
A tender and sad look at changing families, letting go, and moving on, in which the romance is almost incidental.
Slyly Hilarioius: One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath
Though it deals with heavy subjects (a character in foster care, the yearning for a best friend who really gets you), there were several moments that had me howling aloud. While it takes place in Canada, I thought of the very best of the kooky Southern small town genre.

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12. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #443: FeaturingUp-and-Coming Illustrator, Amanda Driscoll


“Together they battled sea monsters …
dodged icebergs …”

(Click to enlarge)


 

It’s the first Sunday of the month (welcome, August!), so I have a debut author-illustrator today. But she’s also local talent (local to 7-Imp Land, that is), and I always like to shine the spotlight when I can on local picture book-creators.

Amanda Driscoll’s first book, Duncan the Story Dragon (Knopf, June 2015), is the story of a dragon who loves to read. As you can probably guess, his problem is that, though his imagination catches fire when he reads, so do his books. Quite literally. All Duncan wants to do is finish a book. So many plots; so many questions. “I want to read those two wonderful words,” he says, “like the last sip of a chocolate milk shake … ‘The End.'” Eventually, Duncan finds a friend to read to him, but I won’t ruin the entire story for you.

Amanda is a graphic designer and artist and lives in Louisville, Kentucky. She’s here today to tell us more about herself, this debut picture book, and her work. I thank her for visiting.



 

On Duncan:

The Duncan story “spark” began long ago with my own love of reading. I remember as a child (and still today) being utterly transported by books. As a writer, I wanted to convey that feeling to kids. As an illustrator, I love visually interesting characters, and the image of a dragon lodged in my mind. Then one day, the two ideas merged and Duncan the fire-breathing, book-reading dragon was born. Once I had the character, the plot came easily. Sparks fly when you combine fire breath and flammable books!

 


Amanda: “A sketch of the original ‘early’ Duncan …”


 


Amanda: “The same page with the new Duncan character …”


 


Final spread: “After searching the entire countryside,
Duncan trudged back to this cottage.”

(Click to enlarge)


 

On the Illustrations:

I start with pencil sketches. First thumbnails, then larger, more detailed drawings. Once the sketch is finalized, I scan it and open it in Photoshop. I tweak it a bit, and then use the sketch as a background layer, applying color, texture, and line over top of it. I love working digitally, because corrections are so much easier. I have to admit, “undo” is a wonderful thing, and I use it liberally.

The process with Duncan was interesting, because the character changed a great deal (for the better) from my early sketches to the final dummy. Duncan began as a fairly traditional dragon, but transitioned into a more kid-friendly, child-like character. People often tell me they love his untied red high-top sneakers. So, of course, I wear red high-tops to my book signings. (Although I tie mine. I’m clumsy enough without untied shoes.)

 


Amanda: “A preliminary sketch for [a spread] …”


 


Amanda: “… then we decided a two-page spread would have more impact. …”


 

On Inspirations:

Story inspirations generally come from my children or from my own childhood. When I was a kid, if the sun was up, we were outside. Our imaginations transformed the world around us. I would love for my books to share some of that experience with today’s more electronically-connected generation. And although my kids are teenagers now, I frequently draw from the many memories of their younger years.

Regarding artists who inspire me, can I answer “everyone”? There are so many talented illustrators that it’s really difficult to narrow it down. I’m a big fan of Dan Santat and was thrilled Beekle won the Caldecott. It’s a beautiful book, and I love that he works digitally. I adore Patrice Barton’s expressive characters, texture, and line work. Marla Frazee’s talent is mind-boggling. I admire John Rocco, Jon Klassen, Loren Long, LeUyen Pham, Peter Brown, Peter Reynolds. … I could seriously go on for days.

 


“When Duncan read a book, the story came to life …”
(Click to enlarge)


 

On What’s Next:

I am currently illustrating my second book, Wally Does Not Want a Haircut, due out next summer from Knopf. It’s about a sheep who goes to great lengths to avoid his first shearing, which leads to some hair-raising situations. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) This story was directly inspired by my exploits with my own children’s haircuts, or lack thereof. The humor is wacky, but it still has the warmth and heart that I strive for in all my stories. It’s been wonderful working with the same editor and art director as I did with Duncan.

 


“Duncan tried everything to keep his cool.
Really. Truly.”


 


(Click to enlarge)


 

What Else?

I hope my stories have a positive message sent in a subtle manner. Kids are smart. They can spot a preachy story a mile away. But if you can teach them with subtlety and humor, there’s value in that. I’m a huge believer in kindness and compassion, and I hope my characters always convey those morals.

DUNCAN THE STORY DRAGON. Copyright © 2015 by Amanda Driscoll. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York. All images reproduced by permission of Amanda Driscoll.

* * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

It’s been a looooong week—you know those weeks, right?—so my kick right now is that I’m going to take a bubble bath with a good novel. (I’m finally reading this one, after many, many years of both my husband and best friend telling me I should.) And that’s kick enough to make up for seven.

What are YOUR kicks this week? Please do tell.

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13. “Prince Valiant soon realized this was a bad idea”

I felt like making something today, and then several Sundays’ worth of newspaper comics unexpectedly arrived, along with some cardboard, so…

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14. Publish: Optimism and other lessons

Hi folks, I am writing a summer long series. It's called Publish and is in conjunction with my TEENS Publish workshop at the Ringer Library in College Station, Texas. The tribe is almost finished with their masterworks. The title of our anthology is A New Generation: TEENS Publish 2015 Anthology. Our revision letters are in and our last meeting is over. It was hard to say goodbye.


I learned so many things over the eight weeks we met. The first thing was the power of optimism. Your dreams can come true, ask anyone in the tribe.  It's just that easy. If you dream a thing and seek it, you will find it.

I loved that the writing tribe faced every bit of the writing process with an upbeat attitude. They expected to find the story they were trying to carve out. Failure wasn't an option. Critique was just a way to do better. Take a lesson from the tribe.  Assume your story will float. How can you do this? Buoyancy comes from your upbeat spirit. Here the deal: if you are writing, a place for that writing will form. That's just the way the universe is put together. 

Another thing I've learned from the tribe is if you are not excited about the next amazing thing you are about to do, you have missed the creative boat. The mind is flexible. Let it bend the way it wants to. Not knowing the "rules" is a major big blessing. Don't worry about what has come before. Don't worry about the next big thing. Trust your big old imagination. It is going to surprise you again and again. Yes, it may sound crazy. Go there. The tribe reopened me to the possibilities. 

Finally, not understanding what to do is okay. Asking questions is okay. Not knowing where you are going is okay. Trying all kinds of things is okay. Creativity is about the willingness to make mistakes, lots of them. It's fine to be where you are on your journey. Be glad that you have a journey. Embrace it. You never know what your mistakes will teach you. The writing tribe embraced the mysterious, the unknown, the uncharted country. 

Personally, I feel I will never face a writing project the same. I have a blank page in front of me. Is there any greater writing magic than that?  I hope you have enjoyed the series. Usually in August, I dig deep into my soul and explores some of my burning questions. I hope you drop in for some of the fire in my bones. 


Here is my doodle:Tree




Finally a quote for your pocket.

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. Helen  Keller

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15. good bye blog for now

i dont think i will be updating my blogs any longer. It takes a lot of time to upload images, get every entry labeled and keep it updated, when i think there are someone out there taking a look at my stuff when there only seems to be spammers, so I'm doing this for nothing, just wasting my time. During the whole last  year there have been more than 23.000 visits according to blogger but only one

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16. Summer issue of list

       It's well-hidden at the official site -- certainly not to be found under 'Current Issue' (that would be much too easy ...) -- but the Volume 28, Summer 2015 issue of list Books from Korea -- "a quarterly literary magazine [that] introduces Korean literature and authors to overseas reader" -- is now available online.

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17. Week in Review: July 26-August 1

From July
The Armstrong Girl: A Child for Sale: The Battle Against the Victorian Sex Trade. Cathy Le Feuvre. 2015. Lion. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
An Impartial Witness. Charles Todd. 2010. HarperCollins. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
On My Honor. Marion Dane Bauer. 1986. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat. (Henry and Mudge #8) Cynthia Rylant. Sucie Stevenson. 1990. Simon & Schuster. 48 pages. [Source: Bought]
Board Book: Five Little Monkeys: A finger & toes nursery rhyme book. Natalie Marshall. Scholastic. 2015. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Book of Lost Tales. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1983/1992. 345 pages. [Source: Library]
Mom School. Rebecca Van Slyke. Illustrated by Priscilla Burris. 2015. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
To All The Boys I've Loved Before. Jenny Han. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 288 pages. [Source: Library] 
 The Shaping of a Christian Family. Elisabeth Elliot. 1992/2000. Revell. 240 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

From August
Peppa's Windy Fall Day. Adapted by Barbara Winthrop. 2015. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board Book: Ten Playful Penguins. Emily Ford. Illustrated by Russell Julian. 2015. [October] Scholastic. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! Dr. Seuss. 1971. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

This week's recommendation(s): I loved, loved, loved THE ARMSTRONG GIRL. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Best Books of July 2015

July 2015: 7 books and scripts read

My favorite new book this month was Edgewater by Courtney Sheinmel. Put it on your to-read list now if it's not there already!

My favorite re-read: When Rose Wakes by Christopher Golden

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19. Daniel Harmon: Creating Nonfiction For Teens and Young Adults

Daniel Harmon has been working in book publishing since 2003—first developing history projects at Greenwood/ABC-Clio, then acquiring pop culture books for Praeger Publishers, and most recently overseeing the publishing program at Zest Books, an independent publisher of nonfiction books for teens and young adults.

Since joining Zest in 2012, Daniel has acquired Zest’s first book to sell in excess of 25,000 copies, developed Zest’s first three projects to receive starred reviews, and launched Pulp, a new imprint for older readers. He is also the author of the book Super Pop! (which Kirkus called “weird, witty, and endlessly entertaining”).



Daniel shares that the Zest approach to publishing is

franker

fun, and

from cover to last word, working to keep teen readers interested.

He speaks of how they've moved into doing more middle grade, and doing books for all ages. Their tagline is

Books for young adults of all ages.

Explaining what "all ages means," he says

Doing books explicitly for teens is a great way to make sure you get no teen readership.

They're trying to create books teens will want to pick up and adults will want to pick up, too.

He explains their efforts to add art (primary source materials, photos, infographics...), try to figure out where their books will be placed in bookstores, if it's librarian-bait or more tailored for the gatekeeper/blogger world, their new imprint Pulp that's aiming more new adult, their teen advisory board and much more.

Talking us us through a variety of Zest's titles, he explains that

"You don't need to dumb things down to make it teen-friendly."








Two upcoming titles:


Unslut
the author's middle school diary of being bullied and shamed for being the school "slut" alongside her contemporary perspective, and



Plotted
A literary atlas, literary maps of treasured books, like Huck Finn and Watership Down.

"Really what we're trying to do is stay surprised ourselves. Doing a book that actually adds something."


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20. August Words without Borders

       The August issue of Words without Borders, Myth and History: Writing from Indonesia, is now available online; it also includes the usual reviews, as well as 'Three Tibetan Short Stories'.
       Great to see more Indonesian attention as we come up to the Frankfurt Book Fair, where it will be this year's Guest of Honour.

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21. The Diversity Panel Begins!


Miranda Paul moderates the "Diversity in Children's Books: Challenges and Solutions" panel, (from left to right) Nicola Yoon, Varian Johnson, Brandy Colbert and Joe Cepeda.

(I.W. Gregorio was unable to attend.)

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22. SCBWI Retreat 2015: Workshops with Grown-Ups (and FOOD!)



Last weekend I was away from home for 4 days in the historic village of Evesham, near Worcester, doing another of my dream jobs. It involved enormous amounts of eating (best rhubarb crumble I ever tasted), sketching in the sunshine, listening to stories, chatting into the night over glasses of wine... oh, and also delivering workshops and portfolio advice for members of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

I knew the SCBWI retreat was to be held in a lovely old house with pretty grounds, but I was completely gob-smacked when my taxi stopped outside a long, Tudor house, all timbers and thatch. I was shown up a big, wooden staircase into a lovely old room, whose floorboards sloped down into one corner. I unpacked with a smile.


We kicked off about an hour later, with a brilliant getting-to-know-you exercise run by fellow author/illustrators, Loretta Schauer and Alexis Deacon. We paired up and had to draw or describe events from each other's past, stimulated by silly questions like: When have you injured yourself as a result of your own stupidity?

Then I ran my first session of the weekend: teaching people how to make concertina sketchbooks. 




SCBWI had provided a big pile of watercolour paper. We set to, cutting and sticking. We cut up old cardboard boxes for the covers - it worked a treat. Then we all filed into the dining room for the first feast of many.



After dinner, we had a book review cum storytelling session, where we each read a favourite picture book to the rest of the group. There were 30 of us, so it took a while, but was a lovely way to spend the evening.

Next morning was a workshop by Alexis. He taught us techniques for making narratives more interesting, looking at the potential for using dishonest characters with hidden motivations. We all tried to create a story, though mine ran out of steam half way through. After coffee and biccies, we had a bit of free time, so I took my newly-minted sketchbook into the grounds:


Then it was lunch (yum), followed by an interesting talk by Andrea MacDonald, Senior Editor at Random House, about what makes a good picture book:


I did a couple of one-to-one advice sessions next. I found a lovely little summer house tucked away at the foot of the garden, which was perfect for a cost chat. people had booked appointments with me and I did my best to be wise and helpful with first an illustrator, then an author:


My 2nd workshop used the sketchbooks we made earlier. I wanted to explore the idea of finding a narrative in a place, of capturing the essence of a particular period of time using words and pictures, but doing it through close observation, recording what we could see, hear and smell. This is of course something which I am very used to doing in my sketchbooks, and I thought it might make a good source of inspiration.

I sat under a big tree and rang a bell. People gathered from around the grounds. Some had been playing croquet on the lawn!


We had expected mostly illustrators to take up the challenge, but a few authors went for it too. I showed the work I'd done since I arrived, as an example, and talked through easy techniques for getting instant results with watercolour (it was a revelation to most people that you could paint with clear water first, to control the colour), then everyone dispersed for an hour or so of experimentation.


After dinner (yum), we gathered in the conference room and, in small groups, talked though our work-in-progress. Each group then chose the strongest 3 pieces of work for each person - a great idea, as your own favourite bits of work are not necessarily your best and a fresh perspective is very useful. All the work was then displayed for everyone to browse and the next thing I knew, it was midnight!


Sunday began with my main workshop (after breakfast of course - yum). I devised a technique for drawing a journey, one piece at a time, to build up the elements of a story. Only, to put a fly in the ointment and get people out of their comfort-zone, many of the components were chosen randomly, by a neighbour. For me, the challenge was making it work, when about a third of the delegates were not illustrators. Still, it seemed to go extremely well. After coffee (and biccies) people took it in turns to pin up their drawing and tell their story.


Some ideas were hilarious, some were quite dark, some narratives were in a bit of a tangle, which the group helped to sort out: the brainstorming of 30 creative minds, all focussed on progressing one story idea was fantastic to watch.


The 'house cat' decided he wanted to join in. He demanded to be let in from the rain through the French windows, jumped up on the tables, walked across people's work, then took at seat near the front to listen:


After this of course, it was time for lunch (yum). Then we had another talk, this time by Emily Lamm, once my editor at Gullane (who worked with me on Swap!), now working as Commissioning Editor at Hachette. She gave some excellent advice on what editors are looking for and things to try / avoid in your writing. I tried to capture her and highlights from what she was saying in the concertina sketchbook:


I had two more mentoring sessions during the afternoon, sadly in the house this time, as rain was still bouncing around outside. Then Alexis did a demo session, showing how he draws with ink, using different kinds of brushes (in various stages of decay): 


I had my final one-to-one session, then at 7pm the gong sounded and it was time for another glorious dinner. I was impressed with the fact that the veggie choice for every meal was just as adventurous and delicious as its meat counterpart. We were all so impressed as a group that we asked for the chef and kitchen staff to come out and gave them a huge round of applause.

After dinner, we took a group photo in the garden:


Then we were all given a postcard, onto which we had to write three achievable goals for the next 3 months. The illustrators decorated the front of their cards. We stuck stamps on and handed them back to Loretta, whose job it was to post them all back to us in three months time. Good idea, or what?

We stayed up chatting and drinking and taking photos of each other until late, a gradually dwindling group. Finally, at 1am, the last dregs gave up the ghost and headed for bed.

Next morning, I packed my suitcase then luxuriated over my final breakfast (yum):


Then gradually, a few at a time, people had to leave (cue hugging...). It had been such a rich weekend, we all felt rather sad to be on our way. I was so sad that I had to buy myself a present from the gift shop (a VERY funky necklace).


Thank you to Loretta and all the team at SCBWI for inviting me to take part. It was a joy. Thanks as well to Sue Eves and Paul Morton, for the photos.

It was lovely to meet everyone, including the rather amazing Alexis Deacon, who's head is just stuffed with crazy story-stuff. And you know the really good news? I get to do it all again next year, as it's a 2-year invitation!

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23. Varian Johnson: Diversity in Children's Books: Challenges and Solutions

Author Varian Johnson gave a great keynote earlier today, be sure you check out the recap for that, too. As a reminder, his books include The Great Greene Heist and My Life as a Rhombus.

When asked about writers needing to ask permission to write about a character of a different background or orientation, etc., Varian says asking for permission is hard, it's not like one person represents the totality of their race or disability or sex. I struggle with this a lot myself, when I'm writing a female character.

Do a lot of research, get the technical things right, interactions within the community. Growing up, I spoke one way at home, and one way out in the world, and that would be hard for someone who didn't experience my private home life to observe.

I don't expect any author to ask permission, but I do expect an author to do their research and due diligence on a subject, any subject.

Miranda Paul, the moderator, asks about the term 'casual diversity' and what the panel thinks of it.

Varian says, "Casual diversity is a horrible term, we struggled with it a lot, but I think there is something to be said for books that feature the race of a character, but race isn't the point of the story. I love the idea that there are books coming out now where people of color can be more than one thing."

He mentions Elizabeth Bluemle's post about looking for the black Ramona Quimby.

A final note of career advice from Varian: Think through who is publishing and where you and your story may fit, find your allies, they are out there.

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24. What kids should read ?

       In the UK the 'TES and the National Association for the Teaching of English ran a survey to find teachers' top 100 fiction books all children should read' -- before leaving primary school and before leaving secondary school. (There is some overlap.)
       I am a bit shocked by how few books in translation feature, especially on the secondary school list (fewer than on the primary school list) -- all of three, as best I can tell: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (53), I am David by Anne Holm (71) (and this one is also 29 on the primary school list), and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (89). But it's a very mixed (up ?) list, in any case.

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25. Molly Idle Keynote: Yes And—Setting the Stage for Crazy Creative Development

Molly IdleMolly Idle is the Caldecott-honor winning author and illustrator of Flora and the Flamingo. 

She talked about the collaborative work that bookmaking is, and how she uses stage and improvisation techniques to boost her personality.

Keeping an open mind is the key to successful collaboration, she says.

In improv, there's a game called "Yes, and."

The first player kicks out an opening line. For example, "Did you remember to clean out the cat barf from Uncle Billy's car?"

Your job as a player is to accept that and add AND, she says. So you'd reply, "I did remember, and I think the smell is going to linger for quite some time."

"It sounds so simple, but it is so easy to do just the opposite and block," she says. "We are born to 'Yes.' We are born instinctively to be creative. To express our boundaries both real and imaginary."

She uses stage techniques a lot in her work. When she's figuring out how to lay out characters, she thinks about and experiments with many things ... putting characters center stage, even not having them react at all (which is the second-most powerful thing you can do on stage).

She encouraged us to push out of our comfort zones and keep many choices as possibilities. "It's the only way to come up with new ideas."

We have to ask ourselves, "How can I push my creative comfort zone out?"

The answer? You have to know your bit. This means know your lines. To really know a line is to know why you say it. You need to know the line before that. And the line before that. And why you're in the scene in the first place.

"You have to know the whole play to know your bit. If you know the whole play, you can jump in and help," she says. 'You know why you're supposed to be there."

Molly knows the editor's job. She knows the art director's job. She knows the designer's bit too—and the printer's. This means that in the end, the book will be a better book.

Molly Idle's website
Follow Molly on Twitter

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