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1. 4 Questions for Giuseppe Castellano



I think of it this way: kids who can only afford a book that’s under ten dollars still deserve the same level of artistry as a kid who can afford more. There are illustrators—too numerous to mention—who jump between trade and mass projects; and the only difference is the format of the book, and not the quality of the art.


If an illustrator is interested in both trade and mass market, do they need two different portfolios?
Are the styles vastly different? How is their “mass” art different from their “trade” art? Without seeing the illustrator’s work, it's difficult to say whether or not they need more than one portfolio. Unfortunately, there is no broad-stroke answer. In portfolio reviews, I’ve heard my colleagues use “mass” as an adjective meaning “less than." How many illustrators have heard “It's too mass”? Others conflate “cartoony” with “mass." I’m not sure how much good that does; as it implies that there are styles worthy of trade, and styles that aren’t—irrespective to the execution of the art.    
Personally, I don’t think “trade” or “mass” when I’m assessing art. I’m concerned with these factors: Does your art meet my need? Does your personality come through? Is it well-executed? You can read more about this topic in my blog post Forget “Style”
What about illustrating for licensed properties (for example, Strawberry Shortcake)? Are there illustrators who do both licensed books and original work?
Of course! This ties back to the “multiple style” discussion. Illustrating for media-tie in publishing (books based on TV shows, movies, and video games) can be immensely rewarding. It’s a sorely misunderstood field of illustration. Some of the most talented artists I know work in media tie-in. 
It’s unfortunate that there’s still a prejudice about it—as if it lacks a level of artistry—when, in fact, the opposite is true. In my blog post, Animation and Children’s Books, I speak to the creative and financial value of media tie-in illustration. Related to that, artists in the field of animation from Claire Keane to Liz Climo to Pete Oswald discuss the topic of crossing over from animation to children’s books. 
The bottom line is that an illustrator should never feel that their career is either/or. Until illustrators reach a status where they can call their own shots, I think all options should be considered.
Should an illustrator expect royalties when negotiating a contract with a mass market imprint?
Royalties aren’t as likely, as mass-market budgets tend to be smaller (a $3.99 book can afford less than a $16.99 book)—but they’re not off the table. The thing with royalties—that I find is assumed—is that they’re a sure thing. Royalties are triggered only after your advance is covered by the book’s sales—which doesn’t always happen. That’s very important to keep in mind. Moreover, depending on the publisher’s accounting system, the schedule for a royalty check can vary. When negotiating your contract, these are all points you should certainly discuss.
What is your best advice for SCBWI members who are interested in illustrating for mass market imprints?
As far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as “illustrating for mass market." For me, all the same qualities should be met in mass as they are in trade: strong character design, strong color theory, good visual storytelling through composition, consistency, good use of value range, polished execution, and personality.
I would recommend that illustrators simply keep working on their visual handwriting. Focus on being the best possible version of yourself as an artist. Do that, and you won’t have to worry so much about classifications.
Read more from Giuseppe by visiting his popular #arttips blog. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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2. Take Flight this Summer with ‘Maggie’ on Audio!

Thanks to superstar voice actress Tavia Gilbert, every month is Audiobook Appreciation Month here in Grain Valley, Kansas! To honor Tavia and all the awesome voice actors and actresses out there, we’ve been giving away Downpour.com downloads of Tavia’s performance … Continue reading

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3. Ahh, June, where did the time go?

Ahh, well that might explain it.

A few more images for White Fang.  All images gouache on paper, 6.25"x9".

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4. Mau and The Book of Dares for Lost Friends

Dear Two-legged One,

You're welcome. I have successfully inspired you to create a cat who is a cat, and not a fluffy fashion accessory. Because of my insights, Mau will take her place among literature's other masterful cats, such as The Cheshire Cat, Crookshanks, and Mr. Mistoffelees.

Mau's book will be in stores on July 14. Then everyone can admire her wisdom and her grace. There are some human characters in the book too, for those who like reading about "middle-school cruelty, the heartache of abandonment, and the supple bonds of friendship."  (from Publishers Weekly) Of course, my favorite parts were when Mau was hunting for rats near the Obelisk in Central Park.

I believe that you will be giving a reading at 7 pm on July 16th at  Community Bookstore in Brooklyn. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend. But I know that there is a cat in residence there, so all should go well.

I have arranged for 5 copies of Mau's book to be given away from Goodreads. LINK to the GOODREADS Giveaway  If you haven't joined that group of readers, you should. It's free and fun.

And so, dear Two-legged One, my work here is done. 



The Cat

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5. Dark Horse Comics to Publish Joe Golem: Occult Detective Series

Joe Golem Cover(GalleyCat)Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy, and Christopher Golden, a prolific writer, will collaborate on writing a new comic mini-series called Joe Golem: Occult Detective. This character originates from the 2012 illustrated novel, Joe Golem and the Drowning City.

Here’s more from the press release: “The new series takes place prior to the events of the illustrated novel Joe Golem and the Drowning City. Set forty years after an earthquake leaves Lower Manhattan partly submerged under 30 feet of water, Joe Golem must hunt a horrifying creature that is pulling children into the depths of the city’s canals.”

The art team includes Patric Reynolds (interior art), Dave Stewart (colors), and Dave Palumbo (covers). Dark Horse Comics will publish a total of five installments for this project. The first issue will be released in November 2015.

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6. SCBWI Exclusive with Tina Wexler


What makes a compelling hook in a manuscript?

Anything that subverts my expectations, offers a fresh take on a familiar story, or offers an unfamiliar story with a relatable issue at its center.


What in a query letter catches your eye and makes you request a manuscript?

An original idea, expressed well, sent by someone who clearly researched agents and has read books published recently and within the category/genre they are writing.


Would you consider a query or manuscript from a writer whose queries you’ve passed on before?

Yes. I’ve signed and sold a number of projects that came to me as the authors’ second queries.


Is it essential to have a synopsis?

It is essential to have a pitch (two or three sentences that tell me what the project is), but it is not essential to have a synopsis (a page-long description of the story, beginning to end), as I rarely read them.


The million-dollar question: What in a manuscript takes your breath away?

If it has a great voice, if it works on a line-by-line level as well as a big picture story level, if the characters won’t leave me alone, if it makes me laugh out loud or cry, if it participates in the wider cultural conversation.


If you have a manuscript that fits the above, query Tina at TWexler@icmpartners.com. You can follow her on Twitter @Tina_Wexler for other helpful publishing tips.


 Three Helpful Hints when querying an Agent

 1) Never underestimate the value of a personalized salutation.

2) Just as you should revise your manuscript, so to your query.

3) Don’t dilly-dally with long introductions. The sooner you tell me about your story, the sooner I can fall in love with it.


Tina Wexler is an agent in the Literary Department at ICM Partners representing middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction, as well as the occasional picture book or nonfiction for adults. A few of the authors on her acclaimed list are Anne Ursu, Christine Heppermann, Shane Burcaw and Brandy Colbert.


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7. Return of the Sandman Meditations

Boomtron just published my latest Sandman Meditation, this one on Chapter Two of The Wake.

"Sandman Meditation?" you say. "That sounds ... vaguely familiar..."

In July 2010, I started writing a series of short pieces called Sandman Meditations in which I proceeded through each issue of Neil Gaiman's Sandman comic and offered whatever thoughts happened to come to mind. The idea was Jay Tomio's, and at first the Meditations were published on his Gestalt Mash site, then later Boomtron. The basic concept was that we'd see what happened when somebody without much background in comics, who'd never read Sandman before, spent time reading through it all.

I wrote 71 Meditations between July 2010 and June 2012, getting all the way up through the first installment of the last story in the regular series, The Wake. 75,000 words.

And then stopped. I read Chapter 2 of The Wake and had nothing to say. I tried writing through the lack of words, but the more I tried to write the more what I wrote nauseated me. I couldn't go on.

I got through 71 Meditations by only looking back once — in the piece on "Ramadan", I misread a word (yes, one word) and completely misunderstood the story. When Neil gently brought the mistake to our attention, I was shocked. So I went back and re-read "Ramadan" and what I'd written about it. Though in the immediate moment, I felt like a total idiot with entire chicken farms of egg on my face, I've come to cherish that mistake, because it showed just how carefully and subtly constructed so much of Sandman is, and how a simple slip in reading can make a text flip all around. It gave me a certain freedom, too. I'd always been terrified of making some dumb, obvious mistake in my reading of Sandman, because I know it's so well known by its passionate fans, and I didn't want to either let them down or annoy them. Once I made that big mistake, I felt somehow freer to go wrong, and that kind of freedom is necessary for writing. I went forward, trying hard not to think about whether I was writing well or terribly, thinking well or thinking badly, reading well or reading as if I'd never learned to read at all.

But by the 71st installment, my confidence fell apart. I was terrified that I'd written nothing but drivel, and the weight of that fear pulled me back. Why should anybody want to waste time reading what I've got to say about this? I wondered. This is a beloved series of comics, a beloved story full of beloved characters, an intricately woven tale that I'm just blundering through blindly. I couldn't do it.

Eric Schaller kept bugging me. "So are you ever going to finish your Sandman stuff?" he'd ask, and I'd change the subject.

I figured as more time passed, everybody would forget about my crazy reading experiment.

Jay Tomio remembered. I felt terrible for letting him down. He'd been so supportive, and I'd failed in the end. But he never seemed to hold it against me; he seemed to understand. It had been a long run. Boomtron went through some changes. The Meditations disappeared for a while. Then Jay started reconstructing, and so out of the blue one day I got a note: "Any chance you'd like to continue?" he asked.

I was terrified. A lot had changed. What would it mean to continue?

But continue I did, and continue I will. (I'll finish The Wake in the coming weeks, then continue on to Endless Nights. If all goes well, I think it would be fun to finish up with the recent Overture, to return full circle back to the beginning. Fingers crossed.)

As you'll see from the new piece, I thought of David Beronä, and I knew exactly what he'd say if he were here for me to ask about it. "Use the time you have," he'd say. "Do it now."

It's nice to be back.

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8. The Real Digital Children’s Book


However, at long last I believe I have seen something that could change the reading experience in what I think will be a profound way—and it is Virtual Reality—and it is going to be here in a mass market way in very short order, perhaps in a matter of months. If you have not already experienced Virtual Reality by using one of the Oculus Rift devices for instance then you are in for a transformative experience. This is not 3D. It is totally immersive.  My son is involved in various projects, some of which take him to the sites of natural disasters to report on and to coordinate specific relief efforts. Days after the Nepal earthquake, his business partner was in Kathmandu with a Virtual Reality camera (basically seven Go Pro cameras attached to a ball at the end of a rod).  The short film they created when edited, scored, and narrated  has you, the viewer, standing on a pile of rubble watching people pulling rocks and steel from the wrecked buildings as they search for survivors. When you lift your head you see others higher up on the building. Turn your head to the side and there is a line of people waiting in line for food. Turn completely around and you are looking down another broken street, and then a camera on a drone takes you hurtling down that same street.  At the end of the film there is a pitch to donate money for relief work. There is no doubt in my mind that bringing that kind of reality to the viewer is going to be a powerful incentive for people to get involved in what for them will no longer be just another disaster story at a bottom of a news page. How could it be? They were practically eye witnesses.

Right now the equipment to film, edit, and view Virtual Reality is expensive and rare. However, Google has just debuted Google Cardboard, an inexpensive device (about $10) that you can slip your phone into, and then connect with a brand new YouTube being developed just for Virtual Reality film. And Facebook’s Oculus Rift division will come out with new, cheaper, headgear early next year.

And so what does this have to do with children’s books? First, it is not the end of the traditional hardcover picture book.  The book, a unique art form that generations of parents and their children have grown up with is not going away, and in fact should continue to thrive no matter what electronic wonders evolve.

But think of this: A nonfiction book about the Holocaust in which embedded in the text is a link to a YouTube site that can be accessed by scanning a link onto your phone. Then, after slipping on Google Cardboard and sliding in your phone, you find yourself transported to the Holocaust Museum or through the gates of Auschwitz. Or a picture book about lions that places you in the middle of a pride lounging about a water hole. Tour the International Space Station? Take a spacewalk?  Visit Monet’s Garden?  The possibilities for enhancing a book are endless. 

Also endless is the headlong advance of technology. Google Cardboard, cutting edge today, could be old hat in a year, replaced by something being dreamed up in Silicon Valley even as you read this.

Our challenge as writers and artists is to use our creative minds to turn these new tools into compelling stories that will entertain and educate. The field of children’s books has always been highly competitive and the future will be no different. Those who succeed will be those who educate themselves, work hard at their craft and, in the end, settle for nothing but the very best. New technology will demand it, and children deserve it.


Want to learn more about Virtual Reality? Here are a few links that will get you started.


  1. Purchase Google Cardboard Viewer for your smartphone and find VR Apps: www.google.com/get/cardboard
  3. The Wall Street Journal on how Virtual Reality will change the news-a short video: Will Virtual Reality Change How We Consume News?
  5. Short Virtual Reality Videos to View with Google Cardboard: www.vrvideo.co

  7. All you want to know—and then some about Virtual Reality: www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality/what-is-virtual-reality.html


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9. Dream Keepers: 2015 Coretta Scott King Author Award Acceptance

woodson_brown girl dreamingIt is Friday afternoon and I’m sitting in a restaurant in Vancouver, B.C. In an hour, I will give my final talk of a two-day visit. In these two days, I’ve visited a number of schools in Vancouver — both independent and public. As I stood in front of each crowd, I was astonished by a thing I’ve not encountered for many years now — being the only African American in an otherwise incredibly diverse room. I kept thinking to myself — “We are all almost here.”


At the Hudson Children’s Book Festival in May, a young white reporter asked me, How has the award changed your life? I looked at her a moment, then said, Which award? She fell silent, looking confused. I was not inclined to fill the silence. In Brown Girl Dreaming I write, “Even the silence has a story to tell you. Just listen. Listen.” So I listened to the space grow between us — knowing the answer she would give was not the answer I wanted to hear. I knew her answer was going to come from her own sense of what is important in the world as she knew it. I held up the book and pointed to the CSK seal on it, letting more silence sit between us before I began in (as my partner likes to refer to it) my Joho Manner, to calmly and quietly break things down for her.

The Coretta Scott King Honor Award was given to me for the first time in 1995 for my book I Hadn’t Meant To Tell You This, a story of two girls growing up in Chauncey, Ohio — one wealthy and black, the other poor and white. Both being raised by their fathers. Because the book dealt with issues of, among other things, a deeply flawed health care system, friendship across lines of economic class, and sexual abuse, I was stunned and so pleased that the committee had awarded this book. But in 1996, when my novel From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun was given an Honor, while I was still young and nervous and new to the world of young people’s literature, I just thought, “Wow!” I had never dreamed that a book with a gay mom would even get published, let alone win a CSK Honor Award. I realized then that there were some people in this world who had my back — some people letting me know: “We got you.” Both of these moments changed my life.

And again my life was changed when the CSK committee gave the Author Award to my book Miracle’s Boys in 2001. That year, we learned that employees at the hotel where the awards ceremony was to be held were picketing. When the CSK members refused to cross the picket lines and, instead, canceled the ceremony, I knew I had found my people. In the way of our people always finding a way to make a way out of no way, my publisher and other publishers came together and organized the CSK Tea that Bryan Collier, the CSK Award winner for illustration, and I spoke at. The morning before that tea, I learned I was pregnant with our daughter, Toshi. To stand in that room and be among new family and old family, a generation coming, kindred spirits and people who deeply, deeply believed in me, was life-altering. And the years after these awards, when the CSK committee chose Locomotion and Each Kindness as Honor Books — launching those books into the world with their blessing, believing deeply…in me — these events have forever changed my life.

The first time I read Rudine Sims Bishop’s writing and understood the work I was brought here to do, my life was changed forever. The first time Deb Taylor brought me to the Enoch Pratt Free Library, my life was changed forever. The first time I hugged Walter Dean Myers, sat beside Virginia Hamilton and basked in the warmth of her smile, snapped a photo with Tom Feelings, read Stevie by John Steptoe — my life was changed forever. Every time I get to be in a room with Dr. Henrietta Smith, my life is changed.

So while there are some who will try to find ways to erase the magnitude of this award, the amazingness of us and our work — there are many more who know the importance of our stories in the world. So to the Coretta Scott King committee who chose Brown Girl Dreaming as this year’s award winner, I say Thank You — you have, once again, changed my life. To my editor, Nancy Paulsen, who dug so deeply into the pages of this story and helped me to believe that there was some sense to this journey, and a purpose,  I say Thank You — you continue to change my life. And to my Penguin Random House family, whose passion comes through with every email and phone call and visit to the office and dinner and champagne toast — I say Thank You. To my past editor, Wendy Lamb, who said “Write what you want,” and my past agent, Charlotte Sheedy, who said “We need to find you a home” and found me Nancy Paulsen — I say Thank You. To my present agent, Kathleen Nishimoto, whose energy and dedication and joy just…just makes me smile — I say Thank You. To my single mom, who, during the Great Migration, somehow got four kids from Greenville to Brooklyn and made sure we were all educated — in memory, I say Thank You. To the Woodsons and the Irbys who are still on this planet and the ones who have moved to the next place, I say Thank You. And to my family — my amazing partner, my glorious children, the aunts and uncles (two of whom are on this stage with me—Chris and Jason!—and Kwame, when you come to Brooklyn, we’re gonna rope you in, too!), and to the rest of our village who change our lives by being here to help us through every single day — I say Thank You!


From left to right: Christopher Myers, Kwame Alexander, Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, and Rita Williams-Garcia. Photo courtesy of Jason Reynolds.

I am deeply honored. We are here because of our ancestors and elders and the people who hold us up every day — thanks for helping all of us never forget them or the way each of us finds a way to make a way out of no way — every single day. Thank you so much, all of you who believe in Diverse Books, who believe in keeping young brown children — and all children — dreaming.

Jacqueline Woodson is the 2015 Coretta Scott King Author Award winner for Brown Girl Dreaming (Paulsen/Penguin). Her acceptance speech was delivered at the annual American Library Association Conference in San Francisco on June 28, 2015. From the July/August 2015 Special Awards issue of The Horn Book Magazine. Read editor Nancy Paulsen’s profile of Jacqueline Woodson. For more speeches, profiles, and articles click the tag ala 2015


The post Dream Keepers: 2015 Coretta Scott King Author Award Acceptance appeared first on The Horn Book.

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10. Bookseller William D. Farley Has Died

Bill Farley (GalleyCat)William D. Farley has died. He was 83 years old.

Farley, who was often called Bill, devoted more than 30 years of his life to a career in bookselling. Bill (pictured, via) and his wife, B Jo Farley, opened the Seattle Mystery Bookshop in the summer of 1990.

Here’s more from the store’s blog post: “It was his intention that the Seattle Mystery Bookshop be a place where readers and writers could meet, that it be a resource for those with questions or simply looking for a new author to read, that it be a place for someone new to the novels as well as the serious buyers looking to extend their collections. Under his guidance, the shop presented internationally known authors as well as beginning authors who grew into internatinally known authors. It was his dream and it was one he succeeded at brilliantly.”

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11. You Can Judge a Book By a Title


by Rob Broder, President & Founder of Ripple Grove Press


So, what’s in a title?  A title can say a lot.  It can provide me with what the story is about, introduce a character, tell how the story will end or tell me to dive in and keep me guessing.  Titles like (I’m making these up but are similar to what we’ve received) The Grumpy Town says to me everyone in the town is grumpy except one small child who turns the town around and they are all happy in the end with merriment in the streets.  And hopefully it won’t rhyme.  

Or Mr. Pajama-Wama The Cat Thinks Theres A Monster Under His Bed.  I never thought there was a monster under my bed and I don’t know why I would want to put that idea into a child's mind.  The title gives it all away, and I don’t want to read the words Mr. Pajama-Wama on every single page. And hopefully it won’t rhyme.

There are titles that describe too much and spill the entire story, like, Little Red Hen and the Missing Mitten on a Rainy Tuesday.  I know everything before I even get to the first sentence. And… hopefully it won’t rhyme.

Or titles like, Im Always First or New Baby in the House.  Both titles are telling me the beginning, middle and end before I even get started.  And hopefully it won’t rhyme. 

The titles that make us want to move on to the story are the simple titles that pique my interest and keep me intrigued, (yes, these are our books) like The Peddlers Bed… okay, now what.

or Too Many Tables… okay, where could this go.  Or Lizbeth Lou got a Rock in her Shoe… a little long but you got my attention.  If your title mentions your pet’s name or your grandchild’s name, it doesn’t usually pan out.  When titles have names that don’t match the characters you created, like Aidan the Kangaroo or McKenzie the Raccoon or Addison the Hippo, it’s obvious the child is sitting right next to you as you write your story.  I understand that something special or sweet has happened to your loved one, but that doesn’t mean it has universal appeal. Share your ideas with friends or a critique group.  Read your story out loud to yourself. 

You can judge a book by it’s title… if words like Hope or Grace or Pray or Johnny Scuttle Butt are there.  And although bodily function writing might be humorous to some, it’s not something I want to read over and over again to a four-year-old.  So please, no poop or pee or burp or fart… not timeless, not cozy.

With all this said, I still get excited to read every submission and every story.  I want to find the gem, I want to be wow’d.  I want to put your story in my revisit folder and I want to like it more and more each time I read it.  So please, do your research.  And please, oh please, read children’s picture books.  Read award winners, what’s popular, what librarians recommend.  Read stories you may not be a fan of, it will guide you to your own voice.  Study them, why do they work, what made the publisher choose this story?  Match your story with the right publisher.  Hopefully all this work will shine through your story and one day you’ll get that phone call from a publisher who would like to talk to you about your submission. 


Rob Broder is the president and founder of Ripple Grove Press, an independent children’s picture book publishing company based in Portland, Oregon. To learn more about Ripple Grove Press and their submission guidelines, visit www.ripplegrovepress.com.


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12. John Green on Why He Hasn’t Published a New Book

John Green TFIOSAs of late, John Green seems to be devoting his efforts to various YouTube series, film adaptations based on his young adult novels, and charity projects. Given this busy schedule, many fans have been wondering about when he will publish a new book.

Entertainment Weekly reports that Green explained in a recent Reddit AMA session that he doesn’t “want to publish until I’ve written something I can feel proud of. That hasn’t happened yet. Hopefully I’ll make more progress soon.”

Earlier this month, Green shot a vlog discussing what it means to be human. In that video, he revealed that he had been working on a novel about “how we define personhood.” At the moment, the PEN / Faulkner Foundation is hosting an auction and one of the items is to have your name appear as a character in an upcoming John Green novel. Over on Twitter, the author pledges not to kill off this character, but he “can’t promise when the book will be finished.”

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13. Literary Events This Week: Genevieve Valentine and a Summer Poetry Panel

wordstore1Here are some literary events to pencil in your calendar this week.

To get your event posted on our calendar, visit our Facebook Your Literary Event page. Please post your event at least one week prior to its date.

Larry Kramer and Bill Goldstein will sit for a conversation on Kramer’s book, The American People: Volume 1: Search for My Heart. Check it out on Tuesday, June 30 at McNally Jackson starting 7 p.m. (New York, NY)

The Summer in Poetry City panel will feature five writers. Meet them on Tuesday, June 30 at the Housing Works Bookstore Café starting 7 p.m. (New York, NY)

Genevieve Valentine and Kelly Link will join forces for a discussion on Valentine’s book, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club. Join in on Wednesday, July 1 at Word Bookstore (the Brooklyn branch) starting 7 p.m. (Brooklyn, NY)

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14. Marching Mariachi Band

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15. Disney Publishing Joins Interactive Division

The Walt Disney Company has folded its children’s publishing business into its interactive media division, as part of an overall realignment of Disney Consumer Products and Disney Interactive.

Leslie Ferraro, co-chair, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media and president of Disney Consumer Products and Jimmy Pitaro, co-chair, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media and president of Disney Interactive, will lead the newly combined segment, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media (DCPI).

Disney Publishing Worldwide, which “has increasingly blended technology with storytelling to create interactive story-based digital experiences,” will report to Ferraro and Pitaro.


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16. Blogger Comments or, rather, Now you see them-now you don't!

An apology to Dave.  Never saw the comment nor the link. Blogger seems to be having a problem with Comments that I had thought was sorted out.  Thanks for checking and the link!

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17. Looney Tunes Are Good for Selling Shoes, If Not Much Else

The Looney Tunes characters don't entertain anymore, but they'll sell you $200 kicks.

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18. Author Top 5 with Kris Dinnison


Today we welcome Kris Dinnison to YABC! Kris's new book, You and Me and Him will make it's debut July 7th! This contemporary read follows the style of both Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan, and we can't wait to read it! But until then, Kris is sharing a little bit about her, the book, and the top five things that fuel her writing. 



Meet Kris.


Kris Dinnison learned to read when she was five years old. She grew up reading books nobody else had read and listening to music nobody else had heard of and thinking she was weird, which she kind of was. She spent nearly two decades as a teacher and librarian working with students from kindergarten to graduate school. The bulk of that time she spent teaching High School English while dreaming of becoming a writer. Nowadays, when she’s not writing, she helps run her family’s retail and café businesses.  She lives and writes in Spokane, Washington.


Now meet Kris's book.


“Do not ignore a call from me when you know I am feeling neurotic about a boy. That is Best Friend 101.” —Nash
        Maggie and Nash are outsiders. She’s overweight. He’s out of the closet. The best of friends, they have seen each other through thick and thin, but when Tom moves to town at the start of the school year, they have something unexpected in common: feelings for the same guy. This warm, witty novel—with a clear, true voice and a clever soundtrack of musical references—sings a song of love and forgiveness.


All writers need something to keep them going on those tough writing days, and Kris is sharing hers with us!



Writing can be a lonely, crazy‐making business. Many writers have quirky things they need to keep them going when the writing gets tough. One friend of mine has a rock from Robert Frost’s farm that he sets on the table next to his computer. Another friend needs a fresh package of Red Vines to make it through her writing day. And one full‐time writer I know listens to heavy metal as loud as she can while she writes. My writing needs are pretty predictable, but they are essential to keep my writing motor running. 


Top Five Things That Fuel My Writing:


1.) Coffee

I really love coffee. I’m an Americano or drip with a little cream sort of gal, so I keep it pretty simple. But volume is important. Fortunately, I own a coffee shop so I get my coffee cheap, fresh, and often. 




2.) The Pile

This is the pile of books that I want to read. Pile is not really the right word. It’s more of a wall. Full. Of books. I make deals with myself that after I finish a certain amount of writing, which I love, I get to read a certain amount, which I love even more. It’s a sort of reward system for myself. 




3.) Other crazy people who are better writers than I am

No, I’m not actually friends with J.K Rowling. But I am friends with a whole bunch of other writers I admire and like. We share work with each other, give honest, sometimes tough, feedback, encourage each other when we feel like quitting, and generally make each other better writers. It’s no Hogwarts, but it’s pretty magical. 




4.) Cute animal videos

There are so many! I’m partial to sloths and baby pandas, but any baby animal will do in a pinch. I also like videos where animals who don’t normally frolic are frolicking. Like there’s this one video of a turtle and a dog playing with a ball. A turtle was playing with a ball! Warning: cute animal videos are a slippery slope, so be very careful with these. They are addictive and can cause a lack of productivity. Use sparingly. 




5.) Impromptu dance parties

These are an essential part of my working day. I can’t listen to music while I write, so a loud song and a burst of wildly inappropriate and extremely dorky dancing is a welcome break to the long stretches of silence in between. If I can sing loudly and know all the lyrics: even better. 


We'd like to thank Kris for showing us a little bit of the writer's life! And here is another BIG thanks for the following giveaway of You and Me and Him!



You and Me and Him

  1. by: Kris Dinnison

  2. Release Date: July 7, 2015 





One winner will receive a signed hardcover of You and Me and Him, a bookmark, and another piece of literary swag. US addresses only.

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. During this giveaway, Kris has a question for entrants. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries: 
What is one of the songs on the playlist for You and Me and Him? You can find the answer HERE


*Click the Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway*

a Rafflecopter giveaway





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19. On the Shelves Hicklebee’s


What would you like to see more of from authors/illustrators in terms of community involvement?

A good social media outreach and community is helpful. And, please, include either your local independent bookstore(s) and/or a link to IndieBound.org on your website, Facebook, and other online places. If we visit these and only see Amazon, we just cannot link to your sites. 


How do you handle author/illustrator visits? Can authors/illustrators contact you directly?

Most of our author visits come via the publishers as they send their talent out on tour. The publishers also provide co-op funds that help us advertise the books and events. Co-op funds make up 100% of Hicklebee's advertising budget, which allows us to create and print in-store flyers and brochures, add the listing to our website, and enewsletter, put together in-store displays,  and do some print advertising in local newspapers. Authors and illustrators can indeed contact us directly. If a date and time works for our schedules, we're happy to discuss an event with you. For local, self-published people, we've developed a program that allows us to staff and manage their books and events: www.hicklebees.com/local-independently-published-authors-0


What is your favorite part of being a bookseller/manager/librarian?

Seeing children sprawled out across the store absorbed in a book. Watching kids beg their parents/caregivers for a book like their life depends on it. Plus getting to meet and talk to other book-loving people. 


Personal book recommendation?

Off the top of my head—Smek for President. Adam Rex had me laughing out loud with his clever words and characters. I found myself wishing my children were young again and still at home—we'd have had so much fun with this book!  For picture books, I'm loving The Duck and the Darklings by Glenda Millard, illustrated by Stephen Michael King for the beautiful, inventive language, hopeful, caring message, and curiously perfect illustrations.


To learn more visit: www.hicklebees.com

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20. Avengers of Oz: Age of Tin Man

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21. Happy Pub Day to Jessixa Bagley’s BOATS FOR PAPA!

I’m so thrilled to wish Jessixa Bagley a very happy pub day for her debut book, BOATS FOR PAPA. I met Jessixa at SCBWI NY in 2013; that was the first conference I attended with my agent hat on after nearly ten years on the other side of the desk at Simon & Schuster. Jessixa came to my session, politely introduced herself and struck up a conversation. She was a runner-up in the Illustrator Showcase and submitted a dummy called Drift to me after the conference. I opened it and was immediately drawn into the world of Buckley, a young beaver who creates increasingly intricate boats to send to his absent and much missed Papa. And she made me cry. Tears-streaming-down-my-face cry. I sold the book to the brilliant and wonderful Neal Porter. Neal, … [more]

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22. #alaac15 Caldecott/Newbery Reception

Last year my mentor treated me to a Caldecott/Newbery awards ticket and it was a magical night that I refer to as the library Oscars! People are dressed in fancy dresses, and everyone is bubbling with excitement to hear the speeches and celebrate! This year, as I made my selections for ALA events, it seemed like I just had to go back! The ticket is pricy– but it is a magical night!

Winner of the 2015 Caldecott, Dan Santan gave a thoughtful speech about the struggle to keep believing in your dreams and the hard work of what it takes to succeed.

Winner of the 2015 Newbery award, Kwame Alexander gave a performance that buzzed through his life and reminded us that with the belief in greatness can propel you to fulfill your destiny!

Winner of the 2015 Wilder award, Donald Crews wove an interesting story of a somewhat reluctant path to children’s literature, and how the love of a good woman can inspire!

Afterwards, there is a receiving line where you can make small talk/shake hands/ hug some if the years greatest creators of children’s books! It is the best part of the evening, especially if you work with the texts of the winners– it’s an opportunity to geek out with people you love and admire!

I had to stop children’s book collaborators and besties Mac Barnett and Jon Klassan, to take a pic of my besties on besties! Take a look:


Amy Steinbauer is the Early Childhood Outreach Librarian from Beaumont, CA. Follow her on twitter– @Merbrarian.

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23. KidLit Author Events June 30-July 6 (And PUPPY!)


This has been such an exciting week around my house! Because this happened:

Puppy Coming Home Puppy SofaPuppy lge









She’s a 3 month old, German Shepherd/Husky (Gerberian Shepsky) mix. I saw her at Ace Hardware last weekend, and was bewitched by her sweet little face. I resisted the urge to take her home with me, because I still had some sanity left. But she stayed in my thoughts all week, so Saturday morning when my husband and son said they had to go to the hardware store, I chirped up that I wanted to go, too. Now, this isn’t unusual; I love hardware stores. But something in my tone of voice immediately tipped off my husband that something was up. I admitted it; I wanted to see if the beautiful little black dog had been adopted. She hadn’t, but now she has! We haven’t reached a decision on her name yet, so I’ll add that here next time.

Last week I introduced a new page on this blog, Houston Writer & Illustrator Events. This week, I’m introducing another new page, Workshops: Young Writers. There are many writing workshops for teens that range from an hour to a full day, but for young people who are serious about writing, that isn’t enough. This list will help serious young writers find events in time to meet the often rigorous application requirements and early registration dates. If you know a teen (and occasionally younger kids) who has a keen interest in writing, please share this list with them. Like all my other conference lists, I will update this page on a weekly basis, so check back often!

Also, tomorrow is the first full month of my new website theme, and so will be the first full month to feature books launching in July. These children’s and young adult books will be shown on the sidebar on all the conference pages. Clicking on these images will open a page about that book. Throughout July, please take a moment to visit these books and spread the word!

We have another quiet week for author bookstore events, but we have two writers’ events this week:

JUNE 30, TUESDAY, 6:30-8:30 PMHouston Writers Guild
The Houston Writers’ Guild
Trini Mendenhall Community Center, 1414 Wirt Rd.
Julian Kindred: Finishing Your Novel: Bringing Your Ideas to Fruition
Cost:$10 Members; $20 Nonmembers; $5 Students w/ID.

Staying the course once you’ve started writing your novel is difficult. How do you manage the distractions of daily life or the temptation to quit and chase the next new idea? And once the manuscript is complete, then what? This workshop will examine methods for holding yourself accountable for writing your novel and examine when it is time to start, or finally finish, revisions, as well as what you should be doing in the meantime.

SCBWI Houston
Tracy Gee Community Center
Holly Walrath: Writing Culturally Relevant YA: War, Politics, Violence and Gender
Cost: FREE! All are welcome!

Children’s literature is entering a new era – one that embraces the dark lens of postmodern literature. Picture books deal with increasingly more disturbing topics from abortion to personal violence. Four themes have emerged in Children’s Literature that reflect these changes: War, Politics, Violence, and Gender. In discussing these themes, we’ll look at new trends in children’s literature and what they might mean for us as writers. We’ll explore how to approach these themes in our writing. We’ll discuss how children view these events and how they affect children’s personal lives.


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24. Highlights High Five 2014 Pewter Plate Award

What a nice way to start the week. I just found a package on our front porch that contained a Highlights High Five 2014 Pewter Plate Illustration of the Year Award!  Thank you very much to both Highlights and editor Kathleen Hayes!

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25. Library games at #alaac15

Library games at #alaac15

When all the conference work is over and done, you can go to Library Games to have some fun!

Library Games is a night of challenges, boldness, and laughter, typically held on the Monday evening of annual.
Last year, I checked it out with some friends– we were cramped in an overly hot room watching our peers compete in various library challenges. This year, we stepped up to the plate. Our team– Punk Ass Book Jockeys (bonus points if you get the reference) competed in Library Trivia, Lip Synching, Flannel Board, Book Talk for Your Life, and Battle Decks!

Library Trivia– 10 questions on library history/ pop culture references. I think all teams utilized the lifelines to switch their answers with a random audience member.

Lip Synching– The obvious winner chose a Miley Cyrus song- Wrecking Ball– and she delivered! My team went with “Smells Like Team Spirit” and we all jumped in to headbang and rock out!

Flannel Board– My competition. Category- randomly picked– Dealing with Board of Trustees. Must use 20 random pieces in 2 minute story– I used 15– whew, time goes by quick!

Book Talk for Your Life– Choose a book and sell it! Our group won this category with a romantic tale of “Slugs in Love”, which she had actually borrowed from the SF public library!

Battle decks– Could you give a spontaneous presentation on an unknown topic with Meme slides? It’s just about as hard and as hysterical as it sounds!

Join the games next year!! They start recruiting via social media a few months before conference! It’s a great time for being silly with new friends! Everyone is supportive of the efforts!!

We came in third out of four, I’ll take it for our first try! Watch out, Orlando- we’re coming for the win!


Amy Steinbauer is an Early Childhood Outreach Librarian in Beaumont, CA. Follow her on twitter @Merbrarian.

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