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The blog of writer / illustrator Edna Cabcabin Moran
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The SCBWI is excited to announce the winners of the 2016 Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards for our fifteen regional divisions:
Atlantic (Pennsylvania/Delaware/New Jersey/Wash DC/Virginia/West Virginia/Maryland)
Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by April Chu - Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books)
Frané Lessac - A is for Australia (Walker Books Australia) and Peter Carnavas - Blue Whale Blues (New Frontier Publishing/Scholastic Australia)
Stacey Lee – Under a Painted Sky (Penguin BFYR)
Margriet Ruurs - A Brush Full of Colour (Pajama Press)
Angela Cerrito – The Safest Lie (Holiday House)
Stephanie Bearce –Top secret Files of History – WWII (Prufrock Press)
Melanie Lee, illustrated by David Liew – The Adventures of Squirky the Alien #3: Who is the Red Commander? (MPH Group Publishing)
Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler – Wherever You Go (Little, Brown)
New England (Maine/Vermont/New Hampshire/Connecticut/Massachusetts/Rhode Island)
Lynda Mullaly Hunt – Fish in a Tree (Nancy Paulsen Books)
Kat Yeh – The Truth About Twinkie Pie (Little, Brown)
Southeast (Florida/Georgia/South Carolina/North Carolina/Alabama)
Rob Sanders, illustrated by Brian Won - Outer Space Bedtime Race (Random House)
Southwest (Nevada/Arizona/Utah/Colorado/Wyoming/New Mexico)
Melanie Crowder – Audacity (Philomel Books)
Don Tate –Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton (Peachtree Publishers)
Teri Terry – Mind Games (Orchard Books)
West (Washington/Oregon/Alaska/Idaho/Montana/North Dakota/South Dakota)
Elise Parsley – If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, DON’T! (Little, Brown)
About the Crystal Kite Awards
The Crystal Kite Awards are given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to recognize great books from the seventy SCBWI regions around the world. Along with the SCBWI Golden Kite Awards, the Crystal Kite Awards are chosen by other children’s book writers and illustrators, making them the only peer-given awards in publishing for young readers.
Founded in 1971, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is one of the largest existing writers’ and illustrators’ organizations, with over 22,000 members worldwide. It is the only organization specifically for those working in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia. The organization was founded by Stephen Mooser (President) and Lin Oliver (Executive Director), both of whom are well-published children’s book authors and leaders in the world of children’s literature. For more information about the Crystal Kite Award, please visit www.scbwi.org, and click “Awards & Grants.”
Kate McKean joined the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency in 2006. She earned her Master’s degree in Fiction Writing at the University of Southern Mississippi and began her publishing career at the University Press of Florida. She is proud to work with New York Times best-selling authors in a wide variety of genres including Mallory Ortberg’s Texts From Jane Eyre, Madeleine Roux’s YA horror series Asylum, and Brittany Gibbons’ memoir Fat Girl Walking.
What path led you to becoming an agent?
I started, like many, as an English major. My genius sister suggested I get an internship at the university press at my school, and I did and that lead to a full time job as an editorial assistant after graduation. After working there a year, I went to graduate school for my MA in Fiction Writing and after having just about all I could take of being a student, I packed my things and drove to New York to become a literary agent. I knew it would suit my outgoing personality. That was almost thirteen years ago.
When you are reading a submission, what are the key elements it has to have to make you want to sign a client?
I first want to forget I'm reading a submission. I want to feel like I'm reading a full-blown book. That usually means I'm immersed in a world so much I forget what's going on around me. I want a submission to call to me, even when I have to do other things. It's hard, or near impossible, for an author to plan on that, but it boils down to writing an unforgettable book.
Off the page, I look for clients who are hardworking, realistic, who will roll with the punches, and who understand that publishing is a team effort.
Once you take on an author, what are your next steps for submission?
Every book is different. If I feel it needs a lot of editorial work, I'll discuss that with the author upfront and we'll devise a plan. I often don't know if I'll be line editing something or just writing an editorial letter until I'm knee deep in the book, but we figure out what the book needs and move toward that. Sometimes there can be more than one round of edits, but as my client list grows, I take on fewer and fewer projects that need that much work from the get-go.
When the project is ship shape, I create a submission list and discuss it with my client and I take their input and discuss any questions they might have. Then I write a pitch letter and start making calls and sending emails. Hopefully, it's not too long a wait until we have good news!
What’s on your manuscript wish list?
I'd like some fun YA romance and more contemporary YA of all stripes. I'd also like serious, literary middle grade that will break my heart into a million pieces. I am also desperate for nonfiction of all kinds for YA and MG audiences! Send me your nonfiction!
Three tips when querying an agent:
DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Submission guidelines are there to help you.
In your query letter, tell me what happens in your book!
Avoid all self-deprecating, cutesy, goofy, or sarcastic remarks about querying or publishing in your queries.
You can query Kate for the month of June firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow her on Twitter @kate_mckean
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By Stephen Mooser, President, SCBWI
Every two years the SCBWI sponsors a booth at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, Italy. The Fair is arguably the premier annual venue in the world for the exhibition of children’s books and the sale of foreign rights to thousands of those books. This year it featured nearly 1,300 booths including a newly-expanded, separate wing devoted to digital publishing. The SCBWI has had a presence there since 2003, and this year our booth doubled in size, enabling us to showcase member’s books along with information on their rights offerings. Additionally, our online Bologna Illustration Gallery offered an opportunity for illustrator members to showcase their art. Events at our booth attracted heavy traffic, and four books in the exhibit made foreign rights sales, and most likely a number of artists picked up assignments as well. For our next booth, in 2018, we are looking into the possibility of hiring a freelance sales person so that we can more aggressively promote our members books to the rights buyers at the fair.
This year I (Stephen Mooser, SCBWI President) represented the main office at the Fair.
Here is what I learned:
*The Chinese market is going to dominate rights sales for some years to come. With the ending of the one child policy new births per year in the country will grow by up to an additional 8 million. The China booths were all doing brisk business, in particular snapping up rights to titles with an educational component. One publisher I interviewed said he would not be exhibiting at the Shanghai Children’s Book Fair this year because they had already bought every one of his titles. One statistic that seemed to sum up the opportunities in this market was that there are 15,000 titles currently on the market there, and on the list of the 100 bestsellers thirty-two were by foreign authors.
*Illustrators are in demand. Many of the publisher booths were offering free snap portfolio critiques to long lines of portfolio toting artists. One hand written sign outside of a booth summed it all up: TALENTED ILLUSTRATORS WANTED. SCBWI Illustrators should send up a giant cheer to Chris Cheng, author and SCBWI Board Co-Chair, who spent hours visiting publisher booths to alert them to our online Digital Art Catalogue and our Website Illustrator Gallery. Many of the publishers, he said, were not previously aware of the galleries, but were excited to learn of this rich resource.
*Digital books for children are still in their infancy and many start-ups seem to be struggling. The addition of a room devoted to the digital market was hailed as a recognition of this new player in the market, but I could only count a little over 30 exhibitors and half of them appeared to be start-ups looking for a buyer. Some exhibitors had products featuring Augmented (3D) Reality, but even though Google had a large booth I didn’t see anything about Virtual Reality, which they had been promoting in schools with their Google Cardboard. Most digital programs seemed to be simple computer and I pad displays teaching basic skills, which is nothing new. Of interest were a number of companies offering authors the ability to easily turn their work, or out of print books, into interactive apps at a reasonable price. Even at lower costs however authors have had a hard time generating revenue from an app. If you want to look into this option two of the more interesting companies I visited were QTales (www.qtales.com) and Kids App Maker (www.kidsappmaker.com).
*Picture books seemed to dominate many of the publisher booths. As always it was the unique and innovative offering that garnered the most attention. There was a lot of middle grade as well, particularly anything that had universal interest and could easily cross borders and cultures. As an example, Diary of a Wimpy Kid not only is the best-selling series in the US, It is also number one in Italy, and second in the UK.
*The Bologna Exhibition Gallery showcased selected children’s book illustration from scores of countries. Always a mixed bag of styles this year’s presentation was no different. If you were to look at past exhibits you could clearly see how what may have seemed unusual or even weird at the time became mainstream a decade later. To see the art at this year’s exhibit google Bologna Illustrators Exhibition.
The SCBWI will be back at Bologna again in 2018. Building on the success of this year’s book and illustration rights offering we plan to even more aggressively market the work of the SCBWI membership.
And special thanks to everyone who made our booth such a success, including those who manned the tables from our many regions, the artists who participated in our popular Dueling Illustrators events, our International Team headed by Kathleen Ahrens, and to Chris Cheng Bologna Coordinator and to Susan Eaddy who designed the booth along with Sarah Baker.
The Walter Dean Myers Grant is now open for submissions. This grant recognizes diversity in children's literature. There will be five winners of the Walter Grant, and the grant amount will be $2000 each. Please check the WNDB website for complete guidelines and application procedures.
The Walter Dean Myers Grant is named in honor of the celebrated children’s book author Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014). Walter Dean Myers was a lifelong advocate for diversity in youth literature, and a National Book Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. His legacy can be seen in the thousands of lives he touched, including those of readers and authors alike. His legacy is also reflected in the We Need Diverse Books™ organization. WNDB™ seeks to honor his memory by establishing this grant in his name. Please see
Kelly Estep, Manager of Carmichael's Kids in Louisville, Kentucky, tells us what's on the shelves.
What trends do you notice in children’s book sales? What are the current hot reads?
There is always a new trend popping up, but what I love about children's books is that the classics are still the classics, and most people are just looking for a good story to read with their children. Of course, more children read earlier these days, so early reader adaptations are very common and publishers are very conscious of leveling their readers properly for parents to understand comprehension levels. One trend I've noticed this last year is that TONS of picture books are now being put into board book format. Things that were only available in picture book are now in board book (Madeline is good example) so they can be a durable intro to a classic for little ones.
How do you choose what books to order? Do you use a publishing rep?
We do still choose every book that comes into the store. Most of them are through sales reps, who work so hard and still visit our stores in-person (for the most part). I peruse tons of catalogs, read advance copies, and then depend on my sales reps to understand my store and its customers to help me choose the best books.
What would you like to see more of from authors/illustrators in terms of community involvement?
I think a lot of them are very involved with the community. Children's authors and illustrators tend to understand that one of the ways to appeal to children is to reach them personally. So many authors, like Katherine Applegate, are so generous with their time. They visit schools and even offer skype interviews for kids.
How do you handle author/illustrator visits? Can authors/illustrators contact you directly?
Yes, we are open to authors contacting us directly (our event coordinater handles those emails). Typically, that would be for authors with a local tie who don't have publicists working for their tours. We take authors to schools, have them for storytime, or do in-store events quite regularly.
What is your favorite part of being a bookseller/manager/librarian?
I am so fortunate to be part of an industry that prides itself on independence and is so committed to the educational well-being of children. I do so many different things in these stores that I manage and a lot of them don't involve direct interaction with the customers. Like any job, you can get bogged down with details, ordering, making schedules, etc. but if I get to see one child walk into Carmichael's Kids and get SO excited that this store is just for them and that there are SO many books to look at, I know that all of the hard work is worth it!
Personal book recommendation?
My favorite Middle Grade novel in the last year is The Thing About Jellyfish. My favorite picture book from the last year is Sidewalk Flowers. My favorite classic is Miss Rumphius.
Jillian Manning is an editor with the Zonderkidz/Blink acquisitions team and the Custom Editor at Zondervan. In addition to pursuing new children’s and young adult titles, she also works with the fast-paced custom sales team to create fresh and exciting products from Zondervan’s backlist. Prior to joining Zondervan in 2014, Jillian worked as a project editor for children’s and young adult books at Sourcebooks, Inc. and as a contributing editor for Independent Publisher magazine.
What do you acquire?
For our YA imprint, Blink, I acquire in nearly every genre. In the past six months I’ve brought on titles that range from a Wattpad time travel adventure to an atmospheric 1920s mystery. I love a good story with a character that draws me in even after two or three or four reads through the manuscript. Blink provides incredible books with clean content (i.e. we keep a PG or PG-13 rating), and we have an amazing team focused on finding the best stories out there.
I also acquire for our Zonderkidz division, which publishes Christian board books, picture books, storybook bibles, Bibles, and middle grade titles. Zonderkidz is a leader in the industry, with a list of books including million-copy blockbusters, New York Times bestsellers, and family favorites that inspire children and parents around the world.
When you are reading a submission, what keeps you turning the pages?
First and foremost, an edited manuscript! Seeing errors or improper formatting is a huge turnoff for any editor. For me in particular, characters are key—if I am invested in the protagonist, I’m going to keep reading. It’s less about the plot and more about how the character changes and grows throughout the course of the story. Gorgeous, unique writing is also a must. If you can make me laugh, cry, or scream (in a good way of course!), I’ll probably be sold.
On that note, if you love a submission, what's your acquisition process?
My first step is to take the manuscript to our editorial board, which is made up of the acquisitions team and our publisher. If they fall in love with the story the way I have, I then present to our marketing and sales teams. While editorial thinks mostly about writing and content, marketing and sales look at everything from platform to industry trends to who the audience will be. The publishing landscape has changed a lot in the past few years, and it’s so helpful when I find authors who understand the need for social media and competitive research. That knowledge sets them apart from dozens of other folks I consider. The book market is a busy place, and finding ways to stand out and reach readers is necessary for success.
Once you acquire a manuscript, how do you work with your authors?
I approach author relations from a customer service standpoint—they are our super stars and I want to help them realize the dream of their book. That dream begins with getting the manuscript into the best possible shape. We will generally do two rounds of “macro” editing to talk about big-picture changes before the manuscript goes off for copyediting or proofreading. I then work closely with my authors throughout the cover design and marketing/PR processes. Like agents, editors are advocates for their authors, whether that’s in a meeting with sales accounts or making sure their books are always face-out in the bookstore (something I’m very guilty of doing). Authors are what make my job fun—and allow me to have a job in the first place!—and I love getting to know people who love books as much as I do.
You can follow Jillian on Twitter @LillianJaine
Jillian is taking queries from SCBWI members for the month of May. Please send a query to the appropriate email below.
Jim Cross Giblin, editor and a founder of Clarion Books, author of award winning non-fiction for children, and long-time SCBWI Board Member, and friend, has died at 82. In 1983 his book, Chimney Sweeps won the National Book Award. Always available to help or mentor an author, his Anna Cross Giblin award for outstanding Nonfiction, was a testament to his passion and generosity. The publishing industry, and the SCBWI, mourns his passing.
Unlike many children’s book makers who’ve said “All I’ve ever wanted to do was make picture books,” it took me a quite a few years to realize that I, too, wanted to make them.
I’d always been surrounded by picture books and loved them. As a kid, I pored over Richard Scarry's and Gyo Fujikawa's books and made miniature picture books about alien monkeys. In college, I studied child development and photography while working at a child development center where I re-read some of my favorites. After grad school, I spent over a decade teaching and working in youth development, during which I amassed a worryingly large collection of picture books, given my teaching/nonprofit salary. I loved that picture books brought some of the best things in life together in one elegant format: A good story, beautiful language, incredible art, humor, tenderness, and truths about life.
Then in 2012, after a very difficult year, I found myself alone, jobless, and depressed. I remember sitting down in the mornings and drawing because I didn’t really know what else to do. I poured my insecurities and grief into a series of animal portraits called “Portraits of the Unsure.” I had no formal background in illustration and was self-conscious about it, but creating those little guys made me chuckle and cry. They made me want to work hard again, to brush aside the constant “I’m not good enough at this” attitude, and to try something I’d always deemed impractical and too competitive to ever succeed in.
Maybe I had known all along that I wanted to make picture books. I’d just never had the guts to admit it to myself, let alone to try it.
Ready to take a leap, I enrolled in a few children’s book continuing education classes at SVA with Monica Wellington and Sergio Ruzzier. They taught me the mechanics of the picture book and the industry, and suggested I join SCBWI. I did, and attended the SCBWI Winter Conference in 2013, just so I could say that I gave it a real shot. I submitted a roughly compiled portfolio into the Portfolio Showcase and while nothing came out of it, and I was too overwhelmed to actually meet anyone, I was undoubtedly inspired.
I decided to dedicate one year to illustration and learning more about the children’s book industry, ending the year with SCBWI’s 2014 Winter Conference. I started small by making a painting every day. Then, by attending an SCBWI event. Then, by attending an SCBWI event where I’d actually talk to someone. I went to bookstores and studied picture books. I learned who was who in the world of agents, editors, art directors, and picture book makers, and stalked them on social media. I read blogs, listened to podcasts, went to book release parties, and made some great friends along the way.
By early 2014, I’d found more confidence in my illustration and storytelling style, built a portfolio, and knew a few more names. Things seemed much less overwhelming this time around. When I received the Runner Up award for the Portfolio Showcase, I remember Mike Curato elbowing me and whispering, “Get ready, it all starts tomorrow.” And, would you know it, he was right.
The next morning, I received emails from agents, art directors and editors. Within six months, Rebecca Sherman had become my agent, I’d signed a two-book deal with Connie Hsu at Roaring Brook/Macmillan, and I’d signed another deal to illustrate two books with Martha Mihalick at Greenwillow/HarperCollins. It was insane.
I know how fortunate I am to have such a quick and direct break into the industry and every morning that I don’t really have to put pants on, I am grateful all over again. Looking back, though, I think SCBWI is more than just getting an agent or a book deal. It’s about having the courage to just show up, and about meeting others who are also showing up because they love what you love, whether it took a few months, years, or decades to act on it.
Ruth's debut picture book, Where's the Party? (Roaring Brook/Macmillan), comes out April 2016, followed by Mervin the Sloth is About to Do the Best Thing in the World (Greenwillow/HarperCollins), which she illustrated, in September 2016. Originally from Canada, she now lives in Brooklyn with her cat, Georgie, and her dog, Feta, who share their real life adventures at www.georgietales.com. She is represented by Rebecca Sherman at Writers House. Find her online at www.ohtruth.com or @ohtruth on Instagram and Twitter.
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