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The blog of writer / illustrator Edna Cabcabin Moran
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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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