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Viewing Blog: Just Sketch, Most Recent at Top
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The blog of writer / illustrator Edna Cabcabin Moran
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1. 4 Questions for Barney Saltzberg


Barney Saltzberg is the author and illustrator of close to fifty books for children, including Beautiful Oops!, Arlo Needs Glasses, Andrew Drew and Drew, and the best-selling Touch and Feel Kisses series with over one million copies in print. Additionally, he's recorded four albums of music for children.   


When an illustrator has an idea for a book with a non-traditional format, what is the first thing they should do?

Check the marketplace to make sure this idea hasn't already been done. Build a book that reflects what you are thinking so people can see what you have in mind. Or, if you don't have the paper engineering skills, draw a detailed vision of what you are thinking.


What is the biggest difference between submitting a book to a publisher that has a traditional format vs a novelty format?   

It's really not that different, aside from have either sending in a working interactive dummy or the details of how it works along with a storyboard.


I would imagine some book dummies you make are somewhat intricate. Do you mail your dummies to publishing houses or do you photograph them?

If it's an editor I have worked with before, sometimes I video the book with my phone and send that. Otherwise, I send a dummy via mail.


What is your best advice for SCBWI members who are interested in exploring novelty formats?

Make sure there is a different slant to what you are submitting. There are a gazillion touch and feel books. What is different about what you are submitting?  I have a series of touch and feel books that are all based on kisses, Animal Kisses, Peekaboo Kisses. It helped create a brand.  As a side note, I realized I needed to build my books while I was conceptualizing them.  My book, Andrew Drew and Drew wasn't something I could just write about.  I had to start folding paper and drawing simultaneously.  The same is true for Beautiful Oops! and Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep. When I find a piece of paper a certain way, I have an "ah-ha" moment. I know what I can do with this!  I call it thinking with my hands.


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2. SCBWI Exclusive with…Jordan Hamessley


Jordan Hamessley is editorial director at Adaptive Books; A Division of Adaptive Studios. Founded in 2013, Adaptive secures orphaned content from feature film studios, award-winning playwrights and bestselling authors then works to create new value in these revitalized projects while allowing our studio partners to significantly participate in our success and reformat for a more traditional, film/TV version.


How does Adaptive Studios work?

Adaptive Studios is a production studio that develops industry-vetted abandoned intellectual property to create products for multi-media distribution in areas such as film, television, apps, social media storytelling, and digital & traditional publishing.  Upcoming projects include the re-launch of Project Greenlight on HBO.


Can you tell us about the publishing arm, Adaptive Books?

Adaptive Books, the publishing imprint of Adaptive Studios, publishes eight to ten titles each year, from middle grade and young adult novels to adult fiction. Our mission is to find under-appreciated and abandoned Hollywood content and find new mediums for those works. We typically buy unproduced screenplays from film studios and then determine what works in the property and then develop it as a book. Once we know what the book property looks like, I reach out to agents and authors who might be a good fit to tell that story. My goal at Adaptive is to breathe new life into abandoned content and then find the perfect author to tell that story. Every project is a true collaboration with the author. They aren't simply novelizing a script, they are bringing their own voice and ideas to the table. In fact, in most cases I never share the original script with the author. Each book is given a strategic marketing plan using innovative digital marketing techniques, as well as traditional methods. Our current books in the market include the critically acclaimed YA novel The Silence of Six by Andre Norton Award Winner E.C. Myers; YA novel Coin Heist; middle grade novel Shadow of a Doubt; and The Adventures of Black Dog: Beached Whale, a picture book based on the iconic Black Dog Tavern on Martha's Vineyard.


With the changing climate of Children’s book publishing, where does Adaptive Books fit in?

Adaptive Books is constantly seeking new ways to reach our readers. Due to our founders’ experience as film, tv, and digital content producers, as well as our relationships with many of the filmmakers from Project Greenlight, we create film quality level book trailers that feel more like short films than a trailer. We’re very active in the social media sphere and are always learning about the latest apps and websites that teens and media fans are using. On the day-to-day publishing side, I see Adaptive Books as the perfect home for that mid-list author who is looking to break out. Our list is small, but mighty with a full marketing plan behind each title. There’s no getting lost on this list.


How does your team work?

I’m based in New York City and the rest of the Adaptive team is based in Los Angeles. We spend a lot of time on the phone and Skype talking through the latest scripts we are reading, the proposals we’re working on, and the latest updates from our authors. We’re a very collaborative team. Most members of the Adaptive team read every sample that we get for a new project and offer feedback from that point until an author is hired and we finish the editorial process. We bounce ideas back and forth when it comes to which authors should write a certain book, cover design, and putting together our marketing plans. 


Once you have found a property that your team loves, how do you find writers?

Once we’ve decided on a project to move into the publishing program our first step is putting together a “spark page.” That is a three to five page document that outlines the major characters and plot of the book. Sometimes we have a particular author in mind for a project and we’ll reach out to them through their agent to gauge their interest. Other times, I reach out to agents who I know have authors on their list that fit the project and see if they have someone who would be interested.


After the book is written, how is it published?

Every book published by Adaptive is published traditionally and digitally. We are distributed by Ingram Publisher Services and our books make it into all of the major accounts.


How did you arrive at Adaptive?

Adaptive was the perfect next step for me after spending time in the traditional world at Penguin Young Readers and then Egmont USA. While at Penguin, I acquired original chapter book and middle grade series and also led multiple licensed publishing programs. My licensing experience working on film and tv properties is used daily at Adaptive. I also developed several IP projects while at Penguin and that experience is key to working with my team in developing our “spark pages” and matching the perfect author with the right project. When I was at Egmont, I was primarily editing original middle grade and YA fiction, working closely with my authors throughout the editorial process. In my career as an editor I have made it my goal to make my relationships with my authors true collaborations. I give detailed feedback and I’m always happy to get on the phone and talk through any questions or issues they may have as they work on their books. 


How can our members submit to you to be considered for one of your projects?

For submissions, I'd like to see the first ten pages of a YA or MG novel, along with a bio of the author and their preferred genre. I'll read the subs and keep the authors in mind for future projects. You can send the above to her at jordan@adaptivestudios.com  Be sure to include "SCBWI Submission" in the subject line so it is filtered correctly.


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3. On the Shelves…BookPeople


Meghan Goel, Children's and Young Adult Book Buyer of BookPeople in Austin, Texas, tells us what's on the shelves.    


What trends do you notice in children's book sales? What are the current hot reads?


I would say that the most interesting trend we've seen recently is the re-invigoration of the picture book category. Sales have certainly been driven by some key bestsellers over the last few years like I Want My Hat BackDragons Love Tacos, The Day the Crayons Quit, and The Book with No Pictures, but the trend reaches beyond those key titles leading to very healthy sales across the board. Current hot reads in our store would include What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig and Last Stop on Market Street in picture books, Echo and Circus Mirandus in middle grade, and Ember in the Ashes and Challenger Deep in YA.

How do you choose what books to order? Do you use a publishing rep?

I meet several times a year with sales representatives for almost all of the publishers we do business with, whether that's a dedicated in-house rep for a publisher or a commission rep who handles a number of different houses. In terms of how to decide what to order, obviously some numbers are driven by an author's sales track and some are motivated by trends or genre, but really it comes down to a gut reaction to what I like a lot and want to put in front of our customers.


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

I think that the community of authors and illustrators we work with in Austin is wonderful and does a lot. Really I just encourage authors and illustrators to just keep us in the loop about upcoming releases, pull us into their launch events so we can help make them special, to stop by and sign stock, and to be open to ideas. I love pulling local authors into programming we're developing instore or with schools!


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

We host a large number author and illustrator events throughout the year both instore and at schools. The best person to start with for an instore event would be our Marketing Director. 


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

I love finding creative ways to help engage kids in our community and inspire them to grow into enthusiastic readers.


Personal book recommendation?

My favorite new book to recommend right now is Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan.

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4. Bologna International Children’s Book Fair


By Annina Luck Wildermuth

January 2012; My artwork made it into the SCBWI Illustration Gallery at the Bologna Book Fair! Wow! Maybe I should go?! It was on my bucket list. Not sure if I could justify /quantify expense vs. opportunities… but heck. I was going to make it happen and see what happened! At this late date, hotels weren’t available; flight prices were ridiculous. But my dear stewardess friend arranged a standby seat on the less traveled flight to Venice and shared the frugal traveler’s option of monastery lodging. I flew to Venice, took the train to Bologna and bunked at the monastery.

I’m a worrier. If you’re one of those supremely confident travelers; STOP right here! This article’s not for you. If, however, you are a little bit scared, but intrigued and determined to see what the Bologna Book fair is all about, then read on.


My worries:

Navigating foreign systems; money, trains, buses, taxis, hotels

Blowing my budget

Being alone in a foreign country

Navigating the Fair

Making the most of my opportunities



Purchase some Euros through your bank before you leave the states. The fees may be higher, but worth it to avoid exchanging currency at the airport in your jet lagged state.

Once there: ATMs are your friend.



Book flights early. The 2016 Fair is April 4 -7. Start looking in August. Here’s an article about timing:



Also check prices to Venice, Rome or Milan with train fares to Bologna. Flight plus train ticket may not be cheaper but if you plan to tack on some sightseeing it gives you an extra city to explore. Train reservations are available online.



Once there: Get city and bus maps and bus tickets at Tourist Info in the Neptune Fountain Piazza. http://www.bolognawelcome.com/en/


Punch your ticket when you enter the bus. You may be tempted to ride for free. Only Jiminy Cricket and the occasional ticket checkers can help you decide if the fine and a public scolding are worth the risk.

There’s also an unreliable Fair shuttle, which will sometimes surprise you by showing up. Or double up with a friend or three and taxi to the fair.



Book early! There are apartments, hotels and my favorite, the monastery.



The Fair:

Illustrators can submit five illustrations for consideration in the Mostra degli Illustratori and receive free fair admission whether your illustrations make the short list or not. (NOTE: This is NOT the SCBWI BIG gallery.)



Even if you don’t submit, Illustrators get a reduced price.



Writers need to buy a pass:



All alone:

NOT! The SCBWI booth is your hub, and home away from home. You’ll be surrounded by friends you’ve never met before.


Making the most of your opportunities

Apply for a personal or regional showcase with Chris Cheng

Schedule portfolio reviews

Bring promo materials

Read the program. Attend the talks.



SCBWI Bologna Website:



For a pageful of tips contact me at claythings@susaneaddy.com

For a blow-by-blow account, here are my Bologna Sketch Travel blogs:








Finally, was it worth the money, time and worry? For me, YES! The opportunity to illustrate My Love for You is the Sun by Julie Hedlund, was a direct result of my 2012 trip.  You NEVER know where connections will lead. But even if a book hadn’t come to fruition, the inspiration and knowledge gained by being in the heart of the Children’s Book World forever changed my outlook and was worth every penny, and even the wringing of hands.


I hope to see you in Bologna in 2016!


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5. Diversity: What Can We Do About It?

The movement to increase diversity in children’s books is on. 

As a community, it’s taken us too long to get here, but today, our industry is at last engaged in an ongoing conversation to ensure that the lives of all young people are reflected and honored in their literature.  Such diversity, which includes people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA, and ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, serves not just to mirror our readers’ lives, but to offer all young people a window into the many experiences that make us human.  What could be more important?

That we have recognized the urgent need for more diversity is a crucial first step.  But it’s just a first step.  We can’t sit back and congratulate ourselves when there is so much to be done to implement our goal.  We need to expand the universe of diverse authors, illustrators and editors, and create more opportunities for them.  We need to assess what each of us can do to help the effort.  For some of us, that will be primarily a support role, helping to change and elevate the diversity conversation.  Others may choose to study how to write cross-culturally with responsibility and authenticity.  We need to learn how to make diverse books successful in the marketplace.  Author Andrea Pinkney, who founded the Jump at the Sun Imprint at Disney, says, "Right now, the publishing industry has an auspicious opportunity to redefine the success model for diverse books. Let’s consider success as more than just sales figures, but include how well a book impacts a community or addresses a timely issue.  Let’s look at a book’s entire life and achievement, not just immediate sales figures.”

Your membership in the SCBWI automatically puts you at the heart of this conversation.  As an organization, we have been in the forefront of supporting diversity efforts, by offering grants that celebrate diverse authors, establishing partnerships with organizations such as We Need Diverse Books and The Children’s Book Council Diversity Board, and by populating our conferences and Board with talented people from diverse backgrounds. But as individuals we can all do more.

I’ve surveyed many of our industry leaders and asked them what each of us can do to promote diversity.  Here are a baker’s dozen of concrete and specific suggestions.

  1. Offer support to aspiring writers and illustrators from diverse backgrounds. (I.W. Gregorio, VP Development, We Need Diverse Books)
  3. If you are judging a contest or award, look for diverse stories that can open up opportunities for writers and illustrators not to feel pigeonholed. (Jenn Baker. VP Social Media/Diversity Festival, We Need Diverse Books)
  5. Politely point out to organizers of book fairs, festivals and panels when their participants are overwhelmingly white or male or abled or straight. (I.W. Gregorio)
  7. If you are planning any kind of book event, do not ask diverse authors to only appear in presentations focused on diversity.  (Hannah Ehrlich, Director of Marketing, LEE & LOW BOOKS)
  9. If you are a bookseller, teacher or librarian, do not pigeonhole diverse books by bringing them out only for “themed months” or holidays.  All displays should have a diverse component.  (Hannah Ehrlich)
  11. In your conversations with peers and the public about diversity, shift the paradigm from “the difficulties and challenges” of selling diverse books to a positive focus, emphasizing the opportunity to redefine the success model. (Andrea Pinkney, author)
  13. Be active on social media about this issue.  Follow authors, agents, publishers, librarians and teachers who are succeeding in moving the diversity needle. (Andrea Pinkney)
  15. Make a conscious, strategic decision to buy and/or support more diverse books, and do it in a sustained fashion.  Be conscious of supporting books whose covers represent diverse content and characters.  We need to give diversity a face.  The more we show diversity, the more it becomes the norm.  (Andrea Pinkney)
  17. Talk about these books (on social media and elsewhere) when they resonate with you.  Passionate word of mouth is the best bookseller!  (SCBWI)
  19. When you are visitng schools, libraries and kids, talk about more than your own books.  Promote a diverse reading list.  We are all book-talkers and your positive talk helps get these books into the hands of readers.  (SCBWI)
  21. If you are a diverse author or illustrator, get on the road and make your books visible.  You presence can help win fans across the spectrum of diversity. (Justin Chanda, VP and Publisher, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers)
  23. If you chose to integrate diversity into your own writing and illustrating work, do it in an authentic, respectful, accurate manner.  Research needs to be done, experts consulted, text and illustrations vetted.  This is especially critical if you are choosing to work cross-culturally. (Louise May, Editorial Director, LEE & LOW BOOKS)
  25. Check out these two important links: weneeddiversebooks.org and cbcdiversity.com and make them part of your regular online reading. (SCBWI)

There is much still to be done to establish true diversity in children’s books.  As with any important task, it may seem overwhelming to us, and the tendency is to leave it in the hands of decision makers and  policy setters.  But nothing is farther from the truth.  As one of my heroes, the Dalai Lama, once said…“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”  Let’s each one of us be the mosquito!   



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6. July 2015 Insight












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7. June 2015 Insight









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8. July Illustrator Tricia Buchanan-Benson

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9. Martha Brockenbrough Summer Bulletin

As writers and illustrators of children’s books, we have the cutest fantasies. Who else dreams that their work will someday be decorated by a sticker?

And then there’s the conference fantasy, where the agent or editor of your dreams holds your manuscript overhead and says, “This is brilliant!” and she just happens to have a contract in her pocket, which you sign on the spot. It’s almost better than the sticker.

But here’s the thing. People are sometimes asked to send off stories or art, and there are similarly wonderful career-transforming moments. Usually, though, nothing quite so dramatic happens.

And yet… conferences are magic. Truly. Every picture book I’ve ever sold has come directly from my time at an SCBWI conference, specifically the one in Los Angeles. I’ve sold four picture books and have interest in a fifth; each one sprang from an idea or conversation I had at that summer conference, starting with my first one in 2008.

My future editor, Arthur A. Levine, had been in Seattle that spring for a conference, and through a happy accident of seating, we’d chatted through the evening, and he invited me to submit something to him someday. At the time, I was writing an epic novel about a pirate in part because I’d given up on picture books, and in part because, well, I can’t really remember why, which was ultimately the problem with that novel.

At our local spring conference, Arthur had offered sage advice from his then four-year-old son. “When in doubt, write about dinosaurs.” At the time, this didn’t strike me as anything other than adorable. (Who was I to write about dinosaurs, anyway? At the time, I was merely thirty-seven.)

When registration opened for the summer conference in Los Angeles, I really wanted to go. But I couldn’t. We had a family reunion that weekend. And what kind of jerk puts anything in front of family? As it turns out, I am that kind of jerk.

In Los Angeles, Arthur reassured us about the picture book market, which at the time was feeling kind of battered. On the flight home, I resolved to send him a thank-you note for being so encouraging. I looked out the window, and I thought about dinosaurs, and specifically their teeth, and even more fantastically, about who might love their teeth most of all.

Arthur ended up publishing the answer to that question—The Dinosaur Tooth Fairy—five years later. A year or two after I sold The DTF, I mentioned to Arthur at another Los Angeles conference a letter I’d written to my daughter when she asked for the truth about Santa. He said he thought it sounded like a picture book as well. A dear friend I’d met at the Los Angeles conference, Samantha Berger, gave me an idea for how it might be done. I wrote it. Arthur bought it.

Last summer, Samantha and I came up with an idea at the conference while we were eating pizza poolside. So far that has turned into a two picture book deal with Arthur.

These aren’t the sort of things you can predict when you’re thinking about going to a conference. The standard fantasy—that someone might love your work and buy it on the spot—pales in comparison to what really can happen. You go to these conferences and meet people who inspire you. You make friends. You hear words you didn’t know you needed to hear, things that make you laugh and cry, things that feed your mind in ways your everyday routine might not. All of this becomes the fuel of story.

I’d never thought to dream about what comes from inspiration and connection and friendship. And yet this combination is so much better than any contract, and why I’ll go to every SCBWI conference I can.

Fantasies are great and all. But real life? It’s better.


Martha Brockenbrough is the author of the YA novels The Game of Love and Death and Devine Intervention, and The Dinosaur Tooth Fairy, a picture book. Both are with Arthur A. Levine at Scholastic, as is her forthcoming picture book, Love, Santa, as well as two Bigfoot picture books written jointly with Samantha Berger. Martha also wrote the nonfiction middle grade Finding Bigfoot for Feiwel & Friends. In addition to her work on SCBWI's Team Blog, she is the founder of National Grammar Day and author of Things That Make Us [Sic]. Visit www.marthabrockenbrough.squarespace.com and on Twitter @mbrockenbrough.

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10. 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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11. 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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12. 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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13. 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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14. 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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    19. The Spark Award Winners


    2014 WINNERS

    Wendy Ulmer and illustrated by Sandy Crabtree, My Twelve Maine Christmas Days  

    W. Nikola-Lisa, The Men Who Made the Yankees

    Selene Castrovilla, Melt


    2013 WINNERS

    Karen Avivi, Shredded

    Neil Waldman, Al and Teddy


    2013 HONOR BOOKS

    Cidney Swanson, Saving Mars

    Leigh Kopans, One

    Wendy Kupfer and illustrated by Tammie Lyon, Let's Hear it for Almigal 

    Ellen Gaffney, Wings for a Flower

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    20. 2015 Martha Weston Grant Winner Announced

    Lindsey Carmichael from Lewis Lake, Nova Scotia, is the recipient of the 2015 Martha Weston Grant. She  received $1,500 to cover her expenses to attend the annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles. 
    Grant coordinator Lissa Rovetch noted the judges, consisting of herself, Ashley Wolff, Julie Downing, Susan McCombs and Dory Weston, received many outstanding applications all of which reflected Martha Weston’s generous spirit.
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    25. Comment on Bookstore Detail by Eyes on the Annapolis Sketch Crawl | As the Eraser Burns

    [...] took advantage of a rare chance to sketch scenery.  A lifelong artist and self-published author of Solomon Squirrel’s Amazing Chanukah Adventure, Stephanie recently joined SCBWI to continue her creative adventures and [...]

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