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Poster art for the Princeton Children's Book Festival.
While I shudder at the thought of summer being over, I wanted to share dates for some exciting events I have coming up this fall. (OK, take a look below and forget that I just made a reference to any time after summer!)
Candace Fleming is the author of over thirty-two books for children, ranging from picture books to middle grade fiction to award-winning biographies. Her most recent, THE FAMILY ROMANOV, is the winner of the Golden Kite for nonfiction.
If it was up to Steve Mooser next year's major blockbuster would be this book.
SCBWI is an organization that changed Candace's life. She joined twenty years ago. After joining she headed to her first conference, unpublished and with manuscripts in hand. There she met Anne Schwartz who she has now had a long working relationship with.
With THE FAMILY ROMANOV, Candace had many challenges which included the time and setting, a whole lot to tell, Russian history, characters who seemed boring. How would she make it all work? After more than seven drafts, she finished the book. With the need to escape, she went to see the movie Philomena, and in that film her biggest doubt about her own book was highlight:
Russian history, who is interested in that?
Candace thanks the SCBWI for acknowledging the book with Golden Kite for nonfiction and affirming, that yes, people are interesting.
Michelle Knudsen is a New York Times best-selling author of more than 40 books for young readers, including the picture book Library Lion (illustrated by Kevin Hawkes), the middle-grade fantasy novels The Dragon of Trelian and The Princess of Trelian, and the young adult novel Evil Librarian.
This book earned her the 2015 Sid Fleischman Award for Humor.
"For writers of humorous fiction, life is a tough room," Paul Fleischman said in presenting the award. "Sense of humor varies as wildly as taste in food."
He called Michelle's book a "frothy delight" that has entranced readers. And then he presented her with a set of keys to an alternate universe where humor is as respected as it should be.
She spoke of how much it meant to her to hear from former Sid Fleischman Award winner Alan Silberberg, who reassured her she didn't need to be funny onstage (she was, though—wonderfully so).
When she started EVIL LIBRARIAN it was as a break from another book, and she didn't know it would be funny. "Once I realized I had the start of a story that was funny, I started to panic that it had to be funny all the way through."
Her mentor Tim Wynne Jones told her to stop trying to think about being funny, and just to write the story, which is about friendships and musical theater and demons (and an evil librarian).
Michelle expressed thanks to the SCBWI and a large crew of supportive family, friends, and professional colleagues—as well as to Stephen Sondheim and his hilarious disturbing musical "Sweeney Todd."
The "Witch Castle" adventure is really just picking up. King Bronty and Prince Podoee have encountered some scary witches and are being pursued into the dark, ancient hallways of the creepy, old fortress.
I hope you enjoy this blog. I truly enjoy making "King Bronty"! "King Bronty" is drawn on paper then transferred to bristol board using tracing paper and a carbon-like paper. The transferred drawing is then inked in lack lines with either ink and a brush or a brush pen or a Sharpie marker.
Next, I use combinations of Crayola Markers, Pitt Artist's Markers, Prismacolor Markers, gouache paint and colored pencils. Then, of course, I scan each page, re-size it and post the strip for you to enjoy!
Please use the little PayPal button below to support "King Bronty" with any amount you wish.
Each year, the SCBWI sponsors four conference scholarships for full-time graduate or undergraduate students studying illustration. (Two for the New York conference, two for the Los Angeles conference). Many of our SIS winners have gone on to be represented by agents, get illustration work, and publish books.
Congratulations to these 2015 Summer Conference SIS winners!
We Need Diverse Books™team members Miranda Paul and Nicola Yoon presented an enormously informational session on writing outside of your own diversity. Paul, who is married to a black African man, wished for more books featuring characters that looked like her biracial family—particularly when her daugher questioned why so many books featuring characters that looked like her were about slavery. Yoon also comes from a biracial family and shared her concern. Here are a few things to think about when writing outside of your own race, background, experience:
• Honest Reflection. Consider your own motivations, biases, ignorances for writing a particular story. What is your connection to the topic?
Identity experts with whom you might work with or co-author a book. They can help you to realize things you didn't realize you don't know.
Make research trips, take notes, watch, listen (Cavet: You are still an outsider at this phase)
Be honest with your reader, explain literary choices, share your research process, extend beyond the book
• Tell the truth Write characters, not caricatures. If you’re writing a stereotype, you’re not telling the truth. All Asians are not good with math. All black girls aren’t sassy. People are complicated, create complex characters. Know what makes your character tick— What do they love? What do they want
• Diversify your life Include more types of people in your own life, it will not only make you a better writer, it will make you a better person.
BLT stands for Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato. I honestly don't know if that's just an American, or English-speaking thing, or if it translates to other languages or cultures. Here, you just go into a restaurant and order a "BLT" and you might be asked what kind of bread you want it on, and maybe "toasted?", but otherwise they know what you're ordering.
Some places have fancied-up versions with avocado, which to me makes it something else altogether. A proper BLT should be on white toast, with mayo.
I had fun putting together the reference for this! I fried up some bacon, sliced some nice 'off the vine' tomatoes, rinsed some leaves of head lettuce, toasted up some plain white bread, and cracked open a jar of Best Foods mayonnaise. (It HAS to be Best Foods. )
The other fun thing was shopping for the frilly toothpicks. I am now the proud owner of a box of 1,000 of them, since that's the only way they come, apparently. So I am well stocked for a lifetime of BLT making!
This was the first work-in-progress scan I did. The toast was the most challenging part of the drawing. Lots of nooks and crannies.
And then the next, with the toast done, the toothpicks in, and the bacon and tomatoes partway there.
And then I didn't do any more work in progress shots. I wanted to just get it done, so I glued myself to the chair and didn't feel like getting up to scan.
I purposely did this drawing a little looser in style than my previous 'architectural food' pieces. It still has a formal layout, with the top, and section views. But I combined the "side" and "section" views by doing the individual quarters this way, and also let the sandwich itself be a little sloppy - the way they are in real life.
And then I thought it would be fun to show one of them eaten, with just the toothpick left.
Whether you’re traditionally published, self-published or still trying, the pressure to promote yourself has never been greater. We’re exhorted to “get out there and build a platform” via social media and word of mouth. But while some authors manage this transition gracefully, there are others who undergo a Jekyll and Hyde transformation, turning into publicity-hungry monsters. Read more »Add a Comment
One of the coolest things about attending the SCBWI Summer Conference is that when you're wowed by a faculty member's breakout session – if you time it right – you can go to their other session as well. To dig deeper. To learn more. So, after being wowed by Jordan's breakout session on Voice, I attended (and here blog) his second breakout session, on Revision...
Jordan Brown is an executive editor with the imprints Walden Pond Press and Balzer + Bray at HarperCollins Children's Books.
The room is packed, every seat filled, people sitting on the floor.
Jordan starts us out the way he starts out when creating an editorial letter for a book he's editing. He aims to define the core of the manuscript.
The core is three important qualities:
1. A central element of the story to which all readers can ideally relate - the universal. 2. What is the most formative experience of your young character's life? That's what your book should be about. 3. Something your character chooses, or has agency.
He illustrates the core of the manuscript with Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games":
1. The concept is survival. 2. The most formative experience of Katniss's life is being in the Hunger Games. 3. It's her choice. She volunteers to save her sister.
It's these core concepts that Jordan uses to ground his revision notes, to make sure he and the author share a vision of what the book is.
He walks us through his five principles of revision. I'll share one of them.
Character Drives Plot
You want your plot to ask the right questions of your character: 1. What does my character want? 2. What are the stakes for my character? What happens if she doesn't get what she wants? 3. What complicates things. Why can't the character get what they want?
As full as the room is, Jordan's speech is still more full of great content, tips and examples. He ends with his explaining how to know if your book is ready... or if it's not ready.
A final note:
Jordan reminds us that our manuscripts don't have to be perfect, that
"As editors, we're not acquiring your pages. We're acquiring the vision they represent."
And revision is the way to get our books to match our vision.
Each year the SCBWI awards Member of the Year to one person who has made a significant contribution to the organization. Lee Wind has done just that in generous ways over many years. He has served as a Regional Advisor, he's advocated and led LGBTQ sessions within the conferences, and he leads SCBWI Team Blog.
Congratulations to our blog team's leader, Lee Wind!
This is the cover of a webcomic that I put together from the artwork of kids in a cartooning class at the New London Maritime Museum where I was the instructor. I drew the building, which is supposed to represent the old Customs House which houses the museum, and each of the kids in the class contributed the various details that I combined and colored in the computer. I don't know if the kids learned anything, but I learned a lot.
The research for this book began not far from here in Santa Barbara, where Melissa got to see one of Roget's original word books in a private collection. Melissa has illustrated word-centric biographies before, but unlike being able to pull from the imagery evoked in the words of William Carlos Williams, Melissa had to figure out how to visualize Roget's lists of words.
For the better part of two weeks, Melissa handlettered Roget's original word list in sepia and had a jolly old time doing it.
Melissa got to handle original Roget pages like these—without gloves!
Melissa thanks her publisher Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, her author Jen Bryant, and the SCBWI/Golden Kite committee.
"My hope with this book is that readers will be delighted and informed, but most importantly, always find the right word when they need it."
#BookADay: CIRCUS MIRANDUS by Cassie Beasley ( Dial Books for Young Readers, June 2015). Finished this middle grade book on the weekend. It was one of those experiences where I was enjoying the book soooo much that I began reading slower when I got to the last few chapters because I DIDN'T WANT IT TO END. This would make a fantastic read aloud.
I was also lucky enough to meet Cassie at Nerd Camp in June. She's so easygoing and friendly, plus drew me a picture of an elephant butt! She says it's the only thing she knows how to draw. grin emoticon I keep her drawing in the front of my copy of her book.