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1. Once Upon a December

OnceUponaDecember_20160214_small

Detail

OnceUponaDecember_20160214_detail

This movie is my childhood.

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2. THIS IS THE STORY OF YOU: The Goodreads Giveaway, and signings

Friends, This Is the Story of You, my Jersey shore storm mystery, is (I have heard it said) printed and on its way to me. Story has received two stars in these early days (Kirkus and School Library Journal) and kind words from BookPage and Publishers Weekly. It is a Junior Library Guild selection and will be featured in an upcoming story on environmentally aware novels for younger readers in The Writer Magazine.

The launch date (early April) grows near.

In celebration of it all, Chronicle Books is sponsoring a Goodreads Giveaway, starting tomorrow.

Information is right there (I turn to glance toward the left side of my blog, where I hope you now glance as well), should you wish to enter. Twenty-five will win.

In the meantime, a big box of One Thing Stolen paperbacks has arrived. One Thing Stolen, which won a Parents' Choice Gold Medal and is a TAYSHAs selection, among other things, will launch alongside of Story.

I'll be signing early copies of Story at Books of Wonder, during the New York City Teen Authors Festival, on Sunday, March 20.

I will be signing Story and Stolen (and possibly even Love: A Philadelphia Affair) at Main Point Books, in honor of Independent Bookstore Day, at 2 PM.

I'd love to see you.

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3. Leap Year Time Capsule

2016 Is a Leap Year!leap year time capsule

After February 29, 2016, the next leap day will not happen again until 2020! Imagine how much you will have changed and grown by then! A fun way to track your changes through the next four years is to create a leap year time capsule.

A time capsule is a collection of items that are stored away as a method of communication to the people of the future. In this case, the people of the future will be YOU in four years. To create the perfect time capsule, you will need a few things—a small sturdy box or metal tin, a piece of paper and pen, and few of your favorite items that can fit inside the box.

On the piece of paper, write your name, date, and answers to the following questions:

1. What is your favorite food?
2. Who is your best friend?
3. What are you most thankful for?
4. Where do you see yourself in four years, or what will your goals be?
5. What is one piece of advice you want to give to your future self?
6. (Optional) Get your friends involved and ask them to write down one good quality they love most about you and why.

When you are done, fold up your paper into a tiny square, seal it with a kiss, and toss it inside your small box. Feel free to add anything else that is significant to you. For example, in my box, I am adding the front page of a local newspaper, my most recent movie ticket stub, a photo of me and my best friends, a piece of jewelry, and my favorite flower.

After you’ve finished stuffing your box, seal it, and make a note on the surface saying, “Do NOT open until 2/29/2020.” In four years, dig out your box and read what you wrote. It will be interesting to see how much you’ve changed since then.

What will you add to your time capsule? Drop a Comment to give your ideas. I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with!

-Sandy

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4. Achieving Softness in Gouache



In honor of Valentine's Day, here's a romantic magazine illustration from 1950 by Harry Anderson. It's in gouache, 10 x 13.5 inches. It's a fine example of soft edges, which are challenging to achieve in gouache because of the rapid drying time.


Note the soft edges in the man's collar above, the woman's hair against her neck and temple, and the plane changes around her jaw and neck.

Anderson used plenty of paint, big brushes, and fast decision-making. One of his secrets was to carefully preload the brush with a gradation that he prepped on the palette. Easier said than done—wish there were videos of him painting!
-----
More Harry Anderson at Jim Pinkoski's website
Preview my gouache tutorial at Gumroad

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5. Alvina Ling: Acquisitions Today: Opportunities and Challenges



Alvina Ling is Vice President and editor-in-chief at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (where she's worked since 1999.) She oversees Little, Brown's core publishing program (including picture books, middle grade, and young adult), and edits children's books for all ages.

Some highlights of Alvina's comments:

"When we acquire a book, we generally want to acquire an author and an author's career."

On whether there are other considerations besides the manuscript in making the decision, "very occasionally" Alvina will see if the author has an online presence--a website, or are on twitter. But as she explains, it's "not a deciding factor, but can contribute."

About asking for revisions before signing a project, Alvina agrees that it's more suggestive than proscriptive, and she recalls working with Peter Brown for a year before signing his first book.

The panel also covers joint versus separate accounting, how auctions work, and important "gets" in the negotiation process and the pros and cons of working with younger versus more senior editors.

Final Alvina wisdom from the panel:
"Since today is Valentines' day, you have to love what you do. We're all up here because we love what we do... love your work, love meeting the people."

It's great advice.

Want more Alvina wisdom? She's on twitter at @planetalvina

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6. Happy Valentines' Day from #NY16SCBWI

A special message from all the authors and illustrators gathered this morning...


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7. Happy Cybils Day!


Congratulations to the 2015 Cybils winners!



As always, the list of winners sounds fantastic and includes books I gotta get my hands on. As a former Cybils judge, I know how much work and care goes into the process, so I also tip my hat to everyone who judged in either round.

I hope you'll check out the list.

Oh, and happy Valentine's Day. Apparently that's today, too....

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8. SCBWI Staff Introduction

Lin Oliver introduces the amazing staff of the SCBWI. A much deserved standing ovation received.



Thank you, SCBWI!

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9. Ginger Clark: Acquisitions Panel

Ginger Clark has been a literary agent with Curtis Brown since 2005. She represents many genres and categories of books in addition to representing the British rights for Curtis Brown's children's list. She's lots of fun on Twitter, and from there you may have learned she's really into wombats and Peter Capaldi, but aren't we all?

Sarah Davies and Ginger Clark tag team on describing how a rolling auction works. All of the bidding publishers give their bid, and then the lowest bidder is asked if they can match the highest bid, and the other bidders are approached in turn, and this can go around a few times, perhaps up to seven rounds.

Compared to a best bids auction, where Ginger asks for editors to name their ultimate bid and no additional rounds of bid-taking happen.

For most books Ginger has sold she's initially sent out the submission to 12 editors. In special cases she's sent the submission out to upwards of 27 editors (and she notes that 25% of those 27 were at Penguin Random House, which is the strange reality of big houses merging into even bigger houses these days).

The most important 'gets' in a contract to Ginger are:

Translation rights, British rights, audio rights, joint vs. separate accounting on multiple book deal royalties (you want separate accounting!!) Ginger will only take joint accounting deals unless there are no other offers OR the publisher is offering them an insane amount of money. Other than that, deal-killers are up to the client, says Ginger.

Ginger's last bit of advice:

When picking an agent, pick someone you think will be a great advocate for you and will be a great, professional advice-giver—don't pick someone only because you think they could be your best friend, or that reminds you of your mom or Peter Capaldi, or because they own a wombat.

(l-r) Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker; wombat from How To Negotiate Everything

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10. Student Illustrator and Writer Scholarships

Each year the SCBWI sponsors two student writer scholarships to the Summer and Winter Conferences for full-time university in and English or Creative Writing program.

Lauren Hughes
Ellen Wiese


Likewise, each year, the SCBWI sponsors four conference scholarships for full-time graduate or undergraduate students studying illustration.

Jia Liu
Suyoun Lee


Congratulation to this year's winners.

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11. POV

Question: I've created a character which feels real. I know what he wants, why he wants it, I know all his little secrets. I pretty much know everything

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12. Keynote: Rita Williams-Garcia

Author Rita Williams-Garcia opened today's conference with a dynamic and funny keynote that kept attendees in stitches: "Dos and Don'ts in Children's Publishing From a Definite Don't." She began her talk with a little dance that set the mood, and then peppered her speech with phrases like "funky-fresh," "de-blackified" and "Black girls with big butts and low self esteem." It was a hoot, folks, she kept it real.

Williams-Garcia started writing as soon as she could hold a pencil in her hands. As a child,  she loved making up stories, although her mother had another word for her storytelling—lying. If a roach walked up the wall, she'd make up a story about it.

As an adult writer, she honed her storytelling ways and learned to "live the plan." That meant setting a goal to write 500 words each and every night. "Even if the writing wasn't great, the words need to come out," she said.

Williams-Garcia also spoke about veering off her plan occasionally, choosing her major in college by "following the boy with the most perfect afro." Time to get back to the plan!

Williams-Garcia's advice for Staying on the Plan:

Don’t isolate yourself. Find your community,
join an MFA program, SCBWI, workshop group.

Don’t fear doubt. A healthy dose of doubt will make you write better writer.

Don’t not fear criticism.

Don’t stop writing. Writers write.

Do live with gratitude. 


Be about the Do.






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13. KING BRONTY IS TWO YEARS OLD! Happy 2nd Anniversary!

Valentine's day, 2014 was the first day I published by web comic "King Bronty, The World's Greatest Dinosaur Knight!"
I initially started with a kingbronty.com address but it became easier, and more fun, to use my blog and YouTube as King Bronty's home.
Here is the beginning of King Bronty, I hope you'll enjoy King Bronty!



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14. Sarah Davies and Rubin Pfeffer: Acquisitions Panel

Sarah Davies

Rubin Pfeffer
Sarah Davies and Rubin Pfeffer are both literary agents with deep editorial experience honed over many years working as editors at various publishing houses.

Sarah is the founder of The Greenhouse Literary Agency. Rubin Pfeffer founded Rubin Pfeffer Content.

They spoke to us today about opportunities and challenges in publishing, with Rubin asking all of the panelists a variety of questions ranging from terminology to process and working styles.

Sarah's career in children's publishing in London lasted for 25 years. She moved to Washington, D.C. to found her agency, and is now back across the pond, where her agency is an international presence. She loves cultivating new talent and selling books all around the world (including Iran and the republic of Georgia).

What is an auction? 
Sarah explained this happens when more than one editor wants a book. Agents might set a time by which offers need to be received. Sarah likes to hold her auctions on Fridays (there was disagreement on the panel about this). Offers come in with their basic terms in addition to a lot of love from editors. To Sarah, the editor's passion for a project is a significant factor.

What does rejection signify?
To Rubin, rejection doesn't mean your writing wasn't good enough. There are factors beyond your control.

What kind of control do you have over the projects you submit?
Everything is done on behalf of your clients, Sarah said. One of the first questions she asks is about which editors clients already have relationships with. But she's also going to search her frequently updated database and use what she's learned in her frequent meetings with editors. "I'm making notes all the time and updating those."

She also runs submission ideas past her clients to make sure the best decisions are made.

How do you cope with losing a project that you love? 

Sarah Davies doesn't often fall in love with a new author. "I'm quite sparing in my love... when I fall in love, I want to get it." But it sometimes does happen that potential client chooses someone else.

Rubin Pfeffer on respect
It's easy to wear your emotions on your sleeve, but showing professionalism will take you very, very far. "It will cut you off short if it's not there."

How much work do you do on a manuscript before submitting it to an editor? 
In eight years, there have been only about two times Sarah has sent out a manuscript she hasn't given some feedback on. "My goal is to sell it as well as it can be done. My editorial role is working on it until we can get it to where it stands the best chance of being acquired by an editor."

What is joint accounting? 
When an editor makes an offer for more than one book, joint accounting is where both books have to earn out before royalties are paid. Agents don't want this situation to happen, but it's the house policy at certain publishers. At Little, Brown, series are jointly accounted, which is more reasonable to agents.

When should you submit to a junior vs. a senior agent? 
There are merits to both. Often a senior person such as Alving Ling might be well placed to give it to a less senior editor on her team. If Sarah has a large submission list, it's more likely to work that way. Many of the less senior editors have worked a long time as assistants, and have excellent experience.

Final words of wisdom 
A client was devastated by the rejection of her dark, edgy YA novel. She felt as though there was no future for her in publishing. She decided to recapture her joy in writing again, which she was starting to lose. "It's so easy to do in the frenzy of deal-making."

Some months later, she came back with a nonfiction picture book text and a chapter book series. Neither of which she had attempted before. These were her "peach sorbet" projects. She took delight in them, and Sarah told them fast. "This is a story not only of determination, but of flexibility... she's my heroine."

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15. Day 14: Dr. Lorenzo Pace

Photo by Cindy Reiman

Photo by Cindy Reiman

Renowned artist and storyteller, Dr. Lorenzo Pace created a series of poignant picture books – the African American Quartet –  that pay homage to black history and the power of the human spirit. Pace’s debut, Jalani and the Lock (Rosen), was inspired by the lock that bound his enslaved great-great grandfather and was handed down to him. The three others –  Marching With Martin, Harriet Tubman and My Grandmother’s Quilts and Frederick Douglass and the North Star – explore the lives of these pivotal historic figures Dr. Pace, whose monument Triumph of the Human Spirit in New York City’s Foley Square honors the enslaved Africans originally buried there, uses words and mixed media artwork in his children’s books to bring to life stories from the past.

We are proud to celebrate Dr. Lorenzo Pace on Day 14.

Journey to Publishing

It began with a lock. A cold, hard, more than 150-year-old iron lock. A legacy of man’s inhumanity to man. When my father passed away in Birmingham, Alabama in 1991, I left New York and went South to bury him. My Uncle Julius shocked me and the rest of my family by giving me a lock that had shackled my great-great grandfather Steve Pace in chains. Steve Pace had passed down the lock to other Pace men. I accepted the lock but really didn’t want it. I didn’t know what to do with it, so I put it in my closet in Brooklyn.

Not long after that, my daughter, who was about 8, came home and said, “Daddy, kids are making fun of me because of my hair, my nose, and my lips.” I asked why. She said they told her it was because she was from slaves. I said, “Wow, baby. You don’t have to be ashamed of your looks.” I told her she came from beautiful people, strong, creative, and resourceful people.

Our conversation inspired me to explore the lock. The lock was calling out, “Hey, come deal with lockbookme.” So I explored the lock and my great-great-grandfather’s story. Turns out, after emancipation, Steve Pace purchased more than 500 acres of land and shared it with his family. His third eldest son was in the first class at the Tuskegee Institute. He was a minster and the church he founded still exists and will soon be on the National Register of Historic Places. Soon, I found myself writing Jalani and the Lock, to explain to my daughter and other children our history and the triumphs that are the essence of it.

I finished writing and illustrating and shopped for a publisher for five long years. One day a buddy in Chicago referred me to Rosen Publishing. I met with the publisher. He loved the content. He loved the illustrations. He agreed to publish it. It came out in 2000.

I’ve traveled the world with Jalani and the Lock and the book has been translated into Spanish, French, and Dutch. Last year, Jalani and the Lock was re-printed as part of a series I wrote and illustrated called the African American Quartet. The Quartet includes: Marching with Martin, Frederick Douglass and the North Star, and Harriet Tubman and My Grandmother’s Quilts. The Quartet came about after the publisher and I began talking about ways to build on Jalani’s story and bring it into the 21st century.

Art from Marching with Martin

Art from Marching with Martin

All of the books relate to my personal experiences. I marched with Dr. King in Chicago when I was a teenager. I grew up seeing Frederick Douglass on my grade school walls. I grew up hearing about Harriet Tubman from my grandmother. She and my mom were quilters. I learned that quilts sometimes had anti-slavery sayings woven into them, and there is a legend that the enslaved put Underground Railroad symbols and routes in their quilts. There’s also an Underground Railroad station in my Brooklyn, NY neighborhood. For all these reasons, I wove photos of my family’s quilts into the book’s illustrations.

Inspiration 

The inspiration for my books has come first from my personal history. It occurred to me that if these stories are in my family, they’re probably in most African American families. I’m inspired by John Coltrane and Charlie Parker. I listen to them as I write and create. They are such innovators, constantly bringing out new ways of thinking in their music. They make we want to go to a higher plane as an artist. Alex Haley inspires me because of his groundbreaking research on our history. He made me want to dig deeper and deeper. The artist and author Faith Ringgold also inspires me. I love Maya Angelou’s books, period. Her gift for playing with language is second-to-none. There are so many great writers, but those who tell our stories –new stories, uplifting stories –inspire me most. I’ve also gotten motivated by the books of Caroline Brewer. She’s been under the radar because of her focus on literacy, but is about to come into greater recognition. She has some very intense and motivational books on the African American experience, like a fun but educational picture book on President Obama’s 2008 election, Barack Obama: A Hip Hop Tale of King’s Dream Come True. And the next book, a middle grade novel, is intense, fun, and motivational, too.

Process 

I just go. If I have a character or concept, I just begin to feel the energy that goes into how to tell a

Art from Marching with Martin

Art from Marching with Martin

complete a story and how to illustrate it. I go out and get all kinds of materials that I think can help. I go to the art store. I look for materials in the street, in my environment, and just go.

I’ve illustrated my Quartet books using mixed media and collage. I will use an old dress from a thrift store with a particular pattern or color, beads, paper sacks, kente cloth, animal print, newspaper print. I also use acrylic paint, watercolors, colored pencils, markers, glitter, whatever makes a page pop. I let everything around me speak to me and then I put the pieces together.

The most important thing that I do as I work is have fun. I also know I can get kids on color. They love color and so do I. I approach my art in the same way I approach living: be sure to have some fun and add lots of color.

The Buzz

tubmanpacePublisher’s Weekly called the first edition of Jalani and the Lock “a stunning debut.” NBC News cited Harriet Tubman as one of the top 14 books to read in February 2015. The School Library Journal met me at my Brooklyn studio last year to do a piece on the art I created for the books. Booklist offered these words below about the new quartet.

“Perhaps the most personal entry in celebrated sculptor Pace’s ambitious African

American Quartet is this first-person remembrance of what Martin Luther King Jr. meant to Pace while growing up in Alabama and Chicago. The design of the book, and indeed the entire quartet, features two-page spreads of wild, almost Basquiat-like art incorporating paint, jewelry, paper, plastics, and anything else that captures Pace’s fancy. On the left-hand page goes the prose, which, though simple, is packed with restrained emotion: “Many years ago, in 1949, to be exact, when I was a little boy in Alabama, I saw signs that I did not understand.”

State of the Industry

Walter Dean Myers and Chris Myers said it best in their New York Times pieces a couple of years ago. The publishing industry is not doing enough to reflect the rich and deep and vibrant diversity of this country. There are so many children who need to see themselves in books. Books are game-changers. And yet, authors of color can’t depend on the industry to do it all. The efforts of sites like thebrownbookshelf.com are critical to helping put the spotlight on authors and illustrators of color. Whatever we can do to support one another makes us more powerful.

Find out more about Dr. Lorenzo Pace here.

 


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16. Jane Yolen presents the Mid-List Author Award

Jane speaks eloquently of how re-inventing a career in the arts every seven to ten years is a way to keep your writing fresh and alive. And yet, how difficult it is when then re-invention is forced on you.

So, to help honor the contribution of mid-list authors in general, and celebrate two mid-list authors in particular, Jane announces this year's winners:

Karen Coombs and Sallie Wolf



Sallie was here and joined Jane on stage for an enthusiastic standing ovation!

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17. Recent Movie Roundup 21, Part 1

Every year I promise myself that this is the year I'll start watching more grown-up movies, instead of just flocking to the same action and superhero movies.  And every year I remember why that's a difficult promise to keep--because unlike TV, the Israeli movie market is still stuck in the 80s, with screens devoted almost exclusively to either blockbusters or middle-of-the-road pablum aimed at

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18. Gary Schmidt keynote: The Bombers of the Boston Marathon, and the Planes of 9/11--and How Anthony Wished They Would

Lin Oliver introduced Gary Schmidt as not just a writer's writer—but as a writer's writer's writer. Gary has won two Newbery Honors, and all of his books are perfect, literary gems.

The last time Gary was here, he found out his back was bleeding just before he went on stage. Today, he's wearing a dark shirt—just in case.

He started by noting how wonderful it is to gather like this with other writers and illustrators, who generally work alone. "To be with each other is really quite an amazing gift, isn't it?"

Children's writers have the same mission. "We all do our best work for kids. That's why we get along so well."

The writers that he really admires—the writer that he hopes to be—is not just someone who displays the pyrotechnics of class, but the writer who shows up. "The writer who sits down on the log and tells me a story and so everything is different."

Gary comes from a writerly family. His uncle Bradford Ernest Smith wrote "Captain Kangaroo." "Do you know what cachet that has in first grade? Amazing!"

When a character on that show, Mr. Green Jeans, passed away, Captain Kangaroo didn't replace the man. He showed up instead next to the viewer. "He sat on the log. He told us the world is terribly broken."

"He was saying that despite the brokenness of this world, the world is so beautiful."

"This is what the writer for young kids does," Gary said. "Movies and television can fill the consciousness to overflowing. We know they do. Watch any superhero movie. But the writer for kids inspires and stimulates the consciousness to growth and understanding. What an amazing act. What a responsibility."

Gary, who teaches writing each week at a maximum security prison, told us several stories about people whose stories have touched him. One of the writers he volunteers with, Anthony, was 10 years old on 9/11. Now serving a life sentence, Anthony made two drug deals that morning, returns to his apartment, and saw the first plane hit the tower. He went outside to see if there was a plane about to hit his building. "I wished it would," he wrote. "It would have done me a favor."

Empathy was at the heart of his talk. "What ails thee" is a deep question from one heart to another, a question of human empathy. And that's what writers ask their characters and shows their readers.

We also write "to express the understanding that human beings are creatures of great complexity," he said. "Story insists on human complexity and multidimensionality. With story, we live literally in the tangles of our minds."

As writers, we have to believe that everything matters, everything small and large, he said. The curve on the bow of a boat matters. The snow on a mountain top matters. The way someone moves her arm matters. The way a kid wears his hair matters ... Suppose everything matters, everything is a sacrament.

There's a rabbi who says a prayer: "Lord, let the world be here for one more day. My dear friends, be that rabbi. For God's sake, if you're writing of kids, be that rabbi."

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19. Portfolio Showcase Award Winners Announcement

It's the coldest Valentine's Day in 100 years, but the SCBWI Portfolio Showcase winner announcement warms our hearts. It is with great excitement that we announce this years winners. Congratulations to all!


Winner: Sarah Jacoby




Honors: Jacob Grant



Brooke Smart


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20. Alessandra Balzer: Acquisitions Today: Opportunities and Challenges

Alessandra Balzer is the Vice President and Co-Publisher of Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins, publishing picture books to novels from teens.

On the process of acquisitions:
Auctions are rare. Many of B+B's favorite books come traditionally. If Alessandra loves a book, she shares it with her team and they look at it closely. If the team is on the same page, she brings it to the acquisitions board. Many details are looked at in the meeting and it's approached as a business decision.


On coping with losing something you love:
It is what it is. You do your best. If you don't get it, you move on.


Do you ever offer notes on a manuscript before making a decision?
It depends. When it's done, there's no guarantee, and a lot of time is put into it. Alessandra has done it when it's worked out, and she's done it and then had to reject the project.

On deal-breakers in a offer:
As an editor it's difficult because there is a passion part and a business part. It can be helpful when the house has a policy when it comes to contracts which can take some challenges away because certain pieces don't need to be negotiated.

On junior-level editors taking on projects:
When a more junior level editor brings a proposal to an acquisitions meeting, the rest are behind them and advocating for the project as well.

Final thoughts:
Do your best work, and don't write to what's selling or to trends. Write your passion.





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21. Tomie dePaola Award Winner

This year's illustration inspiration is based on Phillip Pullman's version of Red Riding Hood. Tomie received over 400 entries this year!

While the award is presented today, the announcement happened a little bit ago, be sure to check out the fantastic unofficial gallery put together by Diandra Mae.

From Tomie:

The task for this year's award was about UNIQUE VISUALIZATION of the MAIN CHARACTER.

As I warned, "So often, I have seen illustrators resort to generic depictions of the star of the story—too 'designed,' too ordinary, too much like characters already seen in media, especially on TV and video games."

That said I have chosen the following illustrators:

First Place - Lisa Cinelli


Second Place - Adrienne Wright


Third Place - Christee Curran-Bauer


See the other notables at our link

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22. The Acquisitions Panel Begins!



From left to right, Rubin Pfeffer (Agent, Content, standing at podium), Alvina Ling (VP and Editor-in-Chief, Little Brown Books for Young Readers), Sarah Davies (Agent, Greenhouse Literary), Ginger Clark (Agent, Curtis Brown), Liz Bicknell (EVP, Executive Editorial Director & Associate Publisher, Candlewick Press), Alessandra Balzer (VP and Co-Publisher, Balzer + Bray/Harper Collins.)

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23. Book Launch: Once Upon an Elephant

OnceElephant

On the African savanna Elephants are gentle giants that have an incredible impact on the ecosystem. Once Upon an Elephant by Linda Stanek debuts this week, and the amazing facts about elephants are sure to make any child want to know more about how they can help this important animal.

Learn how this book came to life from the author Linda Stanek:

lindastanekIt’s funny how researching one thing can lead to something else. While working on a book for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium about their baby elephant, Beco, elephant expert Harry Peachey mentioned the words “keystone animal” to me. Keystone animal? I was embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what that was. When he explained that these are animals so critical to maintaining their ecosystems that without them, other species would die, I was shocked. This was important stuff! How did I not know about it? If didn’t know about this, then who else didn’t know as well? And what an important concept to share those who would inherit this fragile Earth—our children.

That was the beginning of Once Upon an Elephant. What if, I thought, elephants were only “Once Upon a Time?” It was a heartbreaking thought. And if they did, indeed, become extinct, what else might become once upon a time as well?

After writing this manuscript, I shared it with my friend, Harry and got his thumbs-up. Then, I sent it to a handful of publishers. Within two weeks (which is quicker than lightning, in publishing-time) Arbordale made me an offer. And even more quickly, I accepted.

Two days later, I got an offer for Once Upon an Elephant from another publisher. “Drat!” my sister said. “You could have an auction!”

But I was satisfied. I knew that Arbordale produces beautiful books. And, I onceelephant_pic3appreciate that they place their books not only in bookstores, but in museum, aquarium, and zoo gift shops as well—where interested readers are likely to be found. When they signed Shennen Bersani to illustrate it, I was even happier. She crafted the amazing images to make this book complete, allowing me to share with children the concept of the keystone animal, and my love of elephants.

Learn more! Teaching activities, quizzes and other printable activities are available on the book’s homepage, check it out!

Enter to win your own copy of Once Upon an Elephant on Goodreads!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Once Upon an Elephant by Linda Stanek

Once Upon an Elephant

by Linda Stanek

Giveaway ends February 29, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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24. Jacquelyn Mitchard: Say Goodbye to All of That: The Quest for the Perfect Ending

Jacquelyn Mitchard delivering her keynote

Jacquelyn Mitchard is the number one New York Times best-selling author of ten novels for adults, seven novels for teenagers, and five children's books, as well as editor-in-chief of Merit Press, a realistic young adult imprint., and a professor of writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts.



Jacquelyn talks about endings, how it's "more difficult to end a story than to start one," and how "most books really just stop."

She shares some resonant endings, ones that meet the challenge of "ushering the reader back into the world that you convinced the reader to leave."

We're asked to consider, for our own work, "how does the reader feel let in?"

Breaking down the different kinds of endings (with examples), Jacquelyn discusses cliffhanger endings, reflective endings, the incident ending, the simple happy ending (in which people get what they want), the happy/sad ending (like in The Fault in our Stars,) and more!

An ending has to tie up the loose ends, provide a conclusion, and also usher the reader back into the world... and do it quickly.

The ending should also include an element that takes the reader by surprise, something to "make the reader gasp one last time" before they leave the world of your story.

Which all makes it challenging to write the ending to this blog post, striving for a "wrap up with a shot of emotion."

But Jacquelyn saves the day (and this post), because the ending of her keynote comes in the form of a writing exercise: we're all asked to craft one sentence, an alternate ending for To Kill A Mockingbird, from Scout's point of view. A few people from the crowd share their alternate endings.

The original final line: 

"[Atticus] would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning."

Now, you get the chance to put in your own final words: play along in comments.








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25. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Here is a piece that I did for Illustration Friday a bit ago entitled “Artificial”. I remember I really enjoyed creating this one. It is fun to add humor into your work. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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