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1. Rainbow Rowell and Martha Brockenbrough: Creating Teen Characters

I'm so excited about this session! Rainbow Rowell is the New York Times bestselling author of the Young Adult novels Eleanor & Park and Fangirl and Carry On. She's even received a Printz Honor for Eleanor & Park!*



Martha Brockenbrough is our very own team blogger, author of the YA novels The Game of Love and Death and Devine Intervention.**



They're talking about Creating Teen Characters, and you'd think it would feel like this:


But it really felt like this:


Rainbow and Martha had great, in-depth discussion and we were right there. They spoke about the shift that happens for writing a teen's perspective, and the shift that happens for a teen reader (versus an adult.) Rainbow said,

"I don't think about audience... I can get stalled."

They both worked as journalists, and Rainbow spoke of the good training that was (like how it was great for dialog and made her not so precious about her writing) and the challenges that same background created (her voice got "slammed out.") Rainbow joked about her contemporary realistic novels,

"What I'm doing is journalism, but lying."

Martha played the song "Hast Thou Considered The Tetrapod" by The Mountain Goats so we could all hear a bit of it. Rainbow then told us about how the song (and the whole album) inspired her novel Eleanor & Park, and "how it unlocked me." They spoke about different tools they use to get into the writing. Martha used period photos for The Game of Love and Death. Rainbow uses music as a "shortcut to get back to the emotion of that scene," describing a particular scene from Eleanor & Park and how it had a specific song.

They spoke about diversity of characters, aspirational characters versus real characters, and Rainbow's breakthrough in writing fantasy. It was a great story, about research and tropes (and playing with tropes) and how Rainbow ultimately realized that for fantasy, "I've read enough to find my own voice in it."

There was so much more, and Rainbow also answered questions from the rapt audience.

Two final bits of wisdom:

Speaking about today's teens versus the teens of the 1980s, Martha Brockenbrough said,

"We've been this age, we know what we need to know." 

Telling us of a particular character she found challenging to write, (Agatha in Carry On), Rainbow said,

"As an author, you need to find your way in."

And then she explained how she found her way into Agatha... So fascinating!

Useful. Inspiring. Very special.

What a breakout session!




*Check out all of Rainbow's titles here.

**Check out all of Martha's titles here.

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2. Alvina Ling: Plotting Your Novel

Alvina Ling is vp and editor-in-chief at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." ~ W. Somerset Maugham


Aristotle: Character is plot revealed by action.

Alvina believes conflict is the most important element of plot.

The cat sat on a mat is not a story. The cat sat on another cat's mat is a story.

7 basic plots

  • overcoming the monster
  • rags to riches
  • the quest 
  • voyage and return
  • comedy
  • tragedy
  • rebirth
3 plots
  • boy meets girl (human meets human)
  • the little tailor (power to slay giants)
  • man learns a lesson
2 plots
  • a person goes on a journey
  • a stranger comes to town
Know what the rules are, then break them. 


Elements of plot Alvina looks for:
  • believability 
  • pacing
  • high stakes and emotional impact


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3. An In-Depth Interview with Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell (rhymes with towel) is the beloved bestselling author of books for adults and teens.

SCBWI executive director Lin Oliver, herself a bestselling author, conducted a warm fireside chat with Rainbow about her books and her life. And yeah, there really was a fireplace projected on the screen, because the SCBWI does things right.

Here are some of the highlights:

Rainbow started her career as a journalist and columnist for the Omaha World-Herald. There were some useful things. For example, she didn't get writers block. "At a newspaper, writer's block means tomorrow you're fired." There were also some downsides—working as a journalist was hard on her writerly voice.

During that time, someone asked her what sort of writing she was doing for herself, and after a while, she realized the only writing she'd done for herself was love letters—that may or may not have been read. ("Mine were too long. They needed editing.")

She started writing THE ATTACHMENTS to do something for herself. She wrote that in third person past tense.

CARRY ON, though, was written in first person."I think when you're writing first person, you're really writing monologues," she said.

Her characters have little pieces of her in them. "Human beings are more complicated than fictional characters, and there's enough of you to split into seeds (which become the characters of your books)."

As she writes, she doesn't think about how they're being marketed. ELEANOR & PARK was released as an adult title in the UK, where it "bombed," as hard as it is to believe that. St. Martins Press published it as YA in the states—and Rainbow says they were the only publisher who wanted it. It might have been different had they taken it to YA publishers instead of adult. St. Martins does both.

Her agent describes her work as "funny/sad," which means it's sad but still makes you laugh a lot. "It's so much harder to be funny than it is to be sad," she said. "You can read the newspaper if it's sad. I personally like things better if they're both."

"Sometimes the pressure of writing makes you want to sound official, so you aspire toward something that's not you because it sounds more professional," she said. When she was a journalist, she used to imagine telling the stories she was writing to her husband or her mom.

When writing fiction, she gave herself permission just to write—not to go back in and edit and change things. If it made her laugh, it was good enough.

Lin observed that many of Rainbow's characters seem to be outsiders. But to Rainbow, more people feel like the outside than feel on the inside, especially young people.  It wouldn't have occurred to her to write people who don't feel this way. "It's who we are."

Rainbow likes to talk about her characters with her agent. The characters appear to her pretty well formed and compelling. But talking to good listeners who don't try to build on her characters, and instead just let her develop them, is helpful. She adds details as she's talking about it. She also builds playlists that help her fill her characters out a bit.

Sometimes her characters don't do what she expected them to do in scenes. She gets to know them better as she writes.

CARRY ON has Star Wars, Superman, Harry Potter and Twilight references. It's a book she wrote for people who had some of the same pop culture references as she does. This meant she didn't have to explain a lot of references, but that she could also play against people's expectations.

Rainbow has a lovely and resonant philosophy about her characters and their stories (and about human beings in the real world too): We're all good people trying hard. And there is value in trying hard. 

She shared so much advice and insight for us and really showed us where her magical books come from: her generous heart. Her voice on the page is her voice in real life. If you haven't read her books, you're in for an extraordinary experience. Move them to the top of your pile.

Rainbow's website
Rainbow on Twitter
Rainbow on Facebook

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4. Jean Feiwel: Children's Publishing Now and in the Near Future panel

Jean Feiwel is a senior vice president and publisher at Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, where her eponymous imprint has published wonderful books such as Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles Series.

She also oversees Squarefish, Swoon Reads, and Henry Holt. (Macmillan has nine imprints in all, including one called Imprint—ha!)

Her career in publishing is incredibly distinguished: at Scholastic she invented the Baby-Sitter's Club series, and published Goosebumps, Animorphs, Harry Potter and other blockbuster series.

And it's not just novels; the picture book On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman was the first title she published at her imprint, and more than 3.5 million copies are in print.

She was one of five editors featured on a panel about publishing and its future.

At Macmillan, the company compiled imprints that had all been independent. "The decision was made to create what I call the Star Wars Alliance," Jean said. This unified their sales and marketing and retained the individuality of the imprints. As a result, their net business has grown 70 percent.

The growth of the industry has changed things, she said. After Harry Potter, it wasn't enough to have a bestselling book. You had to have a phenomenally bestselling book.

"If your bar is that high, you can miss a lot of things happening under that bar," she said. At Macmillan, they're supposed to grow by a certain percentage overall, and they're supposed to make great books.

"Slow and steady wins the race. It's pressure, but it's not the kind of pressure that's a carrot on a stick getting higher and further away."

Jean described different kinds of excitement. One is when you place a big bet on something—as she did with Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles. It's the No. 1 bestselling series on the NYT list this week.

There are other kinds of risks—like a book called MY BIG FAT ZOMBIE GOLDFISH. "It's whizzing along nicely."

She loves being able to build things from the ground up. Risk-taking and developing new ideas is the hallmark of what Macmillan loves to do, she said.

She urged writers to do what they do best, and do it well. Stick to it and believe in it. It's not about trying to write to a trend.

Starting a crowdsourced imprint, Swoon Books, let her see a broader variety of manuscripts than agents were sending (they were too swamped for a slush pile). Seeing a range of submissions and mining self-published work is interesting and useful for publishers.


MacKids: the homepage of Macmillan Children's Publishing
Feiwel and Friends website
Feiwel and Friends on Facebook
Follow Feiwel and Friends on Twitter

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5. Art Browse: A Chance to View the Portfolios

The #NY16SCBWI Art Browse was a blast! This year's portfolios were as polished as never before. New friends were made and old friends were reunited. And art directors were definitely impressed. 
















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6. Jacquelyn Mitchard: How to Wow an Editor: You Have Three Pages to Win Me Over

Jacquelyn Mitchard is the number one New York Times best-selling author of ten novels for adults, seven novels for teens, and five children's books. She is also editor-in-chief of Merit Press, a realistic young adult imprint.

Make your cover letters personal and smart. Don't make it to artsy and elevated, but show me who you are from the first word.

You have a chapter, maybe ten pages to win her over. When you start that conversation with her in those first pages of the book, she wants to be unable to stop reading.

"I need to recognize the emotionally validity of the story right away."

"Why do something this difficult if your not going to publish?...The dance isn't completed until the reader takes your hand."

Jacquelyn says, as writers, we need to do what it takes.

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7. Elizabeth Bicknell: Writing Picture Book Text

Elizabeth Bicknell is Executive Vice President, Executive Editorial Director & Associate Publisher at Candlewick Press. She edits picture books, fiction, poetry and nonfiction. Two recent picture book projects include Mac Barnett and John Klassen's Sam and Dave Dig a Hole





and Carole Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes' Voice of Freedom





Liz spoke about the different kinds of picture books, using examples of 12 books she's published to, well, illustrate her points. Story picture books, concept books, biography, poetry collections...

It's fascinating that she's able to break those twelve down into six that had an author/illustrator create them, and six books that had different authors and illustrators. (Additionally, eight of the eighteen people were not agented at the time she acquired their work.)

She tells us that she's "a sucker for dog stories," and jokes that now that she's said that, "everyone feverishly changes their main characters to dogs."

Some quotes:

"I am very fond of poetry."

"I like books that are a little bit wicked."

"There are no rules you can never break."

Liz tells us more about what she's looking for, breaks down the reasons she really doesn't like rhyme, and talks about those critical first (and last) lines.

There's lots more good stuff, some handouts, and so much wisdom. Here's one last bit of wisdom:

"If the ending isn't working, really the whole thing isn't working."


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8. Mallory Loehr: The Big Picture Panel: Children's Publishing Now and in the Future

Mallory Loehr is Vice President, Publishing Director for the Random House, Golden Books and Doubleday children's imprints--representing everything from board books to young adult hard covers and trade books to licensed books.

With Random House Books for Young Readers since 1990, she's edited household name titles and authors including Dr. Seuss books, the Magic Treehouse series, Bruce Coville and Tamora Pierce!

Some highlights from what Mallory shared:

On the advantage Children's publishing has over adult publishing:

"Children's books backlist, which means they live on and on and on."

On Random House Books for Young Readers' mission, how they're

"thinking about that kid reader, wanting them to be totally engaged... and make them a reader for life."

and when asked what defines success for her, Mallory tells the room about an illustrator/author she discovered on Etsy, Emily Winfield Martin.

Mallory Loehr on screen talking about E


Mallory speaks of how Emily's career has grown, defining success as the growth of an author/illustrator's career. Emily's first book, a middle grade, did well but wasn't huge, her next book, a picture book, sold less than they'd hoped, and it's her current, third book, the picture book, The Wonderful Things You Will Be, that hit the Best Seller lists and has been there for 20 weeks! So it's not just the single book's success, but the growth of this author/illustrator's career--and how success will continue to happen for her--that Mallory defines as success.


The optimistic panel also discusses changes in the retail environment, ebooks, publisher expectations of their authors and illustrators and much more.

It's an amazing window into children's publishing today!



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9. Is it true you have to write what you know?

Question from a reader
I am an aspiring author (I checked out your FAQ page so don't worry about me asking you to read something of mine). I loved Girl, Stolen! I wanted to ask how you wrote about Cheyenne being blind? I was wondering if you knew someone who was blind, if you did extensive research, or if you just trusted your gut and thought about how you would feel? I was reading something from another author who said you should only write about things you've experienced, but as a pretty sheltered 16 year old there isn't a lot I've experienced. I was wondering if you followed the same rule.

My answer
You don’t have to write only what you know. I’ve heard “write what you want to know” and I think that’s more true.

Years ago, before I was published, I started writing a book from the POV of two middle-aged male Southerners who are identical twins, one of whom is paralyzed. (Not sure I had even been to the South - and I was younger, female, and not paralyzed. Oh, and not a twin.) That wasn’t the best idea. I think I thought it was more “writerly” to write a character I totally had to make up.

I am not blind and at the time I started writing Girl, Stolen, I did not know anyone who was. But I had just seen a news story that was basically the first few minutes of Girl, Stolen (the real girl was let go after 10 minutes) and I knew it would make a great book.

I think if you are going to write about someone who is not like you (especially someone who is in the minority), you should try really hard to get it right. So while I could walk around my house with eyes closed and think about what it would be like to be blind, I knew that wasn’t enough. So:
- I read books by people who had gone blind. (And I was lucky, because there are a LOT! Understandably, it’s a dramatic thing)
- I interviewed blind people and asked them to read the book when it was done.
- I got a white cane and learned basic caning technique.
- I went to the guide dog school for the blind and spent a day there.

And I also trusted my gut and thought about how I would feel.

I think it’s good to experience something yourself if you can. I have fired a gun, I have been handcuffed, and I have learned how to pick my way out of handcuffs with a bobby pin. When a copyeditor questioned whether the killer could really put a body under the kitchen sink, I pulled out everything and climbed in and took a selfie.

So you can combine trusting your gut, thinking about it logically, doing research, interviewing people, and having real life experiences. If you are writing fantasy, it is likely you are never going to experience what it is like to be a were-dragon or cast spells or whatever. So that’s going to be more thinking about it and trusting your gut.

I was a pretty sheltered 16 year old myself. Nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to become a serial killer to write about them (or do you…?). (Nope, pretty sure you don’t.)

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10.

Winter recess is upon us.  We have some fun programs lined up for kids this week.  On Monday we will be showing the movie CinderellaNature Nick's Animal Adventures will be here on Wednesday with animals from all corners of the world!  Thursday marks the triumphant return of Lifesize Candyland.  We had so much fun with this program a few years ago (check out the photos below), so we are bringing it back.  Are you into robotics?  Then Maker Buddies is the program for you on Friday.  Finally, on Saturday we have two special guests visiting us.  WNBC reporter Ida Siegal will be here to talk about her new children's book series - Emma is on the Air and Chef Paula will conduct a hands-on workshop to make some yummy treats inspired by the books!






 We hope to see you next week!!!

Posted by Amy


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11. Bonnie Bader: Nonfiction

For many years Bonnie Bader worked as an Associate Publisher of Frederick Warne & Co., as well as the editor-in-chief of Penguin Young Readers/Early Readers. Today she is a member of the SCBWI Board of Advisors, and the PAW (Published and Listed) point person. 

When she first started in publishing, Bader said that she hated nonfiction. What changed her mind? The narrative voice.

In her session today, Bader spoke about what publishers are doing and what sellers are saying. She also offered tips for authors seeking to write nonfiction. It was a lively interactive session, with high audience participation. 

Here are a few bullet points:

• What sells? Nonfiction pegged to a holiday: First Thanksgiving

• Smaller publishers do well with nonfiction. They tend to have more people designated to target the school library market. 


• Bookstores have seen an uptick in nonfiction sales: biography, weird-but-true stories (Ripley's Believe It or Not!)
Who Was? nonfiction books are hot sellers,
selling more than 20 million copies to date.


• Write about tension in a character's life. 

• Develop your voice.


• Always offer sources for dialog. 

• Write grabby first lines.

• Decide who your audience is. Who are you writing for?

• Pick your subject, explore your own interests. What excites you? What are you passionate about?

• Research, research, research!

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12. Library Loot: The First Half of February

New Loot:
  • Illusion by Frank Peretti
  • Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
  • My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson
  • An Instance of the Fingerpost by Ian Pears
  • An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd
  • Dance! Dance! Underpants by Bob Shea
  • Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson
  • My Name is Mahtob by Mahtob Mahmoody 
  • The Detective's Assistant by Kate Hannigan
Leftover Loot:
  • N or M? by Agatha Christie
  • Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  • The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
  • Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones
  • Blood Royal by Eric Jager
  • A Sudden, Fearful Death by Anne Perry
  • Freedom's Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark by Katherine Mellen Charron
  • The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh by Kathryn Aalto
  • The Sign of the Cat by Lynne Jonell
  • Truman by David McCullough
  • Nurse Matilda the Collected Tales by Christianna Brand
  • The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon
            Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Sarah Davies: Writing Salable Middle Grade

Sarah Davies is the founder of The Greenhouse Literary Agency, which represents authors of YA, MG, and picture books.

Sarah loves literary fiction with a strong commercial hook. Middle grade fiction is really the first that immerses young readers in new worlds and introduces them to empathy. These books often are among the most important people read.

We are in a fabulous, golden time for middle grade. Librarians and educators play a bigger role in linking readers with books, and it's sometimes a slow process.

How can you raise the level of your writing and make your manuscript stand out?

She has identified eight common denominators of great, salable middle grade. Here are a few things she looks for:

1. Know your market. What is middle grade? Her submissions inbox tells her a lot of people don't know what they're trying to do or who they're writing for.

At the younger end, it's chapter books that are typically 15,000-25,000 words long and illustrated with line art. Her client Tricia Springstubb writes these. They can be character led or concept driven. Clementine by Sara Pennypacker is an example. The Magic Treehouse is concept driven.

Novels for older middle grade readers run 30,000-60,000 words. (If it's longer, ask yourself why.) These core middle grade novels are about characters from 10 to 13, with a sweet spot of 11 to 13. THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE by Kat Yeh is an absolutely delightful middle grade that received a lot of buzz.

There's also a "tween" category that tends to be pinker and fluffier and deals with crushes, clothes, and friendships. Aladdin does this sort of book well.

2. Know your reader. How is MG different from YA? The YA protagonist is older, with a protagonist who is 15 to 17. But it's not just simply about age. The interior world of the pre-teen child is different from the older teen. If all good fiction has some rite of passage in it, the older teen's right of passage is "who will I be as an adult." For a middle grader, it's about firsts, the beginnings of finding an identity separate from your parents. Asking who am I, what am I?

3. Voice. Her client Mark Maciejewski had a funny voice. His submission needed work, but that voice struck her. Sometimes she can hear the adult behind the voice--and adult who is trying to remember how they think children sound. "Can you access the real thing? If you can, you're two-thirds of the way there. If you can an agent will spot you."

Let your voice shine through in the opening, rather than dumping plot info up front.

Read a lot and listen to children speak and understand their phrasing and logic. "You've got to develop your voice muscle."



The Greenhouse Literary Agency
Follow Sarah on Twitter
Like The Greenhouse Literary Agency on Facebook

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14. Kate Messner & Linda Urban: Music, Mountains, and Mocha Lattes: Sustaining a Creative Life

Kate Messner and Linda Urban are both award-winning writers of many books for kids, from picture books to middle grade novels.

Together they will present a mini-keynote.

Kate tells us there are times when it's more important to get your butt out of the chair. Counter to what we are often told. Sounds good!

Science supports taking a walk when we are stuck.

At a point when Kate was stuck, she started hiking, and found climbing a mountain is exactly like writing a first draft: the beginning was full of roots, it was muddy in the middle, toward the top it started to rain, and when she was ready for the million dollar view, it was cloudy.

But that hike gave her an idea for the book. It's not always the big things. Sometimes we just need a small thing to keep going.

Kate climbed that same trail again and this time the summit was different. Sometimes when we go away and come back, even with writing, things can look a lot different.

Other lessons Kate learned from hiking that can be applied to writing:

  • Even when the trail is unmarked, you can find ways of moving forward and you can benefit from those who were there before you.
  • Sometimes a trail can start out one way and then you realize it wasn't the way you thought it was going to be.  
  • Thing that look impossible to climb can be managed. You only have to find one next place to go.


For Linda, getting out of the chair is not going for a walk, it's getting up and moving to another chair.

At a time Linda was stuck, she came across a red ukulele in a window. She bought it and started to play. Learning and playing released dopamine and quieted the existential hecklers that had her stuck on her latest novel.

The release of dopamine and small success allowed her get back to the novel and make progress. Her story was free to run a little wild. As she kept playing and learning the ukulele, Linda was seeing and hearing things in different way.

The experience was also a reminder that learning new things can be really hard and that is what kids go through too.

At this point in the talk, Linda has been coaxed by Kate, and the crowd, to sing her sad-ogre-cowboy song.

So worth it! Huge applause for Linda. And proof, that as writing buddies, Kate pushes Linda out of her comfort zone, and we learn that Linda helps Kate to slow down. Kate and Linda share that they are writing buddies, and it is evident as they interact onstage. While they live 2 hours apart, they meet over lattes or lunch every month. They leave us with a  final thought: We need people in this writing world. Connect with your writing community. Find your writing buddies.




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15. Megan Tingley: The Big Picture: Children's Publishing: Now and in the Near Future

Megan Tingley is the executive VP and publisher of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. She oversee the entire Young Reader's publishing program as well as acquires and edits a small list of titles for her own list.

Little, Brown has one division and they all work collaboratively to publish board books to young adult.

Mission statement : Publish great books well. They are committed to growth, innovation, and transparency.

The children's book division has gone from being the stepchild to the favorite child in their larger companies, and they are leaders in the diversity of their lists.

The huge successes in the children's book industry are very noticeable and people are then asking where is the next one. But this has also shown that children's books can behave like big adult titles. This gives children's publishing an opportunity to make more decisions.

This is an incredible time to be in publishing. The business has changed so much. The opportunity to get representation is better than before, there's far more exposure with social media, as well as a lot more media stories about the industry. Seeing a picture book win the Newbery and graphic novels winning awards shows an openness to different formats that are a great opportunity.

The notion that print books are going to go away, nobody is worrying about that.

Book creators often wonder, what is the measure of success?

Megan says the thing editors love most to do is discover new talent. Success can be becoming a New York Times bestseller or winning a Newbery or Caldecott, but don't see those as the only markers. Megan discovered a young artist Naoko Stoop walking in Brooklyn when Noako's paintings in a widow caught her eye. She then saw her work on Etsy and met with her about creating a book for kids. That book became Red Knit Cap Girl, both a personal and professional success.

Because of technology the industry has a chance to move more quickly and jump on trends.



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16. Giuseppe Castellano: Building an Effective Portfolio

Giuseppe Castellano, senior art director at Penguin Random House, gave a great talk on children's book illustration in general, not just as it relates to single portfolio pieces.

He feels a lot of artists' work is often too 'children's booky' looking. A lot of the samples he sees have very standard color choices and character choices—the skies are blue, the grass is green, the girl is white, the details aren't necessarily different enough to be interesting, or they seem there to over explain the scene to kids, not allowing them to use their imaginations to fill in the story gaps.

Giuseppe picked out a few Tomie dePaola Award gallery pieces from this year's contest to highlight what images WERE NOT too 'children's booky' looking and had clearly been developed beyond the standard tropes he is hoping we learn to avoid.

The first piece he liked was by Tatiana Escallon. Giuseppe loved that it looks handmade, and not cleaned up/shiny digital. The play and pull of the shapes with each other and within the composition are dynamic, the colors are fun, there are a lot of "gaps" for the reader to fill in with their imagination.

Tatiana Escallon

The next piece he liked was by Claire Lordon. Also has a handmade look, this time it's a screenprint. He liked the play of the colors against each other.

Claire Lordon

Rivkah LaFille's piece appealed to Giuseppe because of its great line work and limited palette. He felt like this piece looked like a sophisticated piece of art you'd see up on a wall and told us, "Children's books should be like mini art galleries... Give kids more credit that they can appreciate fine, complex art."

Rivkah LaFille

Giuseppe gave the room a very cool handout and had them do some simple but awesome, in-class exercises. I'll leave you with a little bit of his thoughts about color:

Color is absolutely a character in your story, says Giuseppe, it's the foundation you build a piece of art on. That doesn't mean it has to be loud, wild crayon color everywhere, he says, "Color choices are like music, you can have loud and soft areas."

Some examples of great color Giuseppe shared are M. Sasek and Ezra Jack Keats's work:


And holy crap, you guys, follow Giuseppe on Twitter and check out the classes he offers via The Illustration Department! I know I will.

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17. Andrea Papenheimer: The Big Picture: Children’s Publishing: Now and in the Near Future, panel discussion


“The Big Picture” was a unique panel made up of publishing's biggest big-wigs, leaders of the children’s divisions of their publishing houses. 

The takeaway: Children’s books at publishing houses are now the most important revenue stream, they are no longer seen as the “publishing stepchild.” 

Andrea Pappenheimer, director of sales and associate publisher at HarperCollins Children’s Books, spoke about how children’s divisions are the innovators, demonstrating the most growth—back lists and big hits. 

When describing the mission statement at HarperCollins, Pappenheimer spoke about not only making great books, but being an author focused company. HarperCollins produces great books by attracting the most talented writers and illustrators.

"It's an exciting time for children’s books," Pappenheimer said. She spoke about how more space for children's books are being allotted at outlets like Target, Walmart and bookstores in general.

She also spoke about the resurgence of independent bookstores, and how at one time they were closing, new stores are now opening, Amazon being an example. "We'll have to see what happens with that," she said. "But it means there is a market."

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18. Biographies

There are many things you should consider before writing a biography.

http://www.writermag.com/2011/10/29/tips-writing-biography/

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19. First Love

First Love. 14 Warm and Glowing Stories Selected by Gay Head. 1963. Scholastic Book Services. 188 pages. [Source: Bought]

First Love is a vintage collection of short stories compiled by Gay Head for Scholastic in 1963. All of the stories chosen had been previously published in magazines. Most of the stories first appeared in the 1950s, though a few come from the 1940s and early 1960s. (If Barbie were real, this is the kind of book I could see her reading.)

The theme of this collection, is, of course, first love or young love. Some of the stories are narrated from the girl's perspective; some are, however, narrated from the guy's perspective. There is a pair of stories "Sixteen" and "Eighteen" that go together. "Sixteen" by Maureen Daly tells the girl's side of the story--how she went skating one winter's day, was suddenly grasped around the waist by a cute boy, and how they skated and chatted together for what seems like hours. He walked her home. He said he'd call. But he never did. "Eighteen" by Charlie Brodie tells HIS side of the story. Most of the stories are not interconnected.

One of my favorite stories is "Prelude" by Lucille Vaughan Payne. Essentially, this is a clean version of Valley Girl that predates the movie by quite a few decades. Nancy Hollister, the heroine, falls for Stephen Karoladis to the dismay of her popular friends. He is an absolute genius when it comes to music, playing the piano, to be exact. Nancy feels about music the same way he does--it's like they are meant to be. But. He is poor--really, truly poor, work after school as a janitor poor. He will never dress like her friends. And he'll never be able to afford to take her out to the places that her friends go with their dates. But the connection they feel is true and deep and strong. What will happen when he asks her to the prom? Will she go with him knowing that her friends will laugh and mock and bully?! This short story doesn't conclude with "Melt With You" but it ends well all the same! Since I'll never watch Valley Girl again, most likely, I'm glad to have found a clean alternative that puts a grin on my face.

Another favorite story is "Theme Song" by Dave Grubb. In this one, a young girl falls for a soldier with a broken heart or "broken heart." He's received a letter that "his girl" has taken up with someone new. Though there was a time he loved playing "their song" on the jukebox over and over and over and over again...he discovers that the "B side" of the record had never been played....much to Edith's delight. Hearts mend, and new love stories begin...

One of the more unusual stories in this collection, one that brings to mind the Sesame Street song "One of These Things Is Not Like the Other," is Epicac by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. This "romantic" short story is about a machine--a computer--who falls in love. It's more complicated than that. The narrator and the computer both fall in love with the same girl. And it's a science-fiction twist to Cyrano de Bergerac if you will. (The computer writes the poems that make the girl fall for the narrator.)

Essentially readers who discover this vintage, out-of-print, title will discover a LOT of variety. Each story is unique. Some stories are a bit odder than others.

"Blue Valentine" by Mary Gibbons comes to mind! In this story, a guy with great intentions doesn't think through his gift choice. Angelo, the hero of the story, is essentially a good, thoughtful guy. He wants his Valentine's Day gift to his girlfriend to be extraordinarily WONDERFUL, the best of the best, the best that his money can buy. But this gift gets him in BIG TROUBLE with her family. His choice? Well, Gibbons left that a mystery for readers to solve until the last few pages of this short story--probably for some shock value. So I'll do the same.

Another 'odd' story, for me, was The Walnut Trees a story about a girl's BIG, BIG crush on a teacher. (Hint: Don't cut your teacher's yearbook photo out and put it in a heart locket. It is SURE to fall off, open, and HIM be the one to pick it up and hand it back to you!)

Each story has a description of sorts, or tagline. I'll include these for each story:
  • Stardust by Virginia Laughlin: Her heart went into orbit when she looked at him...
  • A Girl Called Charlie by William Kehoe: She thought that her whole future depended on one date...
  • Blue Valentine by Mary Gibbons: Angelo found the wrong gift for the right girl...
  • The Walnut Trees by Virginia Akin: A dream can be fashioned from cobwebs...
  • Once Upon A Pullman by Florence Jane Soman: Instant charm was not his secret of success...
  • Epicac by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: Can a machine fall in love? This one did...
  • Sixteen by Maureen Daly: As she saw it...
  • Eighteen by Charlie Brodie: His side of the story...
  • Prelude by Lucille Vaughan Payne: Music gave her the answer...
  • Tomboy by Gertrude Schweitzer: She thought parties were stupid until one special night...
  • Bittersweet by Arlene Hale: It takes time to forget...
  • Who is Sylvia? by Laura Nelson Baker: Her name was like a haunting melody...
  • Theme Song by Dave Grubb: The young soldier might be the answer to Edith's dreams...
  • Tough Guy by Peter Brackett: He wore a chip on his shoulder to hide the secret in his heart...
Though the taglines might seem over-the-top ridiculous, the stories in this book were actually quite good and in some ways timeless. Some are better than others, I won't lie. But there were a few I really LOVED. And overall, it was even better than I thought it would be.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Baboushka Kitty


I finally finished this gal. She was going to be my Christmas card last year, but I started her too late, then had some 'real work' deadlines and had to put her aside. 

She is a Russian Baboushka. The traditional baboushka outfit is just a crazy mix of patterns and color, with seemingly no regard for what might go well together. Therein lies its charm. So I pushed that as far as I could and had a lot of fun. The black floral border is a Khokhloma pattern, which is also a Russian thing. 

I could do this same 'look' digitally, and might if I decide to keep going with this kind of art because boy howdy this was fussy to do with pencils, and was s-l-o-w. I also had to burnish (press really hard) to get the colors saturated enough, and that does bad things to one's hand after a while. I wanted to have an original piece though, rather than just a digital file, so I kept going with it.

Here are a couple of details, so you can see that yes, it is in fact colored pencil ~




I will make cards and prints and put them in the arCATecture etsy shop soon, and maybe make some stuff on Zazzle too.


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21. Jon Anderson: Big Picture Panel, Simon & Schuster

Jon Anderson, President and Publisher of the S&S Children's Division, has been at his job for seven years, but in the book business since high school—as a B Dalton bookseller!

At Simon & Schuster Jon presides over the nine different children's imprints, which publish for toddlers to teens: There is Little Simon, which is predominantly preschool/boardbooks, all the way up to Simon Pulse, which is the S&S teen imprint.

Jon says S&S has five publishers who oversee the nine children's imprints. Each imprint reflects the tastes of their individual editorial directors. The nine editorial directors also share a sales force and two marketing teams. The editorial directors are nine, living/normal human beings, not to be confused with any other famous group of nine, they are absolutely not Tolkienian ring-wraiths—could a person as delightful as someone like Justin Chanda ever be allied with something as evil as Mordor? I don't think so.

Justin Chanda works for Jon, this is how he greets Jon at the office every day.

Lin asks about the health of the market:

Jon says his adult colleagues are very jealous of the never-ending revenue stream that is a children's book publisher's backlist.

Lin asks for Jon's interpretation of the S&S mission statement and it is:

Do good books. 

"We always look for quality first. We have a huge commitment to cover diversity with our books, cover all age ranges with our books."

All of the presidents/publishers on the panel ask for authors and illustrators to have realistic expectations in all areas of publishing: advance amounts, marketing, potential sales...

Jon mentions a surprise success story, a book that everyone on the publishing team loved, but was bought for not too much money (a realistic amount) as it was considered a bit of a niche book that would only reach a certain sales level. But that book—look at all the awards it's got on its cover(!)—has gone on to sell over 200,000 copies.




How do you break in and/or succeed in a children's book career? Jon says attending events like this can help, not only because there are opportunities to learn about the craft and the competition, but to be in proximity to the industry professionals and gatekeepers. And at events like this, you are much more likely to meet those people in person in organic ways (unlike the less organic way of accosting an editor in a bathroom at a tradeshow like BEA).

Maybe, if there is time for Q&A, Jon will finally clear up the age-old riddle: Is this a picture of Simon? OR SCHUSTER?


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22. Michael Jackson

If you watch Michael Jackson
When he was a boy,
You will smile and delight
In his unabashed joy.

He commanded the stage,
All his brothers mere props,
For as young as he was,
He pulled out all the stops.

Check the Spike Lee biopic
And you’ll be impressed
At the talent and energy
Jackson possessed.

We all heard of his problems –
Each habit and flaw –
But when up on the stage,
He was worthy of awe.

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23. Laurent Linn: Illustrating for Middle Grade, Graphic Novels, and YA


Laurent Linn is an Art Director at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, designing up to 40 books at a time. In addition, he's the author and illustrator of an upcoming teen novel called DRAW THE LINE (Simon & Schuster, May 2016).  His breakout session was a standing room only event of published and pre-published illustrators, authors and graphic novelists.

Linn offered a few key points: 

What’s the next big thing in children’s books: Illustration! It’s a great time for illustration and to be an illustrator. 

Kids are more visually astute today, because there is so much imagery out there competing for their attention. So feel free to break boundaries. Your art director will reel you in, if necessary.

For middle grade novels, the text drives the story. However, an illustrator can use art to enhance key moments in a story. Don’t simply illustrate a scene, go deeper. Think of yourself as a designer, consider the placement of text with the illustration. Use illustration to punctuate a story. 

For young adult novels, remember that the art is often meant to represent art that is "drawn" by the characters in a story. Channel the character's personality. Ask yourself how he/she draw this ? For example, Sherman Alexie's THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN.

Graphic novels are now being recognized as legitimate pieces of literature, as with Cece Bell's El Deafo winning a Newbery.






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24. Valentine's Day 2016: Some Productions of Much Ado(And Other Stuff)

Last year I did a fairly general post about Valentine's Day, which you can find here. Do check it out, it's a good post. Feel free to comment, as I get all comments by email to approve. I spoke about some of my favourite fictional lovers, including Shakespeare's mature lovers, Beatrice and Benedick. We don't find enough of those, IMO. Jane Austen did it with Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, about a girl whose fancy relatives talked her out of marrying the guy she loved several years ago. Now he has come back, when they're both a bit older and her once wealthy family is broke and he has gone up in the world. It's not my favourite of Jane Austen's novels, but still...

Public domain image
      

There was an article in the (British, not Sydney)Telegraph about the "top ten" Beatrices and Benedicks, all stage productions none of us will ever see now, though there was a photo of Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson in the film version of his stage production, and a delightful film it was, too.

 Personally, if we're nominating stage productions I'd go for two I have seen performed by the Melbourne Theatre Company - Frederick Parslow and Jennifer Hagan, in a Regency costumed production, with music by Helen Gifford, and in more recent years, Hugo Weaving and Pamela Rabe in 1950s costume, and the Bell Shakespeare Company, set in a circus! John Bell himself and his Missus, Anna Volska, played as the lovers. I admit I haven't yet seen the Joss Whedon film version, though my niece Dezzy tells me it's excellent. And then there was a recording I had of Franco Zefirelli's stage production with a much younger, very, very much pre-Professor McGonagall Maggie Smith and her then-husband Robert Stephens, with a very young Derek Jacobi as Don John. That's one I would have loved to see! And I see Derek Jacobi eventually had his turn as Benedick.

I am amazed at who has played those two roles. One version really went for the "mature" thing and had the roles played by the not-so-young James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave. He could certainly do the voice, as we know after his velvet-voiced Darth Vader, and she has plenty of experience, but Hero would be more like her granddaughter than her cousin, and you'd think he would be long retired from the army. Still, nice to know that once in a while an older woman, even if she has to be a Big Name, can play a Shakespeare role apart from Queen Margaret in Richard III or a Witch in The Scottish Play (Even Gertrude isn't all that old, early middle aged at most). And as a character in one of Kerry Greenwood's novels says, if you aren't playing the king you never get to sit down in Shakespeare, which is no fun for older actors with painful legs.

I was surprised and delighted to read of a production with the Doctor and Donna! Okay, with David Tennant and Catherine Tate. I know he's done a fair bit of Shakespeare - I'm still holding out for a DVD of his Hamlet - though it was her first time and the article says that she did it very well. They had such chemistry as the Doctor and Donna, I can imagine how well they did together in this play. 

I recall one of the Telegraph's top Beatrices was Judi Dench, whom I have seen in Shakespeare when I was in my teens and she was touring in The Winter's Tale; I'm sure she was a wonderful Beatrice. 

I am hoping to get hold of the BBC version(you can still buy them in boxed sets)with Robert Lindsay and Cherie Lunghi. Cherie Lunghi was a firm Beatrice who wouldn't take any nonsense from anyone. 

It feels strange to think that this mature Shakespeare heroine was originally played by a teenage boy. Was Shakespeare imagining women when he wrote his plays or was he thinking, "Now, let's see, young Nat can play this one brilliantly"? 

Something to think about. Happy Valentine's Day and don't eat too much chocolate!  


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25. If I choose to write a literary novel should I follow the same steps ? What about theme as opposed to Story goal? I am confused.

Question: I chose to write a literary novel as opposed to genre. How about theme as opposed to story goal? Should I use both theme and story goal? You

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