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1. Barry Goldblatt: the Difference between Being a Writer & Being an Author

Barry Goldblatt has been an agent since 2000. His agency focuses mostly on children's literature, but has expanded to include some adult fiction as well.


His client list is sterling: Christopher Barzak, Holly Black, Angela Johnson, Jo Knowles, Lauren Myracle, Genevieve Valentine, Colleen AF Venable, Ed Vere, Charles Vess, and Stephanie Yue.

He talked to us about being a writer, being an author, and how the two are sometimes distinct and sometimes overlap.

A writer is being creative. An author is doing business. The two can feed each other.  If you're doing research, you're not putting words on the page, but you're writing. If you go to a conference, it's a mix of writing and being an author. Your task is to know what you're doing so you can best work out how to do it.

Some key bits of advice:  

Part of the process is figuring out the things that click for you individually. There's no one size fits all solution. But strategies to consider:

Be disciplined. The Freedom app, which turns off the Internet, can help. But you can't do it when you're reading. So, maybe setting goals and designing your day is a good strategy. Discipline your brain to know not to deal with dishes/laundry/day job. It's writing time.

Train your family. One of his clients works on the basement. Her six (six!) kids know that if the door is closed, they're not suppose to enter it unless their heads have fallen off.

Make goals. For some, having a 1,000-word daily goal is effective. For some, that's daunting. For picture book writers, that's two-and-a-half books.

Reward yourself. "We are monkeys. The best way to make something happen is to reward yourself." If you meet your writing goals, you get to eat the ice cream sundae. Or watch TV. Whatever goals make you want to work better--this is you figuring out what works for you.

Make attainable goals that suit you. You're not going to write a novel in a day. You can also change goals--2,000 words a day might not work for you, and failing and failing will put you in a bad mind space. So find goals that work for you.

(Barry likes Habit RPG, a role-playing game that rewards you for achieving goals.)

What don't authors need?

A social media presence. Do it if you're good at it. You do need an updated website.

Cassandra Clare is good at it, on both Twitter and Tumblr.

What do you need to do? 

Whatever works for you that stretches your work's availability and visibility.

Barry Goldblatt Literary
Follow Barry Goldblatt on Twitter


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2. Alison Weiss: Ten Things You're Doing Wrong in MG

Alison Weiss is an editor at Sky Pony Press. She was previously at Egmont for 6 and half years.

Missing the Middle Grade Mark: Common Mistakes to Avoid


  • Your character is too young or to too old.
  • Your voice isn't authentic. 
  • Your dialogue doesn't sound natural or natural to your characters. 
  • Your vocabulary is too sophisticated. 
  • You're putting characters in situations that don't make sense.
  • You're writing what you think is a middle grade experience, not what's actually a middle grade experience. 
  • Your book lacks conflict.
  • Your making choices that will date your book.
  • Your book is too long.
  • You don't know the market.
  • Sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
  • You aren't asking your questions when you have the chance.

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3. Patti Ann Harris: Playing with Page Turns

Patti encourages both authors and illustrators to think of their picture books in terms of music and cinema, there should be flow and rhythm to the book, and you can play with easing the readers along with repetition and then surprising them with something wholly different.

Patti shares Me... Jane which has a very steady rhythm of illustration on one side of a page spread and text on the other, so when we get to a climactic moment in the book, we also see something different on the page—an actual photograph of Jane Goodall out in the wild.



When Patti works on a book, she understands the author/illustrator is focused on the tiny details of every page, but she tries very hard to see things globally and offer guidance there. She encourages the audience to take a step back and get allll of your pages on one page so you can see how everything is working together. She likes CALDECOTT MEDAL WINNER Dan Santat's practice of storyboarding out something successfully cinematic like a Hitchcock movie to understand storyboarding better.






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4. The Three-footed Squirrel

True story: a few weeks ago I was picking up medicine for my cat and on the way back to the car I saw a three-footed squirrel. One of its hind feet had been severed; the wound where it used to be was kind of scabbed over and the squirrel was making do, hobbling along, gathering scraps of food from an overflowing garbage can, watching the world more warily than most squirrels do, but not especially tragic.

I knew I wanted to write about this plucky rodent. I thought of allusions that might tie in: the famous poem about the Scot and the field mouse; a squirrel that was an ironic icon of traffic safety when I was a child living in England. I recalled a crippled beggar I saw in Rome at age seven, how I bawled later, and how my parents yelled at me… one of my most palpable memories, but one I’ve written about futilely so many times it no longer has heat.

I never did write about it because I failed to come up with a narrative frame, something the squirrel would be “about” in the grand scheme of things. I gave fleeting glances in subsequent days as I drove by that building (used to be a grocery store, now vacant and fenced off), but gradually forgot.

Such is the plight of the bush-league memoirist, of which the blogger is a kind. I want to make meaning of my experiences, but fail sometimes to see theme lurking behind a scene.

I thought of that squirrel today because there’s a conversation about what people choose to think and write about. Here is an example of something trivial that I nevertheless cared about, and wanted to write about, no doubt in a week of mudslides and mass shootings that I received with tragedy-saturated numbness. Squirrels are less significant than humans, I know, and not even an endangered species. But God forgive me, I briefly gave a damn about a small thing.


Filed under: Miscellaneous

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5. Dan Santat: Don't Draw Better, Design Smarter

In a breakout session with author and illustrator, Dan Santat, illustrators did a lot of laughing. And squinting. Yes, squinting. We'll get to that later.

For illustrators seeking to perfect their style, Santat offered this advice: "Don't try to find a style. To be a better illustrator, you have to be a better designer." 

Sure, easy for Santat to say, huh, but he broke it down a bit more by explaining how an illustrator's interpretation of design equals their style. "Good communication is understanding the symbology of things."

Santat also spoke about "the curse of photo reference." For many illustrators, photo reference is a crutch—and a rickety one at that, because photos can cause rigidity, which "sucks the life out of a drawing." If drawing a train, he explained, use a photo to understand it's components, and then "draw the train that is in your mind." Don't copy a photo, use it as reference.

Now, about "The Power of Squinting." Santat explained that squinting at a painting creates contrast that allows an illustrator to see the blocks of shapes that come forward or receed, something that he learned from studying the artwork of Bill Joyce. Contrast creates depth of field and seperation of forms.

It was a great session, one that covered more than style but color theroy and composition and limiting your color palette, which will "make amazing colors that harmonize with each other."






His art school training came through


Was both artistically academic. Took us back basics of art school. 

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6. Martha Brockenbrough & Stacey Lee: Success Story Panel

Martha Brockenbrough is the author of YA novels THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH and DEVINE INTERVENTION, and THE DINOSAUR TOOTH FAIRY,  a picture book with much more to come.


Martha wanted to write books her whole life. She had a couple transformative moments: 1) The decision to attend this conference in 2008. 2) A class she took with Linda Sue Park that turned on a lightbulb for her (on revising scenes).

The "if I could just" thought can be dangerous (If I could just get an agent... If I could just get published...). "What's really satisfying is building meaningful relationships."

Martha thinks resistance makes you strong. It means it takes effort. We all have to get stronger in order to progress.


Martha reminds us the first draft of a novel is not going to great. There can be great moments in it, but you can't let those moments become your enemy. As Martha struggled with her only draft, Anne Ursu advised: Just finish the draft. Martha, tell us, don't stop as you go.

Martha reminds us all: The work is the reward. The work is the joy.



Stacey Lee is the author of UNDER A PAINTED SKY, her debut young adult novel.



For Stacey it was writing for many years and then taking a risk. Stacey attended a local SCBWI conference that she nearly talked herself out of attending because of fear. There, her work was recognized as the most promising manuscript and things started rolling from there for her.




Stacey wrote 5 books before breaking in with UNDER A PAINTED SKY. You have to cut your teeth working on other projects to grow as a writer.

Stacey remind us that conflict makes us keep turning pages. We need to give our characters pain to make the payoff better.

Stacey shares, success is not what defines you.

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7. Debutante {2015}

If you've been following this blog for a while, or have had the temerity to read back to the very first blog post {you gutsy thing you} you've probably noticed that I've {hopefully} gotten better over the years.

There's one piece I keep going back to, and it's this li'l French girl.  I drew the original version in 2006 for Ryan Woodward's character design class:


It was one of the few pieces my classmates posted on the "good" wall...my other artwork always got put on the "medium" and "bad" walls. {Yes, this really was a thing--our homework was judged by our classmates and taped on the walls accordingly and I'm a better artist for it, by george!}

A few years back, in 2010, I decided to revisit the thing again:



I'd gotten much better at digital media and Illustrator at that point, and it definitely has a lot more motion, but it feels a lot less appealing to me.  The design lost its cuteness.

A couple weeks ago, I decided to give it another ol' college try:


D'aaaaaaw.  I think she's definitely more appealing this time around.  

I'm looking forward to trying her again in a few years.  ^_^

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8. Molly Idle: How to Create Movement in Your Characters and Compositions

Molly Idle is the creator of the Caldecott Honor-winning, wordless picture book, Flora and the Flamingo. In her session, Idle's enthusiastic personality was a total joy—a good humor that is apparent in the books she illustrates.

In her session, Idle offered a special treat: she drew. Mostly lines and stick figures, but they were very cool, animated lines and stick figures—that moved! In addition, she shared a few of her favorite tools for making illustrations that zing with movement. Here are a few:

Basic shapes—circles, triangles, squares—can be used to create dynamic compositions. For instance, a triangle is a stable shape with opportunities to create three points of interest. (Show example of Rex). Circles are great compositional shapes too. For examples of compositions using concentric circles, Idle suggested seeing The Spider and the Fly, illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi.

The use of directional compositions move a reader across the page, from left to right and back. Most times, she suggested, an illustrator will direct the reader to move with the page turn. However, there will be times to pull your reader backward, to really get their attention.

Sequence. Old school art instructors will advise to never use the same character more than once on a page. However, Idle suggsts breaking that rule. "The use of a character sequentially is a useful tool for creating animated movement on a page," she says, offering Marla Frazee's Mrs. Biddlebox a wonderful example. 

Other advice:

•  Study anatomy. Learn how the joints in the human body move

• Avoid total semitry, or twinning. The body is not perfectly semetric, it's a system of counter balances.

• Get your reader in on the action. Idle suggested using flaps that open and close and allow the reader to interact with the book, as used in Flora and the Penguin and Flora and the Flamingo.







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9. Hachette’s Revenues Down 7.8% in First Half of the Year

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10. Meg Wolitzer Keynote - Switching Hats: Writing for Adults and Young Adults

Meg Wolitzer has written novels that blow the minds of adult and young readers alike. Her adult work includes The Interestings, The Ten Year Nap, The Position, and The Wife.

Her YA novel is Belzhar, and for middle grade readers she has The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman.

She talked to us about writing for both adults and younger readers.

She started by describing a horrible question people ask writers at parties: "Would I have heard of you?"

The right answer ... "In a more just world, yes."

Her world involves going back and forth from one literary world to another.

"Being a writer is really about freedom," she said. "All of you should have the freedom to say I want to write the next Hunger Games. Then switch and say I want to write the AARP games. A scary tale."

Meg had a secret weapon in the fight to become a writer: her mother, an 85-year-old writer who is still publishing books.

"My mother was the only writer in town, and the exciting thing for me was that the checkout person would let us take out as many books as we wanted."


People often ask what's going to happen to books, but Meg feels encouraged. It's natural to see narrative all around in the world (including in one-celled amoebas). And the stories we tell are very reflective of us.

"A novel is a sort of concentrated version of who a person is," she said, "a boullion cube of concentrated sensibility."

She gave us great advice about how we should approach our writing.

"Be who you are, but much more so on the page. That's how a book starts to take shape. That's how a writer develops," she said. "Write what obsesses you." 

Another way to do this is to write the book you would have loved to read as a teen. She once had a book taken from her because it was for older kids, and it suddenly became irresistibly alluring.

She also had the help of others when she first started writing stories, which she'd dictate. One was about truckers, and included the dialogue, "Get on the rig, Mac." 

Meg's mother also wrote for adults and for children, and began her work around the time the women's movement started. Meg also became a feminist. (One of her mother's first published stories was titled "Today a Women Went Mad in the Supermarket.") 

Writing tortured Meg's mother, who typed on a quivering Smith Corona. But it showed Meg writing was something you could do. She did have to get over the sex scene her mother wrote in her first book—something she was teased for by the neighborhood toughs, who went into the store and bought something from the literary fiction section, which makes her laugh now. 

She encouraged us not to be afraid of what we write, and not to avoid something that makes us feel uncomfortable. When she writes her adult novels, she doesn't think about audience, except that she's the ideal reader for her kind of books. She doesn't have to worry about any of the content or emotional complexity. All her adult editor wants is to know that the book is meeting the expectations Meg had when she set out. 

When you write, you should be able to do it freely without fear of being judged or found lacking. And in one sense, she writes adult work for herself today, and kid lit for the person she used to be. She is mindful of making her work have a rhythm that will work for her readers. 

With "Belzhar," she was looking to create what obsessed 15-year-old Meg, not just the arty summer camp girl, but someone who was waking up to an emotional world for the first time. It's inspired by Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar," which struck her hard when she read it. 

It's about a girl who was sent to a school for emotionally fragile, highly intelligent teenagers. The students there are all reunited with the things they've lost, taking the short view of their sorrows. The characters she creates are filtered through her own humanness. It's taking them and making them us. We're all different, and every novel has lots of ways in. Points of view can vary. 

But we should only write about what's important to us, she said.

Switching hats means we have a lot of roles. The one we occupy among our friends and family. The one you wear when you write autobiographically. The one you wear when you're writing about about growing up in the 12th century.

"Write about what obsesses you because that is the one that people will identify with," she said, "and that will be one I definitely want to read. 




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11. Adam Rex: How I Make Picture Books

Adam Rex illustrates.



He writes.


He writes AND illustrates.


He does Board Books,


He does Picture Books,


He Does Chapter books,



He Does Novels,




He even made his own bio laugh-out loud funny:

Adam Rex wrote and/or illustrated all the books you like including the New York Times best-selling Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, the New York Times best-selling Chu’s Day, and also a number of titles about which the New York Times has been strangely coy. His first novel, The True Meaning of Smekday, was adapted this past spring into the DreamWorks feature film “Home.” Having your book get turned into a movie is like that section in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz where the woodsman systematically chops off all his body parts one by one and replaces them with tin. But in a good way? Like maybe with the heart still intact? This isn’t one of Adam Rex’s better metaphors. Visit www.adamrex.com.

We're in for a treat!

Adam starts by sharing how it took him ten years of re-writing his "Moonday" story until he got it to work. From setting out to write something that made him feel the way a dream did to the book that was just published.

How he told a joke at a gathering about a school being afraid of its first day of children, and telling his agent the next morning. And having his agent insist that would be his next picture book. And Adam wrote that in an afternoon. (Here he riffs on the old Picasso quote: 20 years of learning and working and failing most of the time and succeeding more and more and eventually sitting down on one afternoon to write the book. So one afternoon plus twenty years.) "School's First Day of School" which he's written and was illustrated by Christian Robinson.

He talks about the combinations of images with text, and how we've imagined that less pictures means something is more for adults.

"In a mature society... we would have picture books for every age. ...It's not really a form that someone should grow out of."

He shares one of the best books he wrote that he says will never be published, "The Robot That Moe Bought." And tells us how doing that book dummy and one finished spread led to his being hired to illustrate his first picture book.

Adam shares his process for a number of his picture books, even showing us the sculptures he created to be able to draw the same characters, settings, and set pieces numerous times.

"My drawings are always better if I have something real to look at."

So if he doesn't have the ability to photograph a character (like he didn't for Frankenstein) then he sculpts it!

It's a fascinating window into what's similar about his process across books (breaking down the text, figuring out what's going where, thumbnails where he solves problems, sketching where he figures out the characters) and then what's different. And a lot is different – Adam changes styles and mediums seemingly for every book, trying to figure out the perfect way to tell each story.

The slides and Adam's repartee give us a behind-the-scenes look into how it all comes together, and it's so cool.

He finishes with a rap song, having us all snap along.

Great stuff!


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12. John Culhane, Animation Historian and Mr. Snoops Inspiration, RIP

Culhane also inspired the character of Flying John in "Fantasia/2000."

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13. Will the Pink Panther Affect Argentina’s Presidential Election?

See how an Argentinian candidate is using a Pink Panther cartoon as part of her political campaign.

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14. Lori Nichols: Success Story Panel

Isn't Lori cute? And so is whoever
is photobombing her.
Lori Nichols, author/illustrator, is asked what was it that broke her through to the other (published) side:

"If I had to break it down to two things, it would definitely be SCBWI, I went to my first conference in 2002, I left two small children at home with the flu and drove five hours to a regional conference (where I then got the flu) but I learned so much. I met my agent at a SCBWI conference, and she's the other thing that's broken me through,  my amazing agent Joanna Volpe."

Lee asks Lori about some craft tips: Lori quotes Kelly Light, "Writing is like punching myself in the face."

Lori says, "That quote really spoke to me, for me, I have to show up every day, and sometimes what I write is going to stink. It's the showing up every day and not waiting for perfection. I think part of what makes a beautiful book are the imperfections, maybe a line is too scratchy, so what! Show up to your paper, your easel, your computer, and stay there, do it daily. Study other writers and illustrators, too."





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15. Answering questions about THE BOOK OF DARES FOR LOST FRIENDS

I'm honored to be posting on Kirby Larson's FRIEND FRIDAY

AND

DARLENE BECK-JACOBSON's blog "Gold From The Dust"

Darlene is also hosting a give away for the novel.

Follow this link for more information about  THE BOOK OF DARES FOR LOST FRIENDS. 

Please visit both sites to find out some back story for the novel -- and also to be introduced to two wonderful novelists, Kirby and Darlene.




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16. Wind/Pinball reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of Murakami Haruki's two earliest novels, now published together in one volume, in a new translation by Ted Goossen, as Wind/Pinball:

       This is yet another example of US/UK publishers opting to publish multiple works by an author in one volume -- several works by Patrick Modiano, whose works tend to come in at around a hundred pages, are getting the treatment now. It's more justifiable here than in most cases (even as the title, Wind/Pinball, really isn't) but I reviewed them separately -- among other reasons: because there are already so many separate reviews of one or the other title to link to.
       However, it's been annoying to see so much coverage which has dismissed the previous translations (by Alfred Birnbaum, published by Kodansha International) as if no one had ever seen them. The Knopf jacket-copy has it about right -- "Widely available in English for the first time, newly translated" -- but much of the review coverage does not (as I have also repeatedly noted on Twitter (e.g.)).

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17. Typos

It's so easy to make a typo in your manuscript and so difficult to find them all.

http://blog.janicehardy.com/2015/05/tricks-tips-for-catching-all-those.html

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18. A Curious Tale of the In-Between, by Lauren DeStefano

Pram has never truly been told the tale of her beginnings.  A beginning that started with her still inside her mother, even as she hung from the branch of the tree. Pram was orphaned right from the start, but was taken in by her two no-nonsense aunts. Pram is even short for Pragmatic -- named such because it was deemed sensible for a young lady, and sensible is just what the aunts wanted for Pram.

But Pram has always been the opposite of sensible.  She’s dreamy, and her oldest and best friend is a ghost named Felix who appeared one day in the pond by the home for the aged where she lives with her aunts.

Pram is forced by the state to actually attend school at the age of eleven and this is where Pram meets her first real life friend. She gets into an argument with Clarence before school even starts when he informs her that she is sitting in his desk. By lunch time they have discovered that both of their mothers are dead and with this the seeds of their friendship are planted.

As time goes on, Pram doesn’t tell Clarence that she can speak with ghosts, but she does agree to accompany him to a spiritualist show where he hopes his mother’s spirit will reveal herself. Things don’t go as Clarence hoped and instead the spiritualist is very interested in Pram. What Pram and Clarence cannot know is that the spiritualist is anything but a charlatan, and a girl like Pram is very valuable to her.

What follows is a haunting and frightening ghost story that straddles the world of the living and the dead. Lyrical and tender, DeStefano’s story will scare readers without tipping into horror. This is an achingly beautiful story of love and loss, of friendship and family. A Curious Tale of the In-Between is for the deep reader, and I can see it becoming that touchstone title that ferries readers into more complex and intricate stories.

Gorgeous.

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19. July Reflections

In July, I reviewed 60 books.

Board books:

  1. Board Book: Five Little Monkeys: A finger & toes nursery rhyme book. Natalie Marshall. Scholastic. 2015. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Board Books: Picture This: Homes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. 42 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Board books: Picture This: Shapes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Board book: Little Blue Truck's Beep-Along Book. Alice Schertle. Illustrated by Jill McElmurry. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 8 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Board book: Carry and Learn Numbers. Illustrated by Sarah Ward. 2015. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Picture books:
  1. Gingerbread for Liberty: How A German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution. Mara Rockliff. Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Poppy's Best Paper. Susan Eaddy. Illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet. 2015. Charlesbridge. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  3. How To Catch a Mouse. Philippa Leathers. 2015. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Alphabet Trains. Samantha R. Vamos. Illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke. 2015. Charlesbridge. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  5. Funny Face, Sunny Face. Sally Symes. Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. The Big Princess. Taro Miura. 2015. Candlewick Press. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  7. Mom School. Rebecca Van Slyke. Illustrated by Priscilla Burris. 2015. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. The Foot Book. Dr. Seuss. 1968. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library] 
  9. I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today And Other Stories. Dr. Seuss. 1969. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Library] 
  10. Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? Dr. Seuss. 1970. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. The Lorax. Dr. Seuss. 1971. Random House. 72 pages. [Library]  
  12. Out and About: A First Book of Poems. Shirley Hughes. 1988/2015. Candlewick Press. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  13. Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Edited by Elizabeth Hammill. 2015. Candlewick. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Early readers/early chapter books:
  1. Pete The Cat's Train Trip (I Can Read) James Dean. 2015. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]  
  2. Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat. (Henry and Mudge #8) Cynthia Rylant. Sucie Stevenson. 1990. Simon & Schuster. 48 pages. [Source: Bought]
Middle grade:
  1. Sarah, Plain and Tall. Patricia MacLachlan. 1985. Houghton Mifflin. 64 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. Hatchet. Gary Paulsen. 1986. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. On My Honor. Marion Dane Bauer. 1986. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Cinderella Smith. Stephanie Barden. Illustrated by Diane Goode. 2011. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. At The Back of the North Wind. George MacDonald. 1871. 346 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. Miss Patch's Learn-to-Sew Book. Carolyn Meyer. 1969/2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Close to the Wind. Jon Walter. 2015. Scholastic. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. First Flight Around The World: The Adventures of the American Fliers Who Won The Race. Tim Grove. 2015. Abrams. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  9. The Polar Bear Scientists. Peter Lourie. 2012/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. Wish Girl. Nikki Loftin. 2015. Penguin. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. Lost in the Sun. Lisa Graff. 2015. Penguin. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. The Great Good Summer. Liz Garton Scanlon. 2015. Simon & Schuster. 224 pages. [Source: Library]  
  13. My Brother's Secret. Dan Smith. 2015. Scholastic. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Young adult:
  1. Phantoms in the Snow. Kathleen Benner Duble. 2011. Scholastic. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. To All The Boys I've Loved Before. Jenny Han. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. All We Have Is Now. Lisa Schroeder. 2015. Scholastic. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Fat Cat. Robin Brande. 2009. Random House. 330 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. The Messengers. Edward Hogan. 2015. Candlewick Press. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. Apple and Rain. Sarah Crossan. 2015. Bloomsbury. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Adult fiction:
  1. The Daughter of Time. Josephine Tey. 1951/1995. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  2. The Children of Hurin. J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien. 2007. HarperCollins. 313 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. The Book of Lost Tales. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1983/1992. 345 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. A Duty To The Dead. (Bess Crawford #1) Charles Todd. 2009. HarperCollins. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. An Impartial Witness. Charles Todd. 2010. HarperCollins. 352 pages. [Source: Library] 
  6. Ross Poldark. (Poldark #1) Winston Graham. 1945/2015. Sourcebooks. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. The Truth According to Us. Annie Barrows. 2015. Dial. 512 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. The Prestige. Christopher Priest. 1995/1997. Tor. 360 pages. [Source: Library] 
Adult Nonfiction:
  1. The Armstrong Girl: A Child for Sale: The Battle Against the Victorian Sex Trade. Cathy Le Feuvre. 2015. Lion. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Christian fiction:
  1. To Capture Her Heart. Rebecca DeMarino. 2015. Revell. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. The Innocent. Ann H. Gabhart. 2015. Revell. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Christian nonfiction:
  1. Stronger. Clayton King. 2015. Baker Books. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  2.  Knowing God. J.I. Packer. 1973/1993. Intervarsity Press. 286 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. Pass It On. Jim Burns & Jeremy Lee. David C. Cook. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. The Shaping of a Christian Family. Elisabeth Elliot. 1992/2000. Revell. 240 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  5. Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace. Iain M. Duguid. 2015. P&R. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. The End of Me. Kyle Idleman. 2015. David C. Cook. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Transforming Grace. Jerry Bridges. 1991. NavPress. 207 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  8. Embracing Obscurity. Anonymous. 2012. B&H. 192 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  9. Humility. C.J. Mahaney. 2005. Multnomah. 176 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  10. Uncensored: Daring to Embrace the Entire Bible. Brian Cosby. 2015. David C. Cook. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Reading in ... Russia

       In The Moscow Times Anastasia Bazenkova reports that Russia's Book Industry Shrinks as Russians Stop Reading.
       It's not that they've stopped reading entirely, but apparently there has been quite a decline (with the ever-popular explanations as supplied by experts, such as: "Young people see books as pure entertainment, and in that category they cannot compete with modern gadgets"). A real problem is certainly the decline in bookstores -- and, astonishing if true, Moscow apparently only has six used book stores.
       Among the consequences: "The effect of bookstore closures has been to reduce the quantity of printed words"
       And while there's no data to back up the claim, it's still an eye-catching one:

There are currently 10-12 people in the whole country that can earn their living only by writing books, and there will be even fewer of them in the future, Filimonov said

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21. New Footage: Disney XD’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Series

A series of mini-shorts will debut on Disney XD tomorrow.

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22. Another translation of The Story of The Stone

       As longtime readers know, I hold Cao Xueqin's The Story of The Stone, in David Hawkes and John Minford's translation, to be one of the peaks of literature. Interesting to learn now that, as Tang Yue reports in China Daily, in Lost in translation for more than 40 years, that the manuscript of an unpublished translation into English by Lin Yutang has been found in Japan.
       Lin published widely in both Chinese and English, and was a widely-read popularizer of Chinese literature in English -- it would be interesting to know what kind of impact his translation of this towering work might have had.

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23. Lunch time chat: Let’s talk diversity

We need diverse books—of course we do! So during a lunch time chat,  a group of #LA15SCBWI conference goers discussed that topic. We Need Diverse Books™ team members, Miranda PaulJim Averbeck, and Don Tate led group discussions. 

Pictured below, writers discuss why it is important for children to see themselves in books.




From left to right:

A. E. Marling spoke to the importance of all people from every background seeing themselves included in fantasy, which is why he includes characters of color in his stories. "Books can portray that everyone has a place," Marling says.

Judy Goldman spoke about how seeing yourself in a book generates self respect, and she lamented the fact that most of the  people seen in books are white and surbarban. "If you don’t recognize youself in a book, you won’t identify. You won't know that you are important." 

Cassie Gustafson writes books for teenage adolescent girls. "The more you know about someone else, the less they are other," she says.

Michelle deBaroncelli spoke about the importance of white readers seeing diverse characters in books, "to help remove seperation and otherness."

Far right, writer Liz Pratt was a bit quiet. Totally understandable. Expressing youself on the topic of diversity is not an easy, especially when you are in the minority. 
Miranda Paul discusses the We Need Diverse Books initiative and goals.


Jim Averbeck leads an enthusiastic discussion 

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24. Rotem Moscovich: The Road to Acquisitions

Rotem shares a few acquisition stories, here is one:



She reads us To the Sea by Cale Atkinson. It's important to be able for an author/illustrator to describe their story in a nutshell because Rotem does the same thing when she's doing a presentation for acquistions.

She asks us how we would position To the Sea, what its key note would be, the audience throws out:

  • friendship story
  • problem solving
  • summer
  • adorable characters
  • bold illustrations with limited palette
  • being seen

From that we get this nutshell: "A touching friendship story with stunning art about finding someone who really sees you."

Rotem then helps the audience hone their nutshells!

At Hyperion, marketing approval is integral to an acquisition. If Rotem thinks marketing might not "get" a potential book, she will do rounds of work on something before it goes to acquisition (that's a big deal given her time demands at work are for acquired books, which means Rotem does this additional

Rotem talks a little bit about the profit and loss statement, the P&L. Which is roughly: The quantity that they think they can sell in the first year + what they think they should pay the author + what the royalties look like ÷ if the book can go into board book eventually and/or ebooks x how other comparable books are doing in the market + the square root of π...

If Rotem is bringing a manuscript to an acquisition meeting, she will also bring her choices for who will illustrate to help the meeting attendees envision the project more fully.

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25. ‘Behind the Trees’ by Amanda Palmer and Avi Ofer

A found voice memo animation.

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