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The SCBWI NY conference was incredible. There just is no other word for it. The staff was very helpful and I was impressed at how smoothly everything ran. They provided delicious breakfast breads and coffee (!!!!) each morning and the cocktail party was stunning and so yummy. I ate way too much of that sweet potato dish.
Here's a picture of me with Kit Grindstaff and Ruth Setton at the social.
I took tedious notes throughout the conference and if you followed the Twitter hashtag #NY13SCBWI you'll find my brief comments along with many others.
Here's a picture of my MiG crit partners: Andrea Mack, Susan Laidlaw, Kate Fall and Carmella Van Vleet. So fun hanging out with them!
I found the conference inspiring, and within it, many gems of wisdom that I can use in my own writing.
Some brief thoughts thoughts of the weekend:
Meg Rosoff had some great things to say about writing for children and to not get discouraged when others ask: "When are you going to write a real book? Like for adults?" She also encourages writers to: "Be flexible"
For my breakout session, I went to Molly O'Neil- she's encourages writers to write with authenticity and heart.
Here's the line of books that Molly has edited.
Next I went to hear Francoise Bui because of her focus on characterization. Her three points were to build great characters you need voice, characterization and texture with in the story.
Shaun Tan, an illustrator, spoke about the importance to not fear failure. This helps us to be free to create and experiment. Knowing that you can throw out your work allows you to be uninhibited to create. I just loved that.
Margaret Peterson Haddix reminded us that we must write a book for the kid that doesn't like to read. If we can do that, then the kids who do like to read will love it, too.
Julie Andews spoke with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton. I was amazed by Andrew's presence, which seemed to fill the entire room. The two of them talked about brainstorming and then plotting since they need to work with each other to get the job done. They use a web cam for most of their writing sessions.
Since they write multiple books in a series, they realized they needed to keep the books balanced between the inevitable and the element of surprise, which can be tricky.
Finally, Mo Williams raced to the podium and then around the room. He was great and I laughed so hard hearing him speak. Williams urged us to go deeper, write what we don't know and understand so that we can explore new emotions within ourselves. He also said to not be afraid to ask the tough questions.
Julie Andrews is one of the world's most beloved entertainers. She's Mary Poppins. She's Maria. She's the Queen of Genovia. She's also a tremendous writer whose books include MANDY and THE LAST OF THE REALLY GREAT WHANGDOODLES.
Together, the mother-daughter team has written 27 books together, including THE VERY FAIRY PRINCESS series, which became a No. 1 New York Times bestseller.
They gave a warm and wonderful presentation to an entirely packed house (indeed, it's standing room only in the back). Here are some highlights.
On how Julie Andrews got started
Julie's first published work was a "happy accident" forty years ago. She was playing a game with her kids that required a forfeit if you lost. Her stepdaughter asked her to write a story.
"I began to develop a little idea I had, and I got so carried away with the story, it turned into my first middle-grade novel, called MANDY," Julie said. Their first collaborative work She and Emma first wrote together when Emma was just five.
As Emma explained it, her parents had just divorced and were living on opposite coasts. She and her mom wrote a book and brought it to her dad, who illustrated it and bound it. The book became a symbol of their permanent connection. Later, they revisited the story and worked it into a book called SIMEON'S GIFT, illustrated by Gennady Spirin.
On their writing process Julie talked about the process of writing DUMPY THE DUMPTRUCK, the first picture book they wrote together. "The learning curve was very steep," she said.
Now, though, they're experienced enough that Emma teaches children's writing (including through the online Children's Book Hub). As they collaborate, they have learned to lean into each other's strengths. And if someone feels really strongly about something, she's probably right.
"This requires mutual trust and respect," Emma said. And it's not just because they're mother and daughter. "A great deal of it we've learned through the collaborative process."
Julie and Emma work with an outline. "We feel that structure gives us greater freedom."
They also write every line together. Emma types ("very fast," Julie said). She sends the day's work to Julie for review. They used to think they had to be in the same room to work, but their schedules made that difficult. So now they use Skype or other chat software--very early in the morning, before Julie has had her hair and makeup on (but she does stop to spritz herself with perfume).
On the challenges of writing a series
Consistency is important.
"With Dumpy, I had the idea of always beginning with a fanfare of sorts, heralding what's to come very much the way an overture might," Julie said. They had to find fresh ways to do that every time.
They also had to keep characters and their abilities consistent. For example, is Dumpy magic or is it just a coincidence when his lights flicker at a crucial moment in the story? That's a question left up to the reader to decide, and they had to make sure what Dumpy did in book six was consistent with what he did in books one through five to sustain this interest.
They even keep the architecture of the house consistent across books.
"It can be harder to track that you might imagine," Emma said. (She used spreadsheets to track.) And it helps having two sets of eyes on things.
Even so, they do try to leave space for surprise. "We've ... learned the value of flexibility and keeping our options open," Julie said.
Reader satisfaction They had much to say on this, but one excellent point was Julie's--that an ending has to be satisfying and surprising at the same time.
But there's good news! "The better you know your characters, the more they start to inform your ideas," Emma said. So it gets easier as you go.
Today’s post is actually a question – well, more of a favor. We’re working with our wonderful publisher on developing an app for The Very Fairy Princess. We’ll start with a free one, then plan for other, more expanded versions down the line. I’m researching picture book apps to get a sense of what the possibilities are… what works, what doesn’t, and always, how to invite the viewer/reader back to the book itself.
So here’s the favor: Please share your picture book app experience with me?
Which ones are the most successful, and why? (Not counting The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which is in a class by itself.) What are the essential differences between the free apps and the paid ones? Most of all, any ideas as to how our app can be used to celebrate individuality – what Gerry, our Very Fairy Princess, refers to as ‘inner sparkle’?
I’m excited to announce that our new Very Fairy Princess app is now live!
The Very Sparkly Wand feature invites young princes and princesses to choose from three colors and sounds in order to create their own wand and add a little sparkle to anything with just a flick of the iPhone or iPad. With the Sparkly Photo feature, they can add their choice of crown to a photo of themselves taken with the app itself or uploaded from a photo library. Photos can then be emailed, posted on Facebook, or Tweeted for friends and family to see. Of course there’s also information about the books, and a gallery of images and captions taken from the illustrations.
This free app is the first step toward developing a full version that will include stories, games and other activities. Give it a try and let us know your feedback or ideas!
Earlier this week, Julie Andrews--yes, that Julie Andrews--paid a visit to the Amazon Books team (see photo below) and left everyone who met her giddy for the rest of the day. I'm not even being overly dramatic, Andrews' really does have that effect on people--even just going from the car to the Books floor in our building, everyone recognizes her and she leaves people staring, whispering, and smiling in her wake.
Touring for her latest children's book, The Very Fairy Princess: Here Comes the Flower Girl, and on the heels of her first Princess Week festivities, Andrews found time to join us for a cup of tea and was as funny, interesting, and gracious as I suspected she would be. We talked about Broadway shows and children's books, and Andrews' shared stories about playing a practical joke with her friend Carol Burnett and her recent appearance on Steven Colbert.
There was no question in my mind which video to begin with today. I cannot help but think that meeting Quentin Blake must be akin to meeting Roald Dahl. The man is a living legend and this video is a true treasure. Would that every illustrator were half so thorough when discussing the preservation, creation, and process that goes into their art. A very big thank you to Jonathan Cape Graphic Novels for the link.
Mind you, Quentin had some stiff competition for the top video of the day. He only narrowly beat out this Reading Rainbow remix.
I’ve been trying to identify all the books in the video but it is incredibly tough. I can account for Carl Hiaasen’s Flush, Christopher Paul Curtis’s Elijah of Buxton, and what appears to be a Civil Rights book that I can never quite catch the title of. Other spotted books are welcome. Mention them! And thanks to mom for the link. Probably the only time you’ll ever see the New Orleans Bounce on this blog, I’d wager.
Benefit books come out occasionally but rarely do they incorporate Broadway stars. Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project is benefiting breast cancer research. You’ve got big name vocalists singing songs from big name composers with a book illustrated by big name artists (for the most part). Here’s the roster:
” . . . the project’s book component also features a distinctive cover illustration by fabled cartoonist/playwright Jules Feiffer, along with a foreword written by stage and screen legend Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton. Among the award-winning illustrators lending their talents are Selina Alko, Lynne Avril, Paulette Bogan, Beowulf Boritt, Lauren Castillo, R. Gregory Christie, Seymour Chwast, Jane Dyer, Richard Egielski, Daniel Glucksman, Julia Gran, Ying-Hwa Hu, Genevieve LeRoy-Walton, Betsy Lewin, Anna Louizos, Victor Mays, Emily Arnold McCully, Wendell Minor, Barry Moser, Jon J Muth, Sean Qualls, Peter H. Reynolds, Marc Simont, Javaka Steptoe, Melissa Sweet, Cornelius Van Wright, Neil Waldman, Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, Tony Walton, Gary Zamchick, and Paul O. Zelinsky.”
I had no idea Jules Feiffer was a fable. And here I was convinced he was a real person. In any case, impressive list of names! A couple I don’t know but most I do. And here, on a related note, is a glimpse at one of the songs.
Thanks to Rich Michelson for the info.
Speaking of Julie Andrews, I’m sure you’ve all seen Stephen Colbert’s interview with her in conjunction with his own picture book release of
Just in case you needed any more reasons to be convinced why books are great gifts, our friends at the Association of American Publishers have asked some of the most popular and prolific authors to share their reasons why books make great gifts. Enjoy the video below and check out the videos featuring even more authors on YouTube.
Children's books written by celebrities are growing in abundance. The latest books to join this category are The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abdullah and The Very Fairy Princess by Julie Andrews.
Last night, Jon Stewart & The Daily Show writers won the Best Spoken Word Album Grammy Award for Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race. Julie Andrews and her daughter (Emma Walton Hamilton) won the Best Spoken Word Album for Children award for the poetry collection, Julie Andrews’ Collection Of Poems, Songs, And Lullabies.
In the video embedded above, Andrews reads a poem. Andrews also won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In her acceptance speech earlier this month, the actress talked about her work as a children’s author.
When Stewart read at a New York City Barnes & Noble, he explained the book’s premise: “This is the entirety of the human experience. How we got here, what we did while we were here, and obviously, how we’re leaving. We’ll tell you, it’s really quite funny.”
To celebrate twenty years of publishing, Hyperion Books is offering twenty backlist eBook titles for $2.99 from October 10th to October 24th.
The discounted eBooks come from a wide variety of genres such as memoir, thriller, cooking, academic and inspiration. The books include The World According to Mister Rogers by Fred Rogers, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? by George Carlin, Shopgirl by Steve Martin, Home by Julie Andrews and Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox.
Here’s more from the announcement: “Along with our eBook promotion, we’re asking our Twitter followers and Facebook fans to join in. We’ll be Tweeting, with the hashtag #Hyperion20, 1 question everyday for the next 2 weeks, the winner gets 1 free Hyperion/Voice book and everyone who plays gets entered into a pool to win a bundle of 5 Hyperion/Voice books in the genre of their choice! We’re asking our Facebook fans to post a picture of themselves with a Hyperion/Voice book and in return, we’re giving them 1 free Hyperion/Voice book.”
DVD sales continue to tank (while household spending on streaming video services, such as Netflix, and DVD rentals from Kiosks, such as Redbox, continues to rise. Much of this trend is driven by Millennials who are less concerned with owning media... Read the rest of this post
Children’s book Simeon’s Gift , written by Julie Andrews Edwards and Emma Walton Hamilton (her daughter) is being transformed into a play. The book is about Simeon, a minstrel who wants to marry Sorrel, and is convinced that to do so he must create a song so beautiful that she will love him, and to create such a song he must hear new sounds to create his own music. So he sets out on a quest to free the music in his soul.
The story was originally written by Julie Andrews Edwards and her daughter Emma to help Emma as she had to travel back and forth between her divorced parents, and was illustrated by Emma’s father, Tony Walton.
The five-actor musical will premiere in 2009 at Bay Street Theater, Sag Harbor, NY with a recording narrated by Julie Andrews Edwards. You can read more about it here.
This video was made in the Antwerp, Belgium Central Train Station on March 23, 2009. With no warning to the passengers passing through the station, at 8:00 AM., a recording of Julie Andrews singing 'Do, Re, Mi' begins to play on the public address system. As the bemused passengers watch in amazement, some 200 dancers begin to appear from the crowd and station entrances. They created this amazing stunt with just two rehearsals! Turn up the volume & Enjoy!