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1. KidLit Events Sept. 2-9

Fall events are off and rolling! Here’s what’s going on this week:

September 6, Saturday, 2:00 PMTHE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS by Skylar Dorset
Blue Willow Bookshop
Skylar Dorset, YA Author

Debut author Skylar Dorset will discuss and sign her novel for young adults, THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS. In Selkie’s family, you don’t celebrate birthdays. You don’t talk about birthdays. And you never, ever reveal your birth date. Until now. The instant Selkie blurts out the truth to Ben in the middle of Boston Common, her whole world shatters.

Because her life has been nothing but a lie—an elaborate enchantment meant to conceal the truth: Selkie is a half-faerie princess. And her mother wants her dead.

September 8, Monday, 7:00 PMARMY CAMELS: TEXAS SHIPS OF THE DESERT by Doris Fisher
Tracy Gee Community Center
SCBWI Houston
Doris Fisher, Children’s Author

Doris Fisher, won the Crystal Kite Award for the Texas/Oklahoma Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators region this year for her book, ARMY CAMELS, TEXAS SHIPS OF THE DESERT. Doris will talk a little about her writing journey, so don’t miss hearing her story. Also, local writers who attended the National SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles this month will share what they learned from the many breakout sessions and keynotes.

September 9, Tuesday, 6:00 P.M.A LITTLE SOMETHING DIFFERENT by Sandy Hall
Katy Budget Books
Sandy Hall, YA Author

Teen librarian Sandy Hall signs her debut YA romance novel, A LITTLE SOMETHING DIFFERENT, which was selected as the first novel to be published by Swoon Reads, a crowd-sourced teen romance imprint. This sweet romance between two college students is told from 14 different viewpoints. The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together.

Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out. But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it.

Please remember to check the website of the sponsoring bookstore or organization for the most up-to-date information on these events.

 

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2. Part 4 – SCBWI and Getting Lost in the Woods

picture of Bob Ostrom at Umstead State Park Vanessa, Deb and I have come up with an amazing handout we will be presenting to all the illustrators who join us at the SCBWI fall conference in Charlotte. This thing has turned into quite a large project. It’s basically a guide to running your own art business. Working with Deb and Vanessa has been so much fun. I always look forward to our Wednesday meetings. Since we’re almost at crunch time this weekend was dedicated to getting the layout together. I’ve been capitalizing on all my mad InDesign skills to come up with a rocking layout for you guys. Can’t wait to share it with you.

Saturday as I was working on the design I came to a section where we focus on health, handling stress and taking care of yourself. Part of staying healthy means not spending marathon sessions at the desk without a break or exercise. That’s when I realized I had been sitting at my desk for a marathon InDesign session. I decided I should take my own advice and get outside for a run to enjoy the beautiful afternoon.

My favorite kind of running is on a trail in the woods where I can be alone and decompress. There are some great trails near my house at a huge park called Umstead. These trails go for miles. I planned to run for about a half hour…easy-peasy in and out then back to work. I love is to run trails I haven’t run before so I picked a new one that I hadn’t tried yet. I’ve only run at Umstead a handful of times so most of the trails are new to me. This one was amazing and started out by following a deep wide stream. Umstead is quickly becoming a favorite place to run.

illustration of cartoon alligator by Bob Ostrom

Work in progress for the SCBWI fall conference.

Anyway to make a long story short I got a little turned around as I made my way along some very long unfamiliar paths. Not knowing exactly where I was I ended up running pretty deep into the woods and spending much more time there than I had intended. MUCH more time. In fact let’s just put it thus way if I had been in there any longer, I probably would have made the evening news as one of those, old guy lost in the woods search and rescue stories. It was a humbling experience but yes, I made it out alive and am all the better for it. By my best estimate I probably ended up running for about 3 or 4 miles and then walking around 63 miles. You would think I’d be discouraged but honestly I can’t wait to go back and run it again. Well, not the exact same trail but this time however I think I’ll print out a map before I go… and maybe pack a flare gun just in case.

Here is a little piece I’ve been working on to help promote Bob Ostrom Studio at the event. Once this campaign is complete I’ll post it here on the site for those of you who aren’t able to attend this year.

The post Part 4 – SCBWI and Getting Lost in the Woods appeared first on Bob Ostrom Studio - 919-809-6178.

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3. ZAC the YAK at SCBWI at CBCA BIG BOOK DAY OUT

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAZac the YAK from  Room to Read romps in for CBCA’s BIG BOOK DAY OUT with so many wonderful authors, illustrators, storytelling, SCBWI, jumping castle, barbecue and more … what a brilliant day!

The SCBWI stand was buzzing with Ben Johnston’s hands-on workshop Engibear Series

Margaret Roc’s BIG JELLYBEAN competition.

Lesley Gibbs launch to the very scary very funny picture book SCARY NIGHT.

The hilarious Mike Lefroy entertaining kids with talented illustrator Liz Anelli – HOWZAT!

Wilderness Fairies flapping through the Fair – Jodie Wells-Slowgrove!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOliver Phommavanh at BIG BOOK DAY OUTSOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAue Whiting’s Firefighters with kids in firemen raincoats!  Kids loved it.

Marjorie Crosby-Fairall’s workshop with The Croc and The Platypus – so creative!

Wendy Blaxland brilliant play about Blaxland’s Crossing” …. and much more … authors  Sandy Fussell, Deborah Abela, Kate Forsyth, Belinda Murrell, Oliver

Ben Johnston ENGIBEARS at BIG BOOK DAY OUTPhommavanh ….. a feast of creators.

Even more fun with the CBCA Newcastle and Sydney West regions with Jennifer Trad Reid and Katrina McKelvey.

What a day!

 

The post ZAC the YAK at SCBWI at CBCA BIG BOOK DAY OUT appeared first on Susanne Gervay's Blog.

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4. An Interview with Author Marlena Zapf: Part I

Earlier this month I attended the annual summer conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), where I   so enjoyed hearing a variety of publication success stories, especially those of debut picture book authors and illustrators like Pat Zietlow Millerand Aaron BeckerToday another debut picture book author   -- Marlena Zapf -- is joining us to tell us about her own unique journey to publication. Marlena's book Underpants Dance, with exuberant illustrations by Lynne Avril, was published by Dial in April of this year. It is the story of Lily McBloom, who loves her brand-new underpants so much that she makes up a special dance to show them off. As it turns outs, she loves her underpants so much that she even takes her fancy new dance on the road -- with both hilarious and heartwarming consequences.

Congratulations on your picture book debut! Can you tell us a little bit about how Underpants Dance came to be?

Of course! When I wrote Underpants Dance and chose not to include an ending in which the protagonist “learns her lesson” in the traditional way, I knew not every editor would be jumping to publish it. So what did I do? Research  -- just like SCBWI and every children’s book editor will tell you to do. And it paid off.

Here is what I did. I found out that Steve Meltzer was the Dutton editor for Walter the Farting Dog, and I figured if he likes farting dogs he might be okay with underpants, too. So I followed Dutton’s submission guidelines and sent him a query. He sent back a note asking me to email the manuscript, which I did. Then I waited…almost a whole year. Now, I’ve worked in publishing and know how busy things get. I had a good hunch that the email with my manuscript was lost for good. I also knew that Steve probably had an assistant who read all his mail. So I decided to send a hard copy with a letter politely explaining the situation. Lo and behold, the assistant did find my manuscript, and after some further editorial gymnastics, I ended up with editor Liz Waniewski at Dial and a book contract with my name on it.

Wow. That’s a great story of research and persistence paying off! If we go back in time a little further, what initially inspired you to write Underpants Dance?

I used to be a reading editor at a big school publisher. One thing you need to understand about school publishers is that they put lots of money into developing textbooks that they hope to sell all across the country. And because they need to appeal to a broad market in order to make their sales and not go bankrupt, they can’t offend anybody. So, if a state such as, oh, Texas for instance, declares it won’t acquire any textbooks that include stories about children who defy authority, well then a publisher sure as heck isn’t going to include that kind of story in its program. (Never mind that LOTS can be learned and enjoyed from stories about protagonists who misbehave and make mistakes. Luckily we have awesome librarians to direct kids to those books.) This corporate culture of self-censorship ran counter to my often contrary, somewhat rebellious, nature. And that is where the story of my story begins...


As it happened, I was in this big important publishing meeting where experts were discussing the kinds of stories we should commission. I recall something about well-behaved children who always wear their bicycle helmets and gleefully eat peas…no kidding. Two thoughts went through my mind:

1. What if a REAL child walked into this room right now? These people wouldn’t know what to do with her (especially if she were my cousin’s three-year-old daughter, who was going through her eschewing-any-and-all-clothing phase).

2. What if I jumped up onto the conference table right now and danced in my underpants?

But neither of these things happened. What happened was that I quietly nibbled a dried-up lemon danish and nodded politely while a little girl named Lily McBloom wandered into my thoughts. And she started doing everything that the children in the textbook stories weren’t supposed to do. Then, when the meeting was over, I went back to my desk and wrote the story’s first lines.

Way to go for following your heart! What was the most exciting part of the publication process for you after that?

I guess for me it was when Underpants Dance was finally released. The publication of my first book was a LOOOOOOOOONG process. It was delayed a bunch of times. I think it took about a decade from beginning to end. I’m hoping the publication of my next books won’t take quite so long.

Speaking of your next books, do you have any projects in the works that you can tell us about? I hope they will be in print soon, too!

I’ve written more stories about Lily and Lily’s sister Marigold, but my publisher is waiting to see how Underpants Dance sells before committing to something like a series. This is how publishing works now. So, if you like Underpants Dance and want to see more of Lily, please spread the word!

I’m also working on a middle grade fantasy series inspired by a quote from Joseph Campbell: “There are no models in our mythology for an individual woman’s quest.” Actually, I believe that a new mythology is being created right now, in our time, by authors, storytellers, filmmakers, and especially girls and women themselves. That’s a party I can’t help but join.

If you’d like to hear more from Marlena, stay tuned for Part II of our interview. Next week we’ll be chatting about Marlena's background in movement and how she’ll be incorporating it into her author visits for Underpants Dance!

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5. Introducing NONE OF THE ABOVE, a debut novel by my friend, I.W. Gregorio

In November 2009, Ariel Levy, a New Yorker writer, wrote an essay about the runner Caster Semenya ("Either/Or"). She was South African, a world champion, a "natural." She had a body built for speed, a body, Levy tells us, that got some whispers started:

Semenya is breathtakingly butch. Her torso is like the chest plate on a suit of armor. She has a strong jawline, and a build that slides straight from her ribs to her hips. “What I knew is that wherever we go, whenever she made her first appearance, people were somehow gossiping, saying, ‘No, no, she is not a girl,’ ” Phineas Sako said, rubbing the gray stubble on his chin. “ ‘It looks like a boy’—that’s the right words—they used to say, ‘It looks like a boy.’ Some even asked me as a coach, and I would confirm: it’s a girl. At times, she’d get upset. But, eventually, she was just used to such things.” Semenya became accustomed to visiting the bathroom with a member of a competing team so that they could look at her private parts and then get on with the race. “They are doubting me,” she would explain to her coaches, as she headed off the field toward the lavatory.

I remember reading this story front to back the day that issue of The New Yorker arrived. I felt compassion—that's what I felt—for a young athlete who was working hard and running fast and doubted. For a human being who'd had nothing to say about the nature of the body she'd been born with, who was living out the dream she had, who was being dogged and thwarted by questions. Caster Semenya was a runner. She had committed no crime. And yet there was her story—in headlines, in gossip. What were her choices, after all?

Later this year, I.W. Gregorio, a beloved physician, a former student of one of my dearest friends (Karen Rile), a joyous presence at many book launches and festivals, and a leading voice in the We Need Diverse Books initiative that has packed rooms at the BEA and the LA SCBWI, will launch a book called NONE OF THE ABOVE. This YA novel is about a high school runner—a beautiful girl with a boyfriend, a popular teen—who finds herself having this conversation with the physician who has examined her:

-->
"So, Kristin," Dr. Shah said, "In that ultrasound I just did I wasn't able to find your uterus – your womb – at all."
"What do you mean?" I stared at her blankly.
"I want you to think back to all your visits to doctors in the past. Did anyone ever mention anything to you about something called Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, or AIS?"
"No," I said, panic rising. "What is that? It's not some kind of cancer, is it?"
"Oh, no," Dr. Shah said. "It's not anything like that. It's just a...a unique genetic syndrome that causes an intersex state - where a person looks outwardly like a female, but has some of the internal characteristics of a male."
"What do you mean, internal? Like my brain?" My chest tightened. What else could it be?
Dr. Shah's mouth opened, but then she paused, as if she wasn't sure whether she should go on. I was still trying to understand what she'd said, so I focused on her mouth as if that would allow me to understand better. I noticed that her lip-liner was a shade too dark for her lipstick. "Kristin. Miss Lattimer," she said. Why was she being so formal all the sudden?
"I think that you may be..." Dr. Shah stopped again and fingered nervously at the lanyard of her ID badge, and at her awkwardness I felt a sudden surge of sympathy toward her. So I swallowed and put on my listening face, and was smiling when Dr. Shah gathered herself and, on the third try, said what she had to say. 
"Miss Lattimer, I think that you might be what some people call a 'hermaphrodite.'"
What do the words mean? What does the diagnosis tell Kristin about who she really is? How will it change her life, what medical choices does she have, who will love the "who" of her? These are the questions Gregorio sensitively and compellingly addresses as this story unfolds—bit by bit, choice by choice, reckoning by reckoning. It takes a physician of Gregorio's knowledge and skill to tell this story. It takes, as well, a compassionate heart, and Ilene has that in spades. Ilene has not written this story to exploit. She has written it so that others might understand a condition that is more common than we think, a dilemma many young people and their parents face.

We Need More Diverse Books, and None of the Above is one of them. I share my blurb for Gregorio's book here, and wish her greatest success as her story moves into the world.

Like the beloved physician she is, I.W Gregorio brings rare knowledge and acute empathy to the illumination of an anatomical difference—and to the teens who discover, in the nick of time, the saving grace of knowing and being one’s truest self. A book unlike any other.

— Beth Kephart, author of Going Over and Small Damages

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6. Summer Scenes

Although sometimes SUMMER is a time to slow down and take a look at the wonders close by


it can also be a time for new adventures

like listening to animated author BRUCE COVILLE discuss plot at the SCBWI CONFERENCE in LA,




or building the TALLEST tower in the world

or experiencing a brand new TASTE.



Ever since I can remember, SUMMER has been a special time for me--colorful BEGINNINGS...

new PATHS explored... 


new BOOKS read...






and fond FAREWELLS.


I hope YOU have found WONDER and EXCITEMENT this summer, especially in the pages of a SPECIAL BOOK -- or two or ten. 

Here's to more SUNNY DAYS and lots more GREAT SUMMER READS!





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7. Recharging my batteries

In the summertime, I need to rest. I usually like to step away from the computer (and other glowing screens) and use my time to paint, write, catch up with friends, go places and look around. Sit under a really big flower. Do whatever I need to do to recharge my batteries. 

One of the results of my happily splashing about in stories and paints was the image above. Part of an ongoing series, it emerged in the usual ways — cut paper, monoprint and oils ...first the character and the sketchy background:
And a few quick tests for tonal values and color choices:

And then (as it is summer), I left all methodicalness behind and waded in with my arms flailing. Trial and error, intuition, exploration— a great pleasure, but they are things that I sometimes can't afford when the meter's running and the deadline's looming. Of course the result is never guaranteed, but I liked this one so much I made it into postcards:
Just in time, too—I wanted to mail them out and give them to people I see at events. Which brings me to the SCBWI Conference: the other thing I do to recharge my batteries in the summer. I went to my first one out of curiosity a year ago — with unexpected, life-changing results! And ever since then, I've been going every chance I get. Each time I come away exhausted, happy and inspired—seeing old friends and new, questions/answers/feedback swirling around. Learning learning learning! And above all, the workshops and the talks leave me motivated, stimulated, challenged, and encouraged. And apparently incapable of choosing a single adjective. 

My batteries are now recharged — bring it on!!

PS. You can read more about it on this piece from today's Publishers Weekly, and on the SCBWI Blog (don't miss the clip from the gala party — thousands of illustrators and writers poolside, celebrating Tomie de Paola's birthday!)

Happy what's-left-of-summer....

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8. Writers and Illustrators Across the World ~SCBWI LA

Emma Dryden, Susanne Gervay, Ellen Hopkins at SCBWI LA ConferenceLeaders meeting at SCBWI LALove, love, love the amazing, exhilerating community of children’s book writers and illustrators and publishing industry. You have to go to the SCBWI Conference Los Angeles once.

It’s truly about friends across the globe – with our Internationals led by author Kathleen Ahrens in Hong Kong and the Assistant international author Angela Cerrito in Germany …..

get to meet some of your idols like Judy Bloom, NY Times best selling author Ellen Hopkins, amazing illustrator Mo Willems, huge series author Bruce Coville  and so many more … and many agents and publishers.

The best part – the Saturday night PARTY – and yes, everyone sang like the SCBWI Conference in Sydney at The Hughenden.

 

The post Writers and Illustrators Across the World ~SCBWI LA appeared first on Susanne Gervay's Blog.

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9. What Writers Can Learn from Illustrators

By Candy Gourlay Writing novels is an honourable way to make a living, but sometimes you can feel like you're so deep in the cave of your imagination there is no such thing as real life. To stop my brain turning into a cow-pat from spending too much time in the writer's cave, I've been trying to diversify a little bit. Last year, I attended a graphic novel course where I made comics. That was

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10. Review – Once a Creepy Crocodile

Once a Creepy CrocodilePicture books featuring native Australian flora and fauna aren’t new. Picture books including natty little extras like accompanying CDs aren’t exactly ground breaking either. However, picture books told with the kind of original verve and swagger like Once a Creepy Crocodile is will have you and the kids laughing and applauding with fresh wild abandon.

Once a Creepy Crocodile is the debut picture book for Queensland author Peter Taylor, a gifted calligrapher and just as skilful picture book creator. His partnership with illustrator Nina Rycroft Peter Taylorhas produced a corker of a picture book teaming with exuberant Australiana and bouncing rhyme. It is set to the rhyming metre of the well-loved song, Waltzing Matilda and once you recognise this, it is virtually impossible not to read it (aloud) along to the melody.

It all starts one dreamy afternoon by the riverbank, as creepy old Croc approaches baby Brolga with an invitation to join him for afternoon tea. Brolga, being prone to a bit of a party, is very tempted but is repeatedly dissuaded by his bushland buddies who fear Crocodile’s intentions are deceptively malign.

Croc persists with a seduction of scrumptious sweeties and sly smiles. Once again, Brolga’s friends intervene until Spotty Snake slithers in with an offer of his own. Will Brolga ever learn?

Croc eventually hosts his magnificent afternoon tea but you will have to sing your way through this yourself to find out just who survived to enjoy it with him.

Once a Creepy Crocodile is an entertaining Aussie mash-up of The Gruffalo meets the best of billabong bush lore. Taylor’s attention to metre makes each verse a cinch to read even if you are not ‘singing’ the tune, although I prefer the latter. He also gives plenty of airplay to some of the less well-known bush critters including the boo book owl and blossom bat, creating a large but colourful and endearing cast of characters.

Nina Rycroft Nina Rycroft’s full page, smack-in-you-in-the-face illustrations are a pure joy to behold. They trace the insidious attempts of both Creepy Croc and Spotty Snake to lure in naïve Brolga with bright, bold abandon, which younger readers will swoon over. Teabags splish and cupcakes hurtle across placid watercolour backdrops, which feature vivid pops of accentuating colour; the bright green bumps of Croc, the indigo waters of the creek, and Spotty’s deep amethyst coils for example.

Once a Creepy Crocodile is a feast for the eyes and a treat for your soul and above all, plain good old fashioned fun.

Creepy Croc illoI have just returned from the National Conference of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 2014 in Sydney where Peter Taylor launched his new book. Like all fine things, the project was a long labour of love, taking him many moons to perfect. Thankfully, it won’t take you as long to read, but once you do reach the end, you will want to read it again and again and again. A book with sustained readability that sounds good and has lots of Aussie heart. What more could you ask for. Tea anyone?

The Five Mile Press Out now and available here soon!

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11. Exhilerating, Amazing Friendships Across the Kids’ Publishing Industry at Sydney SCBWI

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat a buzz – writers, illustrators, publishers – pitches, publishing panels, brilliant masterclasses, launches, the magnificent illustrator duet with Stephen Axelson and Bruce Whately …

Melina Marchetta’s outstanding keynote about the adaptation of On Jellico Road into a Hollywood feature film – watch out for it …

and wonderful food by Vincent at The Hughenden  …

the dinner dance party with the fabulous Beatnickers of Meredith Costain, James Foley, Scot Chambers and on drums Mark Greenwood – thankyou Wolfie for being a ring in – and the wild singing and hilarity

…. and more and more and more … Sarah Davis and Peter Taylor at SCBWI ConferenceJames Foley and Tracey Hawkins at SCBWI ConferenceCAMERASusanne Gervay at SCBWI Conference SydneyChris Bell, Caz Goodwin, Claire Saxby at Sydney SCBWI ConferenceConnie Hsu. Fances Plumpton, Nerrilee Weir publishing panel SCBWIbest ever SCBWI Australia and new Zealand Conference at The Hughenden!!!!!

The post Exhilerating, Amazing Friendships Across the Kids’ Publishing Industry at Sydney SCBWI appeared first on Susanne Gervay's Blog.

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12. The writing habit

Taking time away from writing is hard sometimes. Getting back into it is even harder.

The year has been a productive one for me. I found that if I log my writing time, I am more encouraged to keep at it each day. Using an Excel sheet, I’ve recorded the number of minutes on a particular writing task, and the same for the next one. At the end of the day, I’ve totaled the time and converted to hours. Each daily count was added and then averaged. For the first half of the year I’ve been spending just a tad over four hours a day on some writing activity. Not all of it was actual writing. Some was fulfilling WIFYR assistant duties or meeting with my critique group or attending a writing presentation. But still, four hours is four hours.

The day after WIFYR, my family whisked me away to Europe. What was I to do about my writing? I was in a groove and was quite enjoying a regular dose of scribbling down words. Plus, I didn’t want to mess up my daily writing average. Yet, with the activities planned, I could tell early on my laptop was not going to get much use. Add to the fact it would be a nuisance to haul around, I chose give myself a break from it altogether.

And that was okay. I missed it, and thought about my works-in-progress, and spent a few minutes in my characters’ heads, but I managed to live without writing.

Now that I’m home, I’ve been surprised at how slow it has been to get back into the swing of things. Blame it on jet lag or whatever, I haven’t been productive. I can’t get motivated to open the laptop and when I do, the story I was so enthused about a few weeks back seems impossible to resume.

Fortunately, the habit is beginning to return. Two SCBWI events this week has helped. The editor at WIFYR gave us ’til the end of July to submit to her. My writer’s group is providing a boot to the backside to help that deadline become a reality. I’m a writer and words insist on being written. 


(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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13. SCBWI Is Here for You

If you're involved in children's writing and/or illustrating in any way (which I assume you are since you're reading this blog), and if you don't already know about SCBWI, let me enlighten you. Because this organization will help you in perfecting your craft, learning about the industry, connecting with colleagues, and avoiding many mistakes that will save you time. 

The world's most unpronounceable acronym stands for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Our international headquarters is based in Los Angeles, and we have regional chapters throughout the world. The region we're in is Utah/southern Idaho. You can learn lots more at the web site scbwi.org and at our region's page on that site. 

Tonight--yes, July 18, 2014--you have a chance to connect in person with others in the organization, including me. We're gathering for the annual summer potluck, which is just a time to socialize, talk shop, and generally have a blast.  Here are all the details:


Hello writers and illustrators in Utah and Southern Idaho!

Writing or illustrating can be a lonely endeavor, so join us this summer for some much-needed social time.  We'll be coming together at the Rice Terrace Pavilion at Liberty Park (600 E. 900 S. in Salt Lake City, Utah) on Friday, July 18th from 6pm-9pm to eat and mingle.

You don't have to be a member of SCBWI to join us for this free event, so bring all your writing or illustrating friends with you. The more the merrier! 

Potluck assignments are as follows:
YA writers: pasta salads, potato salads, deviled eggs
MG writers: fruit, fruit salads, desserts
Picture Book writers: fried chicken, finger sandwiches, other finger foods
Illustrators: green salads, chips and dips
You may want to bring your own lawn chair as well.

SOCIAL NETWORKING AT THE SOCIAL:
Are you still struggling to figure out where to start with your online presence? Bring your smartphones and other wifi-enabled devices and we'll help you get connected. We'll have teachers on hand to walk you through the steps to signing up and using your social networks of choice, as well as offer suggestions on ways to contibute to the online conversation.
THE VIRTUAL PARTY:
Can't make it to the social? This year you can join us virtually! We will be using the hashtags #GoSocial and #SCBWIUtahSouthIdaho for this event, so you can follow the event on twitter, instagram, and other social networks.

We hope to see you at the social (in person or online)!


For a map and directions to the pavilion, please visit our website at http://utahsouthidaho.scbwi.org/events/2014utah-summer-potluck-social/

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14. Tips for SCBWI conference newbies, second-timers, plus a CHALLENGE for the many-timers

Only a couple of weeks until the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles! If you haven't yet registered, you're out of luck....they just announced that the conference is now sold out. However, you can follow along virtually via the #LA14SCBWI hashtag on Twitter as well as the SCBWI conference blog.

If you're a conference newbie who is nervous, I encourage you to browse my SCBWI Conference Newbie comics. I created these when I was a nervous newbie as well! So many people think I'm an extrovert, but I'm actually very much an introvert and was terrified (to the point of sweating palms, pounding heart, hating the idea of having go up and introduce myself over and over) about attending my first regular SCBWI conference back in 2009.

(Edit re: above comic: I did end up meeting Jay at the conference and he was really nice! And he didn't mention his Amazon ranking EVEN ONCE! Heh.)

I've posted advice for first-timers before and will post it again at the end of this piece, but now that I've attended other SCBWI annual conferences (and had my career jumpstarted because of the 2010 SCBWI-LA Conference), here is some additional advice I have for those who have attended more than once:

Don't get offended or disheartened if people you've met before don't remember you.

This is something I've learned from both sides. As a 2nd- and 3rd-timer (and so on), I've sometimes gone up to a person or group I've met and had my confidence deflated when it becomes clear they don't remember me at ALL from the previous year. My inner reactions ranged from embarrassment, humiliation, irritation, frustration and even brief anger ("I guess I'm just NOT IMPORTANT enough for xxx to remember!! Hmph.").

Now heading into my sixth year in a row attending SCBWI-LA, I've learned the following:

- I'm terrible at remembering people unless I've had multiple conversations or interactions with the same person.

- Even then, especially if I'm tired or am in a noisy crowd (remember what I said earlier about being an introvert?) or have met many new people in a row just before, I may still forget having met someone before.

I still accidentally re-introduce myself to people whom I've met before, sometimes whom I've met EARLIER IN THE CONVENTION. I'm always horribly embarrassed when this happens. 

When I approach someone whom I've met before but with whom I don't have constant contact, I usually try saying something that will help remind them of our mutual context, or remind them of having met at xxx. Until I'm sure they actually do remember me, I try very hard NOT to put them on the spot (e.g. I don't say, "So, what did you think of my most recent post?" etc.).

When someone does this to me (subtly or unsubtly :-) setting the context and helping me remember), I immediately feel more at ease with them and am more likely to want to chat with them in the future.

Another tip: if someone DOES remember you, never assume that they're up-to-date on all your exciting news. I've had the occasional person react badly when they realize I'm not aware of their new book ("?? But I posted it all over Facebook!") I never assume anyone reads all my posts or keeps up with all my news. People have busy lives and different priorities.

Something else I've learned: even so-called Big Name authors and illustrators can be insecure. I am faaaar from being a Big Name, but having had a bit more experience at conference-going now, I also realize how some of the Big Name types who seemed standoffish to me actually weren't.

Be gracious, be forgiving and try very hard to assume the best about a person rather than the worst.

And I apologize ahead of time if I don't remember your name or re-introduce myself. :-\

And here some tips for first-timers who feel nervous about attending for the first time, or are normally very shy or introverted and dread the idea of having to meet a lot of new people:

1. Be brave and make the first move. You'd be surprised at how many other attendees feel exactly the same way as you do. Introduce yourself to people you sit beside, stand in line with, notice standing alone.

2. TAKE BUSINESS CARDS. Yes, even if you aren't published yet. We're all going to meet a lot of people over the weekend, and taking away a business card from an encounter or introduction will help the people you meet remember you. If you're an illustrator, take postcards or make sure a sample of illustration style is on your business card.

3. Have realistic expectations. Don't expect to be "discovered" at the conference.

4. In my experience, you're much more likely to meet new people if you're alone. If you're always chatting and hanging out with the same person or people, you're not as approachable. I'm not saying that you SHOULDN'T hang out with people you like, of course! Just keep in mind that as a group, you're probably not going to meet as many new people as someone who is by themselves.

5. If you're on Twitter, write your Twitter handle on your name badge somewhere.

But most of all: TRY TO HAVE FUN. 

***** A CHALLENGE TO THE "MANY-TIMERS" OUT THERE ****

Try to remember what it was like when you attended your very first event, or how insecure you felt in the beginning. Then make it a personal challenge to find at least one lost-looking or nervous conference newbie who is sitting or standing alone. Introduce yourself, chat with them, find out what they're working on, perhaps (if appropriate) offer some advice.

Give good karma and it WILL come back to you.

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15. SCBWI Australia New Zealand ROCK and ROLL!!!!!

SCBWI Cofnerence at The Hughenden 2014LYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARenae Gibson authorKids’s authors and illustrators, publishers and editors rock and rolled at the Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators’ Conference at The Hughenden in Sydney – with the BEATNICKERS – the SCBWI band of James Foley, Mark Greenwood, Meredith Costain, SCBWI Band Scott Chambers, James Foley, meredith Costain, Mark Greenwood and WolfieScott ChambeTracey Hawkins, Deborah Abela, Susanne gervay, Marjorie Crosby-FairallAL CAMERArs and the fabulous ring in on guitar and drums and … Wolfgang!

Best ever -amazing, wild, hilarious, brilliant night of the craziest dancing and partying!

Go kids’ authors and illustrators!!!!!!!

The post SCBWI Australia New Zealand ROCK and ROLL!!!!! appeared first on Susanne Gervay's Blog.

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16. The HOW TO of a MIDDLE-GRADE MASTERPIECE!

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Writing a Middle-grade Masterpiece
Ain't Easy!
Originally posted in The Purple Crayon – on "Musings"
by Margot Finke




Libraries, bookstores, and online shops offer middle-grade novels of all types: inspiring, good, bad, and that iffy area in-between. I am sure every writer starts out with the intention of writing a story that inspires as well as entertains young readers. However, it soon dawns on them that hard work, imagination, and dedication are just small parts of what it takes to write a middle-grade book that inspires and entertains.
Like any other job or career, a potential writer must spend time learning the craft of writing for children — an apprenticeship, if you will. The rules are available for those who take the time to learn them. And once you learn the rules, you can take an occasional deep breath. . . and break them with impunity.
.
Secret Ingredients for a Middle-grade Masterpiece:
Trying to write for the older half of the middle-grade range? To appeal to kids on the cusp of adolescence: with raging hormones and today’s fast pace your main competition? From 10 to 13 years of age is the range I mean. However, kids find their own reading comfort level, so some 10/11 year olds might read YA books, while older teens might still be into middle-grades. It all depends on their maturity and individual reading level.



Here’s a preview of the ingredients you’ll need to dig out of your imagination, and your well-honed craft box, if you plan to whip up a great middle-grade book for those fickle 10-13 year-olds:
  • Tight writing.
  • Active and powerful verbs.
  • A plot that’s cool and fast paced.
  • Characters who are alive with authenticity.
  • Dialogue that is true to the characters.
  • A background rich with possibilities or mystery.
  • Your own unique writing voice.
  • Hints and clues that are woven into the fabric of the plot, and tell of past history and things yet to come.
  • End of chapter HOOKS that keep readers turning the page.
When completed, your middle-grade masterpiece needs to be somewhere between 20,000 and 60,000 words. Yes, I know Jo Rowlings upped the ante with her succession of Harry Potter books, and if your plot and characters have the same appeal as Harry, you too might get away with a larger word count. However, first-time authors might be wise to err on the side of fewer words.

Ingredients — How and Where to Find Them:
  • If it’s been a long time since you sat in Mrs. Learnit’s English class, take a basic English/Writing course. You can do this online, through a nearby night class, or your local college. Writers must have confidence in their basic grammar and punctuation skills.
  • Haunt your local bookstores and library. Read every middle-grade book you can get your hands on. Dissect the plots in these books, and the way authors create their characters. Look at the sentence structure, the way they describe events and places. Make notes. If a book grabs your interest, find out what it is the author does that has that effect on you. Is it their richly crafted characters, their sharp and fast moving plot, or their attention to all those small yet vital details?
  • Write as often as you can. Becoming a published author is not for wimps or hobbyists. Sacrifices are mandatory. If it means getting up before dawn, because that is the only time you have to write — so be it. If it means being bleary-eyed at 2 am so you can finish a chapter — suck it up! If it means living with dust bunnies that make your mother-in-law cluck, and teaching your kids to do their own laundry and room clean up — go for it! Most important is a partner who is sympathetic toward your (weird to his mind) need to write, and his willingness to help out around the house when you are suffering from one of your many writing frenzies. Perfect wife, mother and housekeeper, OR great writer? Both demand masses of time — your choice, mate.
  • If you have no middle-grade children in your family, volunteer at your local middle school. Observe these half-baked creatures in their natural habitat. Body language, peer groups, misfits and lunch room behavior: all this is grist for your writing mill. Moreover, you’ll probably have fun doing it. Make a note of what these kids read for pleasure.
  • Network with others who write for the same age. This means joining online lists where writing and publishing information flows back and forth, and you can have your many beginner questions answered. Join a critique group that has some advanced or published members. Their support and encouragement will often save your sanity. Critiquing the work of others is surprisingly informative, and you will benefit from the feedback you receive on your own writing. Below are three of many great online lists for children’s writers, and links to join.
Whenever possible, go to SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) writing conferences. SCBWI is well worth joining. They offer many advantages to newcomers, and their branches pop up in every state. This is where you meet editors and agents, and hear them speak about today’s world of writing and publishing. Meeting them often leads to you being able to send your manuscript to a specific editor: and with so many publishers today closed to submissions, this is a real plus. Other writers will also be there, keen to network with you, and share their writing experiences.  

The MAGIC of learning MORE will see you through! 


If you don’t have a college degree, or even a high school diploma, don’t worry. Talent, perseverance, and a slice of luck can make up for these so-called deficits. A dedicated and talented writer, determined to learn the craft of writing, and stick with it until they become published, will succeed. Boost your writing confidence with an advanced writing class. This will take you beyond grammar and punctuation, and into the meaty realm of plots, character enrichment, voice and pace. Perfect these skills, and acceptances rates multiply like rabbits. Below are three links — two links for great writing classes, and the other to terrific books on how to write for children.
  • Recommended Writing Class
  • Anastasia Suen — A wonderful writer. If you want to write for children, visit her Intensive
     
Other Websites That Will Boost Your Writing Knowledge:
  A must browse for beginners and experts alike. A veritable treasure
trove of writing information.

  • CBC  (Children's Book Council)
Information about writing, authors, books and publishing.
  • Writer's Market Research publishers. They update information regularly. They have a program where you can track submissions, but it cost to join. Writer's Market also has a free update site. You don't have to subscribe to the magazine to get the updates.
  • Jan Field's Website
     Chock full of writing help, and kidmagwriters.com is a terrific resource for
    those who want to write for magazines. 
  • CWIM (Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market). This hard copy book is the information Bible for publishers, editors, agents, and what they want from
    YOU in the current year
  • LINKEDIN is a place for serious writers.  Lots of writing lists for every genre`. 
Final Note to Prospective Authors:
Keep writing. Keep learning. Keep researching to find the right publisher. Keep sending out those finished manuscripts. Editors do not make house calls!

HAPPY WRITING MATES!





**********************************

Books for Kids - FREE Skype AuthorVisits
Manuscript Critiques


***********************************



 

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17. Masterclass in Lincoln


"Are you Lynne Chapman?" 
I was spied on the platform at Sheffield Station, sharpening my pencils as I waited for the train. I didn't know Beryl, but she recognised me, because she was on her way to my masterclass for SCBWI in Lincoln! Which was lovely: I didn't get to use my newly sharpened pencils, because we chatted all the way there.

I was met at the other end (thanks Alan) and Beryl and I were driven to The Museum of Lincolnshire Life, which looked really interesting. Unfortunately there was not a spare moment to look round, as I had a very full day.

I did a lecture first, about how I became an illustrator and the various other kinds of work I have done before picture books. Everyone laughed in the right places and asked lots of questions afterwards, so I think they enjoyed it.


The rest of the day was more informal. I had rooted out lots of roughs from Baby Can Bounce!, Bears on the Stairs and Swap!, including my very first sketch sheets, where I write my books in a kind of 'half words, half images' kind of way, trying to capture the ideas that pass through my head, before they escape. We laid these out on a big table and I talked people through them. 

I had even found my editor's feedback from Baby Can Bounce!, so we could look at my first roughs, the publisher's comments and my re-roughs together. I thought it was useful for showing the kind of feedback you get. I showed artwork too. Again, lots of discussion and good questions.


After lunch, I talked about my Urban Sketchers work. Again, we gathered around the big table and I took everyone through my sketching kit, demonstrating various tools for them. People were very interested in how I use the watercolour pencils and, as ever, people were fascinated by my Sailor pen.

I took a pile of sketchbooks too, and let people have a good old rummage.


I had a smashing day and met so many lovely people. It makes a real change to talk to grown-ups rather than children. Thanks so much to Addy Farmer at SCBWI for inviting me and to everyone who came, for making it such fun.

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18. SCBWI Southern Breeze Sketch Book Event - Train Museum!!!!

Saturday, a group of illustrators from Georgia gathered at the www.SoutheasternRailwayMuseum.org in Duluth, Georgia. What a great place! There were antique trains, pullman cars, bullet trains, Amtrac cars, you name it. So fun to explore and check out the digs inside. Two birthday parties were being hosted in train cars while we were there and the kids were so excited! They even got to take a real (albeit short) train ride on a real train. It was great to draw, but man, if you've got kids, you really need to check this place out!!!
      Afterwards we went to lunch in historic downtown Norcross (adorable!) at Mojito - an authentic Cuban restaurant with music on the weekends (I have to go back to hear it). The food was FABULOUS and of course I had to have a mojito, which was truly the best I've ever had.
     
Illustrator Michael A. Austin organized the event for us, and did such an amazing job tying in John Rocco's How To Train Your Train and Brian Floca's Locomotive along with fun exercises like, draw a train but don't use any straight lines, or, draw a train feeling anger, euphoria, loneliness. Here are mine. The dude is from a lantern that looked like the head of some sort of underwater sea adventurer to me:


But maybe the photos were better.







I don't know what was more beautiful - the trains still in good shape, or the old rusted out ones:



     Michael has arranged six of these events for us now, and they are such a blast every time. What a treat for our illustrators! Thank you Michael!

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19. Social media for authors: Facebook

I’ve been working with Elissa Cruz, our local SCBWI chapter Assistant Regional Advisor, looking ahead to a potluck social this summer. (It is Friday, July 18 at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, by the way.) As it is a “social,” we were thinking social media and how it impacts writers would be the theme for the evening.

Publishers are more interested in taking on authors who have a strong social media platform with which to help promote their books. It stands to reason that establishing an online presence is something writers would want to do. But how does one go about that?

In the next few weeks, this very question will be examined. Being woefully deficient in this phenomenon, others better qualified to lead such a discussion will be referenced. Of course, your comments and suggestions on the matter are appreciated.

Various internet articles discuss the specific social media sites best to use and the general consensus seems to be Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, Google+, and Linkedin. Facebook is the granddaddy of them all and it would be prudent to ride along its coattails. I was surprised Goodreads came up on several sites as I subscribe to it just for the reading suggestions it makes. One site declare Goodreads and Facebook as mandatory in the writer’s social media inventory. 

Let’s start with Facebook. I’ve had an account for a while but rarely went there. Then people kept telling me my brother is a funny guy on FB. I started checking out his page and yes, he is. Who new? Now I’m lurking there more frequently, occasionally “liking” something or leaving a comment. 

So, what am I supposed to do now, start spouting writerly things on Facebook? Probably only my family would notice and they wouldn’t care. 

Nathan Bransford is a youngster whose blog I follow and has posted twice on the subject. He says it is possible to have multiple pages on FB so you can keep your personal connections separate from your author pages. One of his posts, Facebook for Authors - How to get Started was written in  2011, but is relevant today. Bransford suggests authors create two pages, one an author fan page now and a book page once you have a cover for it. Admittedly, the fan page is presumptuous if one isn’t a celebrity. But, he says, you should create a fan page now even if you aren’t yet a publish author.

Want to set up a fan page now? You can follow his link and he gives directions on how to do that. I just created one and it was fairly simple. Scott Rhoades created on for this Utah Children’s Writes blog. You can access it here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1441614632721608/

I still have few things I’m not sure about. Bransford says  if you want to “promote your book stuff,” you should turn on subscriptions, thus allowing people to subscribe to your public posts. Do I want to do that? Not sure. I went there to edit settings and got stymied by the instructions. Nathan Bransford’s post also has more information on optimizing your page with Like Buttons, something I need to look into.

Nonetheless, I now have an online writing presence. My page is here: https://www.facebook.com/brucethewriter. If more of us create fan pages then share, we could “like” and help build each others’ platforms. 

Happy social media platform building.

And: WIFYR is still accepting participants.


(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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20. The Great Critique

Giving and receiving critiques on your writing is one of the most helpful and necessary parts of the process. I value my critique group beyond any other writing tools I have. They let me know what works and what doesn't, when something I thought was crystal clear is not, and when my characters are acting out of character. They offer encouragement and cheerleading.

Not only has constant critique made me a better writer, it has made me a more professional writer. When I receive notes from agents, editors, and other professionals, I am able to receive the notes with a professional calmness. I don't get defensive. I get revising.

I hope everyone who writes is able to find a group or a few trusted beta readers who can offer valuable critique, but I know that there are quite a few writers in our SCBWI region (Utah and southern Idaho) who may not even know any other writers in their community. Or perhaps they don't know how to get a group started. Or have never critiqued anyone else's work and feel inadequate.


That is why we started a region-wide event called The Great Critique. We give you the opportunity to meet with other children's writers in your area and critique away. On one day, August 9, we all meet throughout the region, helping each other become better writers (and illustrators--they get to participate as well!). During the summer, you'll receive excerpts from manuscripts by the others registered in your area. You'll read them, prepare comments, and then meet in August for live critiquing. And if you don't have a meeting close by, we offer an online location as well. This event is FREE, and we hope you take advantage of it.

In addition, if you wish to have a critique from a publishing house editor or an agent, you can register for that through our web site. And for an extra bonus, you can get a professional query critique.

You'll find all the details on our registration page. So there are no excuses. Sign up NOW. Registration is open until June 15.


by Neysa CM Jensen
your regional advisor for SCBWI
(I live in Boise, Idaho, but don't hold that against me.)

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21. Louise and Liz!

Head on over to Elizabeth O. Dulemba’s blog to hear more about Louise and win a free copy of the book! For those of you who don’t know, Elizabeth O. Dulemba is an author and illustrator of picture books and most recently, a novel! She is Illustrator Coordinator for the Southern Breeze region (AL, GA, FL panhandle) of the SCBWI – the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (for which she established an annual Illustrators’ Day, gallery shows and sketch book events), is a Board Member of the Georgia Center for the Book (for which she helped establish the inaugural “25 Books All Young Georgians Should Read” list), and has been an adjunct professor of beginning and advanced illustration at the University of Georgia. During the summer months, she is Associate Professor of the Picture Book Design class at Hollins University (Roanoke, Virginia) in both the Certificate in Children’s Book Illustration and MFA in Writing and Illustrating Children’s Books programs. 

Check out her latest award-winning book, A Bird on Water Street, along with her wonderful web site (don’t miss coloring page Tuesdays) and blog, on which I am featured today.

Thanks Liz!

Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 1.21.46 PM

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22. The Cover Evolution of OTHERBOUND

It's been awhile since my last Cover evolution post after reading this blog you might forgive me. Usually, I give a couple short phrase about how each stage progressed. This post is a little different. Senior Editor Maggie Lehrman and artist Vince Natale will guide us through the cover evolution of OTHERBOUND by Corinne Duyvis So let's get started.



First things first your need to know a little about the story.


Amara is never alone. Not when she’s protecting the cursed princess she unwillingly serves. Not when they’re fleeing across dunes and islands and seas to stay alive. Not when she’s punished, ordered around, or neglected.

She can’t be alone, because a boy from another world experiences all that alongside her, looking through her eyes.

Nolan longs for a life uninterrupted. Every time he blinks, he’s yanked from his Arizona town into Amara’s mind, a world away, which makes even simple things like hobbies and homework impossible. He’s spent years as a powerless observer of Amara’s life. Amara has no idea . . . until he learns to control her, and they communicate for the first time. Amara is terrified. Then, she’s furious.

All Amara and Nolan want is to be free of each other. But Nolan’s breakthrough has dangerous consequences. Now, they’ll have to work together to survive—and discover the truth about their connection.


So now let's hear from Maggie Lerhman, Senior Editor:

Otherboundis an incredibly original book, unlike anything I’d read before. It has interweaving perspectives, male and female POVs, a “normal” Arizona world and a “fantasy” world of the Dunelands, and characters that cross back and forth between them. The incredibly original can be tough to conceptualize in a book cover, since they tend not to have easy comparisons—and Chad and I found to be true in this case. We wanted to get across the idea of seeing the world through someone else’s eyes, and the general concept that there would be two worlds. But pretty much the rest of the cover was up in the air.

The first few comps that Chad and our designer Sara Corbett came up with tried a photographic/typographic approach. We liked the idea of having one eye open/one eye closed, but these felt a little slick, and they didn’t get across the strangeness and the seriousness of the central concept.


Then Sara and Chad came up with these, which were definitely more mysterious and very striking. Eyes are a natural thing to focus on—Corinne’s original title for the book was Blink. But in the end we felt there was something cold about these. 





Our publisher expressed the problem concisely: These feel like science fiction, and we wanted to get across more of a sense of the magic and the fantastical. 
By this point, we realized we needed to start from scratch… 
but we’d spent a lot of time on what we’d done already, and our Advance Reader Copies were due to the printer. This was a crucial deadline so that booksellers and reviewers could start reading and talking about Corinne’s amazing book in advance of publication. We hate to have to print an ARC with a non-final cover, but sometimes it happens, and in this case, it was unavoidable. But Chad and Sara made an effort to find a typeface that read more “fantasy.”


Some of these felt “fantasy,” but a much more medieval-style fantasy that what Corinne had written. The Dunelands are a gritty, rough-edged world. There’s magic, but it’s an earthy, painful strain of magic, not a gowns-and-potions magic. The gothic feel of that type didn’t fit in with how I had pictured that world. Plus it didn’t hint at Nolan’s real-world environment at all—which is half of the book. We eventually went with this blocky interconnected type, which felt to me as if it had been carved out of stone.


We liked that type for the ARC, but for the final cover, we wanted a more evocative image to go with it. Chad put together this sketch. The idea is from the book: it’s the magical tattoo that servants wear in the Dunelands, with some actual dunegrass below. Something about this didn’t feel right, though. Perhaps it was too mechanical-looking. After all, this is a book that’s very concerned with its protagonists’ bodies—who’s in control, who’s in pain, who gets a say.







( psst, its Chad, At this point in the process I felt a bit lost and tired but not defeated. I wasn't super happy with this direction but it felt right at the time. Mainly because I think it was different than what we had been doing. Which doesn't mean it was the right direction. )

 
So finally Chad suggested we approach an illustrator he’d worked with before (on the absolutely gorgeous Megan Whalen Turner Attolia covers), Vince Natale. 

(CHAD: I had been waiting to work with Vince again and this was the perfect fit for him. It just took me awhile to figure that out. Thankfully the idea of using Vince was conceived.)


 


We had total confidence that Vince could bring the fantasy feel to this cover while also introducing compelling characters. He sent several sketches of composition options, all with that old gothic font we’d toyed with for the ARC. Chad took our favorite composition and combined it with the more blocky interconnected type we liked so much in the ARC and Vince went to final.



 

And now I’ll let Vince take over to discuss some of his process!



These sketches are my effort to work out details of how to handle the imagery at the bottom of the cover art to include in my tight sketch. I needed to show the separate and differing environments each of the protagonists of the book inhabited - one a typical suburban southwestern U.S. neighborhood, and the other a mysterious , magic filled seaside world.
I needed somehow to meld the two together visually, but keep them separate at the same time. I decided that the best way to do this was to draw them on the same plane at similar sizes and commingle some physical elements, and then make the point of them being separate worlds through the use of color.
In the top sketch I felt that there was too much detail in the 'neighborhood' scene, and that the size of the house was too "in your face", and the composition not fluid enough.
In the bottom sketch I felt that I got more of a 'feel' for the environment neighborhood scene -more houses and more obvious mountains in the background and not so much explicit detail. 
The castle, though, I found had gotten a bit fidgety and detailed, and the silhouette didn't really scream 'castle' - it looks like ti could be some kind of medieval village.(which might have worked but that wasn't the plan.) 
So, I combined the castle from the top sketch with the neighborhood from the bottom and that seemed to hit the mark.

In the completed tight sketch these elements were refined and modified slightly; In the final painting, even a little more -but those were really just details, such as grasses in the foreground to balance out the composition.

This is the underpainting - the first step in the painting process of the final artwork. It's a thin layer of paint applied on top of a very detailed line drawing on canvas or primed board.
This helps to loosely establish the basic color and value patterns as a guide for the top layer of paint.
Here you can see the breakdown of three distinct color sections - warm, orange-brown for the Southwestern feel, cool, silvery-grey for a mysterious mood, and both blending to violet towards the top representing the vast space between the two worlds.
This color scheme developed in my head as I was working through all the preliminary sketches so I had a good idea of where I wanted to go with color.Many times I"ll do color sketches for myself when I'm not sure what the best way to handle something is, if it hasn't just "come to me", or if a client requests one. It's hard doing color sketches for clients though, because most times my color sketches are what I call "failures" -a series of color messes that show me what I DON'T want to do. Also, many times they're simply color swatches that I find look good together, not always little mini versions of the final art. For this piece I gave the art director written notes of my intentions, and for this particular project it worked out well.
 

And so at least here’s the final over of Otherbound. For the finished book, we printed the type in spot UV so that it pops from the matte background. We’re very happy with the way it turned out and think it conveys everything we need it to—the points of view, fantasy, characters’ bodies, warmth, roughness, etc. It was a long road but good things are worth waiting for.


http://abramsbooks.com/Books/Otherbound-9781419709289.html

And I do hope you’ll read Otherbound!



Reviews:

Original and compelling; a stunning debut.”
--Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Numerous plot twists drive the story along, and it’s grounded in worldbuilding that creates a believable, authentic setting.  Duyvis makes ingenious use of a fascinating premise.”
--Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Duyvis creates a humdinger of an adventure that contains the agony of loyalty, the allure of magic, and, most gratifyingly, the element of surprise.”
--The Horn Book Magazine






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23. Ninja! and an interview with Arree Chung

Ninja! by Arree Chungby Arree Chung

published June 2014 by Henry Holt and Company, an imprint of Macmillan.

Friends, I’m so excited to have Arree Chung in this corner of the internet today. I met Arree last summer at SCBWI in Los Angeles, and am humbled every time I think about how we share an agent and a friendship. He’s an expert storyteller with a bright, animated style and a fresh perspective. Ninja! is his debut picture book, and it will be far from his last.

First, you should watch this short film. And here’s my confession. Arree sent this to me a number of weeks ago with the caveat that it was unreleased and not to share. Except: it was too awesome not to. So I showed it to my students, because single-digit-aged kids are pretty good at secrets and don’t have Twitter accounts anyway.

They loved it. And I mean L O V E D  I T. Each class, without fail, asked to watch it many, many times in a row. So we did.

Meet Maxwell, and then meet Arree.

breakerWhat has been the most surprising thing about this whole debut picture book thing?

The most surprising thing about the publishing process is how long it takes to actually bring a book to market (1.5 – 2 years).  My background is in games, where companies can publish with the click of a button and make updates via the internet.  The process gives me appreciation for the care that goes into the publishing process.  It also helps to have a great team of people to work with.  Everyone from your agent, publisher, editor and art director in making the book and then there’s publicity, marketing and sales folks that help in getting the book out.1stCoverAn early cover design.Ninja_Revision_Notesrevision notes.

I’m fortunate to have a supportive publisher in Macmillan.  They have a great team of experts.  Each one helps you with a specific aspect of the publishing process.  I’ve learned so much.  I’m so grateful I’ve been in good hands.  I’ve worked hard to hold up my end of the deal and make something special.  With Ninja it was easy, because I loved it so much.

Who are your creative and/or literary heroes?

Oh, so many!

Authors:
Roald Dahl
E.B. White
Jack Gantos
Judy Blume
Jeff Kinney

Illustrators:
Russell Patterson
Chris Ware
Yuko Shimitzo

Author/Illustrators:
Shel Silverstien
Wolf Erlbruch
William Steig
Mo Willems
Peter Brown
Leo Lionni
Maurice Sendak
Ian Falconer
Jon Klassen
David Shannon
Bill Peet
Calef Brown

Comics:
Jim Lee
Scott McFarlane
Jeffrey Brown
Bill Watterson
Jim Davis
Charles Schulz

Animation/Film:
Brad Bird
John Lassetter
Guillermo Del Toro
Chris Sanders
Danny Boyle
Tim Burton
Nick Park (Wallace & Gromit)
Steven Spielberg
Hayao Miyazaki

Can you talk about the similarities and differences in animation and the picture book form?

I love both mediums for different reasons.  Both mediums can transport the reader into new worlds.  I love it when a book or movie captures my imagination and I am completely immersed in a world that has been built.  The world is invented but it feels familiar and the story resonates with honesty.  I hate it when a story is force feeding me a message and it feels like an infomercial or when a story rambles without a focus.  Storytelling is magical when it has both the imagination and heart and speaks to you directly and honestly.  A great story is so exhilarating.  There’s nothing in the world that feels like it.  I love both animation and picture books because they have the ability to create magic.

How they are different?  Well, I think the main difference is that film tends to be a passive experience.  The viewer is in a dream like state that watches the story unfold.  It’s like being suspended in a time capsule and you watch everything that happens.  You take the story in a more subliminal kind of way.NinjaCreepAwaySpread14_15Books on the other hand I think are active experiences.  You as the reader actively interact with the words and pictures.  It’s like your brain is the film projector and is working to play the story.  Because of this, I think books are much more intimate experiences.  You go at your own pace.  You stop, question and wonder.  Sometimes you’re so engaged, you speed all the way through and sometimes you like to read slowly just because.  Readers engage books with their imaginations and a lot of the story is told in-between the words, the page turns and the illustrations whereas films are full experiences that use all the arts of composition, acting, music and visuals to put you in a state of suspension.

Both are magical and I love doing both so much.

Can you give us any behind-the-scenes information on how you created the short film? Did you get to know Maxwell differently in that format?

Yeah!  It was so thrilling to bring Maxwell to life.  I had a pretty good idea of who he is as a character after creating the book but actually seeing him move and casting Taylor Wong as Maxwell brought another whole dimension.

As for production, here’s a quick behind the scenes look of what it took to make the short film.  I plan on doing a much more in-depth look in a separate blog post.

We used 4 software tools: Photoshop, Flash, After Effects and Final Cut Pro.  The process was a highly collaborative effort between folks at MacMillan, myself and David Shovlin, the animator.  It was a ton of work to do but a ton of fun as well.ShortFilm_Process

In all, it took about 5 weeks of work.  David and I worked really hard on it and I’m really proud of what we created in a relatively short period of time.2013-09-09 23:23Where did Ninja! come from?

It’s been my dream to make my own picture books for a long time.  The first conception of Ninja came when I was in art school.  I jotted down “A boy goes creeping around the house dressed as a Ninja and causes trouble.”  That was probably in 2007 or so.

Maxwell_1st_CharacterSketchesNinja_Thumbnails        MaxwellScanNoPencilNinja_earlySketches-1Early Ninja! thumbnails and character sketches.

In 2012, I decided to do the Illustrator Intensive at the SCBWI Summer Conference.  We were given an assignment to submit a story along with a manuscript, thumbnails, character sketches, and a finished illustration.  Up to that point, I had been writing stories for years but was stuck on many of them.  For the workshop we had to write down answers to the following questions:

WHO
WHAT is the dilemma?
WHERE does it take place?
HOW is the problem solved?

This really helped me a lot.  Previous to this, many of my stories didn’t have focus and wandered a lot.  Ninja was a big break through for me as a storyteller and I had lots of people who helped guide me through it.   I’m so thankful for Rubin, my agent, and Kate, my editor.  The more I worked on it, the more the world and character took shape and gained depth.  It was so much fun to make.

Do you remember any art you made as a kid? What was it?!

Yeah, I made a lot of ninja stars and origami.  I was also obsessed with Legos.  I loved to build cruiser space ships and large fortresses armed to the teeth.  Whenever my uncle bought us Legos, we would make the thing we were supposed to make and then tear it apart and then make what we wanted to make.  Making your own thing was much more fun.

I was a huge comic book reader and collector as well.  I bought all of the X-men, Spiderman, Spider-ham, Batman and Spawn comics.  I still buy comics.

I also really love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I used to record all of the episodes.  In fact, I used to press pause on the VCR and trace drawings of the Ninja Turtles by overlaying paper onto the TV.  At school, everyone thought I was the best drawer, but I never told anyone my technique til now!  Eventually I copied so many drawings I could draw it out of memory.  I tried to do the same technique with Transformers but that wasn’t nearly as successful because I didn’t understand perspective as at 12 year old.

And now what’s next for you?Ninja_GhostStoryI’ve got a lot of things I’m working on.  I have lots of Ninja stories to tell with Maxwell. (I’m so excited about all of them!)  One of them involves an old Chinese folktale involving ghosts!

I’m also illustrating two Potty Training books for kids that are hilarious.HowToPeeillustrations from How to Pee

I have lots of picture book stories I’m developing and I’m also writing a middle grade novel titled Ming Lee, All American.  Ming Lee chronicles my experiences growing up as an ABC (American Born Chinese).  It’s deeply personal and is funny in that Louis CK, embarrassing but honest kind of way.  I would describe it as Judy Blume meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Of course, it is its own thing that I am figuring out.  I have a sense of what I want it to be but you never know what it will be until you get there.

Ming_Lee_CoverMingLeeHairCut

breakerA huge thanks to Arree for this peek into the mind of a master craftsman. Be sure to get your hands on Ninja! this week!

ch


Tagged: arree chung, character sketch, design, illustration, lego, ninja!, picture book, rubin pfeffer, scbwi, teenage mutant ninja turtles, thumbnails, typography

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24. Thank you, SCBWI! (and why all aspiring children's book writers and illustrators should join SCBWI)

Earlier today, I posted about the book launches of my good friends Arree Chung (NINJA! from Henry Holt) and Brian Won (HOORAY FOR HAT! from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). And as some of you already know, my very  first chapter book illustration project launches in hardcover today, and the books are by JUDY BLUME (!!!). I posted about the Judy Blume project, including how I became a Judy Blume illustrator.

When the three of us discovered we all had books coming out on June 3rd, we decided to do some joint promotion. I met both Arree and Brian through the SCBWI: Arree through one of David Diaz's Lost Weekends (David is one of my SCBWI Illustration Mentors) and Brian through the SCBWI Illustration Mentorship program. We've since become friends and have exchanged mutual encouragement and advice.

Below: photo from the 2013 SCBWI Summer Conference, when Brian, Arree, Christina Forshay, Kimberly Gee and Jen Betton and I were hanging out in the hotel room. I had met Christina, Kimberly and Jen through the SCBWI Mentorship Program as well. They all kindly agreed to pose for one of my I'M BORED In The Wild photos. :-)

I'm grateful to the SCBWI for so many reasons. You can read the thank you letter I sent to the SCBWI a couple of years ago, and their response.

As I was putting together blog posts about Arree and Brian, I was struck the number of similarities in how we found out way to publication. All three of us found our agents because of the SCBWI or SCBWI connections. All three of us got our first "big break" in getting noticed in the kidlit publishing industry largely because of the SCBWI. And of course all three of us met through the SCBWI and SCBWI connections.

So on behalf of Brian, Arree and myself I'd like to send out a big THANK YOU to the SCBWI

To aspiring children's book writers and illustrators who have never heard of the SCBWI (Society Of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators): I strongly encourage you to check out all that the SCBWI has to offer. Do go over to the SCBWI website RIGHT NOW.

I went over just now to see what was up, and was delighted to find my friend Jessica Lanan is this month's Featured Illustrator! I met Jessica through the SCBWI Illustration Mentorship Program.

And that's another reason I'm so glad I joined the SCBWI and have been attending their events. It gives me so much joy to watch the blossoming careers of children's book writers and/or illustrators I've met and befriended.

If you're nervous about attending your first SCBWI conference, please do read my SCBWI Conference Newbie comics (which I created when I was a nervous SCBWI Conference newbie). 

And I hope to see some of you at the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles this year! 

You can read my posts today about Brian's and Arree's book launches:

Inkygirl Profile: Brian Won and HOORAY FOR HAT! (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Inkygirl Profile: Arree Chung and NINJA! (Henry Holt)

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25. 'Picture This!': Meet Me for a Day of Talks in Lincoln...


I am doing a rare event for adults on Saturday June 14th. If you are free and want to find out more about any aspect of my work, there are still places available.

My talks for adults are thin and far between, and then generally one-off lectures as part of literary festivals, but Picture This! is a very unusual opportunity to hear me talk for much longer and in a broader way, about both my sketching work and my book illustration. 


The event has been set up by the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators, but is open to everyone. 


The plan is to begin by talking through how I got to where I am now, the different kinds of illustration I tried before I found children’s books, as well as how I got my foot in the door with children's publishing. 


I will then be going through the processes involved in creating my picture books, both from the point of view of an author and an illustrator. I will bring plenty of real-life examples of books-in-progress for you to look at, as well as at least a couple of pieces of my pastel artwork. It's so different to see things 'in the flesh'.


After lunch, I'll be sharing my sketchbooks and discussing my work as an Urban Sketchers correspondent.


I'll be talking a little about my educational work with children too and giving advice and practical ideas for any illustrators or authors who want to try doing school visits.

There will be a Q&A after each section, with plenty of opportunities to chat, as the set-up will be intimate and informal, rather than my usual lecture-theatre type of talk.

It is all happening in the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, from 11am - 2.45pm. It costs just £15 (£12 if you are a SCBWI or SoA member). So, given that numbers are limited, you need to get your skates on and get yourself booked in. Email Addy Farmer now, to reserve a place.

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