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It seems to to come round quicker and quicker every year, Yesterday, the nominations for the CILIP Carnegie and the Kate Greenaway medals were released. Due to my being at uni now, I sadly don't have the brilliant booklet my school librarian produced which had all the blurbs of the books recommended, so this post is based upon a)the bits I've heard from social media over the year and b)when I googled the things with interesting titles. But here- a list of the books that I am glad to see on the list, and would totally bump up a reading pile if I ha d time to do any reading for pleasure right now.
Crush by Eve Ainsworth. I've heard people say how well written Ainsworth's characters are in both this and 7 Days, so even with the heavy subject, it should be good.
Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman. Othello in space with a girl as the lead? I've had this on my pile at home for ages, but the concept of this is great and so is Blackman.
Twenty Questions for Gloria by Martyn Bedford. I like thrillers when I read them, I just haven't really read that many. I should though.
What's A Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne. I'm sorry, I haven't read any in this feminist trilogy/series (not sure which...) but so many people say good things about it.
Why I Went Back by James Clammer. Myth and magic and mystery? And maybe a better version of Skellig?
Monsters by Emerald Fennell. The atmosphere of an Enid Blyton story (which I loved when I was little) plus murder? Yep.
The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon. From the blurb, the story of a refugee in a detention centre, and a girl with a notebook of family history, it looks beautiful.
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin. Alternate history and fantasy and a badass main character. Looking forwards to it.
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman. So many people have told me to read Oseman's work. Some day, hopefully.
Unboxed by Non Pratt. Loved Remix and Trouble, hoping for more good things.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Again, loved Between Shades of Grey, and hoping for another book of similar quality.
Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens. Murder Most Unladylike and Arsenic for Tea were just fun reads-mystery, friendship, and a Chinese main character. I should catch up on this series.
And also, the things I have read and think totally deserve to be here!
All Of The Above by Juno Dawson. About finding your identity, and with some pretty good poetry.
George by Alex Gino. A middle-grade story about a transgirl, which just left me feeling happy.
London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning. I read this book about my favourite city in on sitting and it's full of great characters and adventure.
That's not to say the other books are undeserving! There's 114 of them, as well as 93 nominated for the Kate Greenaway award, and I applaud the judges who will read ALL of them. But even more applause goes to all the creators who made the books. Congratulations on the nomination, and good luck!
First, some axioms. Points. Nodes. Notes. (After which, a few fragments.)
From Alfred Nobel's will: "The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: ...one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction..."
Even if every winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature were universally acclaimed as worthy, there would still be more worthy people who had not won the Prize than who had. Thus, the Nobel Prize in Literature will always be disappointing. The history of the Nobel Prize in Literature is a history of constant, repeated disappointment.
The Nobel Prize in Literature's purpose is not to recognize the unrecognized, nor to provide wealth to the unwealthy, nor to celebrate literary translation, nor to bring attention to small publishers. Occasionally, it does one or more of these things, and doing so is good. It would be nice if any or all of those were its purpose. I'm not sure what purpose it does serve except as a sort of Hall of Fame thing, which reminds me of what Tom Waits said at his induction to the Rocknroll Hall of Fame: "Thank you very much. This has been very encouraging."
As with many things, Coetzee probably got it most right: "Why must our mothers be 99 and long in the grave before we can come running home with a prize that will make up for all the trouble we have been to them?"
My personal pick for a Nobel Literature laureate among the writers who seem like plausible candidates — that is, among the small group of writers whose names continue to be mentioned, year after year — is Ngugi wa Thiong'o. Among such American writers, I guess I'd pick Pynchon (not just for the early work — Mason & Dixon is a wonder, and Against the Daycontinues to seem to me to be the best science fiction novel of the 21st century), though I doubt they'd give it to him because he's pretty much guaranteed not to show up for the ceremonies. Among writers never/seldom spoken of for the Prize, I can hardly come up with a list without narrowing it somehow; for instance, U.S. writers I would like to see in contention include Ursula Le Guin and Samuel R. Delany, as well as countless poets, various nonfiction writers, a playwright or two (Wallace Shawn! Suzan-Lori Parks!), and maybe some unclassifiable weirdos. (I certainly feel no excitement for the idea of Philip Roth or Joyce Carol Oates winning, the two Americans typically mentioned.) We live in a very rich time for literature of all sorts, whether popular or elite.
But — brace yourself — hard as it is to believe, my personal desires are irrelevant to the Nobel Prize in Literature. I'm not even Swedish!
Anyway, I'm quite happy with Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize in Literature because I like Bob Dylan's songs. Thus, the Prize as such seems to reflect well on my taste, and I want to defend it because my taste is mine and therefore I like it. If the Prize went, as it sometimes has, to a writer I don't especially care about, or whose work I don't especially like, I would feel annoyed, because isn't the job of prizes to flatter my taste?
I suppose this is how people who have passions for corporate sports teams feel when their favorite corporate sports team wins the corporate sports team tournament.
I adore Dylan and thus I agree with the Nobel Prize Committee. Their referees this year have made good calls, generally, though of course if I were one of the referees this year, the calls would have been even better.
No, I don't think Dylan is a poet in a strict, contemporary sense. He doesn't have to be. It's not the Nobel Prize in Poetry. ("Literature" is always in the making.) Dylan is a songwriter and a performer. Separating his lyrics from performances of those lyrics can be clarifying, but it does violence to the work, leaves out an entire realm of communication. Nonetheless, his lyrics have proved portable, his music malleable, as he himself has often shown in performance (listen to "The Times They Are A-Changin'" on MTV Unpluggedor "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" from Live 1975 for just a couple of the many examples) and countless musicians of various styles have proved (one of my favorites is Chris Smithers' version of "Visions of Johanna"; also, Antony & the Johnsons' "Knockin' on Heaven's Door").
The living U.S. Nobel Laureates in Literature are Toni Morrison and Bob Dylan. Obviously, American literature (what means "American"? what means "literature"?) is far more capacious than any two people, no matter how talented or accomplished, can represent, but nonetheless, look at the idea of American literature embodied in those two figures together: there's a perspective there on history, myth, and experience, on culture and creation. Both are popular artists, despite their obscurities and weirdnesses and highbrow allusions. They draw on and contribute to what can be called, for all such a term's inadequacies, an American vernacular. They are both obsessed, in their own unique ways, with the old, weird America, its slave songs, murder ballads, hymns, blues, and jazz. There is something that feels very right to me about the pairing of their oeuvres, the way their poetries sing stories together.
I don't really care about the Nobel Prize, though. All prizes are awful. I won't defend the Nobel as a prize. Say what you want about it; I don't care. (Unless they give it to me. Then I'd care and I would accept the prize and I would do whatever they wanted me to do, because hey, why not? And the money would be nice.)
I care a lot about Bob Dylan, though — not the man, who I doubt I'd get along with very well, but his work, which awes me. The song "Blind Willie McTell" alone would be enough to assure its writer of a place in the pantheon, and he's written dozens more of equal wonder.
To draw a bit of attention away from the ultimately useless questions of "Is it poetry?" or "Did he deserve to win?", here are some random, fragmentary thoughts on just a few corners of Dylan's body of work:
Everyone who has any liking for Dylan at all likes some Dylans more than others. I don't at all care for the current torchsong-singing Dylan. The last album I really adored was 2003's "Love and Theft", though there are individual songs on the later albums, particularly Tempest, that I enjoy. But there's a looseness to his later work, a tendency to let songs go on and on with the same rhythm, that doesn't do much for me. My favorite period is the 1970s, the period from roughly Self-Portrait through At Budokan, a period I often prefer in bootlegs and alternate versions of individual songs rather than the album versions, but which also includes my single favorite album, Blood on the Tracks. Maybe it's because I was born the same year as Blood on the Tracks, and maybe it's because I grew up listening to Dylan — but I didn't grow up listening to the '70s Dylan, since my father, the Dylan fan in the house, seemed to have given up on Dylan after he went electric. By the time I entered high school, I knew all the words to the first five albums, but had no idea there were later albums. Those later albums would be a revelation, first with Highway 61 Revisited, then Blood on the Tracks. A friend in college had the first official Bootlegs album, and we listened to it like a secret hymnal. (I feel a bit sad that I heard "official bootlegs" before I ever heard the real boots, but the official ones are pretty great, and now that the Basement Tapes have been released, there are only a handful of unofficial tracks I really love.)
Two somewhat unheralded albums are among my favorites: Hard Rain and World Gone Wrong. Hard Rain is punk Dylan — live recordings in bad weather, with all the instruments going out of tune and the musicians furiously trying to get through their set. That album's versions of "Maggie's Farm" and "Stuck Inside of Mobile..." are especially fierce, but it's all great, wild, angry, dissonant. World Gone Wrong is one of a pair of albums (with Good as I Been to You) that brought Dylan back from the brink and rejuvenated him for some of his later masterpieces. Good as I Been to You is good, but World Gone Wrong somehow goes beyond it, and sometimes vies for position as my favorite Dylan album: it's just Dylan and his guitar, singing old songs. Each track is wondrous, a reinvention that is also a summoning.
I love how much of a magpie Dylan is, a thief and a scoundrel, a channeler of all he's ever heard. I said a year ago, and still say: "Dylan's references, allusions, echoes, riffs, cut-ups, and copies expand his work and connect it to networks of meaning." Also: "Dylan is all poses, all artifice, and he always was. He's not, though, a postmodern ironizer; his earnestness is in the earnestness of his artifice. (His art is real for as long as he performs it.)"
Ahh well, enough of this. Go listen to some songs.
This is hard country to stay alive in Blades are everywhere and they're breaking my skin I'm armed to the hilt and I'm struggling hard You won't get out of here unscarred It's a long road, it's a long and narrow way If I can't work up to you, you'll surely have to work down to me someday... —"Narrow Way"
Nominations for the Cybils opened yesterday, so get crackin'! You can nominate for any and all categories, but check what's been nominated already because a book can only be nominated once. So have a few backups ready.
I'll be participating in Round 2 of YA this year. I'm so excited!
The National Book Awards Longlist: Young People's Literature from The New Yorker. Peek: "...a novel in verse about a twelve-year-old soccer nut, an illustrated adventure story that draws on Chinese folklore, a work of nonfiction about a woman who survived the atomic bomb dropped by the U.S. on Nagasaki, a surreal love story involving rumored witches, and a graphic novel about the civil-rights movement co-written by a sitting U.S. congressman."
Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award: "This year’s winner is Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir written by Margarita Engle, published by Atheneum...."
Intellectual Freedom Award from the National Council of Teachers of English. Peek: "NCTE honors Matt de la Peña for his courage in standing up for intellectual freedom with the NCTE National Intellectual Freedom Award, given for de la Peña’s efforts to fight censorship not only through his words but also through his actions."
Willa Award Finalist
Willa Award Winner and Finalists from Women Writing the West. Peek: "Chosen by professional librarians, historians and university affiliated educators, the winning authors and their books will be honored at the 22st Annual WWW Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico on Oct. to Oct. 16..."
Lammy Award from Lambda Literary. Peek: "Exciting news for Alex Gino and all of us who want this beautiful and important story of a transgender child in 4th grade to get into the hands of everyone who needs it."
Parents Choice Book Awards: "Parents' Choice Foundation, established in 1978 as a 501c3, is the nation’s oldest nonprofit guide to quality children’s media and toys."
Finalists Announced for the 2016 Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards"The winners of the English-language awards will be announced at an invitation-only gala event at The Carlu in Toronto on November 17, 2016. The winners of the Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse will be announced at an invitation-only gala event at Le Windsor in Montreal on November 1, 2016. Overall, $135,000 in prize monies will be awarded."
International Latino Award (Chap Book)
2016 International Latino Book Awards: "...now the largest Latino cultural Awards in the USA and with the 257 finalists this year, it has honored the greatness of 2,171 authors and publishers over the past two decades. These books are a great reflection that books by and about Latinos are in high demand. In 2016 Latinos will purchase over $675 million in books in English and Spanish."
Writers' League of Texas Book Award Winners, Finalists and Discovery Prize Winners: "With over 1,200 members statewide and growing, the Writers’ League of Texas is a vibrant community that serves to educate and uplift Texas writers, whatever stage they may be at in their writing careers. In addition, the WLT offers valuable service to communities across the state with free programming in libraries and local schools."
Lee & Low New Visions Award: "Manuscripts should address the needs of children and teens of color by providing stories with which they can identify and relate, and which promote a greater understanding of one another. Themes relating to LGBTQ+ topics or disabilities may also be included." Deadline: Oct. 31.
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It’s August and with the New Voices Award deadline approaching in just seven weeks, participating writers may be starting to feel the heat. No sweat! The New Voices Award blog post series has got you covered from the summer sun of stress.
At this stage, you’ve probably got your cover letter and story written down. You’ve also read July’s post on the importance of voice in a story and made your narrative even more engaging to readers. Congrats! That’s two essential checks on the New Voices To-do list –but don’t seal the envelope just yet! Now that your story is down it’s time to begin the revision process.
Revision is an important part of the writing experience. It’s about revisiting what you’ve written, identifying what needs to be strengthened, and rewriting to improve your story. Every writer’s revision process is different so to provide some guidance we interviewed two New Voices Award Winners, Linda Boyden (The Blue Roses) and Jennifer Torres (Finding the Music/ En pos de la musica), about how their revision processes helped them prepare their stories for the New Voices Award.
What inspired you to write your story? Did you write it specifically for the New Voices Award, or was it something you were working on already?
Linda Boyden: In 1978 my maternal grandfather, Edward Dargis, passed away. I was about to have my last baby and couldn’t attend his funeral 3,000 miles away. Until I went to college, we had lived in the same neighborhood and were very close. He worked at a factory but was happiest in his garden. A few nights after he passed, he came to me in a dream. He stood in a beautiful flower garden, and like Rosalie’s Papa his face was “smooth, not wrinkled.” In the dream he told me to stop grieving because he was happy. From that point on I knew I needed to write this story as a gentle way to broach a tough topic.
Many years later when my husband’s company moved us to Maui, I left teaching and decided to follow my dream of becoming a writer. I enrolled in a community college writing course. The instructor assigned us the task of writing 1,000 words a week so the first draft of The Blue Roses was actually homework! When he returned it he commented, “I wanted to like Rosalie more, but I couldn’t.” That hurt so I put the manuscript away. Months later I rethought and revisited. By the time I learned of Lee & Low’s New Voices Award, the manuscript had been through a few revisions. After winning, it went through a few more with my careful editors, Laura Atkins and Louise May.
Jennifer Torres: Finding the Music was inspired by my own childhood—growing up in a noisy family, being close to my grandparents and their stories, hearing mariachi music playing in the background of weddings, birthday parties and other special celebrations. It was also inspired by stories I covered as a newspaper reporter: one, an obituary for a farm worker who gave free mariachi lessons to neighborhood kids on his time off, and another about the sense of community that grew around the mariachi program at Cesar Chavez High School in Stockton, California. I started working on the book long before I learned about the New Voices Award. After researching publishers, I knew I wanted to submit my manuscript to Lee & Low. I went to the website to learn more about the company and to review submission guidelines—that’s when I discovered the award.
What does your revision process look like? At what point in your writing process do you begin making changes?
LB: I write at a certain time every day. When working on a picture book, I rough it out on paper and revisit the next morning. I revise the previous work then create new. Next day, repeat. When it’s almost “good” I print it, read it aloud, and revise more. I love the process: revision is the heart of writing.
JT: I always catch myself wanting to revise as I go, making changes today on what I wrote yesterday. But I try to resist! It’s too easy for me to get hung up on small details that way. I think I do much better work when I’m revising a finished draft. I can step back with a sense of the story’s full scope. The problems stand out more clearly, and, often, so do the solutions.
How often do you share your works-in-progress with other people? Are you part of a critique group or is there someone specific you rely on for feedback?
LB: I’ve been part of many critique groups over the years. Now, I share with trusted individuals only and generally online. I read most rough drafts aloud to my husband who hears the mistakes. I also share all my picture book manuscripts with one young granddaughter who also has remarkable insights.
JT: I’m not part of a critique group-I think it could be good though! I do have a few friends who I ask to read drafts after I’ve finished a couple of rounds of revision on my own. They’re talented writers—whose styles and voices are nothing like mine—and they give thoughtful and honest feedback. It’s super helpful to me to see my work from someone else’s perspective, especially when the story has been all alone in my head until then.
What is something surprising you learned while preparing your story for publication?
LB: The most surprising part was discovering that authors and illustrators seldom meet, or even have contact. My Lee & Low editors had no problem with illustrator, Amy Cordova, and me communicating. Not only did this collaboration strengthen our book, Amy and I have remained friends.
JT: During the publication process, my editor let me know that Finding the Music would be bilingual (It was initially English-only). This meant some extra editing and paring down, but I was really excited about the decision! What was surprising to me, though, was how adding the Spanish text added so much dimension to the book as a whole. I can’t imagine it any other way now, and it’s a good reminder of how the collaborative nature of the process can do so much to enrich storytelling.
How has winning New Voices Award changed the way you write or revise stories?
LB: Winning the first New Voices Award gave me something I lacked as a writer: self-confidence. Though I understood picture books, I had no training in becoming a writer other than the one community college course mentioned above. Winning also gave me the opportunity to learn from the wonderful editorial staff at Lee & Low Books.
JT: Coming from a newspaper background, I already had big appreciation for editing and revising as part of the writing process. But at a newspaper, it happens so fast. Winning the New Voices Award and preparing Finding the Music for publication helped me realize how valuable it can be to step back from a project, and approach it again weeks (or even months) later with fresh eyes and perspective.
The New Visions Award, given annually by our Tu Books imprint, honors a middle grade or young adult novel for young readers by an author of color who has not previously published a novel for that age group. It was established to encourage new talent and to offer authors of color a chance to break into a tough and predominantly white market.
In addition to our New Visions Award Winner and Honor, this year there were three New Visions Award finalists: Alex Brown (Hate Crime), Hilda Burgos (The Castle of Kings), and Elizabeth Stephens (The Rougarou). Below, they share their writing experience, what inspires them, and what they hope readers will take away from their stories. We are thrilled to introduce readers to these talented writers and can’t wait to see how their careers take shape!
Could you tell us about your story?
Elizabeth Stephens:The Rougarou has been a work in progress for several years now. I drafted the first version of this manuscript my freshman year of college, though it has taken on a life of its own since! In particular, my study abroad experience in Paris, France in 2012 helped shape the details of this novel as did later work experience in Geneva, Switzerland. Whenever I reread my own book, it provides me with a sense of nostalgia – a straight shot of Paris. The infusion of Cajun folklore into the story, I adopted only very recently. I am a native French speaker because I grew up in West Africa and knew that I wanted my main character’s roots to be francophone. At the same time, I have been deeply interested in Louisiana culture since I was thirteen years old and first read Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire.
Hilda Burgos: The eleven year-old protagonist of my story, Ana Maria Reyes (Anamay), has a few things in common with me: she has three sisters, her parents are from the Dominican Republic, and she is growing up in the New York City neighborhood of Washington Heights. I first created Anamay about twenty years ago when I drafted a picture book manuscript about a six year-old girl who was nervous about the impending birth of a new sibling. Then I learned about a chapter book contest, and decided that Anamay’s story could be expanded to include the culture shock I experienced when I was ten years old and first visited the Dominican Republic.
Alex Brown: My mother immigrated to the US from the Philippines in the 1980s. She left an entire country behind in order to come here and be a nurse. The US has a long history of recruiting nurses from the Philippines, and from what I can tell, it started after the Spanish-American War, with the Pensionado Act of 1903 (wherein certain Filipino citizens came to the US to study). I took a little bit of what she experienced when she first arrived here, and built upon some of the obstacles she faced (including how incredibly badass she is for raising two kids as a single parent in a new country). I also drew from my own experiences growing up – the discord that happens between my main character and her parents when she chooses not to believe the legitimate folktales they tell her – reflects a lot of my feelings as a kid.
Is there anything in particular you hope readers take away from this story?
ES: I certainly hope that readers enjoy the elements of the story that I had most fun crafting: the romance between Chandelle and Reno, the setting in modern day Paris, and the fantastical elements reminiscent of Southern lore never forgotten.
HB: When I was a child there weren’t many books about kids like me: kids who lived in apartment buildings in a city, who spoke one language at home and another one in school, who had frizzy hair and dark complexions. I always looked for something familiar in the books I read. I hope that readers learn something new and expand their worlds when they read about Anamay, and that this knowledge helps them as they meet new people in their lives. I also hope that readers who share some of Anamay’s experiences find comfort in the familiarity of some of the scenes. Most importantly, I hope that readers enjoy the story and are inspired to read more and more books.
AB: I hope that people will start to think about the impact they can have on others. We live in this society where certain things – stereotypes, prejudices, hatred – are way more insidious than they have any right to be. But, with all of the bad, there’s still the possibility that anyone, anywhere, can stand up for what’s right. I’d also feel quite accomplished if people took a moment to pause and think about all of the obstacles and daily struggles that await anyone who immigrates to America. There’s something to be said about the unquantifiable amount of bravery, hope, and grit that it takes to leave one’s whole world behind, all to start a new life in an unfamiliar (and, at times, unfriendly) place.
Is there anything about your writing experience that you’d like to share?
ES: I wrote my first book at the age of eleven. It was a science fiction saga about a young girl picked up by a ragtag group of bandits and transported to other worlds. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of publishing several short works of horror in a number of online magazines and last year, I published my first fiction novel.
HB: I fell in love with language and literature when I first learned how to read. A well-written book is a work of art. In college I majored in French and Spanish literatures, and I also took English literature and creative writing classes. I wrote stories for pleasure during college and law school, and I took my first class on writing for children after law school. I draw ideas from my life experiences and observations, from stories that I have heard, and from historical accounts and current events.
AB: When I first started to seriously consider writing, I was a co-winner of the Windy City Chapter of the Romance Writers of America’s Four Seasons YA award. A few months after that, I was one of the inaugural winners of SCBWI’s Emerging Voices award. The manuscript that received these cool distinctions was my second, and since then I’ve gone on to write several more, and have quite a few other ideas for new books!
Last year, books by authors of color comprisedless than eleven percentof the total number of books published for young readers, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The annual New Visions Award is a step toward the day when all young readers can see themselves in books.
The New Visions Award is open for submissions through October 31, 2016! Please see the full submissions guidelines here.
If you’d like more news regarding the New Visions Award, author interviews, and more, sign up for our newsletter here.
By Eva Rinaldi – http://www.flickr.com/photos/evarinaldiphotography/14413533001/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33412380 In an email about Comic-Con HQ’s activities at this year’s SDCC, this little nugget was revealed: John Barrowman will be hosting the Eisner Awards. Barrowman is of course a much loved cult fan figure, currently starring on Arrow, who previously made a splash at whe Eisners […]
The 2016 Harvey nominations have just been announced, and as in past years, Valiant was the overwhelming favorite of the voting block with some 50 nominations out of some 142 total, including all but one nominees in five categories. Despite appearances, nominees are not voted on by Valiant fans, but rather industry professionals via an […]
May 2016 signified the opening of Lee & Low Book’s seventeenth annual New Voices Award contest! To kick off the season, we interviewed New Voices Award winner Sylvia Liu about her writing process and how she prepared her winning story, A Morning with Grandpa, for the New Voices Award. Learn more about our New Voices Award here.
What inspired you to write A Morning with Grandpa? Did you write it specifically for New Voices, or was it something you were working on already?
I was inspired by my dad, who was doing qi gong (a mind-body practice involving moving “qi,” or energy, around one’s body through breathing techniques), while we were vacationing together. He taught my daughters his breathing techniques, and that inspired the story of a grandfather teaching his granddaughter both qi gong and tai chi.
I wrote the draft as part of a year-long challenge, 12×12, where the goal is to write 12 picture book drafts in 12 months. After I wrote this story, I realized it was a great fit for the New Voices contest.
What did you do to prepare your manuscript for submitting to the New Voices Award?
My critique group gave me excellent feedback that improved my story. I also got invaluable feedback from an agent as part of a critique that came with a Writer’s Digest course.
While writing your story did you encounter writer’s block? What did you do to overcome it?
This was one of the few stories I’ve written where I didn’t experience writer’s block. The initial story came to me very quickly, though it was different than the final form. The first draft was told mainly in dialogue, and one of my critique mates encouraged me to incorporate more lyrical language.
A Morning with Grandpa is a story about trying new things. When was a time you tried something new and how did it turn out?
About seven years ago, some friends and I took a women’s surf camp. It was so much fun that we kept going back for several years. At some point, I realized that surfing was not my sport, but my friends and I still occasionally get our boards and go out into the water. Last summer, our beach had several shark sightings so I stayed out of the water for the most part.
Who were some of your favorite writers growing up? Are there any books or writers that inspire you now?
Growing up, I loved reading science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, and thrillers. My favorite series as a child was Lloyd Alexander’s Book of Three series. In my teens, I inhaled the entire oeuvres of Agatha Christie, Robert Ludlum, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, and Stephen King.
Nowadays, I’m inspired by author-illustrators who tell stories in intriguing and beautiful ways, like Shaun Tan and Gene Luen Yang.
Finally, what advice would you give new writers interested in writing children’s books?
Read as much as you can, both in and outside the genre you are writing in, and read recently published books. As the head of my daughters’ school recently said, good readers make good writers; great readers make great writers. And knowing what is being published today will help you gauge where you are on your writing journey.
Take the time to learn the craft of writing, connect with other authors, and have fun.
Sylvia Liu was inspired to write this story by the playful and loving relationship between her children and their Gong Gong. Before devoting herself to writing and illustrating children’s books, she worked as an environmental lawyer at the US Department of Justice and the nonprofit group Oceana. She lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with her husband and their two daughters. This is Sylvia’s debut picture book.
I was chuffed to get a call from journalist Tom Tivnan, that The Bookseller had put me up for their Rising Stars gallery, for my work on the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign. It's nice to be recognised, but even better, it's great to see The Bookseller championing a campaign that was initially critical of them. They took the criticism in a thoughtful, professional way, made changes to the way they credited illustrators, and they're now real champions of the cause. Thank you, Tom, Fiona Noble, Philip Jones, Charlotte Eyre, Sarah Shaffi, Natasha Onwuemezi, Kiera O'Brien, FutureBook's Porter Anderson and everyone who have been working hard to credit illustrators and encouraging other people to do so, too. We're definitely making progress and seeing more illustrator names on front book covers and illustrators mentions in the media (including in The Bookseller).
While I don't think it's really a one-person campaign - it takes lots of people to make a difference - The Bookseller are leading the way and I'm very grateful to them for that. Article by Tom Tivnan ('cos #JournalismMeanBusiness):
I've highlighted the bits I think are the most important, and I can only do this campaigning because of the support I've had from my co-author Philip Reeve, Liz Cross and our publisher OUP, my agent Jodie Hodges, Joy Court of the Carnegie-Greenaway committee, the Society of Authors (Nicola Solomon, Niall Slater, Jo McCrum), Andre Breedt and the data team at Nielsen, Kellie Barnfield and Helen Graham at Little Brown for their help with data, Kate Wilson for starting up the Illustrator Salons, and all the writers, illustrators, bloggers, reviewers, booksellers and people in publishing who have been looking out to see illustrators credited properly and professionally.
A lot of illustrators are still frightened of looking like 'trouble' to speak out, but from what they say to me in private, I know your help will be hugely appreciated. Working as a freelance illustrator is a scary job, especially if you don't have a working partner or family who can look after you when your pay is uneven. I've been lucky that my partner works and it's given me some more freedom to trying to make the profession a bit more accessible to single people and people from poorer backgrounds. #PicturesMeanBusiness won't solve all the problems facing illustrators, but we need to fix the industry one step at a time: if illustrators don't have to lose brand-name recognition and the resulting loss of business because the industry, media and society at large are crediting them properly, we can focus our energies elsewhere, trying to make a living and making better books. And publishers will win in so many ways, including better searchability for their books in metadata, being able to grow their illustrators as brands that people want to search out and buy, and by gaining illustrator loyalty.