Thursday, October 20, 2016

Illustrator Jon Burgerman's "20 top character design tips" on Creative Bloq

Illustrators, Authors -- we're all creating characters. For illustrators especially, these 20 Top Character Design Tips might come in handy. (And as a writer, I'll share that some of them sparked inspiration for me as well!)

From "Use Exaggerated Characteristics" to "Add Accessories" to "Give your characters goals and dreams," there's a lot of good stuff here, including this bit:

Often the incompleteness or flaws in a character design are what make it interesting.
Read the full article here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Curtis Sittenfeld shares "24 Things No One Tells You About Book Publishing"

A few of these made me nod my head in agreement - and one even got me to laugh out loud.

Some highlights:

4. There are very different ways people can ask a published writer for the same favor. Polite, succinct, and preemptively letting you off the hook is most effective.

 7. When your book is on best-seller lists, people find you more amusing and respond to your emails faster.

8. When your book isn’t on best-seller lists, your life is calmer and you have more time to write.
Enjoy the full list here.

Thanks, Curtis!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Awards! The SCBWI 2016 Work-In-Progress Grant Winners and the Karen Cushman Late Bloomer Award Winner

SCBWI Grant and Award Logos

Congratulations to...

Work-In-Progress Young Adult Fiction Winner:

The Edge of the Miraculous by Beth Navarro
 While mourning for her father, a bipolar teenager is interrupted in her suicide attempt by a strange boy who happens to be an alien. 

 Work-In-Progress Nonfiction Winner:

Nikola’s Visions: The Extraordinary Life of Nikola Tesla by Cindy Jenson-Elliott
 Follow the life of the visionary scientist Nikola Tesla, as expressed through vibrant poetry. Short poems alternate point-of-view from Tesla to significant people in his life. 

 Work-In-Progress Multicultural Fiction or Nonfiction Winner:

Finding Ma by DoanPhuong Nguyen
 Set during the Vietnam War, eleven-year-old Con endures abandonment, kidnapping, and abuse, before finally finding a loving home. 

 Work-In-Progress Picture Book Text Winner:
 A Father’s Love by Hannah Holt
 A colorful celebration of fathers in the animal kingdom, from penguins to lions to seahorses. 

 Work-In-Progress Middle Grade Fiction Winner:
Ruby in the Sky by Jeanne Zulick-Ferruolo
 A shy young girl befriends the neighborhood eccentric, a mysterious recluse called the Bird Lady. 

Work-In-Progress Chapter Books/Early Fiction Winner:
How To Be a Bad Guy, By Dallas Bottomley by Lauren LeBlanc
 Fed up with his friends’ obsession with superheroes, 8-year-old Dallas decides to become a villain instead. But when he discovers he would rather stand up for the underdog, he must redefine what villainy means to him. 

 Don Freeman Illustration Grant Winners: 
 Published Award: Rongyuan Ma (See Rongyuan’s illustrations:
 Pre-published Award: Alison Farrell  (See Alison’s illustrations:

Karen Cushman Late Bloomer Award Winner:

Stephen Baker: Prayers to Broken Stone
 Fourteen-year-old Milana lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo with her mother studying the wild gorillas in Virunga National Park, but soon Milana must save both her family and the gorillas from an oil company bent on destroying the habitat. 

 This grant was established by Newbery Award winner and Newbery Honor Book recipient Karen Cushman and her husband, Philip Cushman, in conjunction with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Karen published her first children’s book, Catherine Called Birdy, in 1994 (Newbery Honor Book), at the age of fifty-three and has gone on to become one of the field’s most acclaimed novelists. “The writing [in Prayers to Broken Stone] is very good, the setting unusual and intriguing, and there is the promise of a corporate villain we can root against,” said Karen. “I hope someday I get a chance to read the book and find out what happens.”

 The SCBWI will propel the winning manuscripts on the path to publication by exposing their work to hand-selected acquiring editors on a secure website for a period of time. This is an opportunity for the winners to gain exclusive access to some of the most sought after professionals in the business. The winners of the Don Freeman Grant will each receive $1,000 to further their understanding, training, and work in the picture book genre.

Find out more about all the SCBWI grants and award programs here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

SCBWI Book Blast Is Open To The Public!

#SCBWIBookBlast is live for the next six weeks!

The link:

The scoop: Explore new books from independent & traditionally published writers & illustrators with #SCBWIBookBlast

What's extra cool: Visitor incentives! For this week of October 10, post pictures of your favorite Book Blast picture book page on Twitter for a chance to win a $100 gift card, and SCBWI will match that with a donation to We Need Diverse Books!

Have SCBWI friends with books out in 2016? Drop by their book pages and sign their guestbook with a note of encouragement. And hey, you can buy copies, too...

Explore, and help us all spread the word about #SCBWIBookBlast!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Mark Your Calendars! #NY17SCBWI Registration Opens October 25

It sells out every year...

And this year, from February 10-12, 2017, the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City will include keynotes by:

Three-time Caldecott Honor Recipient, illustrator Bryan Collier

New York Times Best-selling author Tahereh Mafi

and New York Times Best-selling author Sara Pennypacker

There will be panels on Children's Books in the Social Media World, Four Types of Picture Books, and The Current Landscape for Children's Books.

There will be breakout sessions with editors, agents and art directors.

There will be a Portfolio Showcase,

and an optional Friday intensive for writers and illustrators who want to dive deep into their craft,

and, of course, the Gala!

The full conference schedule and information will be up on October 21, 2016

We hope you'll join us.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Chris Jackson on why a multicultural imprint matters

61 weeks and counting on the New York Times' best-seller list

From the October 14, 2016 issue of The Hollywood Reporter, Chris Jackson, editor-in-chief and publisher of Random House imprint One World, had these wise words to share:

"Not to overstate it, but I think current events -- from ongoing issues with police violence to the election to terroristic violence -- demonstrate a failure across our journalistic, storytelling and culture-making industries. In so many basic ways we still don't understand each other -- we don't ever really see each other. That's what multicultural storytelling is about. So I think it's more urgent than ever."

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A New Kind Of Censorship: One-Star Bigotry on Goodreads

Have you heard about what's been happening to debut YA author Laura Silverman @LJSilverman1 ? (This Huffington Post article by Claire Fallon, Neo-Nazi Trump Supporters Are Going After YA Books Now is a good catch-up.)

Laura's book, Girl Out Of Water (May 2017, Sourcebooks Fire) isn't out yet. The review copies aren't out yet. But suddenly the book's goodreads account had more than 1,500 ratings of the book. The book that almost NONE OF THEM, unless they were personal friends with the author, could have possibly read.

At first, the pile-on was of haters, and one-star reviews, including one that said she was "literally worse than Hitler." Laura sounded the alarm,

And then many people (including some famous authors) added their supportive 5-star reviews. As of this writing, the book's goodreads page had over 1,750 ratings and 506 reviews. And a 4.77 rating.

The Huffington Post article stated that according to Kathryn Lynch, a publicist at Sourcebooks, "Goodreads was able to remove the troll reviews and ratings by early this week."

Is this the new battleground for censorship? And is the response by a community trying to support an author under attack by adding their own 5-star reviews diluting the whole purpose of a community-based book review site? Is the real culprit the anonymous element, that people can create goodreads accounts not tied to their actual identities, and do so just to attack people like Laura?

I don't profess to have all the answers. But as we observe #BannedBooksWeek and celebrate the freedom to read, it's clear that these questions are something our community needs to engage with.

Illustrate and Write On,

ps - Goodreads did not respond to a request for comment.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How Are You Celebrating The Freedom To Read -- also known as Banned Books Week ?

The official Banned Books Week site is here, and it's packed with great stuff.

Another way I'm honoring the week is by checking out the hashtag #bannedbooksweek on social media, and so much great stuff comes up, like:


Katey Howes ‏@Kateywrites
Every story matters. Fight censorship. Celebrate fREADom. #BannedBooksWeek

 fREADom is really clever - thanks, Katey!

 And this Time Magazine article by Sarah Begley, What the List of Most Banned Books Says About Our Society’s Fears which includes these lines about the shift from banning bad language and sex to banning diversity:
The ALA’s list of the 10 most challenged books in 2015 bears this out: it includes I Am Jazz and Beyond Magenta, about young transgender people; Fun Home and Two Boys Kissing, which deal with homosexuality; Habibi and Nasreen’s Secret School, which feature Muslim characters; and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, which was cited for “atheism.” In contrast, the top 10 most-challenged books of 2001 were more straightforwardly banned for strong language, sexual content and drugs, like The Chocolate War and Go Ask Alice.

The shift seems to be linked to demographic changes in the country—and the political fear-mongering that can accompany those changes, LaRue says. “There’s a sense that a previous majority of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants are kind of moving into a minority, and there’s this lashing out to say, ‘Can we just please make things the way that they used to be?’” LaRue says. “We don’t get many challenges by diverse people,” he adds.
It's an observation echoed in Maggie Jacoby's article Why Diverse Books Are Commonly Banned.

How will you celebrate your freedom to read this week?

Illustrate and Write On!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Paul O. Zelinksy offers some great advice for Illustrators

SCBWI is just bursting with great information to share.

SCBWI Board Member and Illustrator Extraordinaire Paul O. Zelinsky did a skype visit this month with SCBWI Australia East and New Zealand. I don't live in New Zealand. I didn't get to be there. But... notes from the session are online, here: Chapter Two: Climax! The Craft Of Illustration

It's a really interesting recap, and I especially love how Paul describes the feeling he wants his illustrations to convey. Like for his "The Wheels On The Bus"

Paul explained:

 "It’s a jumpy song, bright and happy. The feeling that I wanted visually was not just colourful but also ‘chewy’ like bubblegum. The pictures should be something that you could want to chew on and they’d be sweet when you ate them. The song is bouncy. [So I went with] oil paint with a certain amount of thickness. The act of pushing oil paint across the page felt sort of like the feeling of singing the song."

Here's another highlight:

Q: We have a lot of people who are just starting out in their Illustrator career - what’s pearls of wisdom could you provide?

 Paul notes that this is just from his experience and not the only way.

I would encourage people to not limit your artistic vision to illustration, but think about the whole world of other kinds of art and everything. There are a lot of trends that happen in illustration… and if you look only at children's books then it’s limiting…and that’s just me because I didn’t study illustration.

I go to figure drawing and draw from the figure once a week if I can. Drawing from life is a great thing and is good for training.

In terms of ways that you can make images, I just look at different things. And copy Art. It’s amazing what you can learn if you just start copying it. Writers as an exercise will retype someone else’s story and the act of putting down someone’s words will give you insights. Drawing from life is similar to copying from art. It teaches you to see more things then you would otherwise see.

Great stuff! Thank you Paul, and thank you SCBWI Australia East and New Zealand!

You can find out more about Paul here. And more about SCBWI Australia East and New Zealand here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

To Honor Anna Dewdney, Read To A Child

Llama Llama series writer and illustrator Anna Dewdney died this month, and, in passing, she did something pretty remarkable. As it says in her Publishers Weekly obituary (which was picked up by the Washington Post),

She requested that in lieu of a funeral service that people read to a child instead.

That's a beautiful legacy. Go do it, now.

And after you've read to a young person in your life, take a moment and read this powerful piece Anna wrote a few years ago that was published in the Wall Street Journal, How Books Can Teach Your Child To Care, on how reading builds not just empathy, but human beings.

It includes these lines,

When we read with a child, we are doing so much more than teaching him to read or instilling in her a love of language. We are doing something that I believe is just as powerful, and it is something that we are losing as a culture: by reading with a child, we are teaching that child to be human. When we open a book, and share our voice and imagination with a child, that child learns to see the world through someone else’s eyes. I will go further and say that that child then learns to feel the world more deeply, becoming more aware of himself and others in a way that he simply cannot experience except in our laps, or in our classrooms, or in our reading circles.

Thank you, Anna.

Illustrate and Write, and Read to A Child On,

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A group of men can be 'guys,' but what do you call a group of women?

Ladies? Girls? Gals?

If you've ever been stumped by this (like I have), check out this great piece by Kashmir Hill over at Forbes. She quotes Shawna Hein saying,

“I first started thinking about it when Girl With A Dragon Tattoo came out,” says Hein by phone. “It’s a whole action series where the main character is a bad ass, and yet she’s called a girl. You never see an action hero with boy in his name.”

 It’s hard to imagine Robert Downey Jr. signing up to play “Iron Boy.” 

The piece also includes this extremely useful - and very funny - infographic by Shawna Hein.

Continue to choose your words carefully!

Illustrate and Write On,