Thursday, October 19, 2017

An excellent article by Mikki Kendall on writing "the Other"



From Mikki Kendall's blog, this article "Diversity, Political Correctness and the Power of Language"

"...a huge part of the problem is the assumption that the Other does not read. Does not consume art. Does not have a right to a voice in how they are represented. Because your bigoted depiction of them is a key component of the kind of gatekeeping that locks marginalized communities out."
and
"There’s this weird myth that bigotry only looks like physical violence, and yes that’s awful, but deep down the physical violence is only a symptom. Bigotry, real harmful sustained across generations bigotry is much more covert. It lends itself to creating fictional characters that paint Black people as violent thugs, it lends itself to Black motherhood being depicted as loveless, it lends itself to trans characters that are villains, to killing lesbians off for loving, to disability as a burden on families, to a million and one seemingly individual stories that paint a comprehensive picture of anyone who is not cis, white, straight, and able bodied as unworthy of existence, much less of equality."

and

Writers have the power to create brand new worlds, so we should always stop and ask ourselves why we are so hung on replicating everything wrong in the old one?

Read the whole piece. It's well worth it.

And while you're at it, read the brilliant "Fiction, Research, Reality, More Research" by Mikki, as well. It has this gem:

"Literally do some research, ask yourself why you think the past or future was white, cis, straight, able bodied, and slim. The past wasn’t that way, the present isn’t that way and despite the best work of bigots, the future is browner, rounder, and more complicated than anything you’ve been trained to expect."


Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Diversity Awards and Grants for authors and illustrators



Do you know all 13 of these?

SCBWI Diversity Awards and Grants – Emerging Voices Award and Multi Cultural Work in Progress Award.
ALA Awards: Coretta Scott King Book Awards recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults.
Schneider Family Book Awards for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience.
Pura Belpré Awards honoring a Latino illustrator whose children's books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience.
Stonewall Book Award – Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award given annually to English-language works of exceptional merit for children or teens relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience.
 Asian Pacific Library Association: Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature honors and recognizes individual work about Asian/Pacific Americans and their heritage, based on literary and artistic merit.
American Indian Library Award: The American Indian Youth Literature Awards: presented every two years. The awards were established as a way to identify and honor the very best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians. Books selected to receive the award will present American Indians in the fullness of their humanity in the present and past contexts. 
Texas State University College of Education: Tomás Rivera Book Award:  to honor authors and illustrators who create literature that depicts the Mexican American experience. 
Association of Jewish Libraries: Sydney Taylor Book Awards given to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience. 
University of Wisconsin Madison: South Asia Book Awards: recognizes the year’s best among children’s and young adult literature that portray South Asia or South Asians living abroad.
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee; Américas Book Awards: honoring books that authentically and engagingly portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States. 
The Jane Addams Peace Association: The Jane Addams Children's Book Awards are given annually to the children's books that effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence. 
Scholastic Asia and National Book Council of Singapore:  The Scholastic Asian Book Award (SABA) SABA recognizes children’s writers of Asian origin who are taking the experiences of life, spirit, and thinking in different parts of Asia to the world at large.


Find out more at the SCBWI website Diversity Resources page here.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert's "BIG MAGIC: Creative Living Beyond Fear"



Just started reading Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I had to share what's at the end of chapter one:
"But I will never forget what the real Jack Gilbert told somebody else––an actual flesh-and-blood person, a shy University of Tennessee student. This young woman recounted to me that one afternoon, after his poetry class, Jack had taken her aside. He complimented her work, then asked what she wanted to do with her life. Hesitantly, she admitted that perhaps she wanted to be a writer.

He smiled at the girl with infinite compassion and asked, "Do you have the courage? Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes."

Thank you, Elizabeth. And thank you Jack, for those words.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Racism, Growth of an Author/Illustrator, and Context: A Museum and Children's Book Creators Grapple with the "right" thing to do

So the Dr. Seuss museum had a mural painted on a main museum wall, illustrations from Dr. Seuss' first book, "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.." (Mulberry street is only blocks from the museum's Springfield, Massachusetts location.) These illustrations included what today is understood to be a racist stereotype of a Chinese man.

Three children's book creators, Lisa Yee, Mike Curato, and Mo Willems were invited to a festival at the museum. They pulled out to protest the museum's lack of context for the mural, protesting the idea that the image would be seen by children and not interpreted in the scope of Dr. Seuss' evolution as an artist and a human being.

The festival was cancelled and the mural will be "replaced."

It's been reported in multiple sources, but I'd suggest you read the very well-considered post about this at Grace Lin's blog here.


It's interesting to consider both our power as children's book creators and how people (and even institutions) can evolve over time and go from buying into racial stereotypes to promoting tolerance, acceptance, and even celebrating differences.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Continuity of Subject: A Portfolio Checklist from Rosanne Kakos-Main courtesy of Harold Underdown's

Getting out of the Art File over at Harold Underdown's The Purple Crayon website has lots of great advice for illustrators.

Harold's amazing resource, Writing, Illustrating, and Publishing Children's Books: The Purple Crayon website


What struck me most was the list of tips from designer Rosanne Kakos-Main for illustrators to consider when putting together their portfolios, that included:

Continuity of Subject: Can you illustrate the same subject from different points of view, in different situations, showing different feelings?
It's a point well-worth considering, because it can prove to an editor and art director that you're ready to handle a project where we visually follow the same character in different circumstances.

Read the full article here.

Thanks, Rosanne and Harold!

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

#PubForPR! An Auction to Aid Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief

A very worthy cause!



The Publishing for Puerto Rico auction starts Monday, October 2nd at 9 AM Eastern and ends Thursday, October 5th at 10 PM Eastern.

Find out more (and get bidding) at http://pubforpr.wordpress.com

And as Lily Meade explains in the video above, if you can't contribute money, know you can still help by amplifying the message!

Here's to doing good, and moving our career journeys forward at the same time!


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Melissa Stewart's Nonfiction resource on the four year journey to writing her picture book, "Can an Aardvark Bark?"

Created for teachers, but with lots of value for all of us who write picture books, Melissa Stewart's timeline of her creative process for "Can an Aardvark BARK? is packed with information,


videos,


and insights.



It's well worth exploring, and then considering the elements that might help you with your own creative process.

Can an Aardvark BARK? Maybe not, but Melissa's process can certainly inspire!



Illustrate and Write On,
Lee


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Zareen Jaffery On The Latest Episode of the SCBWI Podcast



Zareen Jaffery wears two hats as an editor at Simon & Schuster - she focuses on commercial and literary young adult and middle grade fiction and teen nonfiction, and she also acquires picture books through young adult for Salaam Reads, an imprint that focuses on publishing books about Muslim children and families.

In this in-depth, behind-the-scenes interview with Theo Baker, Zareen shares about the challenges of being an editor, her thoughts on world-building and character, the drive behind Salaam Reads, and much, much more.

Listen to the episode trailer here.

And SCBWI members can hear the full pocast here (log in first!)


Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Wrong Hands "Horror Movie Plot Generator" -- or, a useful list of clichés to avoid for everyone creating scary stories

This is brilliant! (And next month there is a pre-Halloween Friday the 13th - maybe you'll be inspired!)



Cheers to John Atkinson for the Chartoon fun!

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Crystal Kite Interviews: Health Lang's FEARLESS FLYER: RUTH LAW AND HER FLYING MACHINE wins in the New England Division (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island)



The Crystal Kite-winning Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine, written by Heather Lang, illustrated by Raúl Colón 

Lee: Please tell us about your Crystal-Kite winning book!

Heather: Every book I write is a new adventure, and this one was packed with exciting discoveries and personal growth. FEARLESS FLYER: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine tells the true story of a daring early aviator, who made up her mind to fly nonstop from Chicago to New York City in 1916. No one had done it in before. Aviation experts thought the flight was doomed, but that didn’t stop Ruth Law!

I am a fearFUL flyer, so friends were surprised to hear I was writing a book about an early aviator. Actually, exploring my own fears has been the spark for several of my books. When I read about Ruth Law, I couldn’t imagine the courage it took to navigate from an open cockpit in a flimsy flying machine made from bamboo and cloth. And what about the huge obstacles Ruth faced as a woman? Her persistence was remarkable. I especially admired how she immersed herself in her passion, becoming a mechanic and learning every nut and bolt on her machine.

Early on in my research, I read that Ruth kept a scrapbook. I tracked down the enormous book at the National Air and Space Museum archives. It was a gold mine, filled with hundreds of articles, ribbons, photos, and Ruth’s own handwritten notes. With so much material I could really focus the book and bring readers along on Ruth’s thrilling flight.

When it came time to do my experiential research for this book, I knew I needed to dig deep and find my own courage. What was it like to fly in an open cockpit? Since I couldn’t find an early biplane, paragliding seemed like a good alternative. As I stood on the edge of the mountain, ready to jump, I tried to internalize Ruth’s words: “I wouldn’t give a cent for any experience that didn’t scare me a little. The scare is part of the thrill.” Once I recovered from the initial panic, it was a wonderful experience—soaring up and down like a bird. It inspired me to weave the theme of liberty into the story—the freedom Ruth felt as a pilot and sought as a woman. Raúl Colón’s stunning art captured this so beautifully. He lifted my words to a higher level. I am still in awe when I look at the illustrations.


Author Heather Lang

Lee: How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you’ve gained by being a member?

Heather: I can honestly say I wouldn’t be a published author without SCBWI. That’s why receiving this award from my New England peers is so incredibly meaningful.

In 2003 when I first started writing children’s books, I became an SCBWI member and joined an SCBWI critique group at the Concord Library in Massachusetts. I immediately gained a community of writers, as well as inspiration and encouragement to keep pursuing my dream. I attended SCBWI conferences and learned invaluable skills that helped me grow as a writer. I began volunteering at our regional conferences. From managing the new members’ table to helping with freebies to organizing critiques, my connections in the community grew. SCBWI gave me the confidence to have faith in myself and take my writing seriously. I am deeply grateful for the many gifts SCBWI has given me.

Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children’s book writers and illustrators?

Heather: Surround yourself with writers and illustrators. Go to book launches, kid lit events, kid lit drink nights, conferences, and workshops. Go on writing retreats. Join a critique group! You will improve your craft immeasurably by critiquing others’ work and getting feedback on your own.

Just as important is the emotional support you will share with each other. This is a tough business with lots of ups and downs. Whether you are struggling with a revision or discouraged about a tough critique or a rejection, support from peers will get you through the rough patches. And there’s nothing like celebrating each other’s successes. I have made life-long friends during my journey and rely on them tremendously for support.

And don’t forget to treat writing like your profession, not a hobby. Take yourself seriously as a writer, be open to feedback, work hard, and NEVER GIVE UP!

Thanks, Heather, and congratulations again (to you and Raúl) on Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine winning the Crystal Kite Award! 

You can find out more about Heather at her website here.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

How Do Publishers Find Their Illustrators? Editorial Director Amy Dean of Blue Manatee Press Shares Their Publisher-SCBWI Success Story!



As an illustrator, you have probably felt the worry of trying to find new projects from publishers; wondering when and how you will get your artwork matched with the right book project. If it helps, I can assure you that at times, we publishers have this same worry in reverse. Sure, we often have a bevy of illustrators that we have worked with in the past that we may reach out to for a specific project, but what happens when a project comes along for which we don’t already have a match? 

Pairing an illustrator with an upcoming board or picture book project is of the utmost importance. The text of a project is always key, but finding the right illustrator can really bring the words to life. And while it’s great to find a talented illustrator (and to my mind all of you are crazy talented—anybody want to see my sad stick drawings?), as a publisher, when pairing artists to projects, we are mostly looking for that illustrator that really “gets” the new project, and in doing so, can bring that extra magic to the book.

Happily, we have had such luck with SCBWI by posting call-for-artists on the job thread of the SCBWI Blueboard. Allow me to share with you a little behind the scenes of what this looks like from my perspective as Editorial Director for blue manatee press. First, we start with the text. I’ll select passages from the text and I’ll make them available in our call-for-artist posting. I ask for illustration submissions based on the provided text. The passages I select are typically either passages that are essential to the heart of the story, or have some tricky element to them that I am curious to see how an illustrator might approach. For example, here is a post for what became our picture book, Sleepy Solar System:
Project 2: A children's picture book on the Solar System, that will serve as an introduction to the planets as they get ready for bed. We're looking for something blending accurate portrayals of the planets with gentle whimsy. Below are three lines from the book, anyone interested should do his or her best interpretation of how he or she would illustrate the book based on these three lines. Candidates need only provide a single illustration for the line of their choice:

It’s been a long, busy day in the starry Milky Way. --> Opening Spread (2 pages)
Sleepy, setting Sun whispers, “Bedtime, everyone."
---
Saturn brushes rainbow rings with a bubbly toothbrush thing. --> a single page later in the book
Next, we wait. Waiting is tough. Soon enough though, the submissions start pouring in, and my Inbox is filled with delightful artwork.

For the next step in the process, I’ll let you hear directly from the selected artist for this project: Doug Cenko:
“What illustrator wouldn't want to draw the planets getting ready for bed? It's such a great idea for a book and I knew right away that I wanted to work on it. Once I submitted my artwork, it seemed like an extremely long wait before I heard back from them. [They] let me know that they narrowed the submissions down to me and one other illustrator. Fortunately, [they] gave me some feedback on what they liked and didn't like about my submission. I took that feedback and created an entirely new piece which ended up sealing the deal.”
Yes, yes, remember all that delightful artwork I mentioned earlier? Well, it often takes a long time to consider each piece and reach out to the illustrators we’re considering with additional feedback. Again, waiting is tough, and we’re often working on numerous projects at once. We do try to be as quick as possible.

Finally, the moment comes when we have selected an illustrator and everyone is on board with the project. It’s a happy moment. From this point, it becomes a straight forward editing process of sketches, feedback and approval progressing to final artwork.

For us, using the SCBWI job board resulted in an adorable picture book: Sleepy Solar System (yes, I’m a little biased, but look at it!).




Sleepy Solar System was a 2016 Foreword INDIES Finalist, and recently we were honored when it won the 2017 Gold Medal in the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards.



Furthermore, in reaching out to the SCBWI community we were able to connect with Doug Cenko, who has since gone on to illustrate two more projects for us: Dogs! (April 2017),


and its follow up, Cats!,


which will release this month. All three of the books that Doug has illustrated for us were written by Dr. John Hutton—a pairing of words and illustration that has been a fruitful one and we look forward to future collaborations.

If you’re not doing so already, I absolutely encourage you to make use of the SCBWI job board. I will certainly continue to do so. As Doug says, “It’s pretty amazing when you first get to hold your own book.” This is very true. The first step is submitting to a call-for-artists. Perhaps, I’ll next see your illustrations in my Inbox—I hope so!

Amy Dean is the Editorial Director of Blue Manatee Press.

The SCBWI Blueboard Discussion Boards is a benefit of membership, and can be found here.