Thursday, June 27, 2013

The 2013 Crystal Kite Winner Proflies: Illinois' Aaron Reynolds (For "Creepy Carrots")

The 2013 Crystal Kite Award for the USA Midwest region (Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio) is Aaron Reynolds for his picture book, "Creepy Carrots!"

Crystal Kite Winner Aaron Reynolds!

"Creepy Carrots" was published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, and illustrated by Peter Brown.

I connected with Aaron to find out more about his book (and win!)

Lee:  Please tell us about your book!

Aaron:  Jasper Rabbit loves carrots. And he can take the fattest, crispiest carrots from Crackenhopper field anytime he wants. That is, until they start following him home...

The idea for CREEPY CARROTS came from the fact that, I like to get scared, and did as a kid. Not terrified, have-nightmares-for-a-week scared, but getting creeped out is SO much fun when you're a kid. Kids can handle so much more than we give them credit for, and I love to push the envelope on trying to create the kind of stuff they really want. I think that's what the best writers, like Roald Dahl have done, and I just try to tiptoe in their footsteps and do the same in my own weird way.

So, I knew I wanted to do a creepy book, but it couldn't be TERRIFYING...this is a picture book, after all. So I began with something innocuous...a cute little animal...and began asking myself “What would creep this guy out more than anything?” What else...having your favorite inanimate snack stalking you with possible malicious intent. That was the start of the weird idea that became CREEPY CARROTS.

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

Aaron:  I learned how to submit my first manuscripts because of SCBWI.
I met my first critique group partners because of SCBWI.
I got my first published book because of an editor I heard speak at an SCBWI conference.

I have been a member of SCBWI since I first started getting serious about writing for publication, probably about 14 years now. I wasn't sure where to start, and SCBWI was instrumental in those early days, helping me learn the business of children's publishing, learn from editors, other writers, workshops at conferences, and manuscript critiques. It was also from my early SCBWI conferences that I got connected with other serious writers like me that eventually became long-time critique partners.

These days, SCBWI continues to be a fantastic connection point for making contact with other great writers, talking shop, learning and growing together.

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

Aaron:  One: Join SCBWI, and take advantage of the conferences, both the big ones, and the local ones! They are a huge advantage in helping new writers start to understand the market of children’s books, talk to and develop relationships with other writers, and learn from editors.

Two: Read these two books.  They were absolutely essential to me when I was getting started back in the beginning:
“You CAN write children’s books” by Tracy Dils
"The Childrens Writers and Illustrator’s Market" – this is an annually updated book and is the BIBLE of children’s publishing. I still get the new one every year. It is packed with great info to help you find your feet and get started, as well as contact information for children’s publishers. 

I also contacted Alice McGinty (who along with Lisa Bierman is co-RA for Illinois) to learn more about their local chapter of SCBWI and Aaron's win...

The Illinois Chapter is a very active region with over 800 members. We've got a great combination of events going on, ranging from large Chapter-wide conferences and retreats, to smaller regional events. Our main Chapter events include Prairie Writer's and Illustrator's Day in November, which usually brings about 250 attendees to learn from a large staff of editors, agents and authors. We have smaller craft retreats in other locations around the state, including Words in the Woods, a weekend retreat held in a lovely mansion on Lake Springfield. The Illinois Chapter, under the leadership of RAE (Regional Advisor Emeritus) Esther Hershenhorn, originated the idea of Networks, dividing the state into small regions, each run by Networks Representatives. The Representatives plan Shop Talks, critiques, and programs with local speakers for the members in their areas, and make a nice community of support and learning for the members in their area. There are also two Illustrator's Networks to meet the needs for our illustrators, both upstate and downstate.

The Illinois Chapter is thrilled that Aaron Reynolds has won the Crystal Kite award for Creepy Carrots. It's a great book! Aaron has been a long-time member, and we've seen him build his career over time. He certainly deserves this honor! We send Aaron our hearty congratulations. Illinois is very, very proud of you!!!!

To find out more about Aaron and his books, visit his website here

To learn more about SCBWI Illinois, check out their site here.

Thanks to Peter and Alice, and cheers to Peter on his 2013 Crystal Kite Win for "Creepy Carrots!"

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"THE BOOK" - SCBWI's Essential Guide to Publishing For Children

Have you looked at - and read - this latest publication from SCBWI?  It's pretty amazing!  (Okay, full disclosure, I have an article in it, Essential Reference Books on Writing & Illustrating for Children & Teens, where I interviewed over 25 experts to get their top recommendations.)  But it's not amazing just for that - THE BOOK is packed with all new articles, market surveys, how-tos, directories and resources.

I asked THE BOOK's executive editor Kim Turrisi to share the vision for this completely re-thought guide...

With the 2013 Publications Guide, now called THE BOOK, our mission was to make it the go-to resource for children’s book writers and illustrators.

We also gave it a fresh, upstaged look.  THE BOOK is filled with over thirty current essential articles on many aspects of the children’s book publishing industry, including marketing your children’s book, how to make a book trailer, maximizing social media and self-publishing practices. We have also incorporated crucial publishing surveys and directories: The 2013 Market Survey (a comprehensive house-by-house listing of editors, art directors and key personnel in the children’s market), The International Market Survey, The Book Reviewers Directory as well as a listing of Essential Reference books for any aspiring children’s book professional.

It’s a 300 page comprehensive, hands-on tool designed to guide children’s book writers and illustrators through their publishing career. THE BOOK is a practical guide of the nuts and bolts of the publishing community specifically published for our members. Anyone who’s aspiring to have a career in children’s book publishing needs this book. 

THE BOOK is divided into seven main sections,

Preparing & Submitting Your Work 
(Including "From Keyboard To Printed Page," "SCBWI Illustrators Guide" and "Self-Publishing: Best Practices")

Market Surveys
(Including "Edited By," "Magazine Market Guide," and "Educational Press Market Survey")

Directories & Resources
(Including "Agents Directory," "International Schools Directory" and "From Idea To Execution")

Publicizing Your Published Work
(Including "1000+ Ways to Promote Yourself and Your Books," "RIP for the Press Release?? Not So Fast!" and "Crafting Your Book Marketing Plan")

School Visits
(Including "Doing School Visits in the United States," "Guide To International School Visits," and "Sample Lecture Contract")

Legal Questions
(Including "Copyright Facts for Writers," "Contract Questions and Answers," and "SCBWI Sample Children's Book Contract")

My Work
(Pages to help keep track of your projects and submission record.)

As Kim shared,
From the moment the 2013 version of THE BOOK debuted, we’ve received countless emails and phone calls from both members and industry professionals about what a fantastic tool it is for authors and illustrators of children’s books. One woman called and said she keeps it on her desk and refers to it all of the time. It was our goal to give our members something tangible that will help them throughout their careers whether they are just starting out or are already published. 

How do you get a copy?

All new members automatically receive THE BOOK in their new member packet that SCBWI mails out.  Existing members can request a hard copy of the book by sending a check for $6.00 made out to the SCBWI with a note requesting THE BOOK.   SCBWI, 8271 Beverly Blvd., LA, CA 90048

Current members can download THE BOOK online from here.

Get your copy.  Read your copy.  And Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The 2013 Crystal Kite Winner Proflies: Utah/Southern Idaho's Jean Reagan (for "How To Babysit A Grandpa")

Jean Reagan is the winner of the 2013 Crystal Kite Award for SCBWI's Southwest region (Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico!)

Crystal Kite Winner Jean Reagan

Jean won for her picture book, "How To Babysit A Grandpa" (Alfred A. Knopf, Random House Children's Books), which was illustrated by Lee Wildish.  Here's our interview...

Lee:  Congratulations, Jean!  Tell us about finding out you'd won the Crystal Kite!

Jean:  I was ecstatic when I learned HOW TO BABYSIT A GRANDPA had won the Crystal Kite award for the Southwest (USA) region. Keeping the news quiet for 24 hours until it became official was challenging! Because this award is chosen by peers, it carried a special meaning for me. Fellow children's authors and illustrators understand that the journey towards publication is littered with disappointments, hard work, rejections, self-doubt, and luck. They know, firsthand. Thank you!  Truth be told, all my critique buddies should share this award. In fact, they should be listed as co-authors on the book cover.

Lee: Tell us a little about your book.

Jean:  In HOW TO BABYSIT A GRANDPA (Knopf, 2012) a young boy thinks he’s babysitting his grandpa although the readers are in on the joke. The “babysitter” shares tips on taking care of a grandpa: snacks for a grandpa, how to entertain a grandpa, what to draw for a grandpa, what to do when you see a puddle, how to encourage a grandpa to nap and then, of course, how to wake him up. The hardest part of the day? Goodbye time. Fortunately, there are tips for how to say goodbye.

In picture books, the author is only half of the partnership. This book’s illustrator, Lee Wildish, created delightful characters and conveyed their loving relationship with energy and joy. And he did it so subtly. As a non-illustrator, I was blown away. He also added details and layers of humor that invite readers to revisit the pages again and again.

Lee:  Can you share with us a little about your involvement with SCBWI and your journey to publication?

Jean:  When I started writing for children about ten years ago, one of the first things I did was join the SCBWI. We have an active local chapter with monthly meetings, and I also attended local, regional, and national conferences. Through these activities and SCBWI's publications, I gained skills, found encouragement when I needed it most, and learned to cherish what we do. At my very first conference I heard Bruce Colville say that he writes for children to help them become, “kinder, gentler, and braver.” What a noble calling!

When the sting of a rejection knocked me down, his words got my butt back in my writing chair. Soon after that conference, as an offshoot of the local chapter, I formed a critique group with three other aspiring authors. By now, we probably have well over four hundred rejections between us, but we also have ten nationally published books. Without this critique group, I would have given up years ago!

My very first book, ALWAYS MY BROTHER (Tilbury House, 2009), was published because of a contact I made at an SCBWI conference. An illustrator, Lea Lyon, and I deeply bonded because we share a family tragedy, a death of a child. She critiqued my picture book manuscript about sibling loss and contacted her editor at Tilbury House. Had I not attended that conference, my book would not have found its home. Finding my agent, Jamie Weiss Chilton, was a direct result of the SCBWI, too.

As I “window shopped” for an agent, I watched Jamie coordinate the NYC conference as an SCBWI employee, and then at a California conference I heard her on an agent panel. I was impressed. But when my RA, Sydney Husseman, recommended Jamie after hosting her at a SCBWI conference, I was ready to seal the deal.

As for HOW TO BABYSIT A GRANDPA, I signed up for an editor’s critique at a local SCBWI conference. Without a doubt, her comments enabled me to take the manuscript to the next level, thereby helping it catch the attention of Allison Wortche at Knopf. I would have thrown in the towel (the pen?) on writing years ago, if it hadn’t been for all the connections, support, and even magic created through the SCBWI. Thank you! Thank you!

Lee: What advice do you have for children's book writers and illustrators?

Jean:  Join the SCBWI, for sure! Attend SCBWI activities and conferences. Be brave and sign up for a manuscript critique. Join a critique group. Enter writing contests. (They provide writing prompts and deadlines. Some offer editorial feedback. And as your writing improves, they can give you a confidence boost.) Celebrate every step in your writing life: connections, beginnings, follow-throughs, completions, acts of courage and even those darn rejections. Celebrate everyone else's steps, as well. Helping children become “kinder, gentler, and braver,” should be a lifelong celebration for us all.

Lee: Well said, Jean.

Jean:  Thank you, Lee!

I also connected with Neysa Jensen, the Regional Advisor for Utah/southern Idaho, to find out more about their SCBWI region and to get the inside story on Jean's win...

Hi Lee, What a great idea to profile the Crystal Kite winners. We're very excited for Jean. I'll talk more about her in a second.

Our region is Utah/southern Idaho. Geographically, it is huge. Probably 1,000 miles from the southern end of Utah to the point north of Boise. (That north portion of Idaho is part of the Inland Northwest region, along with eastern Washington.) For perspective, our region would take two full 8-hour days of driving to go from one end to the other. While we're huge geographically, our membership is not. We have approximately 250 members. The vast majority of those are in the Salt Lake City area, the largest metropolitan area in our region. The other largest segment of members is in the Boise area. Those populations are about 350 miles apart. So you can see how managing a region like this is tricky. We have several events each year to try to reach as many of these members as possible. We hold a large conference in Boise each spring, held jointly with the Literacy Department in the College of Education at Boise State University. (We used to have a large conference in Salt Lake, but there are so many writing conferences there, it's just really not a good use of our energy.) So in Salt Lake, we have started doing a one-day intensive workshop with one person. Last year it was Cheryl Klein. This year it will be Alane Ferguson. We have an Illustrator's Day in the SLC area in February. We also have bi-monthly meetings around Utah. And we have a small workshop in the southern part of Utah. This summer, we are trying something new, we're calling it the Great Critique. People from all over the region will be gathering together in their respective corners of our two states to critique one another's work. Very excited about that. We also usually have a PAL reception before the workshop on SLC in the fall.

As for Jean: I first met Jean in NYC at the mid-winter conference. We were roommates. It was my first international conference as a newly minted ARA (so that would have been about 2004 or 2005). She and I had delicious late night discussions, the way you do with total strangers in a hotel room.

Because Jean lives in Utah and I live in Boise, we don't see each other much. However, I was thrilled when I learned she had won the Crystal Kite. She is certainly deserving of this honor. One thing Jean and I have in common is that I was raised in the Park Service--my dad was a ranger. Jean spends her summers in Wyoming as a park ranger. So we both love the outdoors and conservation. 

To find out more about Jean and her books, visit her website here.

To learn more about the Utah/Southern Idaho region of SCBWI, visit their website here.

My thanks to Jean and Neysa, and cheers to Jean for her Crystal Kite Award!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Why Should I Join the SCBWI?" - 19 writers give their answers

Pamela K. Witte explains her reasons for being part of SCBWI on the group blog Ink And Angst, and lets us in on the "Why SCBWI?" answers of these new, debut, and well-published authors as well:

Lissa Price, Tamara Ireland Stone, Tara Sullivan, MK Walton, Kristen Kittscher, Kit Grindstaff, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Mindy McGinnis, Claire Mcaterer, Kami Kinard, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Kelly Barson, Kimberley Griffiths Little, Nicole McInnes, Rachel Searles, Linda Boyden, Laura Ellen, and Liz deJager!

The post includes so many great and heartfelt expressions, like KM Walton's

"Why SCBWI?  Because if you're not a member, and you don't attend their local and national conferences, you aren't taking full advantage of the moments they provide... moments that can help you break through and live your dream. Hand to heart."

Cynthia Leitich Smith's shout out to her local SCBWI chapter,
Austin SCBWI is my home base, the font of many of my friendships and my go-to source for the local children’s-YA creative scene. We’re a pay-it-forward chapter, where published folks stay involved and actively mentor up-and-comers. I not only get to know the new hot things, I can also lean, once in a while, on those authors who’ve traveled years on this road with me and continue to learn from them. 

 and Mindy McGinnis' description of her experience attending her first international SCBWI conference in NY,

"...I was in the same room as Julie Andrews, Mo Willems ran past me with his shoe in the air, Tomie dePaola just KIND OF SHOWED UP, and at one point a very nice man asked me if the seat next to me was taken and Dear God - it was Bruce Coville.

Those are just the head-turning experiences.  I also met at least 5 different people that before then I had only talked to online, but called them friends.  The networking was incredible, the workshops invaluable, and the experience intoxicating."

Thanks to Pamela and all the contributors.  We hope to see them, and you, at the 42nd Annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles, August 2-5, 2013.  You can find out more and register here.

And make sure to read the whole wonderful blog post at Ink & Angst!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

SCBWI's Student Writer Scholarship Deadline Extended to June 15th

Are you a full-time student wanting to attend?  If so, check out this scholarship!

The SCBWI Student Writer Scholarship is a remarkable opportunity for both undergraduate and graduate students interested in writing children's and young adult literature!

Each year the SCBWI sponsors two student writer scholarships to the Summer and Winter Conferences for full-time university students in an English or Creative Writing program.

Deadline: Summer Conference in Los Angeles, June 15
Winter Conference in New York December 15


1. You must be at least eighteen years old to apply.

 2. All full-time students enrolled in an accredited educational institution are eligible to apply.

 3. Applicants are required to submit: · A short cover letter stating why you want to attend the conference and a synopsis of your work. · A five-page sample of a manuscript · A copy of your student ID · A letter of recommendation sent directly from a professor at your university.

4. Applications MUST BE electronically submitted as ONE PDF to Letters of recommendation can be sent separately as a Word document.

5. Applicants cannot have published a novel or have received this scholarship before.

6. Two scholarships will be awarded for both the LA Summer Conference and New York Winter Conference. Scholarship winners receive:
· Admission to all conference events including keynotes and breakout sessions. (Award does not include travel and hotel expenses.)
 · LA Summer Conference: An individual manuscript consultation of the first twenty pages of your manuscript with an industry professional and entrance to the Writers’ Intensive.
· New York Winter Conference: Entrance to the Writers’ Roundtables, a roundtable-style manuscript critique of the first five hundred words of your manuscript with literary agents and editors.
· Exclusive exposure to industry professionals at the conference.
· An SCBWI Conference advisor to help navigate the jammed-packed weekend.

 8. In the event that a recipient cannot attend for any reason, the grant committee should be notified as soon as possible. The scholarship may, in that event, be awarded to another applicant. The grant is not transferrable and cannot be postponed.

 9. Applications will be judged by a panel decided by SCBWI. SCBWI reserves the right not to award the scholarship in any given year.

Questions? Contact the Grant Coordinator, Kayla Heinen:

Good luck!

And remember, registration is still open for the SCBWI Summer Conference - find out all the details of this fantastic weekend of craft, business, inspiration, community and opportunity here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Malcolm Gladwell at BEA on the future of publishing

Malcolm on stage with Brad Stone at IDPF's Digital Book 2013, from Jane Friedman's blog

As reported by Robin Dellabough in Publisher's Lunch, this is from Malcolm Gladwell's interview by Brad Stone at BEA's IDPF Digital Book Conference last week,
Although he agreed that the publishing industry faces extraordinary challenges, Gladwell believes that publishers and booksellers can redefine who they are and what they want to be. "They're in transition, and it's hard to know what they'll end up as, but they can't go away. They'll figure it out because no industry sells something people want and need more than the book industry. If they were selling Styrofoam, I'd be worried, but books have tremendous impact on people's lives."
Someone needs to make that a t-shirt.

"If they were selling Styrofoam, I'd be worried, but books have a tremendous impact on people's lives." - Malcolm Gladwell

For another take on BEA's focus on the digital future (and present) of book publishing, Jane Friedman reported about it on her blog.  

Illustrate and Write On,

Monday, June 3, 2013

Keepers of Catherine's Dream: The Children's Literature Community (lead by SCBWI member and author Bobbie Pyron) Help Build A Dream For A Child Lost At Sandy Hook... And You Can Help!

Bobbie explains:

Like most everyone across this country, I was devastated and appalled by the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. And probably like many of you, in the months following, I signed a zillion petitions and wrote letters to my senators. In the end, though, I felt powerless to make any effective change come from this tragedy.

Then I read about little Catherine Violet Hubbard, one of the children killed in the shooting. Like me, six-year-old Catherine loved all animals. It was her dream to one day have her own animal sanctuary in Newtown where homeless animals would feel safe and loved. Since her death, her parents and The Animal Center of Newtown have become keepers of her dream. The Hubbards and The Animal Center have started the Catherine Violet Hubbard Sanctuary fund ( to build a sanctuary in her honor.

Suddenly, I knew there was a way I could make a difference: why not raise money for Catherine’s dream? And what better way to do it than through books! Figuring there were at least a few big-hearted authors feeling frustrated too, I started emailing. The response has been overwhelming! Over thirty authors—many of them award winning and NYT bestsellers—have said, “Count me in!”

Starting June 3rd, “Authors for Catherine’s Dream” ( will be auctioning off signed, hardback copies of books, from picture books to adult fiction, every day until midnight on June 16th. You’ll be able to bid on books during the entire two weeks!

Who are some of the authors donating signed books? Here’s a taste: Patricia MacLachlan, Sharon Creech, Kathi Appelt, Arthur A. Levine, Jane Yolen, Sara Zarr, (our own) Lin Oliver and Martha Brockenbrough, Ruta Sepetys, Clare Vanderpool and many, many more.

Even if you're not a books-signed-by-the-author geek like I am, think of what great gifts these signed books would make, or donations to your local public or school library! So mark your calendar for June 3-16th and check in daily for the new batch of books for auction.

Let’s all be keepers of Catherine’s Dream. 
Catherine Violet Hubbard

You can find out more about Bobbie Pyron at her website, and join in the auction here.

Keep On Illustrating, Writing and Doing Good In Our World,