Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The 2014 Crystal Kite Winners: ONCE UPON A MEMORY by Nina Laden, illustrated by Renata Liwska (SCBWI Western Washington)

The Crystal Kite Award is given by SCBWI in 15 divisions across the globe. In this 15th (and final) profile of our 2014 winners, the spotlight shines on ONCE UPON A MEMORY by Nina Laden, illustrated by Renata Liwska.

Representing SCBWI Western Washington (from whence Nina Laden hails), ONCE UPON A MEMORY won for the Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Northern Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota Division.

Award-Winning Author Nina Laden

Lee: Please tell us about your book!

Nina: “Once Upon A Memory” began as poem that I wrote during a particularly difficult period in my life. I was walking on the beach and I found a feather and as I held it up and tested it in the wind, it got me wondering if it remembered that it once was a bird. That question, “does a feather remember it once was a bird?” led to a string of questions that turned into a poem as I kept walking down the beach- until it got to the point that I nearly had to run home to write them down before I forgot them. 

At first I thought the book, which I originally called “Does A Feather Remember?” was going to be a whimsical board book with novelty flaps that revealed the answers. Things didn’t go that way, in fact they changed at a SCBWI conference in my home state of Washington. 

A few years back I was faculty at our SCBWI-WA Spring Conference and after the conference ended, editor Connie Hsu (who was with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers at that time) and I had a glass of wine and discovered that we both had the same birthday. On a whim I decided to send “Does A Feather Remember?” to her, and after a series of revisions, a chunk of time, and the submission of four different samples of my different illustration styles decisions were made. Little, Brown became the publisher. Connie became the editor- and for the first time ever, I became the author only. It was actually a very interesting experience and a lesson about letting go. My style was just not “sweet enough.” (I have never been accused of being “warm and fuzzy. Hah!) 

Working with Connie was wonderful and it was a lot of work. Every single word and every concept/image was thoroughly scrutinized. I was ever so grateful to help choose the fabulously-talented Renata Liwska to illustrate this book. Renata and I have become friends through this experience. There is even a cultural bond because Renata is originally from Poland, and I, too am part Polish. (My last name used to be Ladinski and was changed by my paternal grandfather.) 

Through all of this, “Does A Feather Remember?” became a beautiful, evocative picture book, and Little, Brown felt that I needed to change the title. This was a difficult thing for me to do, but it was a group decision. I submitted many ideas and everyone agreed that “Once Upon A Memory” was the best choice. There is so much of my own curiosity and wonder at the world we live in; to see this book come to life from an idea on the beach, to a gorgeous book about so many deep and important questions has been a reward after a long period of not creating the books that sustain me. 

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

Nina: I didn’t know about SCBWI when I submitted and published my first book, “The Night I Followed the Dog,” back in 1994, but I found out about them right after I was published and I joined. I can’t remember if it was late ‘94 or in ‘95. I tell people that I wish that I had known about them before I was published, but I think that not knowing has given me a greater sense of value of this incredible organization. SCBWI has been such an invaluable tool for networking. That is my number one reason for never letting my membership go after almost twenty years. Writing and illustrating is solitary work, and when I first started I didn’t even own a computer. Now we do have way too much social media connecting us to the point that we are over-stimulated. The SCBWI connections are the most meaningful ones in my book, though. I do wish I could attend more conferences, but being involved in the organization in the small way that I’ve been has helped me feel like part of such a great community. SCBWI lets us all share our knowledge and we pass on information and inspire each other. 

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

Nina: My advice for other children’s book writers and illustrators is to keep a journal/sketcbook/scrapbook. I’ve always done this – I put everything in my journals: ideas, stories, poems, drawings, cartoons, things I’ve cut and pasted... Anything that means something, even if I don’t know what it is. It could be the seed of an idea. You must feed your imagination. And you must get out into nature. I know we talk about keeping your “butt in the chair,” but... If you don’t get out there and have adventures and explore, you won’t have things that inspire you to write and draw. I truly believe that to create we have to “recreate” which is “re-create” if you look at the syllables... (and you have to eat well, too, there is an “ate,” there and I believe that cooking is also a connection to creativity.)

Thanks so much, Nina!

I also contacted SCBWI Western Washington co-Regional Advisors Dana Sullivan and Dana Arnim to find out more. Here's what they wrote:

SCBWI Western Washington tends to have most members clustered in the Seattle/Bellevue area, although we span from the British Columbia border up north all the way south to where Washington meets Oregon. We spread from the Cascade Mountains all the way west to the Olympic peninsula. (SCBWI’s Inland Empire region serves most cities and towns east of the Cascades in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho.) SCBWI WWA hosts an annual season of events which includes: monthly programming from September through May, a conference in April, Inside Story events, illustrator exhibitions, "Kid Lit” drink nights, both writers' & illustrators’ retreats, and a series of schmoozes in both the north and south sound areas. 

Thanks to Nina and the Danas, and Cheers to both Nina and Renata on ONCE UPON A MEMORY winning the 2014 Crystal Kite Award!

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

Learn about Renata Liwska and see more of her beautiful illustrations at her online home here.

And discover lots more about SCBWI Western Washington here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The 2014 Crystal Kite Winners: CHICKOSAURUS REX by Lenore Appelhans, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein (SCBWI Germany/Austria)

This week's Crystal Kite Spotlight shines on CHICKOSAURUS REX by the husband and wife team of Lenore Appelhans and Daniel Jennewein.

From SCBWI Germany/Austria, their book won for the "International Other" Division.

Award-Winning Author/Illustrator Team Lenore Appelhans and Daniel Jennewein

I contacted Lenore and Daniel to learn more...

Lee: Please tell us about your book!

Lenore and Daniel: CHICK-O-SAURUS REX is about a little Little Chick, who is bullied by the bigger animals. He feels small until he discovers he’s the closest living relative to the mighty T-Rex. When a wolf threatens the farm, Little Chick finds his inner T-Rex and saves the day. 

Lee: unexpected heroes saving the day - hurray! How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Lenore and Daniel: We joined in 2007 after working on a picture book for about two years and thinking it was ready to submit. We soon learned it was not! At the 2008 pre-Bologna conference, Daniel got great feedback on his illustrations from the art directors on the First Look panel, which led to a two-book contract with HarperCollins for his debut with Author Audrey Vernick: IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? We also met our eventual (and current) agent Stephen Barbara. 

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

Lenore and Daniel: Keep your eyes and ears and imagination open. You never know where you’ll find ideas and inspiration. With CHICK, we were visiting friends and their daughter told Daniel that she had learned something cool that day in school. She asked if he could guess the closest living relative to the T-Rex, and he was surprised by the answer. When he told me, I thought it would make the perfect picture book.

And it clearly did!

Thanks, Lenore and Daniel, and cheers to you both for CHICKOSAURUS REX winning the 2014 Crystal Kite Award!

You can find out more about Lenore at her website here, and Daniel at his website here.

You can also get details on SCBWI Germany/Austria at their regional website here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sotheby's Reports Brand New Record for a Book Illustration at Auction...

Sotheby's tweeted this phone and text earlier this month:

Sold for £314,500: the original drawing for "Poohsticks"... A brand new record for any book illustration at auction
That's nearly half a million dollars ($493,765.00 at the current $1.57 exchange rate to £1.00)!

What I find so amazing about EH Shepard's illustration, more than its current market value, is how much emotional value is conveyed... and we don't see any faces! Just Christopher Robin, and Pooh and Piglet's body positions, and the setting, and still so much emotion and tone comes through to us.

It's impressive.

You can read more about the sale of this drawing by EH Shepard in this BBC article here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 18, 2014

2014 Crystal Kite Winner: SHINE by Candy Gourlay (SCBWI British Isles)

Our spotlight this week is on Candy Gourlay and her novel SHINE, which won the Crystal Kite Award for the United Kingdom and Ireland. 

Award-Winning Author Candy Gourlay

Here's Candy!

Hello Lee and hello SCBWI readers! When SHINE got shortlisted for the Crystal Kite Prize in our region, I was up against some really big hitters! Fractured by Teri Terry is the second of a trilogy that has been winning prizes all over the place. And Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein is the sequel to Elizabeth's brilliant Code Name Verity which was a Golden Kite Honor Book, shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal and winner of an Edgar. Here is the Crystal Kite video we played at our November conference when I was presented with the trophy.

 I was thrilled to win -- it's my second Crystal Kite. My debut novel TALL STORY won in the very first outing of the Crystal Kite Award in 2011. Here is a photo of the two trophies. The new trophy is BIGGER than the 2011 one!

ABOUT THE BOOK SHINE was the second of a two book deal -- and when I first pitched it to my publisher, David Fickling, I said I was writing a vampire novel. Not with a conventional European vampire but with a Filipino vampire. It's got an unpronounceable name - manananggal - it's a beautiful girl by day and when the sun sets, it sprouts great leathery wings and rips its upper body from its lower half then flies off to suck away the souls of people. It sounds like a great idea, but when I finished it, I wasn't at all happy. I realised that it was not the book I wanted to write -- I don't even enjoy reading vampire novels! So I did another draft, taking away the vampire and turning the story into a thriller. And I hated it. It was at that point that my editor -- the author Simon Mason -- sat me down and told me: "When you rewrite this, don't take the approach that you have to fix it. Look at what's GREAT about it." And he spent the next hour telling me what he thought was great about the story. When I left the meeting, I knew what I wanted to write. SHINE is about a girl named Rosa who has a strange condition that makes her a pariah in the superstitious island where she lives. And so she lives out her life on the internet where she can be whoever she wants to be. She is befriended by a boy who turns out to live nearby and when he suggests that they meet, she is afraid of what he'll think when he realises that she is a monster. Entwined with this story is a ghost story. On Rosa's island, people believe that leaving a burning candle on your window sill will summon ghosts. So every night, Rosa lights a candle at the window because she wants her dead mother to return. One night, there is a knock on the door ... and there is her mother.


SCBWI MEMBER OF A DOZEN YEARS According to my SCBWI account, I've been a member of SCBWI since 2002! That is more than 12 years! When I visit schools, I talk about the Hero's Journey - you know, Monomyth - introduce the hero's ordinary world, the hero is called to adventure, the hero meets a spirit guide ... that kind of thing. Well I feel that in my long journey to publication SCBWI has been my spirit guide because it feels like SCBWI took me by the hand and has been leading me every step of the way. Joining SCBWI raised my game. Meeting people much better than me made me realise that I had been underestimating the level of craft I needed to get through the door. Volunteering with SCBWI put me into the middle of the world I longed to be a part of, even though I was still a wannabe writer. I realised that by working with SCBWI I was already living the life. I was one of the winners of the very first batch of Undiscovered Voices, the competition created by SCBWI British Isles that, six years on, has put SCBWI authors and illustrators on the map, here in the UK. Winning UV got me my agent and eventually my first book was published in 2010.
On the year my first book was published, I (selfishly) proposed that SCBWI BI hold a mass book launch party at our conference. Here we are at that first book launch. We've held it every year since then and our numbers just get bigger and bigger!
I am grateful to SCBWI for all the opportunities that have come my way. But the thing I value the most is the treasure trove of friendship that my involvement has given me. There is a video on Facebook of my acceptance speech for this year's Crystal Kite. In it, I say: thank you, SCBWI, for being my family which I mean from the bottom of my heart.

ADVICE FOR OTHER CHILDREN'S WRITERS Trying to get published is a long hard slog. And it's full of danger. Because in taking this journey, it is so easy to forget your real reasons for doing what you do. So let me remind you: You are writing because you want to tell a story, not because you want to hook a commissioning editor. You are not writing for children because it's easier than writing for adults. You are writing because the storytelling voice inside you has something to say to young people. The writer's life is not about leafing through your books in the shop, being adored by your fans and signing autographs. The writer's life is sitting down every day and doing the thing you can't help but do. And that is the life you're living now, whether you're published or not. So congratulations.

Thanks, Candy!

I also contacted Natascha Biebow, Regional Advisor of SCBWI British Isles, to find out more about their region and Candy's win. Here's what Natascha wrote:

The British Isles region are the largest and most active of the international regions, with over 30 events annually. 
Candy is one of BI's treasures - her boundless energy and enthusiasm and constant innovation is truly inspiring. Despite a busy work schedule, Candy is the sort of person who comes up with an idea and then makes it happen. Candy won the BI's Outstanding Contribution Award in 2011), but never one to rest on her laurels, Candy has continued to forge new paths for SCBWI BI with amazing dedication and good humour. She has worked tirelessly over the long term to provide SCBWI BI with a slick, professional online presence. This year, Candy has rebuilt our website (again) into one of the best amongst SCBWI regions and actively worked to create PULSE events, including our first PAL Librarian Event in London. As if this weren’t enough, she has introduced an entire new PULSE strand (this is our strand for PAL authors) to the annual conference and, rather than just leaving it to others to organise, she has done most of the logistical hard work herself that will make this aspiration a reality. Her constant hard work and dedication are a powerhouse that helps the rest of the team to push forward, motivated, inspired and in focus. She is tireless in her efforts and never shirks a job, even when busy on all her other projects. She always has a good word to say and is welcoming and courteous to all those around her. Her energy and enthusiasm seems boundless. Natascha
Thanks to both Candy and Natascha, and Cheers to Candy for SHINE winning the 2014 Crystal Kite Award!

You can learn more about Candy at her website here.

And dive into more about SCBWI British Isles at their online home here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The 2014 Crystal Kite Winners: I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN by Hélène Boudreau and SKINK ON THE BRINK by Lisa Dalrymple and illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo (SCBWI Canada East)

It's a TIE! This week's Crystal Kite Spotlight shines on two winning books from SCBWI Canada East, winners in the Canada division.

 I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN by Hélène Boudreau

Crystal Kite Winning-Author Helene Boudreau
and SKINK ON THE BRINK by Lisa Dalrymple, illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo.

Crystal Kite Award-Winning Author Lisa Dalrymple
Crystal Kite Award-Winning Illustrator Suzanne Del Rizzo
I contacted the three winners to find out more. First, Hélène:

 Lee:  Please tell us about your book!

Hélène: I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN is an anti-bedtime picture book about the perils of yawning when the last thing you want to do is go to bed. It was inspired by my daughter when she’d let out big (fake) yawns at the dinner table to get us all to yawn as well. When it dawned on me that she was using the fact that yawning is contagious for her personal entertainment, I thought ‘aha!’ what a fun concept for a picture book.

Here’s the book description from Candlewick Press: A yawn can land you in your pj’s and under the covers before you can blink and say “Baa baa black sheep.” So clamp your mouth shut and look away from your sleepy dog, stay away from your cuddly blanket, and whatever you do, don’t think of baby orangutans stretching their long arms out for a snuggly hug. Otherwise, you might find your mouth opening wide and letting out a great big yawny yaaaaaawn — hey, you were supposed hold it in! 

A hilarious read-aloud that is so much fun, kids will beg for it again and again, whatever the consequences. Just try to resist this comical — and infectious — cautionary fable that will have even bedtime-avoiders gladly snuggling up for a nightly challenge.

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

Hélène: I have been a member of the Verla Kay Blueboards (now merged with the SCBWI message boards) for about eight years and a SCBWI member for about four years to date. SCBWI and its membership has really expanded my horizons in terms of the children’s book industry. It has been a go-to place for me to learn about the art and business of writing, not to mention all the fun, like-minded friends I’ve met in the process. It really is a wonderful community. 

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

Hélène: Something I’ve come to learn is that, to be successful in this business, desire will get you started but grit is what gets it done. There’s a certain amount of work required to see a concept through from idea to creation to publication and for some, talent will get them halfway there right out of the gate but it’s not a golden ticket and not a guarantee of success. For others (admittedly, me) it’s only by sheer practice, restarting, refining, pride-swallowing, and stick-to-itiveness in the face of rejection, that books finally get published. That may take years (5 for me), it may take many ‘practice’ books (too many to count), it may take loads of rejections (like hundreds) but where there is a will there is a way.

Thanks, Hélène!

Now, the creators of SKINK ON THE BRINK, here's Lisa and Suzanne:

Lee: Lisa, please tell us about this book and your inspiration for the story!

Lisa: Honestly, my original desire to write Skink on the Brink came from the fact that the word ‘skink’ just made me giggle. If you live in the eastern states, skinks may be relatively commonplace (after all, Stewie is known as a Common Five-lined Skink) but, up here in Canada, they are incredibly rare. Kids love hearing about them, not only because their name is so much fun to say, but because skinks can do all sorts of amazing things: they’re lizards, so they can pop off their tails; juvenile skinks have the most astonishing blue tails I have ever seen; and adult males develop a red head in the spring (to make other skinks fall in love with them. Ewww!) 

So, it’s not surprising that Stewie is a lizard with an identity crisis. He prides himself on his shockingly bright blue tail, on the songs and poems he loves to make up, and on his name (because it rhymes with blue-y.) But, as Stewie is growing up, his blue tail is fading to gray and, to make matters worse, he’s developing a red head! He’s no longer inspired to make up the rhymes that he loves. He needs to discover who Stewie the skink is if he can no longer call himself “Stewie the Blue.” 

Lee: Suzanne, tell us about the illustration inspiration and process.

Suzanne: When I first found out I would be illustrating Skink on the Brink, I knew I had some prep work to do before I even got cracking on my initial sketches. This book would be part of the Tell-Me-More Storybook series at Fitzhenry and Whiteside- stand-alone storybooks which have 2 pages of cross-curricular back matter, full of great non-fiction information. Coming from a science background, I must admit I do love the initial researching phase of any picture book project. I began by collecting loads of reference photos from the internet, library, and Lisa provided me with some super shots from her trip to Pinery Park where she managed to photograph a Five-lined Skink up-close and in person. 

I envisioned having lots of secondary animals and vegetation to make Stewie’s habitat rich and authentic, so I also familiarized myself with the various animals and plant life that co-exist in his natural habitat. Luckily, my family cottage just happened to border the geographical region of their habitat. After many nature walks I had all the photo reference I needed. Perfect! 

My illustration process always begins with lots of loose thumbnail sketches. At this stage I play around with perspective, pacing, and flow. I also went through a few rounds of character sketches, all the while checking in with my editor, Christie Harkin. Christie encouraged Lisa and me to get in touch and bounce ideas around. It’s not always standard for authors and illustrators to discuss a project, but in this case, I think it really helped us achieve something special with this book. It was a fantastic collaboration.

My illustrations are basically low relief plasticine sculptures pressed onto illustration board, which are professionally photographed for print. Because I work in plasticine (and sometimes polymer clay and mixed media), I prefer to create very detailed, full-sized pencil drawings to show my AD/editor, and ideally make changes at this phase of the project. Each illustration can take from 20-40+ hours to create, depending on its size and complexity, so it’s much easier to erase a few pencil strokes at this point than to peel off/redo the plasticine final art. Creating the final art is similar to making a pizza where you begin with the background and gradually add layer upon layer working toward the foreground. I really enjoy adding lots of different textures and little details for children to explore, enjoy, and discover, even after multiple readings. 

Lisa’s Stewie was such fun to bring to life. From the vibrant blue-ness of his tail to the dapper and oh-so-handsome red of his head, he was the perfect character to render in plasticine. And to top it off he’s also a singing skink! I knew early on he’d need to back up those songs with some equally cool moves, so I had him dancing, foot-tapping, and finger snapping, in many of the illustrations- he’s one groovy skink. I think we found just the right balance of anthropomorphism while maintaining most of his awesome natural physical characteristics.

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

Lisa: I feel like I’ve been a member of SCBWI for a long time. The friendships and connections I’ve made through SCBWI, either online or at regional and international conferences, seem to go back much further than the couple of years that my membership profile insists must be true. For me, my involvement in SCBWI can be distilled down to three concepts: the support of experienced mentors and friends, the inspiration kindled by conversation and informative presentations, and the passion for children’s writing and illustration that we all share.

Suzanne: I’ve been a member of SCBWI since 2011. Joining SCBWI was one of the first things I did when I decided to pursue a career in illustration. It is an invaluable resource, and its members are a continual source of inspiration. I joined a critique group through my regional SCBWI chapter. In August 2013 I attended my first LA conference. A personal highlight was hearing David Wiesner- one of my all-time favorite illustrators - talk about his process. This October I’m attending my first regional conference in Ottawa. I am super excited to meet many of my fellow CANEASTers in person for the first time, many of whom I’ve gotten to know online. Being a member of such a supportive and encouraging group has helped me grow as an illustrator and author. SCBWI’s resources, such as their submissions guidelines and school visit tips are just some of the tools which I utilize year after year.

When Lisa and I heard that Skink on the Brink was chosen by our fellow SCBWI peers to win the Crystal Kite award for Canada, we were honored and beyond thrilled. 

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

Lisa: I’m always uncomfortable at being asked for advice when there is so much good advice out there from other writers far more qualified to give it. That’s probably why my advice is always to go to conferences, join associations, meet those other writers, listen and learn–not only to what they have to say about craft or ‘the writing life,’ but about what’s going on in the business of writing and publishing too. I also cannot recommend a critique group enough. Even if your writing is awesome, I think there’s much value in receiving feedback from others and in developing your own analytical eye. And… finding a critique group that’s a good fit is another fringe benefit of getting out there and meeting other creators.

Suzanne: We creative types tend to be rather introverted and shy; at least I know I am. We tend to work away quietly, isolated in our studio. Don’t be afraid to get out there and meet others in the kidlit community through conferences, or monthly meet-ups. Get online and connect. Every Thursday at 9pm EST on Twitter there is a #kidlitart Tweet Chat of kidlit creators. It’s always fun and they cover lots of awesome topics- check it out. Join a critique group. I belong to the Illustrators’ Union, a networking/critique group, as well as my SCBWI CANEAST PB group. Invest time in your craft. Set aside time to experiment and play, push the boundaries of your artwork to grow as an artist and further develop your individual style. I have found the kidlit community to be such a receptive and supportive bunch. Be a “sponge” and soak up all the wisdom and knowledge that is shared from other kidlit writers, illustrators, editors, and art directors may offer you, it’s golden!

Thanks, Lisa and Suzanne!

I also heard from Alma Fullerton, Regional Advisor of SCBWI Canada East, who wrote:
In Canada East if a picture book wins the Crystal Kite there’s a huge chance that we will have two winners as both author and illustrator may reside in our region. This year we were lucky to have THREE winners as two books tied for the award. Two of the winners were able to attend our fall conference to receive their awards and the third will attend our spring conference.
Thanks to Hélène, Lisa, Suzanne and Alma, and cheers to Hélène for her I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN, and to Lisa and Suzanne for their SKINK ON THE BRINK winning the 2014 Crystal Kite Award!

You can find out more about Hélène Boudreau at her website here.

Learn more about Lisa Dalrymple at this online home, and here's the link for Suzanne Del Rizzo's site.

And there's lots more info on SCBWI Canada East and their events at their region's home page.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 11, 2014

William Morris Endeavor's GIMME BOOKS Pop-Up Holiday Bookstore

Because it's so timely, and fascinating...

The talent and literary agency William Morris Endeavor just announced its first holiday pop-up store:


The idea (and innovation) of Gimme Books (announced back in June 2014) is that a talent/literary agency is seeing the events their clients are already appearing at (like Fashion Week and Wimbledon) as opportunities to sell their clients' books.

And in the case of this holiday season, they've added a new spin, with this New York pop-up store that features:

"...books hand-selected and sold by our very own WME literary agents" 


"Live in-store events" with some of their author clients.

Some points to consider:

Will branding authors for the public by their agency representation work? 

Will agencies themselves become branded selling points?

The moving roles of literary agencies, some towards producing, some towards publishing, and some, towards bookselling, is fascinating to witness.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Inspiration from Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak photo from here.

"We don't want children to suffer. But what do we do about the fact that they do? The trick is to turn that into art."
- Maurice Sendak

From an interview with Ramin Setoodeh in Newsweek, October 8, 2009, as quoted on page 36 of Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson and Peter D. Sieruta, Candlewick Press, Massachusetts, 2014.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The 2014 Crystal Kite Winners: CRANKENSTEIN by Samantha Berger (SCBWI New York) and illustrated by Dan Santat (SCBWI Los Angeles)

This week's Crystal Kite Spotlight shines on CRANKENSTEIN by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Dan Santat!

A member of SCBWI Metro New York, Samantha's CRANKENSTEIN won for the New York division. Dan Santat, a member of SCBWI Los Angeles, will also be awarded a Crystal Kite for his illustrations!

Award-Winning Author Samantha Berger

Award-Winning Illustrator Dan Santat

I connected with Samantha to find out more...

Samantha: It was (and still is) a high honor to have won the NY regional 2014 Crystal Kite Award for CRANKENSTEIN. I shrieked so loud when I read Lin's email, I frightened the dog. It was also huge for the book to be an EB White Read-Aloud Finalist, and to have a mass market board book edition made, and to be putting out the sequel this Christmas. But honestly, the Crystal Kite means the most, because it's chosen by our peers, the beloved book people. It makes my heart smile to this day. Gratitude. 

Lee: Yay! Please tell us about your book!

Samantha: Crankenstein is the story of a boy who is having *such* a bad day, and is feeling *so* cranky, he transforms into a monster. Ask him anything, and the reply will be a wrathful "MEHHRRRR!," which is the quintessential call of the crankster. As his frustration builds, his anger escalates, and his temper rises to a tantrum-y boiling point, there is only *one* thing that can break his snowballing rage - someone else who is just as cranky as *he* is. When the two Crankensteins meet, they see themselves reflected in each other. This makes them laugh, and as we all know, laughter is the cure to all of life's greatest crankiness. (SPOILER!) The monsters turn back into kids, and it just might be the beginning of a beautiful, empathetic, non-cranky friendship. 

Lee: I'm smiling at that description. Well done! Tell us about the story inspiration. 

Samantha: One seemingly-normal morning, I woke up, made fresh-pressed, hot, delicious coffee, and poured rancid, sour milk into it. Then, my computer crashed. Then, I stepped in dog poop. By the end of the day, I was in the most wretched, foul, monstrously bad mood in the history of bad moods. Just then, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a window, and between the scowling, the sourpuss, and the seized-up shoulders, I truly *looked* like a monster. That moment of literal self reflection made me stop and laugh at myself. It also gave me an epiphany: as long as we can remember to keep our sense of humor, and be able to laugh at ourselves, we're going to be okay. As the great Roger Rabbit once said, "A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why, sometimes in life, it's the only weapon we have."

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

Samantha: I joined SCBWI in 2009, and right then and there, I knew I had found my Tribe. Since then, I have danced with Ashley Bryan, sang with Loren Long, toasted with Jon Scieszka, met Judy Blume (twice!), and burned my creativity candle with Kathy Erskine. I have sobbed my way through countless keynotes (hint: don't wear mascara), made the friends of a lifetime, and seen people's dreams come true (really, don't wear mascara). SCBWI is the homeland for the lit-loving, kidlit-creating, beloved Book People, and being a part of this community has made magical memories, inspired ideas, and snapped inappropriate photos, that I will cherish eternally. No matter where you are in your publishing path, this is your place, these are your people.

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

Samantha: *Tell the stories you are most compelled to tell. The stories you HAVE to tell! *Be brave enough to live and speak your TRUTH in your work. *If you speak from YOUR heart, it will speak to other people's hearts. *Keep your sense of humor, even in the crankiest times! *Go to the SCBWI conferences--they will change your life.

Thanks, Samantha!

I also checked in with Dan Santat...

Lee: Tell us about the illustrations!

Dan: The art for Crankenstein was inspired by my son, who is small and cranky (especially in the mornings), and also inspired by a pinch of the Incredible Hulk. I had originally planned on illustrating this book with 3D clay sculptures digitally composed into real life settings but the publisher preferred I go with the style I am best known for.

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

Dan: I've been a member of the SCBWI since 1999 and over the years I've gained lots of information pertaining to my varying levels each year. I actually got my first two book deal meeting Arthur Levine at the portfolio display at the national conference here in LA and every year since then I've attended seminars about how to be a stronger writer and managing my career for the long term. These days a lot of my time is spent critiquing portfolios, giving keynotes at various chapters across the country, and networking with editors, art directors, and other authors and illustrators. 

Lee: What advice do you have to share with other writer/illustrators?

Dan: Be economical with your text and smart with your design. Be clear, concise, and everything you do for a project should serve a function to the overall theme.

Thanks, Dan!

I also contacted Bridget Casey (who along with Pat Weissner is co-RA for SCBWI Metro New York), and Sally Jones Rogan (who along with Sarah Laurenson is co-RA for SCBWI Los Angeles) to hear a bit more...

 From Bridget:
The Metro New York chapter of SCBWI covers New York City, Long Island and the southern portion of the Westchester County. The chapter is delighted that one of its members, Samantha Berger from Brooklyn, has won the Crystal Kite Award for her work on CRANKENSTEIN with LA's Dan Santat. We are very proud of this achievement and all her amazing work!
From Sally:
SCBWI-LA cries: "Kudos and congratulations!" for LA member, Dan Santat for his cranky and amazing art work on 'CRANKENSTEIN', which earned him the Crystal Kite Award along with talented author, Samantha Berger. Sample more of Dan's talent at www.dantat.com. Beaming with pride, SCBWI-LA Regional Team
Thanks to Samantha, Dan, Bridget and Sally!

To find out more about Samantha and her work, check out her website here.

To learn more about all things Santat (Dan, that is), visit his online homes-away-from-home starting here on Tumblr.

And you can hit the links for these regional sites: SCBWI Metro New York and SCBWI Los Angeles. 

 Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Early Registration For The 2015 SCBWI Winter Conference Ends On Dec 15!

Would you like to
Take a hands-on intensive where you get to hear James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner, talk to his editor Krista Marino about world building? 


Have the opportunity to read the first 500 words of your manuscript out loud - and get instant feedback from an editor or agent?


Attend a breakout session on Creating Cover Art with Scholastic Creative Director Elizabeth Parisi?


Get the scoop on Writing Leveled Readers from Associate Publisher and Editor Bonnie Bader?


Get Your Illustration Portfolio in the Showcase, and have your work seen by over two-hundred specially invited art directors, editors and agents from children's publishing?

These are all opportunities you can seize by registering for the upcoming SCBWI Winter Conference, February 6-8, 2015. The intensives are Friday, and the main conference runs Saturday and Sunday.

It's an incredible chance to take part of the inspiration, craft, business, and community of SCBWI... and the New York conference offers unique opportunities to advance your career that you won't find elsewhere.

So, with all the holidays coming up, consider giving yourself and your writing and/or illustrating career the gift of joining us in New York for one amazing weekend!

Find out all the details and register here.

Illustrate and Write On,

p.s. - Check out the inside scoop from SCBWI Team Blog on:

The Writer's Roundtable Intensive,

The World Building Intensive,

Associate Publisher Stephanie Lurie's take on the keynote Editor's Panel,

Senior Editor Jessica Dandino Garrison's breakout session Rules for Picture Book Making and Why We Sometimes Break Them, and

Senior Editor Ben Rosenthal's breakout sessions on Creating Nonfiction and Thrillers and Mysteries!