Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"Hurricane Boy" – The 2015 Crystal Kite Interview with Laura Roach Dragon

In the Mid-South division, there was a tie for the 2015 Crystal Kite Award!

Courtney Stevens for "Faking Normal" and SCBWI Louisiana/Mississippi member Laura Roach Dragon for "Hurricane Boy!"

This week we'll focus on Laura and her Crystal Kite-winning book...

Author Laura Roach Dragon

Lee: Congratulations on “Hurricane Boy" winning this year’s Crystal Kite award - in a tie! How exciting!

Laura: I feel very grateful. 

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

Laura: Over 5000 children were separated in the disorganized rescues along the Gulf Coast after Katrina hit. In this coming-of-age story, Hollis Williams matures in the traumatic events of Hurricane Katrina. Living with his siblings and his grandmother, Hollis's greatest wish has always been to reconnect with his absent father. Through the turmoil of the storm and the ensuing tests of his determination, Hollis keeps this dream alive. Their home destroyed, Hollis and his younger siblings are taken to a shelter in West Virginia, where he discovers what family means and finds his own inner strength. 

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

Laura: Since mid-2007. SCBWI LA/MS RULES. What have I gained? Everything. How to focus, how to show not tell, how to write tight, how to finish the book, how to structure a book, who to send it to, how to send it out, what people mean when they say they got a "great rejection" and tons and tons of friends who root for you and celebrate with you when you get whatever you get. 

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

Laura: Don't be afraid of a negative critique. People who care enough to tell you what's wrong with your manuscript are people you need to have in your circle. I'm not referring to people who tear up things just to tear them up, but people who help you see what might improve your work.

Thanks, Laura!

I also connected with Cheryl Mathis, Regional Advisor for SCBWI Louisiana/Mississippi to find out more about Laura's win and their region. Here's what she wrote:

Laura has been a member of the Louisiana/Mississippi region for many years. I distinctly remember her very first meeting because it was also mine. She read from her work-in-progress that became the novel Hurricane Boy. After that first meeting, Laura often read at our monthly gatherings, which always end with an open critique. One of the highlights from those readings was the passage where the flood waters rip through the home of her protagonist and his family. As Laura's reading ended with the last family member clambering into the attic, the rising water lapping at his heels, the listening members broke into applause. The reaction of her listeners was a portent to the eventual publication and success of the novel and now the awarding of the prestigious Crystal Kite. Louisiana/Mississippi is awash with pride.

You can find out more about Laura here.

Curious to find out more about SCBWI Louisiana/Mississippi? Click here.

And congratulations again to Laura, for "Hurricane Boy" winning the 2015 Crystal Kite Award!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lee's Personal/Professional News To Share

Hi my SCBWI community!

This has been in the works for a while, and I'm excited to announce that
I'm the New Vice President of Digital, Communications and Community Engagement at Little Pickle Press!

Whoo- Hoo!

It's a full-time job, but don't worry - I'll continue to blog as my independent self for SCBWI, and lead the amazing Team Blog at SCBWI's two major international conferences each year in New York and Los Angeles.

I'll also continue to blog at my personal blog, I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? as well as keep writing evenings and weekends towards getting my own stories out into the world.

It's a new adventure on the other side of a publishing/media company, working as part of an amazing team of people with a vision to create content for kids and teens that makes our world a better place. That's so my vision, too.

Happy to share my good news, and tomorrow we'll get back to our regular SCBWI: The Blog goodness!

Illustrate and Write On!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

"A Dance Like Starlight" – The 2015 Crystal Kite Interview with Kristy Dempsey

In the International Other division, the 2015 Crystal Kite Award goes to "A Dance Like Starlight" by SCBWI International Central member Kristy Dempsey, who lives in Brazil!

Kristy receiving her Crystal Kite Award

Kristy with her Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Text

Tears, and an awards sticker!

Lee: For those who are just hearing about your book for the first time, please tell us about “A Dance Like Starlight."

Kristy: A Dance Like Starlight is historical fiction, telling the story of a young African American girl in Harlem who dreams of becoming a ballerina. Her mother works cleaning and sewing costumes for a ballet school so this young girl grows up around ballet and this dream takes root in her heart. When the ballet master notices her interest and her talent, he allows her to take classes, but she cannot perform on stage with the white ballerinas. Her mother sacrifices to take her to a performance by the first African American ballerina to perform under contract with a major dance company, Janet Collins, who performed with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. Miss Collins's performance was highly publicized in advance and highly praised by reviewers and audiences. For my protagonist, seeing Miss Collins's performance proved her own dreams were not out of reach. 

I drew upon a childhood experience of my own in writing this book. When I was about 10 years old, I went to a concert and heard a performance that brought tears to my eyes. I dreamed of being able to move others in that way. For many years my dream was to become a professional singer and I put lots of hard work into achieving that goal. I still sing but my dreams changed over the years. One of the criticisms of A DANCE LIKE STARLIGHT has been that we don't see whether or not my protagonist achieved her own dreams. But in my view, we are constantly changing and growing and we might be influenced by many different "glimpses of success" through the years. At the end of A DANCE LIKE STARLIGHT, my main character says: 

No need to waste my wishes 
I've got dreams coming true. 

One of the ways children learn they can achieve is by seeing others do it before them, no matter where their dreams may carry them in the future. This particular story represents a minority character along with the added difficulties she faced, because of the color of her skin, in daring to dream that she could achieve. I think it's vital that these stories be told so that children have mirrors for their own experience. But I didn't plan to write this book. It was more a consequence of my own heart being captivated by the struggle and story of Janet Collins and imagining what it must have felt like to see her perform. I recognized, even as I was writing it, that I was looking through a window and my hope was to connect at the emotional level of what it must feel like to have a dream and to wonder if society will ever allow your dream to come true. As I said in my Golden Kite speech, in writing I often hope to discover my own empathy, or more honestly to work toward it. I hope that will be true for my readers, as well. 

Lee: What’s it like to have your book win both the Golden Kite and the Crystal Kite Awards?

Kristy: After returning from the conference and awards ceremony in LA, I described the event as a "singular moment" in my life. The conference itself was amazing and the awards ceremony was surreal. Because I live in Brazil where we are part of a larger international SCBWI region and where we do not often have SCBWI events, the International Central Crystal Kite was presented to me in a small ceremony in the lobby just after the Golden Kite ceremony. To be honest, I felt a little tearfully overwhelmed. In a good way. The whole of my writing life (since 1998) has been spent in Brazil without much in-person access to other writers. The writing community I've been a part of has been online, and while it has provided immeasurable support and connection for me, I felt extremely privileged in LA to shake hands and receive hugs from the people who are "in this game" with me, my fellow dreamers who also live the ups and downs of this profession. Actually, Lee, I think the conversation that you and I had right before the Golden Kite ceremony sums up best what my heart felt during those few days in LA. I told you that while the recognition of the awards gave some sense of validation to the time I invest in this career, it is the connection with others that feels the most satisfying for me. That someone --an awards committee, an editor, a reader --connected with my work, and that it moved them or changed them or helped them to see, brings tears to my eyes. To tweak a C.S. Lewis quote, "I [write] to know I'm not alone." It's what I want for my readers -- for all readers -- as well. 

Lee: Any thoughts after attending the 2015 SCBWI Summer Conference as an award-winning faculty member?

Kristy: Well, I'll admit that I felt like an impostor walking into the faculty dinner on Thursday night. I hardly knew anyone personally and I consider myself an introvert. Walking onto a patio full of strangers and knowing I would need to introduce myself and try to make conversation was intimidating! Not to mention the fact that some of my writing heroes were there and I was hoping not to slobber all over them. (Candace Fleming, I'm looking at you.) So to be honest, I'm not sure my experience was much different than any other writer or illustrator attending their first conference in LA. I was starry-eyed over meeting my favorite authors and illustrators. I was excited about spending three days engaged in discussing craft. I was looking forward to learning from people who have more experience than I do. And yet, I was also there as a faculty member, prepared to present a workshop about how to live the creative life. 

The workshop I presented, How NOT to Have a Nervous Breakdown While Waiting, was one born out of personal experience, for sure. To be honest, I felt pretty vulnerable before my presentation. I've learned, though, that vulnerable is usually the best place for me to be when it comes to connecting with others. One of the most difficult aspects of this career for me to manage is the emotional up-and-down of putting myself and my work out there. In one of my WIPs, I have a line -- "Fire and hope have much better things in common than their simple ability to burn you." For me, that line epitomizes my relationship with this business. There is this hope every time I sit down to write that compels me and lights my way as I explore how to create a meaningful story. And yet, that same hope can burn like fire when it is deferred, when I get a rejection, or when despite all my attempts, I can't get what's in my head onto the page. This tightrope we must walk with hope is one of the reasons I'm so grateful for SCBWI. In my workshop I wanted to say, "This is me. Is there anyone else out there who feels this way? This is what I do to survive it." It felt like both a huge risk and a huge privilege to get to share that part of myself with others. 

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

Kristy: My advice will likely not feel very new, because others have said it before. But these two things have made a significant difference in my writing career: 

1. Read, read, read in the genre in which you want to write. 
2. Find a way to interact weekly with children who are in the age group you want to write for. Do something to get around kids. Volunteer. Teach. Mentor. I say this NOT so that you will simply know your audience better but so that you will care about them more. Don't let your only goal in spending time with them be to get fodder for your stories. The fodder for your stories -- the mannerisms, the dialogue, the humor, the drama, the interests -- will become internalized if you are truly spending time with kids for their sake. Even more, you will become increasingly committed to creating books that matter for them, because they will matter to you.

Thanks, Kristy!

SCBWI's International Regional Advisor Chairperson is Kathleen Ahrens, who together with Angela Cerrito (Assistant International Advisor), shared this about SCBWI International Central:

International Central ( is made up of SCBWI members who live outside of the United States in a country where there is not currently an SCBWI Region. For this reason, International Central is likely the most diverse region of SCBWI. At present, members of International Central represent 34 countries spanning the globe, including: Botswana, Finland, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Korea, Peru, Brazil, Poland, Kenya, Hungry, Greece, Iceland and Uruguay. As with all SCBWI regions, members of International Central include writers, illustrators and translators at all levels: associate, full and PAL. Some members are new to writing for children while others have published several PAL titles.

Currently, the major event in International Central is the SCBWI Bologna Showcase ( held on even number years as part of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair ( International Central members have same benefits as all SCBWI members including: attending SCBWI events worldwide at the SCBWI member rate, SCBWI publications (The Book, SCBWI Insights, SCBWI Bulletin), the Blue Board (, webinars, SCBWI’s Translators’ listserv and the opportunity to apply for SCBWI’s many Awards and Grants ( In addition to the publications in English, many International Central members subscribe to La Cometa, a Spanish SCBWI publication produced jointly by Regional Advisors Judy Goldman (SCBWI Mexico) and Malena Alzu (SCBWI Spain.) Through the Blue Board, many members from International Central join online critique groups. In some areas, SCBWI members meet informally. Meetings may include Book Talks, Critique Groups or social gatherings to share information and offer encouragement. 

So if you live in a country where you'd be part of SCBWI International Central, know you belong to a vibrant, exciting region!

Learn more about Kristy at her website here.

You can find out more about SCBWI International Central here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

When Editors Say They Need To LOVE A Manuscript to Acquire It...

Would YOUR manuscript inspire an editor to shave the title into their head? How about get a tattoo of your character?

Wait a minute, I can hear you saying. That's not reasonable.

You're right. It's not reasonable. It's passion.

But check out the editor love that inspired Andrea Davis Pinkney to shave the title of Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld’s Friendshape into her hair:

From Facebook

and the editor love (and maybe a lost/won bet?) that inspired Connie Hsu to get a tattoo of Dan Santat's character Beekle, from his Caldecott-winning The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend:

From Facebook

Is what you're writing/illustrating going to inspire THAT kind of passion? THAT kind of love?

Wouldn't it be amazing to say YES?

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, September 17, 2015

"Feathers: Not Just For Flying" - The 2015 Crystal Kite Interview with Melissa Stewart and Sarah Brannen

In the New England division, the 2015 Crystal Kite Award goes to "Feathers: Not Just For Flying," by SCBWI New England members Melissa Stewart (author) and Sarah Brannen (illustrator.)

Author Melissa Stewart

Illustrator Sarah Brannen

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

Melissa: Thanks so much for interviewing us, Lee! Sarah and I are thrilled that Feathers won a Crystal Kite Award. 

"Feathers: Not Just for Flying" celebrates the amazing versatility of a simple, common natural object—the feather. We all know that birds depend on feathers to fly, but this book highlights sixteen unexpected uses, from providing protection from the sun and carrying nest materials to sliding across icy surfaces and producing a whistling love song. Making skillful use of trompe l’oiel, the vivid, realistic watercolors give readers the sense that they are viewing a lovingly compiled birder’s scrapbook. 

Sarah: Feathers: Not Just For Flying is about the different ways birds use their feathers. It’s laid out like a scrapbook, with illustrations showing how the bird uses the feathers, an actual-sized feather from that bird, and other objects illustrating the similes Melissa uses to describe how each bird uses its feathers. The illustrations are trompe-l’oeil, so that even the text looks as if it were written on slips of paper taped onto the pages.

Lee: Melissa, how did “Feathers: Not Just For Flying" come about for you, premise to evolution to manuscript?

Melissa: While I was doing research for another book, I stumbled across an article in Birder’s World (now BirdWatching magazine) with a fact that blew my mind—a bird’s eyelashes are made of tiny feathers. (You can see Sarah’s drawing of these bristle feathers in the backmatter of Feathers.) 

That fact made me curious. Really curious. I wondered if birds had other interesting, unusual, or unexpected ways of using their feathers, and I was dying to find out. But first I had to finish the book I was working on. So I photocopied the article and pinned it to the idea board in my office. A few months later, I was finally able to dig into the research. 

As I do for all my books, I turned to four main sources for information: 
     • the library (for books, magazines, and newspapers) 
     • databases (for scientific journal articles) 
     • the Internet (to locate experts, in this case ornithologists) 
     • my own nature journals, which I’ve been keeping for about 27 years 

It didn’t take long to realize that I’d struck gold. Based on my personal observations, interviews with scientists, and reports in scholarly books and scientific journals, there was plenty of information for a book. 

That was the easy part of the process. The hard part was finding a truly engaging way to present the information to young readers. I needed just the right structure. 

After more than three years of trial and error, I finally latched onto the idea of comparing the unusual ways birds use their feathers to objects in our everyday lives. That’s when the writing came to life, and I knew the manuscript was ready for my editor. 

Lee: Sarah, please share your process on taking Melissa’s words and making them a picture book! 

Sarah: Melissa and I are in the same critique group, and I had seen an early version of the manuscript long before I was asked to illustrate it. It was love at first sight in my case. I started picking up feathers for three years after I knew the book existed, just in case I got the chance to work on it! 

Once I was hired as the illustrator, I realized that the book was very challenging to illustrate. For each bird, there were two separate texts, which needed to read independently. I needed to show each bird doing the thing Melissa talked about. Feathers are beautiful, so I knew I wanted to show one or more actual feathers. Plus, because Melissa compares feathers to familiar objects, I wanted to show those things too. 

All this meant that for every bird there would be at least five different design elements. There were two birds on some spreads, so that meant ten different design elements. I had to think of some notion that would unify all the elements and not just look like scattered bits and pieces. 

My first idea was to show all these things as if they were laid out in a drawer, as part of a collection. The text would appear to have been cut out of magazines, newspapers, letters, or old sketchbooks. The illustrations would seem as though they were cut out of magazines or books, or were old photographs, fine art, or sketchbook pages. 

After I had done a dummy, it was decided to change the design to a scrapbook. A few things had to change but my basic idea stayed the same. For a long time, we thought we would show a child, who was collecting all these things, but in the end we dropped that idea. 

The art director didn’t show Melissa any sketches until the first dummy was finished. I was very nervous about her reaction, but luckily she loved it. Illustrating this book was a dream come true and I’m still overjoyed that I had the chance to work on it. 

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

Melissa: I became a member of the SCBWI in 2001. I had already published about 10 books, so what I was hoping to find was a community, a group of people who loved children’s literature as much as I did and who would support and encourage me on my journey as a writer. Did the SCBWI fill the bill? Absolutely. 

I joined several SCBWI critique groups and began to volunteer in my region. In 2005 and 2006, I co-directed the New England region’s annual conference. I also served as New England’s PAL Coordinator for a few years. And I have been a member of the SCBWI Board of Advisors since 2007. Through all these experiences, I have made countless friends. One of those friends is Sarah Brannen.

A librarian introduced Sarah and me about 10 years ago. I loved her artwork and convinced the other members of my critique group to let her join. Sarah was one of the first people to really believe in the manuscript that became Feathers. It’s astonishing that she ultimately became the book’s illustrator and that now our region has selected Feathers for the Crystal Kite. 

Sarah: I joined SCBWI in 2002, and attended my first conference in New England that spring. I learned so much at conferences for the first few years as I was learning to become a children’s book illustrator. SCBWI is also very helpful in connecting people to critique groups. I’m a member of a writing critique group, and the coordinator of an illustrators’ critique group, and both groups have been fantastic for sharing ideas and getting fresh opinions.

I also found the Market Surveys very helpful. Even though I have an agent, I still refer to them.

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

Melissa: Join SCBWI, and volunteer in your region! No matter where you are in your writing and/or illustrating journey, the organization is an incredible resource. If you’re just starting out, the SCBWI will educate you and help you hone your craft. If you’re ready to start submitting, the SCBWI’s conferences and contests can provide invaluable access to agents, editors, and art directors. And after you’re published, the SCBWI offers a wide range of marketing and publicity opportunities. At every stage, you will meet people who become treasured friends. 

Sarah: The first and best advice I share is to join SCBWI! I get asked for advice all the time, and I have plenty to give: Write or draw every day. Join a critique group. Read lots and lots of recent books in your genre. Draw the kind of art you love to do. Write about things that matter.

Thanks, Melissa and Sarah!

I also connected with Margo Lemieux, Regional Advisor of SCBWI New England, to find out more about Melissa, Sarah and their region. Pulling in the voices of other RAs, Margo shared this:

NESCBWI is an active region with a very large annual conference, programming throughout the year, and 47 open active critique groups. Even with such an active area, both Melissa and Sarah stand out as members who have stepped up to the plate a number of times. Melissa was co-director of our great regional conference in 2005 and 2006. For several years, she also did hour-long interviews at the conference with award winning authors such as Cynthia Lord. She was the inaugural NESCBWI PAL coordinator and set the tone for the professionalism that has become the guide for our events. Sarah has acted as a mentor to up-and-coming illustrators and presented art workshops at the NESCBWI annual conference. We are so proud to have both in our region.

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

And discover more about Sarah at her website here.

Want to know more about SCBWI New England? Check out their regional website.

One more time, congratulations, Melissa and Sarah, on "Feathers: Not Just For Flying" winning the 2015 Crystal Kite Award!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Guest Interview With 3-Time Batchelder Award-Winning Translator Laura Watkinson

Laura Watkinson, Translator Extraordinaire 

By Avery Fischer Udagawa and Lyn Miller-Lachmann 

Laura Watkinson, founder of SCBWI Netherlands, has wowed the children’s book world by translating three of the last four winners of the Mildred L. Batchelder Award.

The Batchelder—awarded in the same series as the Newbery and Caldecott—goes to the publisher of the best children’s book in the U.S. that first appeared in another language overseas.

In children’s literature translation, it is the Oscar Award. 

Laura Watkinson 

Laura answered questions from Lyn Miller-Lachmann and Avery Fischer Udagawa about her winning translations from Dutch.

For SCBWI members new to your work, what are the titles and authors of your Batchelder winners, and what are they about? 

Bibi Dumon Tak’s Soldier Bear (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, illustrated by Philip Hopman) won the Batchelder in 2012. It’s based on a true story about a bear who became an army mascot in World War II and all the adventures he and his fellow soldiers had.

2012 Batchelder winner Soldier Bear, with photo of the real bear taken by Laura’s mother-in-law in childhood, at the Edinburgh Zoo.

Truus Matti’s Mister Orange (Enchanted Lion) was the 2014 winner, and is about a young boy in New York and his inspiring friendship with the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian.

This year’s 2015 winner was another collaboration with Bibi Dumon Tak, Philip Hopman, and Eerdmans Books for Young Readers: Mikis and the Donkey, about a boy in a Greek village who teaches his grandfather that donkeys aren’t machines for doing work, but creatures that need to be looked after properly.

What are some of the special considerations in translating books for young readers, as opposed to books for adults? 

When translating books for children, I sometimes provide a little more padding to explain any new concepts, such as special holidays or customs, rather than leaving younger readers to figure it out for themselves. With books for adults, for instance, I tend to leave names as they are in the original, even if they may look fairly unpronounceable to a non-Dutch speaker, e.g. Thijs. However, in a children’s book, I may choose to substitute an “easier” name that works in both Dutch and English, generally something that starts with the same letter, e.g. Tim.

A few little stumbling blocks in a book are okay, as the story does come from a different culture, after all, but sometimes it’s a good idea to make the experience just a little smoother for younger readers.

Now that marketing is so important for authors of books for young readers, what role does the translator play? 

That depends a lot on the translator and, of course, on the publisher’s marketing approach. I enjoy helping out with publicity for books and also promoting the role of translation in increasing diversity within the children’s book market, so I’m happy to attend conferences and book launches, for example, and I’m also active online. (See and @Laura_Wat on Twitter.)

How do you find books to translate? 

I work closely with publishers in both my source and target languages, writing reports on books for English-language publishers and translating excerpts of books and publicity material, too. Sometimes I’ll recommend a book to a publisher if I think it’s a good fit for their list, but most of my projects come to me from publishers.

How does knowing an author personally—as you did Karlijn Stoffels, author of Heartsinger (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic)—help with the process of translation? How can it become a problem for the translator? 

Karlijn and I both live in Amsterdam, but we didn’t actually meet until after I’d finished translating Heartsinger. I didn’t have any questions for her while I was translating the book, as it’s very clearly written, but she read the translation before publication, and we discussed a few points, which was helpful. I haven’t had any problems with authors so far—touch wood!—but I have heard stories about some authors who have tried to impose their own ideas on a translation. I think it’s sometimes hard for them to let go of their “baby.”

What kinds of books are easiest to transport from one culture to another? And hardest? 

I’ve recently translated The Letter for the King and its sequel, The Secrets of the Wild Wood, by Tonke Dragt (UK: Pushkin Press; US: David Fickling Books/Scholastic). They’re absolute classics of Dutch children’s literature—and a real privilege to translate. As they’re set in a fictional medieval world, they were easy to transport into English. There were no Dutch cultural aspects to explain, and most of the characters’ names were invented by the author. The ideas also felt very natural to me in English.

Rhyming picture books are, of course, one of the trickier kinds of text to write—doubly so in translation, I think. You’re not only dealing with the rhymes, but also having to make sure the text still matches the pictures, and that you can maintain any puns. It can be great fun, but I often feel the pressure of the deadline when it comes to rhyming texts. Still, if the illustrations and the story are great, it’s a lovely challenge for a translator.

What is your favorite children’s book in translation, from/into any language? 

I wouldn’t really make a distinction between books in translation and books originally written in English. Whether in translation or in the original, they’re all stories in their own right.

My favorite children’s book is probably Elizabeth Goudge’s The Little White Horse, originally written in English, but also translated into a number of other languages. So many books that were written originally in English have been translated into countless other languages, and often the readers don’t even stop to consider the fact that they’re reading a book in translation. I’d love it if we could reach that position in English-language publishing, too, and see great books as great books, whether translated or not. There are some fabulous books out there in languages other than English, and we should be welcoming them into our language and onto our bookshelves. We are missing out on so many great stories, authors, and experiences.

What is your favorite “myth” about translation? 

It’s become a cliché: the phrase “lost in translation.” A translation and an original can obviously never be identical, as they’re written in different languages and filtered through different associations and images, but a translation should be able to stand on its own, as a text in its own right. Translators work hard to respect the essence of the original, and although some aspects may have to be sacrificed, there’s plenty a translator can add to the work to maintain some kind of equivalence. If it’s a great story in the original, it’ll still be that same great story in translation.

Lyn Miller-Lachmann ( translated The World in a Second by Isabel Minhós Martins, edited Once Upon a Cuento, and authored Rogue, Gringolandia, and Surviving Santiago. She is a We Need Diverse Books team member. 

Avery Fischer Udagawa ( translated J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965 by Shogo Oketani. She is SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator and SCBWI International Translator Coordinator: 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

"Sniffer Dogs" – The 2015 Crystal Kite Interview with Nancy Castaldo

In the New York division, the 2015 Crystal Kite Award goes to "Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World" by SCBWI Eastern Upstate New York member and Regional Advisor Nancy Castaldo!

Author Nancy Castaldo

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

Nancy: I had a blast working on Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World. These dogs are AMAZING and I was able to meet and photograph most of the dogs in the book. It was an honor to witness them working in so many different capacities - from bomb detection to scat location! My goal was to introduce readers to individual working sniffer dogs. They seem to be everywhere these days, continually proving that they are a human’s best friend. It truly became a labor of love to share their stories. And the team at Houghton Mifflin was a joy to work with. I am honored that so many readers have connected with the book.

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

Nancy: I’ve been a member of SCBWI since 1995 — In fact this year is my 20th anniversary! Over the years SCBWI has provided me with an irreplaceable community that has given me support and knowledge. I have met my editors and my agent through the organization, as well as my critique buddies.

As Regional Advisor for the Eastern NY region over the past several years I’ve had the fun of planning some exciting, inspirational retreats. Our Falling Leaves Retreat has become recognized as one of the top writing retreats in the US. Most importantly I find that SCBWI gives me the ability to have office-mates who might be on the other side of the state or the country. I look to the SCBWI team as my advocates in the complex world of publishing.

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

Nancy: Is it too simplistic to advise writers and illustrators to READ? It’s the number 1 rule and the reason our local SCBWI Shoptalk group holds a book discussion every month. Reading is the best way to learn craft. Secondly, surround yourself with other writers and illustrators. That’s where SCBWI comes in. Those networking experiences will provide you with your next critique partner, your next editor, and will undoubdtedly lift your writing and illustrating to a higher level. Always work to improve your craft. Don’t stay stuck. Stretch - try a new genre or new technique. Always keep growing! 

I also took the opportunity, since Nancy is the regional advisor for SCBWI Eastern Upstate New York, to find out more about her region. Here's what Nancy shared: 

I love being a part of the Eastern NY SCBWI Region. Along with hosting our very popular Falling Leaves Master Class Retreat each November in New York’s beautiful Adirondack Mountains, we host a variety of other events. Free monthly ShopTalk meetings can be found throughout our region which provide our members with an instant writing/illustrating community wherever they live in the region. They feature programs as well as a chance to get work critiqued. This spring we offered our first Green Leaves weekend retreat that featured five great faculty members and 35 attendees. We are going to host another spring weekend in 2016 focusing solely on illustration! I know it is going to be an amazing weekend for illustrators. Like our other retreats we will limit attendance to 35 and will host five fabulous faculty members. 

Thanks, Nancy - and again, congratulations! 

You can find out more about Nancy at this website, and learn more about SCBWI Eastern Upstate New York here.

And once again, congratulations to Nancy, for "Sniffer Dogs" winning the 2015 Crystal Kite Award!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

John Cleese on Creativity. Really, Truly Brilliant.

"Creativity is not a talent is a way of operating."

That's from about three and a half minutes into this remarkable speech John Cleese (the acclaimed actor who was part of Monty Python) gave about Creativity.

Creativity as PLAY.

The discussion of closed mood versus open mode and how creativity is only possible in the open mode was really interesting, especially in terms of the five elements he says we need to be in open mode so we can be creative. The first two, space and time, really resonated because it led me to think about the coffee shop thing – how so many of us writers and illustrators want to go to a coffee shop or somewhere away from our regular work and home spaces because the regular spaces are so full of the emails and the responsibilities of our regular lives, and we instinctively know we need to be in a different place to be creative.

John says we need to

"....create an oasis of quiet for ourselves by setting these boundaries of space and of time. Now, creativity can happen, because play is possible when we're separate from everyday life."

That's at 15:00 min in.

He also touches on what might just be the key – and the solution – to procrastination. And the secret of being really creative. And the evolutionary purpose of humor.

It's pretty brilliant. Give it a listen:

Thanks to Molly Idle who recommended this at #LA15SCBWI, and to Sara Bayles who shared it at the Los Angeles Westside Mingle last week!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, September 3, 2015

How Many Books Did They Write Before Their Debut?

Author Ava Jae put out word on Twitter, asking authors which number book that they wrote ended up being their "debut" novel. She collected over 200 responses, and crunched the numbers for us:

There are even pie charts!

 It's very cool, and well worth reading.

Thanks, Ava!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

JC Kato wins the 2015 Karen Cushman Late Bloomer Award!

"Late bloomer" can sound like a judgment – but some flowers just bloom later, and can be amazing!

Karen Cushman published her first children’s book, The Midwife’s Apprentice (winner of the 1996 Newbery Medal), at the age of fifty-three and has gone on to become one of our field’s most acclaimed novelists.

As SCBWI's Executive Director Lin Oliver says,
"creative life has no age limit."

This year's winner of the Karen Cushman Late Bloomer Award is JC Kato, for her manuscript "Finding Moon Rabbit."

Author JC Kato

Here's what Karen said of JC's work:

“I chose Finding Moon Rabbit because the writing is strong, authentic, and sometimes even lyrical; Koko an intriguing and original character; the subject matter compelling and important,”

Here's my interview with JC:

Lee: Hi JC! Congratulations on winning the 2015 Karen Cushman Late Bloomer Award!

JC: Thank you, Lee, I'm so excited with the opportunity and honored to have been selected. Wow. Thank you Karen and Phil Kushman. 

Lee: Tell us about finding out you’d won.

JC: I had one of those really tough days at work, you know, the kind you want to forget? I hadn't had a moment all day to check my phone or emails, and then, not even after work. I was busy rushing across town to see my 81 year old mother's talent show. Sometime between a cha-cha on organ and a puppet show, I opened my e-mail. There it was; Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser's email, filled with the wonderful news--a very surreal experience when there's an organ rendition of Stardust playing--I cried. Karen Cushman's comments about my manuscript brought me to even more tears. I wanted to wail--jump up from my seat and shout. Could've. A room full of fifty very talented seniors intent on watching the show wouldn't have minded. Mother played her piano beautifully. She was beautiful. Everything felt beautiful, and the day I wanted to forget, became the day I'll never forget. 

Lee: You won for your Middle Grade historical fiction manuscript, “Finding Moon Rabbit.” Please share with us what it’s about, and why you wrote it.

JC: Koko is a ten year old girl who has a very rough time adjusting to her new home--an internment camp in Wyoming during World War II. She picks up some bad habits like, skipping school, fibbing, breaking promises, and, getting arrested. She vows to change for the sake of her ill mother and grumpy, older sister. She joins Girl Scouts where she's sure to learn how to be good like her friend, Mitzi. In the process, though, she unearths the truth that her Pop is a suspected traitor. Koko's journey leads her to discover where she fits in a world gone upside down, and how the shine of the moon can mend a broken family. 

For those in my family, Lee, who were in the camps, it was something never discussed. Out of respect, we never did. They're gone now, and I guess, in my need for emotional balance, and for my children to know more about their heritage, should they ask, I wrote this story. 

Lee: How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and how has that impacted your career journey so far?

JC: I've been with SCBWI since 2007 and, well, there's just nothing to beat the information, education and support they offer. In 2010 I ventured to the Los Angeles Conference and came away inspired--and hungry to write as well as I'm possibly able. 

Lee: The Karen Cushman Late Bloomer award comes with $500 and free tuition to any SCBWI conference anywhere in the world. Do you have big plans?

JC: I haven't wrapped my brain around that one yet. Though, the last time I was in Los Angeles I didn't have a chance to go to the Japanese American Museum there and have always wanted to return. We'll see. The $500 will go toward edits and more edits. 

Lee: Thanks so much. Wishing you much success on the adventure ahead!

JC: It was a pleasure, Lee, and thanks for the good wishes.

JC Kato can be reached at jckatowrites (at) yahoo (dot) com

You can find out more about the Karen and Philip Cushman Late Bloomer Award here.