Thursday, February 25, 2016

Neil Gaiman's Writing Advice

Q: How do you deal with negative criticism?
A: The same way I deal with positive criticism. I write The Next Thing.

There's lots more, as shared on Neil's Tumblr and widely reported, including in this Bustle article.

There's a fascinating answer to writing race here, which includes:

"You know who comes from where, after all, how they talk, what kind of foods they eat. But I only tend to tag the skin colour of the white characters in the book when they first show up." He gives a bunch of examples from Anansi Boys and then talks about how "race isn’t just skin-colour."
And one more highlight:
"One of the joys of fiction is problem-solving. You can wind up rooting for anybody as long as they use their brains to get out of trouble. Actually, it's a way to make an unsympathetic protagonist or even antagonist really sympathetic. Put them in a really difficult situation, and then make them figure it out. Your character is deep in trouble, don't have them fight their way out. Have them think their way out, and solve their problem by the kind of knowledge everybody ought to know--including the reader, who can then go, "Oh my gosh, I could have done that."
Some great advice!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Author and Teacher Jen Storer's Girl & Duck Blog

Jen wrote to let me know about her blog, Girl & Duck, that supplements her Melbourne, Australia-based writing fiction for kids class.

It's a cool resource, with posts on Creating Quirky Characters in Fiction and video inspirations (like making an eight-page handmade book to inspire thinking visually and working with limited text) - Jen's example book is her top 10 tips for writing for children, including these gems:

 #4: Don't let adults fix your characters' problems 


#6: Kids love to be scared. But not too scared! 


#10: Checklist! All senses covered? Sight, sound, taste, touch & smell.

It will be fun to see where Jen takes us next.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Picture Book Advice, compiled by Elizabeth Bluemle on PW's Shelf Talker

I thought this article, "Favorite Picture Book Revision Tips" was great.

It's packed with good advice for authors and illustrators, some good to hear again, some put in a new way that gave me fresh insight, and some that made me laugh out loud. Three favorites:

DON’T FORGET to play ALL the parts/roles in the story. That way, all of your characters will feel three-dimensional and real. —Susan Fletcher, Dadblamed Union Army Cow 

SEED THE RESOLUTION in the beginning of the book. It makes the ending so much more satisfying. Example: In my picture book, Maggie and the Monster, Maggie tells her mother early on in the story that besides the little noisy monster who comes into her room every night, there’s also a monster who lives upstairs in the closet behind the brooms. Later, when the little monster admits to Maggie that she’s looking for her mother, Maggie knows just where to find that mother. Upstairs in the closet behind the brooms. The resolution was “seeded” early on… — Elizabeth Winthrop, Dumpy LaRue; Lucy and Henry Are Friends 


BONUS TIP: Recently, I was on a walk with my friends Chris Tebbetts (Public School Superhero; Middle School 7: Just My Rotten Luck) and Liza Woodruff (Emerson Barks; and illustrator of If It’s Snowy and You Know It, Clap Your Paws!), and they shared a great tip they’d picked up at a recent writing retreat. When a discussion there turned to writing discipline, one writer told the group that she pays herself $15/hour to write, and those funds go into a separate bank account that she then uses for retreats and trips throughout the year. Now, that’s a kind of motivation I’d never thought of! 

For those of us writing and/or illustrating picture books, it's well worth checking out.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Twitter Highlights of #NY16SCBWI

What a conference!

Here are some moments that resonated for me and others, in no particular order, as captured on Twitter:

Tips from Rita Wiliams-Garcia: Don't isolate yourself. Find your community. Don't fear doubt. Don't not hear criticism.

Jacqueline Mitchard reminds us to leave our readers "with one last gasp." A true Valentines Day emotion.

"You are my tribe. You are my friend, even if I don't know you yet." --Jane Yolen.

Cheering the ⭐️AMAZECAKES⭐️ SCBWI Team Blog! THANKS for making it possible for everybody who can't be here to kinda be, guys! 😄

Standing ovation for the SCBWI staff. Much deserved!

An agent once fired for not switching a book into the first person. Bet that person's sad now.

Kate Messner & Linda Urban reminded us to look at each other in a room "filled with magic": creativity, support & encouragement!

"Going full-on Tolkien" is my new favorite phrase for writing too much description, coined by .

Everybody is reading kids books. It's not just kids reading kids' books. - Mallory Loehr, VP of Random House

"Color choices are like music, you can have loud and soft areas" - 's ex. of Sasek + Keats

Diversity is not a fad or a trend but the right thing to do to reflect the world around you. - Sarah Davies

Part of revision is having the courage to let go of almost anything that's in your first draft says

"You are the ambassador of Planet You." Starting w/ the AMAZING William Joyce . Here we go!

Forge your own Trend, Don't Follow one. This is what I'm taking away from

Intensive Gem: "You write the book for you... you work with an editor to make it even more you." -Gary Schmidt

"Things that seem small to us as adults are huge to teens." Their problems matter. ~

Elements Alvina Ling looks for in plot: believability, pacing, high stakes, and emotional impact.

There are no rules you can never break - Liz Bicknell, Candlewick

Children's books are mini art galleries. -

Another reason to love is meeting my idols. Thank you !!

on with Sarah Davies: listen to children, their quirky logic, you've got to develop your middle grade voice

Kate Messner & Linda Urban showed us how to get our butts OUT of chair

When you have writer's block, go on a hike or a walk per says play music

Feeling the love with my publishing peeps!

What I've discovered so far at - Lin Oliver is a comedic genius and my new hero. 🙌🏼

Brought to tears at by Gary D. Schmidt. Kidlit writers need to show up for the kids who need someone to do just that.

What were YOUR favorite moments/tweets/quotes? Tell us in comments!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Open Call for the #NY16SCBWI Illustrator Journals!

So we've been doing this fun thing for the last few conferences, asking a handful of illustrators to share a page from their conference journals/sketchbooks of something that inspired them during the conference. (You can see some recent entries here.)

The idea is that it gives illustrators a spotlight, and shares a multi-faceted visual take on all the craft, inspiration, business, community and opportunity of an SCBWI conference!

This time around, we're changing it up, opening it up, to ANY and EVERY illustrator attending #NY16SCBWI who wants to take part.

Just go to the #NY16SCBWI Conference Illustrator Journal post at The Official SCBWI Conference Blog, and, in comments, add a link to your image that you've posted somewhere online. It's that easy!

We can't wait to see what you all come up with.

Here's to an amazing conference ahead!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

YA Highway - An Excellent Resource for Writers

This "Publishing Road Map" the folks at YA Highway have put together is so clever!

When you're at their website, clicking on the different locals takes you to different treasure-troves of resources! Like clicking on, 'Time Management Manor' takes you to a list of two dozen blog posts and articles on time management for writers, with sections on
Time Management Tips, Tricks and Pep Talks,
Writing and Family, and

The links in those list are well-worth the time, not coincidentally including "Your Time Is Your Currency" by famed author Laurie Halse Anderson.

'Agent Acres' is busting with advice (with nearly 50 articles, websites and resources), and you can visit 'E-Book Estates', the 'Province of Self-Publishing' and 'Money Marsh' (How Much Do Authors Get Paid) all in the same day!

It's a great resource. Check it out.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, February 4, 2016

How Does Dean Koontz Build A Novel?

'I kind of build a novel the way marine polyps build a coral reef; it's millions and millions of little precarious bodies stacked on one another.'
     -Dean Koontz,
     author of more than 100 Books, in an interview with the Rumpus,
     as quoted in the New York Times Book Review, January 31, 2016, pg. 4

This photo of two scientists studying the Great Barrier Reef, one in the process of writing, seemed too good to not include!
Dean's metaphor above sparks the question for each of us working on our own manuscripts:

How do we build a novel?

Or a picture book, or a chapter book, for that matter?

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Our 2015 Work In Progress Grant Winners!

Opportunity is one of pillars of SCBWI, and the Work In Progress Grants is opportunity in action.

Members can submit the first ten pages of their

Picture Book Text 
(note: your picture book should not be 10 pages long!)

Chapter Book/Early Readers

Middle Grade Fiction

Young Adult Fiction


Multicultural Fiction or Nonfiction

Winning manuscripts are "showcased on a secure website so that the work can be exposed to selected acquiring editors, giving these authors exclusive access to some of the most sought after professionals in the business."

One of the 2015 winners has already had their manuscript acquired!

The winners are:

PB Text: Peggy Archer "Toad in the Road"
Come along with Toad on his whimsical adventure with its rhythmic, infectious (rollicking) language, sure to delight young children. This manuscript has been acquired by Schwartz and Wade.

Chapter Book/Early Reader: Lorrie-Ann Melnick "Haunted Key Mystery: Help! I'm Haunted"
In this swashbuckling mystery, Kat, her newfound cat, Tuna, and her frenemy Rebecca must rid themselves of a ghost thief.

Middle Grade: Beth Cahn "Chasing Gold"
In 1911 a young boy must contend with the stereotypes of Chinese immigrants after the California Gold Rush.

YA: Erin Stewart "Twisted"
In a futuristic world, sixteen-year-old Rose discovers that her genetic code was switched at birth, and must decide whether her own free will or her DNA will define who she is.

Nonfiction: Donna Janell Bowman "Tomboy: Daring Life of Blanche Stewart Scott"
Follow the adventurous life of the first female pilot, making history on wheels and on wings.

Multicultural: Suma Subramaniam "Walking on a Tightrope"
After losing her family in the South Asian tsunami, eleven-year-old Mayili is imprisoned by child traffickers and must use her tightrope walking skills to escape.

Congratulations all around!

And if you want to submit your work for the 2016 Work In Progress Grants, go here for all the information. Submissions open March 1, 2016.

Illustrate and Write On,