Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Advice for writing "scary" from R.L. Stine (of Goosebumps fame!)

R.L. Stine photo from here

"I think you have to create a very close point of view. You have to be in the eyes of the narrator. Everything that happens, all the smells, all the sounds; then your reader starts to identify with that character and that’s what makes something really scary.

 ...The other big elements are shock and surprises! You don’t want a linear plot. You want to have twists in there that the reader will stop and say, 'Oh, I didn’t realize that.'"                    –R.L. Stine, from an interview at GalleyCat"

Want more R.L. Stine? check out this MTV interview Rachel Handler did where she visited Stine in his home, "What Scares R.L. Stine?"

Illustrate and Write On–and Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Nancy Bo Flood Guest Post On Winning the 2016 SCBWI Marketing Grant

Nancy Bo Flood won the 2016 SCBWI Marketing Grant. Nancy wanted to use the grant to share her book, "Soldier Sister, Fly Home" with Native American students through book talks and writing workshops. As Nancy wrote, "I want to encourage and support students' own writing. Less than 1% of books published for children are about contemporary American Indians. Every child should see themselves - their stories, their landscape, their people - in a book." 

 Here's Nancy's Guest Post about what she's done with the grant... 

Recently, early one morning I drove across the northern part of the Navajo Nation from Canyon de Chelly to Chilchinbeto Elementary School. The sky glowed scarlet and then gold as the sun rose. I scooted horses off the sandy road, slowed when two coyotes crossed, stopped and pulled off to the side to watch a grandma on horseback deftly guide her sheep from one pasture to a further one.

Canyon Des Chelly

I drove until I came to the school surrounded by piƱon and salmon-colored cliffs. There I began my day, sharing books and stories with students. We performed cowboy poetry together, imagining ourselves at a Navajo rodeo, riding bucking broncos and roping wild calves. We read about and then talked about the wonders of water – all the uses, forms, sounds and smells of water. Together we wrote a group poem, “Seven Ways of Looking at Water.”

 I read the beginning of Soldier Sister, Fly Home, and then we shared how it feels to have a sister or brother deployed. As I began my drive back home I took a photo of the Chilchinbeto sign to remind me about that sky, that horizon, that school full of students with stories to share, waiting to be written.

How could I return and guide students to do just that, to write their own stories?

This what I learned: Grant support was needed. As I wrestled with creating a successful SCBWI marketing application, I learned this - I needed to answer three critical questions. These questions are important to all authors as we prioritize how to spend time, energy, and money to market our books. And market we must if we want our books to thrive.

Why did I write this book?

Who do I hope will read it?

How do I reach those readers?

Why did I write this book? –So children who are Navajo or Native American can see themselves in a book. Fewer than 1% of children’s books are written about Native Americans. We need Native stories that are accurate, positive, and contemporary. Educators, librarians, and READERS need to know about these books.

Who do I hope will read it? –Native children as well as children who have never hiked to the top of a mesa or down into the depths of a canyon – or heard silence broken by the whoosh of raven’s wings - can open this book and step into this landscape.

Another reason I wrote Soldier Sister, Fly Home, is because the worries and cares of the heart are universal. When a sister, brother, father or mother is deployed, we all feel the same anger, frustration, worry and fear - how do we keep a loved one safe? How do we figure out who we are and who we want to be?

How do I reach those readers? –What’s my marketing plan and how do I implement it?

For the SCBWI grant application, I described the traditional tools – book launches, blog tours, and conference presentations. These are all important.

But I also wanted to reach readers where there are trading posts and tourist information centers, but few libraries and no bookstores. Marketing for these readers was less about selling but more about sharing. I wanted to excite these students about reading and then encourage them to write their own stories, their own books.

My marketing journey has begun. At Many Farms Elementary School, Navajo Nation, there are 500 students and no librarian. The school’s dynamo principal, Cheryl Tsosie, invited me for a return visit to share the excitement of books, the importance of reading.

I read the prologue of Soldier Sister, Fly Home to a room full of antsy seventh and eighth grade students. As I began to read, the room became quiet. Silent. I finished reading the first chapter. No one said a word, no one moved. Then one student raised her hand, “Could you read more?” Other students chimed in, “Please keep reading.”

I asked them, “What do you think this story is about?” Students began voicing ideas, “The story is about sisters, about rifles, shooting rifles, maybe about death … about deployment.”

My next question was, “How many of you have someone in your family deployed?” Over a third of the students raised their hands. A third.

Then I asked, “How does that feel?” Students began talking at once. They had many feelings they wanted to share, and stories they wanted to tell, their stories.

This is where this marketing grant has taken me.

Thank you, SCBWI.

Author and SCBWI Marketing Grant winner Nancy Bo Flood

Congratulations, Nancy! 

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Today (Tuesday October 25) at 10am Pacific Registration OPENS for #NY17SCBWI

The 18th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference (#NY17SCBWI) from February 10-12, 2017 in New York City is going to be amazing. There's

Friday intensives!




Inspiration from a stellar faculty

Opportunity! (The Writers Roundtables and Portfolio Showcase)




Get all the information here, and register now so you don't miss out. The conference sells out year after year, and we'd love for you to join us!

Illustrate and Write–and Conference–On,

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Illustrator Jon Burgerman's "20 top character design tips" on Creative Bloq

Illustrators, Authors -- we're all creating characters. For illustrators especially, these 20 Top Character Design Tips might come in handy. (And as a writer, I'll share that some of them sparked inspiration for me as well!)

From "Use Exaggerated Characteristics" to "Add Accessories" to "Give your characters goals and dreams," there's a lot of good stuff here, including this bit:

Often the incompleteness or flaws in a character design are what make it interesting.
Read the full article here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Curtis Sittenfeld shares "24 Things No One Tells You About Book Publishing"

A few of these made me nod my head in agreement - and one even got me to laugh out loud.

Some highlights:

4. There are very different ways people can ask a published writer for the same favor. Polite, succinct, and preemptively letting you off the hook is most effective.

 7. When your book is on best-seller lists, people find you more amusing and respond to your emails faster.

8. When your book isn’t on best-seller lists, your life is calmer and you have more time to write.
Enjoy the full list here.

Thanks, Curtis!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Awards! The SCBWI 2016 Work-In-Progress Grant Winners and the Karen Cushman Late Bloomer Award Winner

SCBWI Grant and Award Logos

Congratulations to...

Work-In-Progress Young Adult Fiction Winner:

The Edge of the Miraculous by Beth Navarro
 While mourning for her father, a bipolar teenager is interrupted in her suicide attempt by a strange boy who happens to be an alien. 

 Work-In-Progress Nonfiction Winner:

Nikola’s Visions: The Extraordinary Life of Nikola Tesla by Cindy Jenson-Elliott
 Follow the life of the visionary scientist Nikola Tesla, as expressed through vibrant poetry. Short poems alternate point-of-view from Tesla to significant people in his life. 

 Work-In-Progress Multicultural Fiction or Nonfiction Winner:

Finding Ma by DoanPhuong Nguyen
 Set during the Vietnam War, eleven-year-old Con endures abandonment, kidnapping, and abuse, before finally finding a loving home. 

 Work-In-Progress Picture Book Text Winner:
 A Father’s Love by Hannah Holt
 A colorful celebration of fathers in the animal kingdom, from penguins to lions to seahorses. 

 Work-In-Progress Middle Grade Fiction Winner:
Ruby in the Sky by Jeanne Zulick-Ferruolo
 A shy young girl befriends the neighborhood eccentric, a mysterious recluse called the Bird Lady. 

Work-In-Progress Chapter Books/Early Fiction Winner:
How To Be a Bad Guy, By Dallas Bottomley by Lauren LeBlanc
 Fed up with his friends’ obsession with superheroes, 8-year-old Dallas decides to become a villain instead. But when he discovers he would rather stand up for the underdog, he must redefine what villainy means to him. 

 Don Freeman Illustration Grant Winners: 
 Published Award: Rongyuan Ma (See Rongyuan’s illustrations:
 Pre-published Award: Alison Farrell  (See Alison’s illustrations:

Karen Cushman Late Bloomer Award Winner:

Stephen Baker: Prayers to Broken Stone
 Fourteen-year-old Milana lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo with her mother studying the wild gorillas in Virunga National Park, but soon Milana must save both her family and the gorillas from an oil company bent on destroying the habitat. 

 This grant was established by Newbery Award winner and Newbery Honor Book recipient Karen Cushman and her husband, Philip Cushman, in conjunction with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Karen published her first children’s book, Catherine Called Birdy, in 1994 (Newbery Honor Book), at the age of fifty-three and has gone on to become one of the field’s most acclaimed novelists. “The writing [in Prayers to Broken Stone] is very good, the setting unusual and intriguing, and there is the promise of a corporate villain we can root against,” said Karen. “I hope someday I get a chance to read the book and find out what happens.”

 The SCBWI will propel the winning manuscripts on the path to publication by exposing their work to hand-selected acquiring editors on a secure website for a period of time. This is an opportunity for the winners to gain exclusive access to some of the most sought after professionals in the business. The winners of the Don Freeman Grant will each receive $1,000 to further their understanding, training, and work in the picture book genre.

Find out more about all the SCBWI grants and award programs here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

SCBWI Book Blast Is Open To The Public!

#SCBWIBookBlast is live for the next six weeks!

The link:

The scoop: Explore new books from independent & traditionally published writers & illustrators with #SCBWIBookBlast

What's extra cool: Visitor incentives! For this week of October 10, post pictures of your favorite Book Blast picture book page on Twitter for a chance to win a $100 gift card, and SCBWI will match that with a donation to We Need Diverse Books!

Have SCBWI friends with books out in 2016? Drop by their book pages and sign their guestbook with a note of encouragement. And hey, you can buy copies, too...

Explore, and help us all spread the word about #SCBWIBookBlast!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Mark Your Calendars! #NY17SCBWI Registration Opens October 25

It sells out every year...

And this year, from February 10-12, 2017, the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City will include keynotes by:

Three-time Caldecott Honor Recipient, illustrator Bryan Collier

New York Times Best-selling author Tahereh Mafi

and New York Times Best-selling author Sara Pennypacker

There will be panels on Children's Books in the Social Media World, Four Types of Picture Books, and The Current Landscape for Children's Books.

There will be breakout sessions with editors, agents and art directors.

There will be a Portfolio Showcase,

and an optional Friday intensive for writers and illustrators who want to dive deep into their craft,

and, of course, the Gala!

The full conference schedule and information will be up on October 21, 2016

We hope you'll join us.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Chris Jackson on why a multicultural imprint matters

61 weeks and counting on the New York Times' best-seller list

From the October 14, 2016 issue of The Hollywood Reporter, Chris Jackson, editor-in-chief and publisher of Random House imprint One World, had these wise words to share:

"Not to overstate it, but I think current events -- from ongoing issues with police violence to the election to terroristic violence -- demonstrate a failure across our journalistic, storytelling and culture-making industries. In so many basic ways we still don't understand each other -- we don't ever really see each other. That's what multicultural storytelling is about. So I think it's more urgent than ever."

Illustrate and Write On,