Thursday, December 28, 2017

Give Yourself the Best Gift Of All For 2018 - Time For Your Creativity

Whether it's filling-the-well time (as suggested in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way) and/or being part of a writing/illustrating group that meets regularly, and/or scheduling time in your calendar once a week (or five times a week) for you to do your writing/drawing/creating, take charge of your creative journey in 2018 by honoring how important your voice is — and giving yourself the gift of time to express what only you can express.

Happy New Year, from everyone at SCBWI!

Here's to a powerfully creative 2018 ahead...

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Which 2017 books got YOU to read them as soon as they were published?

This idea came from a comment left by blog reader awesomeMT...

Look at the books you've read in 2017. How many were published in 2017?

Consider which books got you to read them as soon as they were published (or at least in the same year they were published.) Why?

Can you make a list of those qualities?

We all have huge to-be-read piles... how does a book make it to the top of your pile? (Confession: I've bought books that have waited a very long time (I'm talking years) to be read, and I still haven't done it... But I haven't put a lot of thought into why other books jump the waiting list because I'm more excited to read them.

Word of mouth? Super-cool concept? Cover feels compelling? Opening lines grabbed you? Cover blurb from an author you love? A review that made you take notice? Something else?

Once you know how a book gets YOU to prioritize reading it, the question becomes: How can you reverse-engineer those qualities to be something your book has when it is published?

That wish-list of qualities? That's a marketing check-list for you...

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 21, 2017

What's Your Favorite Book(s) of 2017? A twist on the question...

It's that time of the year for all the best-of lists, which always brings up the comment, "Well, choosing favorites is very subjective."

YES! And that's a great thing.

Here's a challenge. Put together your own personal "Best of 2017" book list, but make it for books in your category/genre.

Illustrate graphic novels? What's your best recommendations for other people's graphic novels from the past year?

Write and illustrate picture books? What are your top three picture books by writer/illustrators?

Write funny middle grade? What are your top three middle grade comedies?

Write YA contemporary? What's your short list of favorites?

You get the picture... As we create, we also need to know what's going on in the marketplace - what books do we imagine on either side of our own book on the shelf of our ideal reader?

Knowing this helps us:
• talk about our own book,
• better engineer our marketing efforts by studying how these other books we love in the same category as our own are promoted,
• see how we might join in the conversation about these books wherever those conversations are happening. Because their audiences are our audiences, too.

And that's a great thing to know.

So, what are YOUR favorite books of 2017, in the same category/genre where you create content?

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Listen to SCBWI's Newest Podcast: A Conversation with Jennifer Laughran

Jennifer Laughran is a senior agent at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. In this interview with Theo Baker, Jennifer talks about her running start as an agent, the elements of building a career, what goes into some "overnight" successes, what she's hoping for when she receives a submission, and much more!

Listen to the episode trailer here.

And SCBWI members can listen to the full podcast here (log in first!)

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Mark Fearing's phases of creating a graphic novel

On his website, Author/Illustrator Mark Fearing takes us through the process of creating his graphic novel "Earthling!" that was published by Chronicle Books.

It's a fascinating look at the artistic process, where the manuscript/script is in service to the graphic novel. As Mark puts it, "It’s similar to a film in that the final product is not the final written script. It’s the film that comes from it."

For those interested in the graphic novel format, it's well-worth reading.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Happy Book Birthday! A New Benefit For SCBWI Members

SCBWI is thrilled to launch a new member benefit—the Happy Book Birthday program. Beginning in February, 2018, our Happy Book Birthday program invites all members to announce their new book in the month that it is released.

Every month, authors and illustrators can send an image of their soon-to-be-published book cover and a 25-word summary to On the first of each month, we’ll display all of the books on our beautiful Book Birthday page, and advertise them through our social media channels to drive traffic to the Birthday page. We’ll leave the Book Birthday announcements up on our site for two weeks.

 We hope that all of our traditionally and independently published members will take advantage of this opportunity to celebrate their achievement and launch their work into the book-buying community.

The first Book Birthday will be for all books published in February 2018. On December 15th, members with February books can start submitting their information. The deadline is January 10th, no exceptions.

Please send the following to
1.) Title of book,
2.) name of author and/or illustrator,
3.) book cover, and
4.) summary or statement maximum 25 words

Illustrate and Write and Celebrate On,

Thursday, December 7, 2017

When To Cheat On Your Book - A Guest Post by Lori Snyder

This post originally ran on Lori's Splendid Mola blog. With her kind permission, we get to enjoy it here...

When To Cheat On Your Book

I’ve been working on my current WIP for about eight months, a new middle grade (or possibly young adult) work that mashes together a bunch of things I love: Sufi poetry. The nature of hope. Finding your tribe. Quantum physics. You know, just the usual.
I’ve been thinking about this book for years, so when I sent off my final revision of my last book to my agent, I was completely excited to sit down and start working. I had decided to try a new method, based on the Al Watt book The 90-Day Novel. It wasn’t really that different from my last method, which entails me writing what I call an “outline” but which is actually 20-50K of stream-of-consciousness notes about the world, the characters, the story. These notes include things like “YAY! I love this!” and “Nope. Wrong” or, most eloquently, “Ack.”
Anyway, The 90-Day Novel is designed to walk you through completing your first draft in (you guessed it) 90 days. The first 30 days are dedicated to getting to know your main character and antagonist through a series of writing prompts. I don’t write everyday, so this part took me a little while longer. I liked this method a lot. After the first 30 days, I knew my character better than I usually do (main characters are often my writing nemesis), but I also knew I wasn’t ready to start writing the book. There wasn’t a story yet. Or, to be more accurate, stories had presented themselves but they were the wrong ones, not the ones this book needed.
So I abandoned the schedule of 90 days and wrote more notes. After a few months, even though I wasn’t really sure where the story was going, I felt the pull to start the actual draft, so I wrote the first couple of chapters. They didn’t feel right. I took more notes and wrote a new set of first chapters—which were also wrong.
And, again: more notes, new first chapters.
Still wrong.
No matter what I did, I couldn’t find my way into this book.
It was very not fun.
About this time I turned 50 and, for my birthday, gave myself a week off to just be. At this point I wasn’t spinning only on my book; I was also spinning on my businesses and the meaning of my life and money and way too many other things. Stopping was exactly what needed to happen. (Also, my dear friend and writing group partner Frances sent me this Ask Polly article, which had the effect of completely upending my world view in a truly wonderful and unexpected way…but, as Michael Ende says in The Neverending Story, that’s a different story and shall be told a different time. However, I hope you enjoy the article.)
During my week of being I didn’t plan to do anything in particular. I gave myself permission to do whatever seemed right. I ended up going for a lot of walks on the beach while listening to podcasts about creativity, flow, happiness, and writing, four of my favorite topics.
One of the podcasts was Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons (love her!!!), particularly this episode where she spoke with a woman in her mid-50s, an art teacher who wanted to do the art that was calling to her and didn’t feel allowed, somehow. Elizabeth Gilbert suggested that to this woman that she run off and have an affair with her art: Do it in secret, maybe even sneaking off at 3 am or grabbing a stolen ten minutes in the stairwell. Most of all, don’t tell anybody.
Now, I don’t like affairs/betrayal/cheating, so the use of that language, even though it wasn’t meant that way, did give me pause. But, suddenly, as I listened, I thought…you know what? I think need to have an affair with a different book.
I’m an odd kind of writer, the kind who has one idea at a time and isn’t seduced by the shiny new book waiting to happen. I’m in awe of writers who have lists of ideas and don’t know how to choose which one to do. My next ideas don’t come until I’m almost finished with a book. I’ve learned not to panic about that, because an idea always does come. Still, when I talk to writers who have lists of books they want to write, I marvel.
This time, though, it was different. I had a snippet of a beginning I’d written over a decade ago, something I’ve kept all this time because I love it so. And, strangely, ideas for that story had been popping up as I struggled with my WIP.
So I decided to do what Liz Gilbert had suggested to that other woman. I would try working on the new book and just see what happened. I would do it in secret. I wouldn’t tell anybody.
Those of you who know me know that, when it comes to things about myself, “secret” isn’t how I operate. (This is different if I’m holding someone else’s secret, but for me, I do best with total transparency. I’m a big fan of talking about things.) So, of course, that night when my husband came home, I told him about it immediately. And then when Frances, who had sent me the Ask Polly article above, called, I told her, too. And these conversations were key.
My husband rightly pointed out that a couple of years ago, when I first started talking about my current WIP (which, you may recall, is partly about the nature of hope), I was in a different place. A lot has happened in the last two years, to put it mildly, and he suggested that maybe “hope” meant something very different to me than it does now. (He was right.) And, he added, maybe I hadn’t quite figured out what my relationship with hope was now, which would make writing a rumination on it a little difficult. (Yes. He is wonderful. And brilliant. Not that I’m biased.)
Frances told me that she had been thinking that perhaps it wasn’t the right time for my current book. She reassured me that I didn’t have to worry that I was just running after the new, shiny idea because my current book was a little difficult. “In fact,” she said thoughtfully, which is how she says most things, “if anything, you have the opposite problem.” (She was also right. Also brilliant and wonderful.)
This all happened on the Thursday and Friday of my week off. That next Monday, I started my affair. I put my WIP aside and began writing notes for the new book. My usual way to work is to write notes for six to eight months before I start the first draft.
Not this book, though. This book took a mere three days of notes (!!) for the story to unfold itself in such a gorgeous and luminous way that I kept worrying that maybe I had actually stolen the whole thing from something that already existed, and only thought it was original. (I don’t think I did. But I’m still a little worried.)
And then I started writing. Two weeks in, I’m on the third chapter, and I know exactly where it’s going. It’s flowing in a way my other WIP never did (sorry, dear, sweet cheated-on book!). Best of all, it’s making me happy.
I don’t know if the whole book will fly out of me the way these past few chapters have, but I do know this: it was the absolute right decision to go after this sparkly new book. I’m pretty sure we’re in love.
How do you know when it’s the right time to cheat on your WIP with a new book or idea? For me, it’s like everything else: You know it’s the right time when you know who you are and what makes you happy, and then (this is key, I’ve discovered) take the time to stop every now and then and remember those things. That’s when it becomes clear. That’s when everything becomes clear. The pauses are key. They don’t have to be long: a couple hours of truly clearing your schedule and letting yourself just be might do it. The permission is what makes the difference, though—if you spend the time thinking or feeling bad about all the things you “should” be doing, the magic won’t happen.
So if you’re confused, or spinning, give it a shot. Take as long as you possibly can…maybe even a tad longer. BrenĂ© Brown, a researcher and author I love, writes herself a permission note, the same as a parent would write their kid to get out of school. Do that if you have to. Give yourself permission to be and not do during that time. And see what happens. (Note: this is useful no matter what’s going on in your life. I highly recommend trying it on a regular basis.)
I definitely plan to go back to the other book. That relationship isn’t over, not by a long shot. It just needs some time to sit and mature, to grow into what it needs to be.
In the meantime, my new book and I are very, very happy.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Results are in for Hannah Holt's survey of 48 YA authors - "Writing for Young Adults - A Look at the Numbers"

The results of this survey, "Writing for Young Adults - A Look at the Numbers," are so interesting. Thanks to Hannah and the 48 anonymous YA authors for sharing this information with us all!

Here's are some highlights:

It took about 70% of young adult authors four or more years to publish their first book.

Large houses average debut copies sold: 22,200
Small houses with advance: 7,800 copies
Small houses without advance: 2,000 copies


Most young adult authors are rejected by publishers before their manuscript is accepted for publication. In fact, 8.5% receive more than 100 rejections.

It's well-worth reading.

Overall, it's helpful to have realistic expectations of the career-side of being an author.

Illustrate and Write On,