Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Registration for #NY16SCBWI Is OPEN!

Inspiring Keynotes! Informative Panels with Publishers, Editors and Agents! The Portfolio Showcase! The Art Browse! The Saturday Night Party! The Autograph Party!

And this breaking news from the main office:

We have just added two Young Adult Fiction Workshop which will be taught by Kristen Pettit, executive editor at Harper Collins Children's Books. This is a great opportunity for everyone interested in this genre.

Don't miss out on this and the rest of the great program. Go to and register now!

if you have already registered and are interested in the new workshops, please call our office at 323-782-1010 to have the change made.

The YA workshops with editor Kristen Pettit join an impressive list of options, designed so you can learn more about just what you need to know. Here's just the morning workshops for Saturday:

Writing Picture Book Text
Elizabeth Bicknell – EVP, Executive Editorial Director & Associate Publisher Candlewick Press

Building An Effective Portfolio
Guiseppe Castellano – Senior Art Director, Penguin Random House

Picture Book Art
Patrick Collins - Creative Director, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers

Saleable and Memorable Middle Grade Fiction
Sarah Davies - Agent, Greenhouse Literary

Writing a Great Query Letter
Susan Hawk - Agent, the Bent Agency

Cheryl Klein – Executive Editor, Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic

Writing for a Diverse Audience
Alvina Ling - VP and Editor-in-Chief, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Illustrating for Middle Grade, Graphic Novels, and YA
Laurent Linn – Art Director, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

How to Wow an Editor: You Have Three Pages to Win Me Over
Jacquelyn Mitchard - Author, Editor-in-Chief, Merit Press

Creating Teen Characters
Sara Goodman/Rainbow Rowell - Editor, St. Martin’s Press/Author

Finding Your Unique Voice
Nancy Siscoe – Senior Executive Editor, Alfred A. Knopf BFYR

Writing Young Adult Fiction
Kristen Pettit - Executive Editor, HarperCollins Children's Books

Check out all the details and register here.

Illustrate and Write On,


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mark Your Calendars, Set Your Alarms: Registration for #NY16SCBWI Opens at 10am PDT on Monday October 19, 2015

It's the 17th Annual Winter Conference, held February 12-14, 2016 in New York City!

With keynotes from

2 Keynote Panels featuring leading Publishers, Editors and Agents:

The Presidents' Panel: The Big Picture with Jon Anderson (President and Publisher, Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing Division), Jean Feiwel (Senior VP and Director, Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan Children's Publishing Group), Mallory Loehr (Vice President, Publishing Director, Random House/Golden/Doubleday Books for Young Readers), and Adrea Pappenheimer (SVP, Director of Sales/Associate Publisher HarperCollins Publishers.)


Acquisitions Today: Opportunities and Challenges with Alessandra Balzer (Balzer + Bray), Liz Bicknell (Candlewick), Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown LTD), Sarah Davies (Greenhouse Literary) and Alvina Ling (Little, Brown Books.)

There will also be:

22 interactive breakout sessions with Editors, Art Directors and Agents!

The Portfolio Showcase

The Art Browse

The Saturday Night Party

The Autograph Party

and A full Friday of optional pre-conference activities, with your choice of:

I. Writers' Roundtables

II. Writers' Intensive: The Big and the Small: A Novel Revision Intensive

III. Published Authors' Discussion

IV. Illustrators' Intensive: Work Long and Prosper: Career Longevity for Illustrators

Keep in mind, the Friday pre-conference activities always sell out fast, and the conference itself has sold out for the last four years running. Visit for registration and all the conference information.

It's going to be amazing, and we hope you will join us!

Illustrate and Write On,


Monday, August 3, 2015

Thank You And We'll See You In New York For #NY16SCBWI

From left to right: Lee Wind, Martha Brockenbrough, Jolie Stekly, Jaime Temairik and Don Tate

From all of us at SCBWI Team Blog, thanks for following along!

We hope you'll join us for the 17th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, February 12-14, 2016.


Full-day intensives for both writers and illustrators,
The juried portfolio showcase with Grand Prize,
The opportunity to network with top editors, agents and publishers
and much more!

Craft. Business. Inspiration. Opportunity. Community.
We're your SCBWI.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Autograph Party

Martha Brockenbrough & Arthur Levine

Shannon Hale & Stacey Lee

Brandy Colbert

Paul Fleischman & Molly Idle

Greg Pincus & Varian Johnson

Mike Curato & John Rocco

Lin Oliver & Bonnie Bader

Mem Fox

Kwame Alexander

Dan Santat & Michelle Knudsen

Meg Wolitzer & Anna Shinoda

Kwame Alexander: #LA15SCBWI Final Keynote

Newbery-winning author of THE CROSSOVER, Kwame Alexander, delivered a riveting final keynote for #LA15SCBWI. Using a poetry-slam style of call-and-response, he had the audience bopping along with him, interactively, throughout. His keynote, appropriately entitled, #Basketball rules, ended with an uproarious standing ovation. What a way to end #LA15SCBWI!

hustle dig
grind push
run fast
change pivot
chase pull
aim shoot
play hard
practice harder
work hardest!

This Year's Illustrator Mentees

The mentors and mentees

Hand picked from the portfolios submitted for review at this summer's conference, these illustrators are clearly up-and-coming! Here's examples of their work along with links to their websites:

K-Fai Steele

Meridth Gimbel

Nicholas Hong

Anne Berry

 Kisoo Chai


Molly Ruttan

Lindsey Carmichael Attends #LA15SCBWI As The Martha Weston Grant Winner

The Martha Weston Grant was established by the Hairston Family to remember author/illustrator Martha Weston. The grant helps authors and illustrators who want to switch children's book genres.

Lindsey Carmichael

I caught up with year's winner, Lindsey Carmichael (who writes as L.E. Carmichael), at the conference, and asked her to share a few words. Here's what she said:

"I got the email telling me I'd won on my cell phone as I was walking through the parking lot on the way home from work. I literally stopped in my tracks. I didn't know that was a thing that actually happened until it happened to me!

I am so honored that the committee awarded me the Martha Weston Grant and so grateful to have had the opportunity to attend this incredible, life-changing conference."

Congratulations, Lindsey!

Find out more about Lindsey at her website, and learn how you can apply for the Martha Weston Grant here.

Rachelle Meyer: #LA15SCBWI Conference Illustrator Journal

Rachelle Meyer

Rachelle wrote this about herself:
Rachelle Meyer was born in the state of Texas and spent most of her childhood with her nose in a book. Reading became the wellspring for her continuing passions in life: drawing, storytelling and traveling. She graduated with a degree in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin and then spent eight years in New York City working as a graphic artist and designer. She has since moved to Europe and launched a successful career as an illustrator, specializing in children's books and editorial interpretations. Her talents have been used to interpret the work of contemporary best-selling authors such as Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler's Wife) and Nick Ortner (The Tapping Solution). She also writes and illustrates her own picture books and graphic novels. She volunteers as the International Illustrator Coordinator for SCBWI. She now lives in Amsterdam with her English husband, her Dutch son, and her cranky old New York cat.

You can visit Rachelle online at her website
and check out more of her sketches on instagram

One of Rachelle's illustrated books:

Some finished art:

Jordan Brown: Five Principles For Revision

One of the coolest things about attending the SCBWI Summer Conference is that when you're wowed by a faculty member's breakout session – if you time it right – you can go to their other session as well. To dig deeper. To learn more.

So, after being wowed by Jordan's breakout session on Voice, I attended (and here blog) his second breakout session, on Revision...

Jordan Brown is an executive editor with the imprints Walden Pond Press and Balzer + Bray at HarperCollins Children's Books.

The room is packed, every seat filled, people sitting on the floor.

Jordan starts us out the way he starts out when creating an editorial letter for a book he's editing. He aims to define the core of the manuscript.

The core is three important qualities:
1. A central element of the story to which all readers can ideally relate - the universal.
2. What is the most formative experience of your young character's life? That's what your book should be about.
3. Something your character chooses, or has agency.

He illustrates the core of the manuscript with Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games":
1. The concept is survival.
2. The most formative experience of Katniss's life is being in the Hunger Games.
3. It's her choice. She volunteers to save her sister.

It's these core concepts that Jordan uses to ground his revision notes, to make sure he and the author share a vision of what the book is.

He walks us through his five principles of revision. I'll share one of them.

Character Drives Plot

You want your plot to ask the right questions of your character:
1. What does my character want?
2. What are the stakes for my character? What happens if she doesn't get what she wants?
3. What complicates things. Why can't the character get what they want?

As full as the room is, Jordan's speech is still more full of great content, tips and examples. He ends with his explaining how to know if your book is ready... or if it's not ready.

A final note:

Jordan reminds us that our manuscripts don't have to be perfect, that

"As editors, we're not acquiring your pages. We're acquiring the vision they represent."

And revision is the way to get our books to match our vision.

Deborah Wiles: Structuring Your Novel: Providing a Scaffold for Your Plot

Deborah Wiles is the award-winning writer of picture books to young adult novels, including REVOLUTION, this year's Crystal Kite award for fiction.

Story is about connections.
There are many ways of telling. Traditionally novels were entirely told in words. This is changing.

 We now have different readers and different writers. 

Dialogue can be a source of structure.

Look at other books that play with structure:

Learn from these different structures.

Who would have ever know that what you were reading when you were ten, and how you read it could end up in your work later.

How do you read?

 Think of your own personal narrative. When you are stuck, start here:
  • Moments (What you know)
  • Memory (What you feel)
  • Meaning (What you can imagine)

There is an outside story and an inside story, which creates an inside structure and an outside structure.

Deborah shares about her own life, and the structure for REVOLUTION. 

Outside structure: when the president tells the country to prepare for  World War III. 

Inside structure: Deborah, after going downstairs to see the canned goods, etc. felt scared, knowing, for the first time, her parents might not be able to take care of her.

We all have a rich treasure trove of both internal and external experiences with which to tell stories.

The story is paramount. It’s a living, breathing thing that works and becomes as you create it. Trust what emerges.

Research Tool: Writing Outside of your Diversity

We Need Diverse Books™team members Miranda Paul and Nicola Yoon presented an enormously informational session on writing outside of your own diversity. Paul, who is married to a black African man, wished for more books featuring characters that looked like her biracial family—particularly when her daugher questioned why so many books featuring characters that looked like her were about slavery. Yoon also comes from a biracial family and shared her concern. Here are a few things to think about when writing outside of your own race, background, experience:

• Honest Reflection. 
Consider your own motivations, biases, ignorances for writing a particular story. What is your connection to the topic?

• Collaborate
Identity experts with whom you might work with or co-author a book. They can help you to realize things you didn't realize you don't know. 

• Observe
Make research trips, take notes, watch, listen (Cavet: You are still an outsider at this phase)

Be honest with your reader, explain literary choices, share your research process, extend beyond the book

• Tell the truth
Write characters, not caricatures. If you’re writing a stereotype, you’re not telling the truth. All Asians are not good with math. All black girls aren’t sassy. People are complicated, create complex characters. Know what makes your character tick— What do they love? What do they want

• Diversify your life
Include more types of people in your own life, it will not only make you a better writer, it will make you a better person.

For more information, see the We Need Diverse Books™ website.

Michelle Knudsen Accepts the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor

Michelle Knudsen is a New York Times best-selling author of more than 40 books for young readers, including the picture book Library Lion (illustrated by Kevin Hawkes), the middle-grade fantasy novels The Dragon of Trelian and The Princess of Trelian, and the young adult novel Evil Librarian.
This book earned her the 2015 Sid Fleischman Award for Humor.

"For writers of humorous fiction, life is a tough room," Paul Fleischman said in presenting the award. "Sense of humor varies as wildly as taste in food."

He called Michelle's book a "frothy delight" that has entranced readers. And then he presented her with a set of keys to an alternate universe where humor is as respected as it should be.

She spoke of how much it meant to her to hear from former Sid Fleischman Award winner Alan Silberberg, who reassured her she didn't need to be funny onstage (she was, though—wonderfully so).

When she started EVIL LIBRARIAN it was as a break from another book, and she didn't know it would be funny. "Once I realized I had the start of a story that was funny, I started to panic that it had to be funny all the way through."

Her mentor Tim Wynne Jones told her to stop trying to think about being funny, and just to write the story, which is about friendships and musical theater and demons (and an evil librarian). 

Michelle expressed thanks to the SCBWI and a large crew of supportive family, friends, and professional colleagues—as well as to Stephen Sondheim and his hilarious disturbing musical "Sweeney Todd." 

Deborah Wiles Accepts the Golden Kite Award for Fiction

In introducing Deborah Wiles, winner of the 2015 Golden Kite Award for Fiction, for her book Revolution, Lin Oliver thanked Wiles for "...her ability to put a human face on history."

Wiles spoke about trying to sell her editors on a whole new creation, a type of book that had not existed before, a documentary novel. 

Her advice to writers: 

• Never ever give up. 

• Always believe in yourself. 

• Find your people, your professional organization is important. 

Candace Fleming Accept the Golden Kite for Nonfiction

Candace Fleming is the author of over thirty-two books for children, ranging from picture books to middle grade fiction to award-winning biographies. Her most recent, THE FAMILY ROMANOV, is the winner of the Golden Kite for nonfiction.

If it was up to Steve Mooser next year's major blockbuster would be this book.

SCBWI is an organization that changed Candace's life. She joined twenty years ago. After joining she headed to her first conference, unpublished and with manuscripts in hand. There she met Anne Schwartz who she has now had a long working relationship with.

With THE FAMILY ROMANOVCandace had many challenges which included the time and setting, a whole lot to tell, Russian history, characters who seemed boring. How would she make it all work? After more than seven drafts, she finished the book. With the need to escape, she went to see the movie Philomena, and in that film her biggest doubt about her own book was highlight:

Russian history, who is interested in that?

Candace thanks the SCBWI for acknowledging the book with Golden Kite for nonfiction and affirming, that yes, people are interesting.

A well deserved win. Congratulations, Candace.

The winners of the 3rd Annual Student Scholarship are announced

Bonnie Bader announces the winners of this year's Student Writer Scholarship, a grant of conference tuition for full-time university students in an English or Creative Writing program.

For undergraduate: Katherine Kendall from Brigham Young University, for her YA fantasy thriller


for graduate: Courtney Warren from the MFA program at Hollins University, for her MG novel set in 1955 Mississippi Delta.

Bonnie has the winners stand, and the room enthusiastically applauds.

Congratulations, Katherine and Courtney!


Our lovely and fantastic Melissa Sweet, author and illustrator of many award-winning picture books, is here accepting the Golden Kite for her illustrations of Peter Mark Roget's life and world in The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus.

The research for this book began not far from here in Santa Barbara, where Melissa got to see one of Roget's original word books in a private collection. Melissa has illustrated word-centric biographies before, but unlike being able to pull from the imagery evoked in the words of William Carlos Williams, Melissa had to figure out how to visualize Roget's lists of words. 

For the better part of two weeks, Melissa handlettered Roget's original word list in sepia and had a jolly old time doing it. 
Melissa got to handle original Roget pages
like these—without gloves!

Melissa thanks her publisher Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, her author Jen Bryant, and the SCBWI/Golden Kite committee.

"My hope with this book is that readers will be delighted and informed, but most importantly, always find the right word when they need it."