Thursday, May 21, 2020

#SCBWIdigital Workshop: Marietta Zacker Presents "A Creative Look at the State of Children’s/YA Books"

Marietta Zacker

Marietta Zacker is Co-Owner and Agent at the Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency. She has worked with books, authors and illustrators throughout her career -- studying, creating, editing, marketing, teaching and selling. She supports independent bookselling, believes in libraries and takes pride in her work as a Latina in the world of publishing.

Once again, today's #SCBWIdigital workshop is interpreted in sign language by Jennye Kamin. In Lin's introduction, she mentions that there will be six additional SCBWIdigital workshops that are free for SCBWI members in June and July!

Lin then introduces Marietta, calling her "passionate," "inspiring," and someone who "leads with her heart."

Marietta opens with some stats, from a recent Publishers Weekly article, citing that children's and teen bookselling is generally going strong amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

Marietta Zacker (at bottom) shares in her #SCBWIdigital workshop. At top is ASL interpreter Jennye Kamin. 

She is asked all the time, "What should I write? What should I illustrate?" Marietta notes that the books being sought right now offer readers an escape, truth, hope, or are practical. But, she reminds us, "Anything you write or illustrate now won't be published for another couple of years." So what to focus on?

Just because we're in this crisis now, doesn't change the needs our young people have. You need to think about what is important to you as a writer. "What's important to your heart to get out? That's what people are going to want. It's about what's authentic to you."

A screen shot from Marietta's presentation, with her key takeaways for us. 

What are agents and editors looking for? What they're always looking for, only maybe now more so. Escapist, Truthful, Hopeful, and always Authentic.

Marietta shares some examples of picture book, middle grade, and young adult books that "perfectly encapsulate" these four elements: in them you can escape, find truth, find hope, and they're authentic.
Picture Book and Middle Grade examples

YA examples

“It’s about being truthful to yourself and being authentic about what you write.”
Marietta answers attendee questions ranging from the COVID-19 crisis impact on advances, online book marketing, critical skills for authors and illustrators, #OwnVoices, and much more.

One final gem to share: When asked to define authenticity, Marietta challenges us to consider:

“Is the story you’re telling one that only YOU could tell in the way you’re telling it?”

Thank you, Marietta!

Stay safe, all.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

#SCBWIdigital Workshop: Linda Sue Park presents "Using Scene To Build Story"

This is the 7th #SCBWIdigital workshop, free to SCBWI members in this time of global health crisis.

Linda Sue Park is a master writer and teacher of writing. She is the author of many books for young readers, including the 2002 Newbery Medal winner A Single Shard and the New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water. Her most recent title is Prairie Lotus, a historical fiction middle-grade novel.

Today, for the SCBWI community, Linda Sue is sharing "Using Scene To Build Story." She cautions us that this is how she writes fiction, and that it's not the only way to do it. "Writing is so personal," meaning that everyone's process is different. She hopes we might gain a tip or two, add our own spin, and eventually we'll develop our own process for writing a story - different from Linda Sue's process, and different from everyone else's process, too.

Linda Sue shares her definition of story, in a graphic:

Linda Sue Park (bottom right), the slide showing her definition of story, and ASL interpreter Jennye Kamin (top right)

"Before I start, I need to know" what the character WANTS (external quest), what the character NEEDS (internal quest), and the setting.

"Most of the time, the character doesn't know what they need" at the beginning of the story.

Linda Sue shows us how she applied this story definition to her latest book, Prairie Lotus, also in a graphic:

Hannah WANTS to graduate from high school and work as a dressmaker in her father's shop. Hannah NEEDS to learn to stand up for herself against bias, racism, and sexism. The setting is 1880 Oceti Sakowin homeland (what is now South Dakota).

Linda Sue speaks of how she thinks in scenes, not chapters. In fact, she explains that it's a few drafts in before she figures out the chapter breaks.

She suggests we do this exercise:

What’s your character’s external plot (what they WANT), their internal plot (what they NEED), and the setting?

There's a great demonstration of how, when you compare a book to a movie, a half-page of text is about 15 seconds of film... Linda Sue illustrates this (simply and dramatically) and has us consider, if we've spent half a page to describe something, or to have our character's internal dialog, that's like 15 seconds of a movie not moving forward! Seriously, count out 15 seconds... that's a long time for a reader to get distracted.

Using her novel, A Single Shard, she demonstrates how a single sentence should be able to encapsulate what a scene is about.

Linda Sue advises us,

With every scene, your character is going to make progress or face impediment to one of their quests (external or internal).

She keeps this in mind as she writes, looking at her character's internal and external quests, and asking herself "is this scene progress or impediment?"

There's so much more, with discussions and examples from Linda Sue's Project Mulberry, and Keeping Score, her distinction between middle grade and YA, and her technique for developing depth in a story - in every scene - along with an exercise to get more depth in our own writing.

And an explanation of how the story's ending should have "unexpected inevitability."

Linda Sue Park (at bottom, in pink) - ASL interpreter Jennye Kamin (at top)

It really is a master class, with so much to learn and apply!

Thank you, Linda Sue.

Stay safe, all.

Monday, May 11, 2020

The SCBWI Online Summer Spectacular Is Announced - Reservations Open This Wednesday May 13, 2020

Due to the current global health crisis, The 2020 SCBWI Summer Conference is going Digital! Hosted on Zoom July 31, - Aug 4, 2020, with video recordings available the entire month of August - so you can participate live or watch at your convenience.

You can see the full schedule here, and make sure to note these amazing highlights:

A Friday night kickoff with Philip Pullman and Arthur Levine!

Keynote conversations with:

Kwame Alexander and Raúl The Third

Laurie Halse Anderson and Meg Medina

Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

Judy Blume and Lin Oliver

Jeff Kinney and Lin Oliver & Henry Winkler

Grace Lin and Alvina Ling

Jason Reynolds and Caitlyn Dlouhy & Nic Stone

Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple

Jacqueline Woodson and Nancy Paulsen!

There will also be an Editors Panel, with Stacey Barney, Arthur A. Levine, Neal Porter, Jill Stantopolo, Julie Strauss-Gable, and Namrata Tripathi!

And an Agents Panel with Regina Brooks, Linda Camacho, Rosemary Stimola, and Brooks Sherman!

There will be an online portfolio showcase, the opportunity to sign up for consultations on your manuscript, portfolio, social media presence, and career path, and even Twitter Chat Socials for Illustrators, GenNext, Equity and Inclusion, and a Safe Safe Zoom Gathering for those writing and illustrating LGBTQ characters and themes!

There's even an instagram meme Contest!

Don't miss what's going to be the virtual event of the season - we hope you'll join us! Get all the information and be prepared to register at 10am Pacific this Wednesday May 13, 2020.

Illustrate and Write On, and Stay Safe,


Thursday, May 7, 2020

#SCBWIdigital workshop: Laurent Linn and Cecilia Yung present "Two Art Directors Talking: The Theater of Picture Books"

Today's full workshop title is "Two Art Directors Talking: The Theater of Picture Books - The Art of Bringing Visual Elements Together For Storytelling."

Our experts are Laurent Linn (Art Director, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Cecilia Yung (Art Director and Vice President, Penguin Books for Young Readers).

Both Laurent and Cecilia are also on the SCBWI Board - so giving back to this community (including the 1,200+ of us watching live) is something they do with heart and passion.

Lin introduces them, saying that they both create picture books that are "as much works of art as they are books."

Clockwise, from top left: Lin Oliver, Laurent Linn, and Cecilia Yung

Laurent opens by speaking of how it's not just one thing, "It's everything coming together to tell a good story."

In reference to our current global pandemic, he says,

"Stories and art have survived through every catastrophe of civilization... Now is the time, not just the world needs your stories, but we - I'm a writer and illustrator also - we need to tell our stories."

Cecilia begins by discussing the inner life of the character or story, which transforms how we the reader see ourselves, and/or the world.

She suggests questions we should ask ourselves:
The most important question is "why?"
Who is your reader?
What is the take-away?
What is your difference - that unique something that only YOU can do to distinguish this book from all the other picture books that have been published?

They dedicate today's workshop to Tomie de Paola - calling him a master who "used the book as a stage."

Read Lin Oliver's remembrance of Tomie dePaola here.
Walking us through visual examples from books they've art directed, they teach us different principles.

From Misty Copeland's nonfiction picture book "Bunheads," illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey, Cecilia shows us the drama and theater of the illustrations.

Notice the top left page, where Misty is so dedicated she shows up early to practice but her friend is already there in the studio! Cecilia speaks more of how the illustrations in the book show that friendship, and the competition between them that drove each dancer to excel.

From the fiction picture book "Sulwe" by Lupita Nyong', illustrated by Vashti Harrison, Laurent points out how even the sky is a character:

"Nothing should be generic," He advises us, adding, “Often the more specific makes it universal.”

They speak and show examples from many more picture books, discussing character design, costume design, controlling the direction of a reader's eye, getting to the heart of the emotion, narrative, and so much more.

There's a Q&A that ranges from white space to compositional tools (line composition, color composition, and light/shadow), to the selection of an illustrator.

It's a master class in how two brilliant art directors look at and think about picture books and the illustration of picture books.

Thank you, Laurent and Cecilia!

Stay safe, all.

p.s. - Did you miss it? The video is available for 30 days to SCBWI members here.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

#SCBWIdigital workshop: Kait Feldmann presents “Page By Page: Breaking Down Picture Book Pagination”

Kait Feldmann, photo credit: Tess Thomas © 2018

Kait Feldmann is an Editor at Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic, where she is building a list of picture books and graphic novels. Kait is also the VP/Director of Special Projects for People of Color in Publishing, the founder and chair of the Scholastic Diversity Committee, and a member of the Diverse BookFinder Advisory Council.

A screenshot of editor Kait Feldmann (above) and SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver.

Kait opens with a poll, getting a sense of how many of the SCBWI members attending are authors, illustrators, or both. (We are 70% writers, 4% illustrators, 26% both!)

She explains that she'll be starting discussing the mechanics and production elements of picture books, and how that impacts her decision process as an editor.

She covers hardcover picture book terminology - including
verso is a left page
recto is a right page

Kait's tip to remember which is which: Recto and Right both start with "R".

Why most picture books have a 32 page count, which goes up in sets (signatures) of 8

That's because of how they're printed. Kait gets crafty, showing us how one large sheet gets printed, folded, cut, and stitched.

Every 16 pages are all printed on one giant piece of paper

until it gets folded (and then cut and stitched.)

Then she shows us (with printed materials and even a chocolate bar wrapper) how endpapers work, and the case cover, and the difference between "separate ends" and "self ends". 'Self Ends' means that page 1 (and the final page 32) can no longer be seen- they are glued to the case cover!

Kait explains that she's sharing this because it informs how much space we have, as authors and illustrators, to tell our stories. For a 32 page picture book, it's the difference between 11 spreads to tell your story, versus 15 spreads plus two pages to tell your story!

She gives advice to illustrators (such as not putting anything vital under the jacket flap, as it gets fastened to the clear paper cover by libraries and can't be lifted up by those readers.)

Kait shares so much wisdom,

"In picture books, every spread has the power of a chapter in a novel."

And shows us examples of her process for figuring out the pagination. But she doesn't send that pagination to the illustrator - she tells them the page count, and lets them figure it out themselves.

Kait's advice: Read picture books we love, and study how many spreads have narrative content on them. Break down the pacing. "Don't stress too much about it," Kait tells us, saying that the more consciously we absorb it, the more it will subliminally influence our own writing.

She advises writers to paginate our own picture book stories, calling it "the best exercise I can recommend for pacing." (But remove the page numbers before you submit - tip: you can leave the line breaks!)

There's lots more covering pacing, examples of picture book first pages, and time for Q&A (with two bonus questions from Lin!)

It's an in-depth look into how an editor works on a picture book.

Thanks, Kait!

Stay safe, all.

p.s. - Did you miss it? The video is available for 30 days to SCBWI members here.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

#SCBWIdigital workshop: Jennifer Vassel presents “Book Marketing 101: How To Be Your Own Publicist”

A screen shot of Jennifer presenting her #SCBWIdigital workshop

Jennifer Vassel is an author and an entrepreneur. In 2016, she self-published the first book in her “I Am Unique” picture book series. Her book has found readers in Africa, Australia, and Europe. What started as a single story has grown into a franchise with more books in the series, toys, merchandise, parent guides, teacher guides, and a potential animated TV series. Jennifer’s publishing path has been documented in Forbes, Essence, Black Enterprise, and Thrive Global.

An instagram post featuring Jennifer and her bestselling indie published picture book

Jennifer started out with two polls, trying to get a sense of what the 1,800 SCBWI member attendees were hoping to learn. (42% of us said we don't know where to start, 41% are curious about implementing book marketing strategies.) She then took a poll to see if we're traditionally published, independently published, or hybrid combo of the two. (54% of us are traditionally published, 24% indie.)

She briefly told us about her journey, how when she started out she thought just writing the book was enough. Fast forward to today where her mission has grown from a book into a movement.

Jennifer doesn't have a publicist, saying she's invested time and resources into learning how to do it herself. She encouraged us, “If you don’t have the budget to hire a publicist, you can absolutely do this on your own.”

First task:

Identify your target audience. Who does your book help? What are their interests? Where can you find them?

One of Jennifer's slides

She shared that before she targeted her efforts, back when she had just published her book, one eight-hours of tabling at an event with tons of people attending resulted in only two book sales. After she targeted her efforts, another eight-hours of tabling at an event all about empowering women and girls resulted in her selling over 1,500 copies of the very same book! Same book, same eight hours... it's all about targeting the audience.

Jennifer also shared a worksheet to help each of us get more specific about identifying our audience.

She urged us to build a mailing list, and not rely on connections or followers on social media. As authors, it's important to have "something that we own. A.K.A., our website and our mailing list."

Jennifer also ran down 10 different Marketing Strategies. Here are three:

1. Social media

Her book has traveled more widely than she has!

3. Guest blog

Leverage their platform, by offering their readers value. You're in front of them, and they can learn about you and your message. Pitch the ones who have the same audience you're trying to reach.

6. Influencer Partnerships

Numbers don't mean much when they're not targeted numbers. The partnership has to make sense. Jennifer shared an example of a partnership she did recently with the McClure twins (Forbes top 10 influencers) with millions of followers, but they also have minority mothers as their audience. As Jennifer's book is about self-love, the McClure twins' mother liked it, saying, 'it's exactly what I want to teach my girls.' They read snippets of her book online, on facebook and youtube. It yielded 150,000 views in two weeks. Jennifer advised us to think about Exchanging Value.

There was so much more, including a Q&A (with bonus questions from Lin), a discussion of video marketing, and a section on pitching the media, breaking down the nine elements of a pitch.

It was great information, and very inspiring.

Thanks, Jennifer!

Stay safe, all.

p.s. - Did you miss it? The video is available for 30 days to SCBWI members here.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

#SCBWIdigital workshop: Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver "How We Write Children's Books and Why"

New York Times bestselling authors Henry Winkler and SCBWI's own Lin Oliver have published 35 books together! Today, they shared the key ingredients of writing humor for kids and gave us insight into their collaborative process and what motivates them to reach out to children.

Both Henry and Lin shared their backgrounds, and how they met over a fateful lunch... leading to 18 novels in their Hank Zipzer middle grade series, and then a series of chapter books (also the stories of Hank, for a younger age, where Frank hasn't yet been diagnosed with dyslexia), published in a typeface that helps kids with reading issues decode the page.

They discussed their collaborative process and its connection to both of their backgrounds in television.

Henry holds up a copy of his and Lin's latest book, Alien Superstar

And we got tips!

Some highlights of Henry and Lin's tips for writing humor:

"Make yourself laugh." Write what you think is funny - not what you think kids will find funny. As Henry puts it, "When we write from our center, it connects with someone else."

And there are so many kinds of humor: Observational humor, character humor, wordplay, slapstick, jokes...

Another tip on humor:

"Don't be general. comedy comes from specific details."

They then shared examples of funny details from their books. Like the mole shaped like the statue of liberty (without the torch) on the face of Hank's school principal.

Or, as Lin put it for another example, "It's the coconut soap that makes it really funny."

They shared tips on Dialog, Book Series, Creating Plot, and Creating Heart and Warmth. Henry did some acting exercises to illustrate their points, and Lin shared some writing exercises she uses as well. Henry gave a brief reading to show what it means to write with heart – such a sweet moment. There was also a Q&A, touching on critiques, how to best handle a lesson you want your story to convey, and so much more!

Final tip to share here:

Writing a Book Series: Rule #7: Series readers want to be part of a recurring group of friends. Develop each member of your cast and characters fully.

It was an informative, inspiring, funny(!), and heartfelt session.

Thank you, Henry and Lin.

Stay safe, all.

p.s. - Did you miss it? The video is available for 30 days to SCBWI members here.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

#SCBWIdigital Workshop: Editor Sara Sargent Presents "Outstanding Openers: How to Grab Your Readers Right From the Start"

All of us at SCBWI hope you and yours and well and safe. Today, Thursday April 9, 2020, Random House senior executive editor Sara Sargent presented a #SCBWIdigital workshop to over 2,500 members, in which she shared her favorite first pages to illustrate "the seven key elements of a good beginning to a middle grade or young adult novel, and how to put them to work."

A screen capture of Sara Sargent discussing the opening of Graceling

Sometimes, even a presentation has a prologue. Today's is the question: What do we want the opening of our novel to accomplish?

Sara launched into examples of ways other authors have very successfully pulled off different strategies. Like the first page of Graceling by Kristin Cashore to discuss "effective sense of place." Sara explained that what makes it effective is that Kristin brings in an emotion to it. You get how Katsa's feeling by how the place is described.

"Bringing some emotional resonance into it really makes a difference."

Sara also had polls for each story opening shared, asking "Does this first page make you want to keep reading?" We got to answer Yes or No, and then Sara shared the poll results.

How many of us wanted to read more of Graceling?

79% yes.

John Green's prologue to Paper Towns was the example for "compelling voice,"

Katie Cotugno's first line of 99 Days was the example for "tension."

There were more examples and categories, even a category of "Damn good writing." (That example was Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.)

This analysis of successful openings is something each of us can do on our own, too.

For our own openings, Sara advised us to be "honest about our strengths as a writer," and offered us a diagnostic exercise to weigh each element of our own opening page - asking us to work through each element and consider if it is solid, needs improvement, or is absent. There's even a diagnostic exercise for elements of openings we should avoid (like if our opening is too confusing, or has too much exposition, or is rushed.)

Sara discussed unlikeable characters, pacing, and so much more in this packed session. The workshop concluded with a wide-ranging Q&A. Lin Oliver even had a question of her own, about picture book openings.

Last words of Sara's wisdom from today's session that I'll share here was on Prologues:

"For me, the most effective prologues are when we seed and come back."
And hey, even this blog post managed to come back to prologues!

Thank you, Sara.

Stay safe, all.

p.s. - Did you miss it? The video is available for 30 days to SCBWI members here.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

#SCBWIdigital Launches with Kate Messner's "Big Picture Revision for Middle Grade and Young Adult Novels"

As a member benefit during this global health crisis, SCBWI has organized a series of eight free workshops - today, April 2, 2020, was the first, and it was taught by Kate Messner.

A screen shot of Kate Messner beginning her #SCBWIdigital workshop from her home.

Kate is a former TV news reporter and middle school English teacher, and her award-winning books span genres and categories. Kate is
“passionately curious and writes books that encourage kids to wonder, too.” 
Her titles include award-winning picture books like Over and Under the Pond, Up in the Garden and Down in the DirtThe Brilliant Deep, and How to Read a Story; novels that tackle real-world issues like Breakout, All the Answers, and The Seventh Wish; mysteries and thrillers like Capture the Flag, Eye of the Storm, and Wake Up Missing; the Fergus and Zeke easy reader series; and the popular Ranger in Time chapter book series about a time-traveling search and rescue dog.

Who attended? As Lin Oliver shared in her introduction, just on today's digital workshop “We are 3,000 people strong.” And she encourages all of us to know that we're part of this wonderful community.

Kate starts out by sharing that, in this extraordinary time,
“Expecting normal productivity in a period that isn't normal just isn't going to work out. Be kind to yourself.”
Her first 3-minute exercise is for each of us to write two sentences about our current work-in-progress:

The first is to answer "My book is about ___________________."

This is the cover copy.

The second is to answer "But underneath that, it's really about ________________."

This is the heart of the story.

As an example, Kate shares that for her book The Seventh Wish, her first answer is:

"My book is about an Irish dancer who catches a wish-granting fish."

Her second answer is:

"But underneath that, it's really about accepting the things we can't change instead of holding on to wishes."

A screen shot of one of Kate's very helpful slides.

The next exercise was about finding your character's knot, the thing that makes them tick. Example: For Harry Potter, his knot was "what happened with his parents," and his being "desperate for their love."

Kate advised us to consider not just our protagonist's knot, but our antagonist's knot as well. It's what drives their actions and motivations, too.

There are more revision exercises, covering point of view and narrative distance, and with the use of multiple examples, we're urged to have the structure we choose serve our story.

Kate also answers attendee questions, including 'How do you know when your manuscript is ready to submit?," and offers ideas for getting back into a manuscript that you've put aside.

There's so much more, including multiple ways to use (and select) mentor texts, and Kate's favorite revision tool, "The Big Picture Story Chart."

It's a session packed (PACKED!) with great information, exercises, and tips to get us revising our middle grade and young adult manuscripts.

Thank you, Kate!

Stay safe, all.

Monday, March 30, 2020

SCBWI Digital Workshops - A Gift To SCBWI Members During This Global Health Crisis

SCBWI is offering members a series of no-charge digital workshops to support our members during this time.

Starting April 2, SCBWI will provide weekly on-hour webinars with renowned children's book creators, editors, agents, and art directors. The events will take place live via Zoom and are free of charge for any SCBWI member anywhere in the world. If you can't attend live (or if it fills up), a video recording of each workshop will be available on the SCBWI web site for one month afterward.

Workshop #1 is this Thursday, April 2, 2020 from 1pm-2pm Pacific
Kate Messner, Author

Workshop #2 will be Thursday, April 9, 2020 from 1pm-2pm Pacific
Sara Sargent, Senior Executive Editor, Random House Children's Books

Workshop #3 will be Thursday April 16, 2020 from 1pm-2pm Pacific
Henry Winkler, Author and Actor
Lin Oliver, Author

Workshop #4 will be Thursday, April 23, 2020 from 1pm-2pm Pacific
Jennifer Vassel, Author

Workshop ##5 will be Thursday, April 30, 2020 from 1pm-2pm
Kait Feldmann, Editor, Scholastic

Workshop #6 will be Thursday, May 7, 2020 from 1pm-2pm Pacific
Laurent Linn, Art Director, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Cecilia Yung, Art Director and Vice President, Penguin Books for Young Readers

Workshop #7 will be Thursday, May 14, 2020 from 1pm-2pm Pacific
Linda Sue Park, Author

Workshop #8 will be Thursday, May 21, 2020 from 1pm-2pm Pacific
Marietta Zacker, Co-Owner and Agents, Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency

Registration opens for each workshop the Monday before, and is limited to the first 1,000 members to sign up.

We hope to see you there, and stay safe!

Illustrate and Write On,

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Thank You, and Save the Date for #LA20SCBWI, The SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles - JULY 31 - AUG 3, 2020

Thank you for being here with us for these highlights of #NY20SCBWI!

We hope you'll save the dates, and consider joining us for the SCBWI Summer Conference July 31-Aug 3, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. **NOTE: THESE ARE NEW DATES, UPDATED 3/2/2020***

Illustrate and Write On,

Scene from the Autograph Party #NY20SCBWI

Attendees had their books signed by Laurie Halse Anderson, Derrick Barnes, Tracy Barrett, Peter Brown, Priscilla Burris, Lesa Cline-Ransome, Bruce Coville, Pat Cummings, Vashti Harrison, Brett Helquist, Ellen Hopkins, Peter Lerangis, Meg Medina, Christopher Silas Neal, Lin Oliver, Ann Whitford Paul, Miranda Paul, Alexandra Penfold, Jerry Pinkney, Sergio Ruzzier, Judy Schachner, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, and Paul O. Zelinsky!

Derrick Barnes Keynote: The BLACKEST Book Ever

Award-winning author/illustrator and SCBWI success story, Vashti Harrison introduces award-winning author Derrick Barnes with these words:

His language wraps [his characters] up and hugs them . . .

And her astute observation of his work couldn’t be truer. Derrick is a writer who writes universal stories, but as the title of his keynote declares, he is also the writer of The BLACKEST Book Ever!

In opening, Derrick celebrates Black History Month by giving away four of his books to the first attendees who could recognize some Black greats in the children’s book writing world including Alice Walker, Walter Dean Myers, Virginia Hamilton, and Mildred Taylor. He also gives a special mention to fellow #NY20SCBWI keynote, Jerry Pinkney, the first African American Golden Kite Award winner in 1991 for his picture book Home Place (Aladdin) by Crescent Dragonwagon.

Derrick speaks of his love of family, his legacy, and the reason why he writes: Black children.

            “I think every child deserves to see themselves as the hero and the prettiest 
one in the story.”

Multi-awarding winning title

He talks about how 2018 changed his life with all the praise and accolades that came his way for his picture book Crown: Ode to the Fresh Cut (Denene Millner Books) illustrated by Gordon C. James. He also mentions how his road to this success was not always easy and how he spent 2011-2014 with his head down writing books none of the gatekeepers were interested in taking on. Books that spoke to his experience. The Black experience. Books he knew deserved a place on shelves. 

His dedication to his craft produced between 20 - 30 manuscripts during that time.

But clearly that dedication paid off! 

New titles on the horizon.

We are fortunate to have more of Derrick’s books coming soon, where characters and children are guaranteed to be wrapped in a hug.  

Derrick closed to a standing ovation.