Tuesday, March 16, 2021

New Dates for the Summer 2021 SCBWI Conference: July 30, 31, and August 1



It's a conference with many aliases...

#LA21SCBWI

and

The Summer 2021 SCBWI Conference

and, maybe even we should consider:

SCBWI's 50th birthday party!

All sessions will be virtual, and you can see them in real-time or watch the recording for one month following the event.

We hope you'll join your community for this conference-sized celebration of SCBWI’s 50th year of bringing illustrators, translators, and writers of works for children, tweens, and teens inspiration, education, opportunity, business, and so much more!

Save the dates!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,
Lee

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Thank You, and Save The Dates For The SCBWI Summer 2021 Conference: July 30, 31 and August 1 (New Dates as of March 15, 2021)

On behalf of all the team bloggers for this conference, Debbie Ohi, Lakita Wilson, Don Tate, Jolie Stekly, Jaime Temairik, and myself, Lee Wind, thanks for following along!

awesome graphic by Debbie Ohi - thanks, Debbie!


And save the dates for the SCBWI Summer 2021 conference. It's going to be virtual. And it's going to be an incredible celebration of 50 years of SCBWI!





Until then, stay safe, and Illustrate, Translate, and Write On!
Lee

On Our Last Conference Day...Let's Celebrate a Weekend of Firsts.

This weekend, on the #NY21SCBWI  timeline, as I scrolled through the many conference tweets, the same word popped out at me over and over: First. 

"This is my first time at an SCBWI conference."

"This is my first writing conference."

"I am working on my first novel."

"I am illustrating my first picture book.

 "Today I read my work out loud in front of people for the first time"

Even I'm qualified to tweet out a first. I'm typing this post with shaky fingers, hoping that my first time blogging for an SCBWI conference has been satisfactory for readers. 

According to Tami Charles' keynote speech last night, despite the success she has as a published author, the first time she attended an SCBWI conference, her fears made her sweat.


 It is no doubt that firsts can be scary. But. Trying something new will always be ripe with opportunity. Beginning a new journey, and traveling a road you don't often take will certainly feed your curiosity, scratch the What if itch, and--at the very least--work your confidence muscle a bit. 

But in order to achieve a first, you must be brave enough to start. Whether you have attended your first conference, logged onto Zoom for the first time, or simply considered a new story idea this weekend, you are one step further into a journey most people are too afraid to take. This sort of bravery should always be celebrated. 

And tonight, as we close out this magnificent winter conference, I would like to end this post with a quote from another important first this year--our first woman Vice-President, Kamala Harris. In her first post-election address to the nation Vice-President Harris said, 

"While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last."


Let us be reminded that, while this may be a weekend full of firsts,  as long as we honor the craft of writing, and put children first in our stories and in our hearts--our firsts will never be our last. There will always be more to come."


My Life in Children's Books: A Rare Appearance by the Legendary Patricia MacLachlan



We are in for a rare and wonderful treat, to listen to our beloved Lin Oliver in conversation with the legendary Patricia Maclachlan. 

Patricia MacLachlan is the beloved author of many books for kids, including the Newbery Award winning SARAH PLAIN AND TALL. 

Lin describes Patricia's work as exquisite, and says that her books are ones we want to last for forever. And Lin thinks we will feel the same about this interview. (I'm popping back to say she was right!)

Lin describes Patricia's language as spare or poetic or taut or restrained, all qualities that other writers aspire to. 

Patricia says this started when she was five and would look at books on her family's bookcase. She would put parentheses around words because she thought there were too may words in the book. And at 4 or 5 years old she would write down titles in her notebook, and she continued to correct other people's writing. She one day wrote the words: My cats have names and seem happy and often they play. Her mom read it and responded, "Oh my, you've written a poem!"

She always kept that in her, and from then on, she wrote in spare ways. It's just part of who she is. "I like books that allow me to enter them. If there are too many words then I don't know where I'm going."

When Lin ask if it's hard getting to the heart of the emotion? Patricia says that the only way she can get into it is with spare language. She believes the spare language invites the reader in too. 

Fun fact: Patricia is writing a novel now, and every day she goes through and deletes words. She's not in love with her own words, unless it's something she wrote long ago.

Lin asks about writing a classic, like SARAH PLAIN AND TALL and quotes Patricia as saying: It's the quiet soft moments of honesty that transcend the years. 

"I do a lot of stripping away. I like stripping." That gets a good laugh, I'm sure at computers all over the world. Later she tells us, "I love my delete button. It's so good."

Patricia says she doesn't think enough authors get into their landscape: the words, the emotional landscape, and where the book takes place. 

And when writing, Patricia tries very hard to create something "for the adult to hold and for the child to grab onto."

When Patricia tells Lin that she doesn't usually know the endings of her books, Lin wonders if Patricia has ever written herself into a corner. Patricia responds with a resounding, "Of course." And when Lin asks what she does then, Patricia says, "I fix it," with a laugh. 

Oh, friends. Patricia is so personable and honest and she is sharing personal stories that make you laugh out loud. If you're not with us live, do be sure to watch the archived replay (available to all conference attendees). 

On getting stuck: "When I get stuck, I go to bed. It always comes to me in bed. What is it about bed?"

Patricia has a writing room at the top of her house, where she keeps her shades closed (she's has significant vision loss), with the birds outside. 

Tip: "It's nice to hear your word read out loud to you." This is something Patricia even does within her critique group, an impressive group at that, one that includes names like Jane Yolen. 

Many years ago, when asked when the most important time in their writing was, Natalie Babbitt, a good friend of Patricia, said it was preschool, that the things she worried about in preschool were things she worries about as an adult. Patricia agrees and shares how her own childhood experiences are being pulled into the book she is working on now, and she shared a quote from that book that is a perfect thought to leave you with.

"The title taps you on the shoulder and the first sentence takes you by the hand."

Thank you, Patricia MacLachlan! 

Shout Out to the SCBWI Staff!

Amid Lin's conference wrap-up, she invites the entire staff of SCBWI to come onscreen for introductions and a rousing round of virtual applause!

top row, left to right: Brian Truitt, sign language interpreter, Sarah Baker, and Lin Oliver
2nd row, left to right: April Powers, Bonnie Bader, Kiana Martin
3rd Row: Avery Silverberg, Steve Mooser, Sarah Diamond
Lower row: Kim Turrisi, Julian Petri, and Tammy Brown


Portfolio Showcase and Other Awards

Click here to learn more about applying for any of the awards, scholarships, and grants listed below!

Scholarship for Emerging Voices winners announced: 


Spark Award Honor Books:

Spark Award Winner Books:

Narrative Art Award Winner: Leanne Hatch

Student Writer Scholarship Winners

Student Illustrator Scholarship Winners



PORTFOLIO SHOWCASE HONORS



PORTFOLIO SHOWCASE GRAND PRIZE WINNERS: LEANNE HATCH AND XIN LI!



Keynote Conversation: Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera on "Writing for the Contemporary YA Audience"

Becky Albertalli is the author of William C. Morris Award winner and National Book Award longlist title, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (now a major motion picture, Love, Simon); the acclaimed The Upside of Unrequited; and the New York Times bestsellers Leah on the Offbeat, What If It’s Us (co-written with Adam Silvera), Yes No Maybe So (co-written with Aisha Saeed), and Love, Creekwood. You can visit her online at www.beckyalbertalli.com.

Adam Silvera is the New York Times bestselling author of Infinity Son, They Both Die at the End, More Happy Than Not, History Is All You Left Me, and What If It’s Us with Becky Albertalli. All his novels have received multiple starred reviews. He worked in the publishing industry as a children’s bookseller, community manager at a content development company, and book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels.

Becky Albertalli (lower left) and Adam Silvera (lower right) are introduced by SCBWI Director of Special Projects Kim Turrisi (upper left), with sign language interpretation by Brian Truitt (upper right).


Becky and Adam start off talking about why they write YA, and hearing from readers around the world – some whom, as Becky says, "have something in common with you when you thought you were the only person who felt that way."

Becky tells us about going back to her high school, having been invited by the student head of the GSA. She reflects on how much things have changed - her school didn't have a GSA when she was a student there, and even if they had, she doesn't feel like she would have been welcome there.

Adam tells the opposite story, of how when he was invited back to his high school, they didn't want him to talk about the gay content of his book at all. How "gutting" it was to have to censor his own stories.

Adam reflects on how his books aren't carried in every library, because of the Queer content. "All my books have Queer narrators." He consider the impact that decision may have on his career... But he doesn't want to write straight cis main characters. "I want to write about my community. I want to write about my identity. And I want to contribute to those spaces."

Becky reflects on the power of gatekeepers, telling us about an event at a middle school that meant so much to her. The administration had pushed to not have any queer books available to their students. And one librarian specifically pushed back and had those conversations and made her case... "If it hadn't been for her, though..."

Some highlight moments:

Appealing to "all of the youths" isn't a target to shoot for. –Becky

Adam made a list of ten random details about a character to get to know them. Then he analyzed that list: Why did one character hate Instagram? It made him feel bad about his body. And that helped Adam understand the heart of his character better.

How books are going to be “time capsules.” –Adam

There's much more covered in Becky and Adam's conversation and the Q&A, including endings, romance, writing fantasy (Adam writes character first, and the magic and world building comes later), and including or not including pop culture references (Becky goes "all in" on including them), as well as the decision to not include COVID-19 in 'Here's To Us', their sequel to 'What if it's Us'.

It's a great conversation, with over 1,000 of us watching it live.


AGENT PANEL - Real Talk with Four Agents: Saba Sulaiman

Saba Sulaiman is an agent at Talcott Notch Literary Services, a boutique agency located in Milford, CT.

The agency includes Saba and a couple of other agents that work independently with nonfiction, fiction, adult, and children's books. Saba started building her list about five years ago, and she is primarily building the children's list for her agency. 

Saba looks for stories she wishes to champion, stories that showcase the individual and also the world around them. She feels books are a heartwarming way to connect us all through storytelling, and that children are particularly receptive to differences and that they also tend to embrace silliness and absurdity as simple matter of fact.

"We read to understand ourself by understanding others."

Saba represents picture books, middle grade, YA, as well as some chapter books (but mostly clients she already represents). She loves stories with heart, stories with certain sense of urgency, high concept, whimsy, word play, structural experimentation, humor (she notes there is space for humor in everything), honest storytelling, books that open conversations with children, and diversity and inclusivity in all forms. 

Saba has found clients at SCBWI. 

Some authors she represents:

Cathleen Barnhart

Rosiee Thor

Saira Mir


Shelly Anand


Every agent's perspective is different concerning a full list or how big a list they want to have. Saba has about 25 clients right now. 

As a final takeaway, Saba shares that when you're writing, the best way to find success is to be vulnerable and honest. She also suggests that we all should ask ourselves hard and important questions about the kind of people we are and the challenges we will have to face on this journey. 

Follow her on Twitter and IG @agentsaba 
Learn more about her at sabasulaiman.com


Agent Panel – Real Talk with Four Agents: A Deep Dive Into the Children’s Publishing Business—Kevin Lewis


Kevin Lewis has done a bit of everything in the publishing industry. He started out at Books of Wonder before heading over to Scholastic, and then shooting over to Simon and Schuster. I'm probably leaving a whole bunch of other stuff out, but you get the idea—this guy has done it all, he knows his stuff!

 Today Kevin is an agent at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, helping to bring more visual elements into their lists—focusing on representing author-illustrators. 

This blogger knows him best as the author of CHUGGA-CHUGGA CHOO-CHOO, illustrated by Daniel Kirk, as that was one of my son's favorite books when he was a toddler.

Kevin loves picture books, as he was a reluctant reader as a kid. He's turned that love of pictures into a long career in publishing. Over the course of his career, he's worked with the likes of Kadir Nelson, Tony DiTerlizzi, Dav Pilkey, so many others. He's always enjoyed working with illustrators to develop long careers.

In addition to young picture books, he enjoys helping to develop illustrated chapter book, avoid text heavy fiction and nonfiction. And if you are an author-illustrator of color, or from another under-represented community—Kevin's your guy.

Kevin admits that, maybe, he's not the best editor. So if that's what you are looking for, he can certainly point you to an editorial agent at his literary house. He is mostly there for the visual storytellers.


A recent book that represents his tastes: THE GUMAZING GUM GIRL! POPPED STAR, which may or may not smell like bubble gum. Buy the book to find out.

Advice on pre-published first steps.

Get involved. Have something you feel powerful about. You don't have to be published to be a literary advocate. Fight for others within this publishing community—it not only makes you more professional,but a better storyteller.

How many clients represented?

Kevin prefers to keep his client list small, he represents about eight creators. And even with that smaller number, there are days when he feels like he represents too many. Kevin is the type of agent who needs to be able to engage with his clients consistently—he's more hands on.

Advice on money.

Avoid chasing the huge advances. Remember, advances must be paid back. You don't want to be known as the guy who got that huge advance, the book never sold—and then he just disappeared from the publishing scene.  Getting a smaller advance with a larger royalty might be a viable option to consider.

Best advice for illustrators:

Take care of hour hands. You use then a lot. Hands hurt? Get a massage. Don't overwork your physical self. 













Agent Panel: Kirby Kim

Meet agent Kirby Kim!

Prior to agenting, Kirby Kim had been considering a career as a lawyer, but found he didn't have a passion for the law the way his fellow classmates did. Then 'literary agent' popped up on his radar as a possible job that could use his degree but with more creativity and advocacy than found in courtroom roles. He interned with an agency in California briefly before moving to New York and working with various agencies there (including his NY start with superstar agent Charlotte Sheedy) before joining Janklow & Nesbit.

What is Kirby looking for?

He likes high concept, high stakes, mostly contemporary fiction and does do a fair amount of crossover for adult/YA.

What's a good example book or client from his list? 

Kirby shares Golden Kite winner for YA Fiction, The Blossom and The Firefly, by historical fiction writer Sherri L. Smith. Kirby says Sherri writes more than great historical fiction, and his role as her agent is to just follow her in her incredible range. In addition to historical fiction, Sherri is also working on many other projects including a graphic novel and a contemporary teen noir. 

Kirby also shares Peter Bognanni's This Book Is Not Yet Rated, which Kirby was drawn to initially because it occupies that 'indie movie sad/funny space'. Kirby wants to represent books that make him feel moved or changed or surprised in some way. 

How many clients?

He currently represents 50-60 clients. Active projects balanced with natural lulls in production cycles mean not all clients are needing the same type or level of attention at the same time. 

Kirby's career advice: 

There're a lot of different roads to the same place. Comparing yourself to fellow writers is not helpful. Kirby shares a client's Edgar award winner who started writing in his 50s. There's an unhealthy obsession with youth, go by your compass not your clock. And be gentle on yourselves and try to define success by what you can control—the quality of your work and the people you work with.

AGENT PANEL - Real Talk with Four Agents: Erica Rand Silverman


Erica Rand Silverman is a senior agent at Stimola Literary Studio, a boutique agency that Rosemary Stimola founded about twenty years ago, and has a much-celebrated client list. Stimola Literary Studio is passionate about building careers. Erica has been with the Studio for five years. 

It's personally important to Erica to be awake in this world: to see the wonders and the beauty and even the ugliness. To see the good and the bad. All that is happening to us all the time, and all those really big feeling that come with it. 

Erica feels lucky to work with kids' books, which help kids work through all of that, and she loves working with the writers and illustrators who create those books. 

Erica mostly represents picture books. She loves the interactions between illustration and text.  And Erica has found some of her clients right here at SCBWI. 

In terms of illustration Erica looks for very distinct art styles for illustrators.



She also loves fiction and nonfiction stories that are honest and true to human nature and our lives.

THE BEAR AND THE MOON by her client Matthew Burgess is a good indication of what she looks for.


Erica also represents the author of the bestselling I AM HUMAN series. 


And, as a former teacher, Erica loves books that segue well into the classroom, like MAPPING SAM.



Erica reassures those who are not yet published: "Being a debut is a great place to begin. Know that it works in your favor...Be encouraged if you are unpublished." 


Beyond the typical work she does with submissions and contracts for her clients, Erica puts a lot of effort behind working with her clients on marketing and publicity. She also helps them navigate it all, the many moving pieces and parts of publishing. 

A final takeaway: "It's never too early to get engaged in the industry." 

Erica says a book that will give you a great sense of what she looks for is BLUE, BARRY, AND PANCAKES by Dan & Jason (out soon). There's a great sense of play, and the way you can have fun with your work. Erica recommends to everyone: PLAY YOUR WAY IN!


Follow on IG: @ericasilverman @stimolaliterarystudio
YouTube: Stimola Live
Twitter: @ericasilverman @stimolaliterary

Keynote Conversation - Jerry Craft and Victoria Jamieson: The Graphic Novel and Visual Storytelling



Now that, my friends, was a compelling session. If you missed out, well, you really missed out. Victoria Jamieson and Jerry Craft spoke on their personal journeys to creating graphic novels—with stories, visuals, tips and process. 


Vicky, as she referred to herself during the session, got her start in children’s publishing, in part, with the SCBWI. She began her career in picture books—designing them for Harper Collins, before illustrating for other author’s books. She became inspired to parlay her picture book skills to graphic novels after reading Raina Telgemeier’s SMILE, which first published in 2010.

Jerry’s love of drawing comics started in middle school. He wasn’t a reader as a kid—at least, not reading for enjoyment. And when he did, it was comics. As he got older, he wanted to do comics for a living. When his lovingly protective parents learned about his career aspirations, he was sent to a mostly white private school out of his neighborhood. That experience experience is what inspired his best-selling NEW KID.


On the topic of creating characters outside of their own lived experience.


It has always been Jerry’s goal to portray African American protagonists as regular kids—beyond topics of slavery, civil rights, and entanglements with the police. When he started doing school visits, some kids would ask: “How come you don't have a kid like me (say, from India). So with CLASS ACT, Jerry became more focused on including other kinds of kids—including a child with alopecia, vitiligo, where he could so so and still be honest to the script—and not overdoing it. Authenticity is key.



With WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED, Victoria seriously questioned if it was her story to tell. She had not lived the refugee experience, and so she worried about if she has a place in the story. Victoria got her answer from the character, Omar, who spoke to her by saying, “I welcome you into my story.” 


Victoria’s advice on that topic is to be honest with your publishing team about concerns, and if what you're trying to represent a good idea in the first place. “Get out into the community, listen to people. Don’t talk.



On creating layouts and storyboards? 


When creating graphic novels, Victoria feels like a film-maker. She considered the script, the costumes, she even goes location scouting. Then she begins to write a script, which she had no background in before creating graphic novels. She simply Googled: How to write a movie script.

The key, she says, it to play the film in your head. 



Jerry works digitally using a Wacom Intus Pro. He begins by drawing a story arc to determine the time period of the story, and plotting evens along the arc. With each book, he worked a bit differently. With NEW KID, he sketched the entire book, and submitted a finished pdf to his editor. With CLASS ACT, he drew on note paper in a three-ring binder.



Victoria begins her graphic novels with thumbnails, then, as with creating picture books, she determine’s the story’s arc.






















Tools used


Victoria loves her woodless grapite pencils—which she often begins with non-photo blue (Progresso). Then she inks with a brand called Black Sumin. Jerry also uses a non-photo blue pencil both natural media and digital.



A highlight was when Jerry live sketched his Jordan character, showing various angles and composition—mixing things up so they don’t get boring or redundant for his readers. When considering costumes, Jerry considers what has been historically stereotypical, and works to counter negative images.  For instance, he intentionally created his Jordan character to wear a hoodie, to counter that negative image.



















Both artists create character pages, and even plan out the environments in which characters will live—including blueprints, map of neighborhoods, bedrooms, what might on the wall of a character’s room. “I imagine every single inch of a character's house,” says Victoria. 




















For reference, Jerry takes a lot of photos—something learned from his picture book buddy Eric Velasquez.  



There were almost 2000 people in this live session, followed by a lively Q&A. 

Illustrated Notes From The SCBWI Winter Conference + Why Every #NY21SCBWI Attendee Should Visit the Virtual Portfolio Showcase (Including Writers!)

One of the silver linings of a virtual conference: more time to browse attendee art between sessions! Agents, art directors and editors are already doing this, but I also encourage the rest of you to check out the amazing art in the SCBWI Virtual Portfolio Showcase.

Another advantage of the virtual conference: you can browse at your leisure through March 19th. During an in-person conference, we generally only have a couple of hours, and it can get super-crowded:

Browse the Virtual Portfolio Showcase any way you'd like, but my advice is to do it gradually over the next few weeks. And don't feel like you have to start from the top of the gallery! Why not start with the illustrators whose last name begin with Z, and then work your way backwards? Or scroll through and sample randomly.

This is also a great chance for you to show your support for your fellow kidlit creators. If you find an illustrator whose work you admire, for example, give them a shoutout on social media along with a link to their website; all portfolios have a link. Also include the #NY21SCBWI hashtag to help encourage fellow attendees. Caution: Never share an illustrator's art online unless you have their permission, especially if the image you're sharing does not have their info included. 

A social media tip for illustrators who are sharing their art in social media: always make sure your name and (ideally) copyright info is embedded in art you share online. Some people may scoop and share your image without attribution, sometimes innocently, and then your art may be re-shared multiple times. You don't need a fancy watermark app to do this; you can just write your name and website URL somewhere, or include a scrap of paper with this info in your photo.

Speaking of fabulous art being created by illustrators during the SCBWI Winter Conference, I've been loving the illustrated notes and portraits that some of you have been posting! Here are just a few from Twitter. (Note: These are embedded tweets, so if you can't see the image, click through to see the original tweet)

These are just a few of the many wonderful illustrated notes being posted during the SCBWI Winter Conference. 

If you post illustrated notes during the conference or afterward as you're watching session video replays, be sure to use the #NY21SCBWI hashtag so others can see. Another way to share: after the conference, include your image in a blog post summarizing your own takeaways from the conference, then post in social media with a link (and again, don't forget to use the hashtag).

Enjoy the rest of the conference, and happy note-taking!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Keynote Address – Looking Back to Move Forward Tami Charles

 



Tami Charles, the bestselling author, of LIKE VANESSA, and MUTED, began her keynote address with these profound words:

Life is like an arrow. Sometimes you get pulled back only to be launched into something beautiful. 


Tami was born in the 1980's in Newark, Jersey in what she describes as a sea of Black and Brown and blooming dreams. Tammy says she was the kid that--as many of us can relate-- drowned herself in stories. However, Tammy never saw herself, her family or her community in some of her favorites, including the popular Sweet Valley Twins series and others. 

Although Tami loved stories, she never considered becoming a writer. Tami assumed to be an author, you had to be old or rich. She was neither. So, Tami chose the safer path. She was the daughter of a former teacher turned principal, so she became a teacher as well. 


MUTED, just released Feb 2, 2021, is a novel in verse about seventeen year old, aspiring singer, Denver, who experiences the dark side of the music industry, where she will either break the code of silence--or become broken.


As a classroom teacher, Tami had the opportunity to share her love of stories with her students. They read Jacqueline Woodson, Meg Medina and Carol Boston Weatherford. It was in these moments, with these stories, that a spark ignited with Tami's twelve year old self. 

Tami finally saw herself in the books she was sharing with her students, and it was this representation that inspired Tami to finally dabble with writing. Her students became her first readers, offering honest critiques, but encouraging her to follow her dreams and continue on her writing journey. 

Tami joined the New Jersey regional SCBWI chapter. For the first few years, Tami attended SCBWI conferences, but quietly hid in the shadows. She left the conferences intimidated by the successful authors and illustrators--unsure if she would ever reach their level of success. Tami's imposter syndrome was real. But the statistical data attached to writer's of color in the publishing industry was also very real. Would Tami ever become one of the 7% of author's of color with traditionally published books?

Despite her fear, Tami pressed on--joining critique groups and working on her writing craft. According to Tami,

The writing got better. The rejections became nicer.


Six years after Tami began seriously writing, she landed an agent. Two years after that, she became traditionally published. 


LIKE VANESSA, published by Charles Bridge Publishing, is a middle grade story about a shy girl from New York who participates in a beauty pageant, despite her own issues of self-confidence.


Tami's first novel ended up becoming an award winning book. Tami, and her book LIKE VANESSA won the SCBWI Book Launch Award. The award allowed Tami to donate much needed funds back into her alma mater university high school and other community literacy programs. 

By sharing her writing journey, Tami showed us how doubt can be overcome by hope. According to Tami, the word no holds power. But the word yes holds beauty. And it's the hope that the No will someday become a Yes, according to Tami, that keeps us going. 

I kept going, and you can do it too.



With this message of hope, Tami leads us to her newest project,  a picture book titled, ALL BECAUSE YOU MATTER.


In the picture book that Tami describes as the book of her heart, she tells you children: reads to us lines like: 

...strength, power, and beauty lie within you

Inspired by her son. Christopher getting older and beginning to ask questions like "Why was Dr.King assassinated?" and "Who is George  Floyd?"  Tami wanted to write a book that fostered meaningful conversations, while reinforcing her son's value and worth.  

What better way than to write a love letter to remind him of all the reasons why he matters to me and to the world. 

Tami doesn't want her book to be the only one out in the world with this message. Before ending her keynote, she assigned conference attendee's a task. 

The world need our stories, funny, adventurous, the call to action and everything in between. They need your art, and your words to know that hope and kindness still exist. We write and we create to show how we live, how we love, and the color of our hearts. I want you to remember why is it that you do this work, who you're creating for. 

Tami reminds every writer to celebrate the yes's and learn from the no's. 

Allow them both to launch you to personal greatness. Along the way, remembering the wings that hope provides. 

Last Night's Theme...GOLDEN!

Our usual gala festivities may be online this year due to quarantine. But that did not stop the book world from shining bright online! The good-natured jokes were plentiful last night. 

Illustrator Debbi Ohi led us into the fun with a "sketchy" joke about what she planned to wear to the virtual Golden Kites versus what she had on at the moment.

   



While pandemic exhaustion certainly has many of us relating to unbrushed hair and missed shower appointments, tweeters couldn't help joining in on the joke, tweeting out promises that they too,  were were sitting behind their computers dressed in elegant attire reminiscent of Rihanna at the Met Gala.

 



 While there were no actual sightings of fur lined capes and trains, our most ambitious attendee's did show support by tweeting out plenty of glittering looks.  

Artist, Iris Imaginoria, gave us a shimmering selfie wearing a lace trimmed outfit. She completed her stunning look with golden teardrop earrings and daring golden eye makeup.  



Writer/Illustrator Erin Rew threw yoga pants to the wind, opting for a more festive look, slipping into a pre-pandemic golden gown. Even the cat behind her is clamoring for a closer look. 

 

Illustrator Alicia Schwab gave a wink to the Perseverance rover landing on Mars this week with her show stopping intergalactic golden look.   


And, children's writer and copyeditor, Becky Noelle shined bright in her elegant golden earrings

 


These, and many other glittering tweets led us straight to the nearest Zoom link to attend the first ever virtual Golden Kite Awards. Here are my top three golden moments during the awards segment. 


3.  Jennifer Garner, dressed in an on-theme amber colored cardigan, confessing that she can barely get through Charlotte's Web without tearing up (neither can we, Jen!)




2.  Renee' Watson, whose novel WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE, shines golden bright, sharing with us that the main character Ryan is based on her god daughter, Ryan.



1.
 Lin Oliver's introduction, where she placed a bouquet of golden roses in her Zoom background in honor of our beloved Texans who have been hit pretty hard by a devastating snow storm, this week.  

State of the Industry Keynote - Jean Feiwel


Virtual keynotes continue! This time with Jean Feiwel.

Lin starts by asking about Jean's career trajectory: 

Jean started at Avon Books right out of college spending 7 years there, meeting many of her most influential career role models, before moving onto Scholastic. She helped create Baby-sitters Club, Goosebumps, and many other beloved series. Series books that were published monthly, not seasonally(!), as Scholastic Book Club's voracious members demanded and devoured. Jean reminds us that at that time, these series were paperback originals that did not get reviewed or even carried by some bookstores! Jean never saw them as fluff, but as serious books—Baby-Sitters Club has Jean and Ann and other editors' life experiences within those pages, one reason they ring so true and remain so beloved. In February 2006 Jean joined Macmillan as Senior Vice President and Publisher, founding her own imprint, Feiwel and Friends. Jean also started the imprints Square Fish and Swoon Reads, in addition to being named publisher of Henry Holt in 2016. Currently Jean is surrounded by 12 inches of snow in Massachusetts.

Her publishing ethos remains rooted in wanting to expose children to all types of literature, and she's demonstrated that in her commitment to publishing in all genres, categories and formats, from those early paperback original series to the crowd-sourced stories of Swoon. She credits Raina Telgemeier's graphic novel work for changing the face of American publishing and the emergence of the still burgeoning younger comics market. Illustration is incredibly varied and sophisticated and has no boundary for age range unless we force it to, says Jean, and comics are real books. Jean wants educators and the book industry to be ambassadors not gatekeepers to children's books, expose not shield kids from different points of view and types of books.

Lin asks if we are on solid footing in the children's book industry?

Jean thinks the great irony is that 2020 is one of the best years in MacMillan's history, with the backlist having a higher return thanks to comfort reading during the pandemic, in addition to an expansion in digital sales. Except for YA, digital sales are usually not a big sales number for children's books, but all did better in 2020.

Has the pandemic put a crunch on acquisitions? 

Jean says it hasn't! MacMillan is selling more books on Amazon than ever and it is their largest account. Barnes & Noble is going through a seachange, any brick and mortar stores are going through a change right now, but they are still a voice. Target and other big box stores, which were not as much a part of MacMillan's distribution 10 years ago, are now a significant source of business, especially in 2020 as shopping in person for fun was replaced by shopping only in person for necessity. And indie bookstores are still a significant voice in making books happen, Jean says, even as they are grappling with the pandemic closures, and points out the Winter Institute is happening this weekend, too.

Jean says the market is crying out for diversity and expansion. Integrating diversity into mainstream publishing, not just specific imprints, should be the goal. Representation is #1 on the agenda at MacMillan at all levels from acquisitions to hiring. The younger professionals coming up are showing publishing the way, Jean doesn't want people that look like her to be the only one who is dominating the conversation.

Jean believes we need innovators and disrupters in our publishing industry, and from her experience it's really hard to make that happen, but it's going to happen. Though traditional publishers need more innovation and they need it faster. You can look to self-published authors and illustrators who've led in the innovation department and see how that has impacted and disrupted traditional publishing.

Jean's advice to authors and illustrators: Stop looking over your shoulder, be yourself. If you have something to say, say it. And yes, look at the marketplace, but look for new ways of telling stories. 

Lin asks for words to focus on in 2021 and Jean's are: Expect the unexpected and be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

She leaves us with an excerpt from a forthcoming Feiwel & Friends picture book by Cleo Wade, WHAT THE ROAD SAYS