Sunday, February 3, 2013

Until the next time... In Los Angeles! (August 2-5, 2013)

Team Blog, hard at work.

From left to right:  Martha Brockenbrough, Jolie Stekly, Lee Wind, Jaime Temairik and Suzanne Young.  Err...   Suzanne (not pictured) is doing research on her new book dealing with invisibility, and although she's not visible in the photo, she's blogging away!

Suzanne, visible

We had a great time blogging the 14th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference!  We invite you to read the posts from the sessions you were fortunate enough to attend, get a glimpse of the ones you missed, and think about the moments and insights that are still resonating for you.  Share your take in comments.

And we hope to see YOU in Los Angeles for the 42nd Annual SCBWI Summer Conference, August 2nd-August 5th, 2013.

Illustrate and Write On,

Lee, Jaime, Jolie, Martha and Suzanne
SCBWI Team Blog

ps - thanks to Emily Jiang for the top photo!

pps - illustrator students - there's a scholarship you can apply for to attend the summer conference.  Find out more here.

ppps - for published authors and/or illustrators who are interested in switching children's book genres, you can apply for a Martha Weston Grant to receive an all-expenses paid trip to the Summer Conference.

Arree Chung's #NY13SCBWI Experience

Author/Illustrator Arree Chung tells us about his conference weekend:

Thanks, Arree!

Sara Woolley's #NY13SCBWI Conference Experience

Illustrator (and now writer/illustrator) Sara Woolley tells us about the impact the weekend has had on her:

Thanks Sara!

The Autograph Party

Almost the moment Mo Willems' keynote speech ended, people started lining up to get their books signed and we kid you not, the line ran the length of a football field (that's 100 yards, for those of you unfamiliar with the sport, or 91.44 meters if you're Canadian).

It's no wonder people are so excited to have their books inscribed, when you share the room with the likes of Julie Andrews, Mo Willems, Shaun Tan, Jane Yolen, Tomie dePaolo ...

We could and should go on, but we'll let the pictures speak for themselves. 

Mo Willems

Shaun Tan fans standing in a queue (do they say that in Australia?)

Shaun Tan

Mark Teague and Floyd Cooper

Meg Rosoff and David Ezra Stein

Lin Oliver and Theo Baker

Tomie DePaola and Jane Yolen

Margaret Peterson Haddix and Matthew Kirby

Arthur Levine is a full-service editor. Here, he's opening
the book to the right page for an inscription.

Andrea Yerramilli and RaChelle Lisiecki - Their #NY13SCBWI Experience

Andrea Yerramilli and RaChelle Lisiecki share with us how the New York SCBWI Conference went for them...

Thank you!

Kelly Thrasher-Brooks: My #NY13SCBWI Experience

Illustrator Kelly Thrasher-Brooks is a first time conference attendee!

Thanks, Kelly!

Mo Willems' Keynote: "Writing in 4 Easy Steps, 4 Kinda Harder Steps, and 1 Impossible Step"

Don't let the pigeon drive the bus, but do let Mo Willems give the closing keynote at a conference weekend full of icons and inspiration!

Mo Willems!
Mo has six Emmys, Three Caldecott honors, three Geisel medals and as Lin says in her introduction, "He is the phenom of our business"

He cautions us that writers are filters, not spigots.  "Be a filter, don't be a spigot."  So here are a few of the filtered highlights of Mo's keynote:

"We're not trying to make stories that are going to be read, we're trying to make stories that are going to be read a milliondy billiondy times."

Three of his 9 tips:

*Be succinct.  'Nuff said.
*You may own your story's copyright but you don't own its meaning
*Be Superlative

"I've dreamed that everything I write will change the world for the better."  If you're just dreaming of being published, dream bigger.

For Illustrators,
Always start your illustrations in the middle (to kind of warm up) and save the cover and opening spreads for the end (when you're in the zone and it's flowing) - because those are the first ones people will read!

Mo is funny, irreverent, insightful, sharing advice and stories, showing us the difference between a hook and a story - while people are crying/laughing, laughing/crying -  telling us which is his most personal book, the truth about 'write what you know' (don't do it - write to discover what you don't know), giving us a bunch of great illustration tips and career tips, and so much more...

And perhaps most magically, this is the filtered line that's resonating for me...

"Your job is to be [through your books] some child's best friend."

We're riveted...

and on our feet, cheering!

Mo is amazing!

What a finale!

Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton: 'It Takes Two' Keynote

 Julie Andrews is one of the world's most beloved entertainers. She's Mary Poppins. She's Maria. She's the Queen of Genovia. She's also a tremendous writer whose books include MANDY and THE LAST OF THE REALLY GREAT WHANGDOODLES.

Along with her equally successful daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, she has created The Julie Andrews Collection, a series of books designed to nurture a child's sense of wonder.

Together, the mother-daughter team has written 27 books together, including THE VERY FAIRY PRINCESS series, which became a No. 1 New York Times bestseller.

They gave a warm and wonderful presentation to an entirely packed house (indeed, it's standing room only in the back). Here are some highlights.

On how Julie Andrews got started

Julie's first published work was a "happy accident" forty years ago. She was playing a game with her kids that required a forfeit if you lost. Her stepdaughter asked her to write a story.

"I began to develop a little idea I had, and I got so carried away with the story, it turned into my first middle-grade novel, called MANDY," Julie said.

Their first collaborative work

She and Emma first wrote together when Emma was just five.

As Emma explained it, her parents had just divorced and were living on opposite coasts. She and her mom wrote a book and brought it to her dad, who illustrated it and bound it. The book became a symbol of their permanent connection. Later, they revisited the story and worked it into a book called SIMEON'S GIFT, illustrated by Gennady Spirin.

On their writing process
Julie talked about the process of writing DUMPY THE DUMPTRUCK, the first picture book they wrote together. "The learning curve was very steep," she said.

Now, though, they're experienced enough that Emma teaches children's writing (including through the online Children's Book Hub).

As they collaborate, they have learned to lean into each other's strengths. And if someone feels really strongly about something, she's probably right.

"This requires mutual trust and respect," Emma said. And it's not just because they're mother and daughter. "A great deal of it we've learned through the collaborative process."

Julie and Emma work with an outline. "We feel that structure gives us greater freedom."

They also write every line together. Emma types ("very fast," Julie said). She sends the day's work to Julie for review. They used to think they had to be in the same room to work, but their schedules made that difficult. So now they use Skype or other chat software--very early in the morning, before Julie has had her hair and makeup on (but she does stop to spritz herself with perfume).

On the challenges of writing a series

Consistency is important.

"With Dumpy, I had the idea of always beginning with a fanfare of sorts, heralding what's to come very much the way an overture might," Julie said. They had to find fresh ways to do that every time.

They also had to keep characters and their abilities consistent. For example, is Dumpy magic or is it just a coincidence when his lights flicker at a crucial moment in the story? That's a question left up to the reader to decide, and they had to make sure what Dumpy did in book six was consistent with what he did in books one through five to sustain this interest.

They even keep the architecture of the house consistent across books.

"It can be harder to track that then you might imagine," Emma said. (She used spreadsheets.) And it helps having two sets of eyes on things.

Even so, they do try to leave space for surprise. "We've ... learned the value of flexibility and keeping our options open," Julie said.

Reader satisfaction
They had much to say on this, but one excellent point was Julie's--that an ending has to be satisfying and surprising at the same time.

But there's good news!
"The better you know your characters, the more they start to inform your ideas," Emma said. So it gets easier as you go.


Remembering Bridget Zinn

In 2011 we lost one of our ownBridget Zinn. At 33, Bridget had just sold her first book to Disney/Hyperion, and she was also bravely fighting cancer. I was lucky enough to be friends with Bridget, but we all feel her loss. Her agent Michael Stearns had a beautiful post about her passing, along with a video that really captures her beautiful spirit HERE.

Bridget and her husband, Barrett Dowell

(left to right) Cyndi Koon, Suzanne Young, and Bridget at their "rockstar lunch."
But now is the time to celebrate for Bridget. Her first book, POISON, is due out from Disney/Hyperion on March 12th, and we invite you to help us spread the word. From now until Monday night we are running a contest for you to win Bridget's book! But first, here's the description:

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend. But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?
Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she’s certainly no damsel-in-distress—she's the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.

So now for your part: When you share this blogpost, write your own, or tweet the hashtag #poisoncome back and comment on this post. On Monday at midnight, we'll select one lucky winner to receive an ARC of Bridget's amazing book POISON!

I hope you take the time to help spread the word and support our dear friend, an amazing spirit, and our fellow writer--Bridget Zinn. Thank you.

Pre-order POISON:
Powell's Books

Bookstore Bustle

Grabbing titles before Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton's Keynote!

Margaret Peterson Haddix Keynote "Tell Me a Story"

Margaret Peterson Haddix is an award-winning author of more than thirty books for kids.

Margaret takes the stage in such a vibrant manner, opening with, "Someday I'll be able to say, 'I once opened for Julie Andrews." (Julie Andrews will give the next keynote.) Pretty cool.

"You don't get to be an author without a certain amount of persistence." 

Margaret questions what the doomsday-ers might have said when storytellers decided to write the story down, or when the printing press came about.

"Kids need our stories. I think that it's hardwired into all of us...Kids need stories to help them be empathetic to others...It's the stories themselves that matter, not the manner in which they read them."

"Kids are trying to make sense of the world, and they use stories to do it."

Margaret used to tell her daughter stories, reminiscing, and telling her events from her own childhood. During one rambling story, her daughter became quite angry with her and yelled at her mom to get to, "and then one day."It took Margaret a while to realize what her daughter was screaming for was plot.

When Margaret starts to think she's going on too long in a scene, she asks herself if what she's writing matters, and her internal editor starts telling her to get to the and then one day.

She worries about people who are asked, "When are going to write a real book?" at a vulnerable time in their writing life. What if some books have not been written because a writer's confidence was taken away by the question?

When looking back at books that mattered to her as a child, Margaret asked what it was about those books that made them so great. Those were the elements she wanted in her own books. Those books had:

  • adventure not found in normal life
  • cliff-hanger chapter endings
  • spunky main characters
  • characters that felt like friends or the friends she wished she had

Making this list helped Margaret know what she wanted in her own work.

When revising it's not a bad idea to imagine the reluctant and picky reader that might be looking for any reason to put your book down. "You want your book to be so great that even the most finicky reader will eat it up."

"Fail big if you have to, but go try trying."

"Tell the story you're afraid of. Tell the story that surprises you. Tell the story you care about more than anything else because that's what kids need."

Art Showcase Winners

The winners and honorees were announced for the Art Showcase Awards. The portfolios were judged as a whole, and the grand prize winner will be flown back to NYC to meet with art directors. Here’s the list with samples of their work: 

Honor awards:

And the Grand Prize Winner is……

The judges had a tough time deciding between all of the outstanding portfolios. Congratulations to all the winners!

Emerging Voices Award

The SCBWI On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award was created in 2012 to foster the emergence of diverse voices in children’s books. It's given to any writer or illustrator from an ethnic and/or cultural background that underrepresented in American literature.

Martin and Sue Schmitt of the 455 Foundation provided the funding for this generous grant. Each winner receives an all-expenses paid trip to the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York to meet with editors and agents, a press release to publishers, a year of free membership to SCBWI, and an SCBWI mentor for a year.

The award this year went to Mary Louise Sanchez, Alex Brown, and Sandra Headen, PhD.
Learn more about their projects on the SCBWI blog.
Sandra Headen

Mary Louise Sanchez

Alex Brown

The 2013 Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Grant

Jane Yolen onstage presenting the grant she established for Mid-List authors

Jane starts by speaking about being a re-starter, and what to do if you're a midlist author (after defining what a 'midlist' author is!)

Even with Owl Moon and the How Do Dinosaurs series, she says

"I still get lots of rejections.  It goes with the territory."  

Even with over 300 books published, she herself has 30 unsold picture book manuscripts!

"All of us, we writers and illustrators are in this together. And when we get somewhere, we must give forward, and give back."

Jane teamed up with SCBWI to say to published mid-list authors, "We honor you.  We recognize you.  We are still paying attention to your work.  And we want to help..."

And so she gives back, with her Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Grant.

The two honor winners are...

Barbara Shook Hazen


Margo Lemieux

and the WINNER is

Valiska Gregory!!!

Valiska onstage being cheered on for winning the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Grant

We'll be profiling the honorees and winner on SCBWI: The Blog in the coming weeks!  You can find out details (and how to nominate a mid-list author you know) for the 2014 Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Grant here!

Unofficial Team Blog Contest

The first attendee that can come tell me how this picture relates to Julie Andrews WITHOUT USING THE GOOGLES gets a latte or a cookie on me. Today only, unless you want me to mail you a latte.


Since 2008, SCBWI has hosted an invaluable LGBTQ&A at their national conferences.  Hosted by Lee Wind (I’m here. I’m queer. What the hell do I read?), the LGBTQ&A is a great place for writers and illustrators to talk with editors, agents, and authors about issues and the current market for stories with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming or questioning youth characters and themes. 

Left to Right: Bruce Coville, Jane Yolen, Lee Wind, Michael Strother and Ellen Hopkins

This year the panel was honored to welcome Jane Yolen, (author of over 300 books for children and teens), Bruce Coville, Ellen Hopkins, and editor Michael Strother. In the opening remarks, Jane was asked about her book SISTER LIGHT, SISTER DARK where she offered insights into the matriarchal society in the story. She was followed by Bruce Coville who when talking about AM I BLUE? said that some people didn’t think humor had a place in LGBTQ. But Bruce pointed out that laughter could be an entry point on the topic.

It was a great segue into Ellen Hopkins’s comments about normalizing through books. There was a heart wrenching moment when she talked about the struggle of some kids and teens, about suicide and depression because of bullying or confusion or lack of acceptance. And Ellen said that until we get to a place where kids are no longer killing themselves, we as authors need to keep writing about LGBTQ topics. Normalizing through books

The panel got into a discussion on craft, and Jane told the attendees that their characters should come about organically. Let them tell you their story. Michael, an editor at Simon Pulse, told the group that it’s important that their characters have other attributes, and that they’re not just gay. Make them real, fleshed-out people. 

Towards the end, a great Q&A session helped the large group of attendees get specific answers to their writing questions. It was comfortable and exciting, and writers and illustrators were able to stay after to talk privately with the panel. 

For more information and book recommendations, visit:

Tomie de Paola Award Winner

The guy that put the I in SCBWI (no, really!), that dynamo Tomie de Paola, is here today to present the award in person!

Tomie explains the origin of his award, he adorably describes it as coming out of a vodka fury. If you aren't here, you are missing a fantastic speaker and personality, but I can make you feel less left out...

You know Tomie has a SCBWI Master Class DVD? It's worth every penny, you'll want to play it again and again. AND you all need to get Barbara Elleman's biography of Tomie, actually, go ahead and buy every available Barbara Elleman book you can.

This year's assignment was to do a black and white illustration from one of three novels. Tomie explains how difficult it is to make a good black and white illustration, and then gives some group critiques to the 320 entrants. If you haven't visited it, the Unofficial TdP Gallery blog is SO AWESOME. Check out the gorgeous work everyone did, kudos to them all for doing an assignment on a deadline, and big thanks to Diandra Mae for making the site!

Here're the works he liked very much, and that's what the award is, whatever Tomie likes best. It's wonderful to hear what he likes about the pieces, this is a little master class all by itself, guys, and another reason to attend the conference in person. There are so many hidden opportunities to have your mind blown at events like this. But I digress, here are the honors:

Brent Beck, Anni Matsick, Bradley Cooper, Stephen Ingram, Sarah Dvojack, Alice Ratagerry (sp?), Andrea Lawson

And the winner is....

Sandra Ure Griffin!

Tomie's next assignment will come this fall, get your butts in your chair, everybody, and... hold on to them?

The SCBWI Staff Shout Out!

Lin starts off the Sunday of the conference with introductions and applause for the amazing staff of SCBWI that makes conferences like this one happen!

From Right To Left:  Joshua Smith, Brandon Clark, Gee Cee Addison, Kayla Heinen, Kim Turrisi, Sarah Baker, Sara Rutenberg and Sally Crock

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Cocktail Gala: Eat and Meet

On Saturday evening conference attendees gathered to nosh and chat with friends new and old.

SCBWI put out quite a spread of small bites, mash potatoes served in a martini glass topped like a sundae, and a meal that Lin called supper, and for many it was.

There were drinks. There were cupcakes. There were friends. 

Regional chapters gathered together so that introductions could be made and friends could connect.

We're So Trendy! SCBWI trended on Twitter

So for artistic tweeting types, our conference was the No. 1 trending subject on Twitter today...

Until Shaun Tan spoke. No one's bigger!