Thursday, December 4, 2014

Ben Rosenthal: The Pre-#NY15SCBWI Interview

Ben Rosenthal is a senior editor at Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books. He acquires middle grade and YA fiction but also loves fresh and surprising nonfiction.

I connected with Ben to find out more about his two breakout sessions at the Winter Conference, one on "Creating Nonfiction" and the other on "Thrillers and Mysteries." It was a great discussion, covering the lessons to be learned from fiction to nonfiction and vice-versa, the lines between MG, YA and Adult, and much more!

If you'd like to attend Ben's sessions and be part of all the craft, opportunity, inspiration, business and community of SCBWI's Winter Conference, we hope you'll join us in New York City, February 6-8, 2015.

You can find out all the details and register here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Friday, November 21, 2014

Martha Brockbrough Shares The Scoop on The Writers' Roundtable Intensive

Check out this very informative post, The Benefits of A Writers' Roundtable, by author and team blog member Martha Brockenbrough. In it, Martha tells us about the Writers Roundtable Intensive at the upcoming 2015 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, February 6-8.

In addition to sharing what happened to her four years ago at the roundtable, Martha is now the intensive's moderator, and shares her thoughts on how to maximize this remarkable opportunity.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Jessica Garrison: The Pre-#NY15SCBWI Interview

Jessica Dandino Garrison is senior editor at Dial Books for Young Readers and edits picture books, middle grade and young adult novels.

In our interview, we discuss the upcoming 2015 SCBWI Winter conference, her take on writers trying to do it all, got the scoop on her rule-breaking picture book breakout sessions, and learned more about the process of selecting an illustrator for a picture book manuscript. She even shares some of her favorite childhood books!

If you'd like to attend Jessica's session and be part of all the craft, opportunity, inspiration, business and community of SCBWI's Winter Conference, we hope you'll join us in New York City, February 6-8, 2015.

You can find out all the details and register here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Emma Dryden: The Pre-#NY15SCBWI Interview

Emma Dryden has edited over a thousand books for children and young readers and many of her titles hit bestseller lists in USA Today, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Publishers Weekly. Books published under Emma’s guidance have received numerous awards and medals, including but not limited to, the Newbery Medal, Newbery Honor, and Caldecott Honor.

Check out the great interview with Emma Dryden at Jolie Stekly's blog!

Team Blogger Jolie Stekly chatted with Emma to get the scoop on the World Building Writer's Intensive at the upcoming 2015 SCBWI Winter Conference, Feb 6-8!

It's a great discussion, and I'm more excited than ever to attend...

We hope you join us. You can find out all the intensive and conference information, and register, here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Monday, November 10, 2014

Stephanie Lurie: The Pre-#NY15SCBWI Interview

Stephanie Lurie is the associate publisher of Disney-Hyperion, an imprint that publishes approximately eighty titles a year, for preschoolers through young adults. Stephanie manages a team of eighteen people and also edits picture books and novels.

In our interview, I asked Stephanie to tell us what she's most looking forward to hearing from her fellow panelists on the Saturday morning Keynote Editors' panel, "Children's Books 2015: Report from the Front Lines." Her fellow panlists will be Justin Chanda (Simon & Schuster), Laura Godwin (Henry Holt) and Beverly Horowitz (Delacorte)!

We also discussed writers writing for more than one age category, diversity as a reflection of modern life, and Stephanie shared some surprising advice. (We even find out her favorite ice cream flavor!)

Check out the full interview here.

And to find out more about the upcoming SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, February 6-8, 2015, you can find out all the details and register here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Friday, October 3, 2014

#NY15SCBWI - The 2015 SCBWI Winter Conference Registration Opens October 7, 10:00 am PDT

SCBWI's spectacular 16th Annual winter conference, held February 6-8, 2015 in New York has an amazing line up of keynote speakers, panels, breakout sessions and intensive workshops.

Here's the faculty,

And here's the conference schedule.

Note: The Conference promises to sell out as it has in the past several years.

So set your calendars and cell phone alarms to register online at Tuesday October 7 at 10am pacific time!

We look forward to seeing you there!

Illustrate and Write On,


Monday, August 4, 2014

Thank You and We'll See You In New York for #NY15SCBWI Feb 6-8, 2015

Thanks for sharing the last three days of conference blogging, tweeting, insights and merriment with us!

Team Blog (minus Suzanne Young this time 'round.) Left to Right: Lee Wind, Martha Brockenbrough, Jaime Temairik and Jolie Stekly

We hope you'll be able to join in all the craft, business, opportunity, inspiration and community of SCBWI's 16th Annual Winter Conference in New York City, February 6-8, 2015.

It will feature:

Full-day Intensives for both Writers and Illustrators

The New York Art Showcase

Networking with top Editors, Agents and Publishers

Workshops, Keynotes and much more (all in the center of the children's publishing industry!)

Online conference registration will be posted in October of 2014 at

Illustrate and Write On,

Martha Brockenbrough

Jolie Stekly

Jaime Temairik

and Lee Wind

Autograph Party

Autograph Party (aka: a bit more time to chat with new and old friends while waiting in line)!

Packed rooms and lines to get books signed.

Maggie Stiefvater

Peter Brown

Bruce Coville

David Meissner & Linda Sue Park

Martha Brockenbrough & Lisa Yee

Judy Schachner

Still chatting as we wait.

Marla Frazee

Bill Konigsberg

Tim Federle & Cynthia Kadohata

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Judy Blume Inspires...

Judy Blume has more than 82 million copies of her books in print. Books like

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret



Just as Long as We're Together.

There's even a new movie out - based on her book - that she wrote the screenplay for: Tiger Eyes.

Judy gets a standing ovation as she takes the stage.

Every eye (and camera) on Judy Blume

Judy is full of joy and emotion and warmth.

She shares with us a few thoughts Tomie dePaola offered that resonated for her, like


When it came to Judy's writing, she never thought twice about it.

"I was brave in my writing in a way that I wasn't in my life."

Courage to create. Courage to imagine.

Judy speaks about the value of the safe space, the community SCBWI offers us all. She talks about Focus and Determination, and tells us stories...

She offers us some tweets she's designed for us, like this one

"Do not let anyone discourage you. If they try, get angry, not depressed."

Judy Blume has us laughing and thinking and feeling. And she tells us that while she was supposed to inspire us, being at this conference inspired her. She's fired up. And she's going to go home. And she's going to do it.

And we can, too.

By the power of Skype! Tomie de Paola's Virtual Keynote!

We miss him but Lin's Skype interview with Tomie was fantastic! Hardly any technical difficulties!

Lin starts by telling us Tomie has published 250 or so books over fifty years, she asks him the secret of sustaining a lifelong career.

Tomie: Courage!

Lin: Courage to...

Tomie: Just courage! I get up in the morning and I have to face a blank piece of paper and my brushes all clean and ready to go. I panic, I freeze, I know I'm going to make a mistake... By then it's the afternoon! 

Without scaring anybody, I think it gets worse! The more you know. You know, fools rush in, now it's all of these pressures that come from the outside, it's really hard to put them in their place. I'm so aware of the responsibility I have for creating something for young people.

Lin: When you were starting out were you aware of that responsibility? Or did you just really want to make picture books and felt your art was suitable?

Tomie: It was a bit of both. You know, the 'fame mosquito' buzzes around for a while, and you want that in the early days. 

And eventually you will have a HUGE disappointment in your career, and you ask yourself why you are doing this?

Why are you doing books for children?

And I realized it was because they'd been important to me, in my life as a child, and I wanted to be that for new generations. I was lucky to have this epiphany early on.

Lin: Is there something you hope your books say to kids? Or is it that you want to create an atmosphere of something beautiful for them. 

Tomie: All of that. I want kids to fall in love color and line and character, I want to make people laugh and cry...

Lin: Your books have such a present sense of childhood, what you do you think gives you that fresh sense?

Tomie: I'm blessed to have a very good memory. And the more I remember of my childhood, the more I remember. I really cherished those memories, and I had some help, I have home movies of me as a child and that helps me remember the experiences. What's important is I remember how I felt. It's not important what color the car was or what color the socks were. It's the feeling.

I also come from families of great storytellers.

Lin: Many artists are asked to write an artistic statement, how would you write your statement?

Tomie: My first response is I want to say 'Why do YOU want to know?!?!' I don't think it's a bad idea to write what your purpose is. But write it twice, write the first one very honestly and don't let anybody see it.

I was trained in the middle fifties at Pratt, a very fine art school, by very fine professionals. We were told not to be afraid, to try everything, you're just students—don't take yourself seriously—yet.

I look at curriculums today and I frankly don't recognize them, I remember when I bought a rapid-o-graph pen and everybody said, Oh my god! There is an emphasis on computers/technology today, and if I was in school today I would want to take advantage of all of that, of everything that's on offer. What bothers me most is the lack of history. People forget that Giotto and Fra Angelico were illustrators. They were visual storytellers and that's what illustrators have to be. I worry that young people today aren't given enough time to develop and flower. If they don't come out of the gate winning awards, the industry just says, "Next!"

It's like that Thornton Wilder quote, "Money is like manureit's not worth a thing unless it's spread around encouraging young things to grow..."

Some Tomie laws:

  • Don't ever try to illustrate something you don't like.

  • You and your art director speak the same foreign language.

  • Don't get so busy with your work (Tomie's speaking to artists and art directors here) that you stop looking at others' art and going to shows. Have your household gods, surround yourself with images you love.

  • You should be able to tell the story of a picture book just by looking at the pictures.

  • Try reading The Courage To Create, modern society almost doesn't understand the creative act. So know you'll probably be misunderstood and try to make something anyway.

Lin's Lightning Round of questions for Tomie! His FAVORITE...

Classical artist: Piero della Francesca 

Musical : Gypsy

Play: Glass Menagerie

Saint: Francis of Assissi

Pizza: margherita

Color: white
Flower: anemone

Paint brand: Golden Acrylics

Icon/Household god: Virgin of Guadalupe

Piece of Advice: 

Be brave.

Thanks, Tomie!!

Laura Rennert: The Building Blocks of a Successful Career - How To Start And Position Yourself Successfully

Executive Agent Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency has clients who write books that are best-sellers, books that win awards.

She represents literary stars like Ellen Hopkins, Jay Asher, Lauren Kate, Maggie Stiefvater, Kathleen Duey and Catherine Ryan Hyde,

And Laura also represents first-time authors.

Laura Rennert conducts her breakout session

With separate handouts for picture book authors and fiction writers, Laura suggests we

"reverse-engineer our approach by thinking like an agent or editor."

Laura walks us through her formula to create a pitch.

Just as we writers need to pitch agents to get them excited to read our book (towards getting representation), agents pitch editors to get them excited to read our book (towards selling it!)

And then, once our book is sold and published, consider that book sellers, publicity people, marketing people and you, the author (once again!) will pitch gatekeepers and readers to get them excited to buy and read your book!

So a pitch for your book is really important.

It should include:

What - what sets story in motion irrevocably 
Where - the world it's in
and Why Should I Care? - that's the stakes
and the bonus,
What is The Special Ingredient that makes this story stand out from all other works in that category?

And Comps help give a context, saying that your work is in the same space as X...

She shares with us her full pitch (that she used to sell the book to its editor) for her client Maggie Steifvater's "Shiver." It's impressive.

Laura answers attendee questions, giving us loads of additional advice on next-steps-in-our-career strategies, speaks of some of her authors pursuing hybrid careers (pursuing both traditional and self-publishing), and much, much more.

Tim Federle: The 10 Things Nobody Tells You About Being a Debut Novelist

Tim Federle is the author of this year's Golden Kite for Fiction, Better Nate Than Ever.

Tim has 10 suggestions for debut novelists.

1. Bring your publisher good news. Limit your requests, instead send lots of gratitude and good news.

2. Everyone is always starting over. Whether a writer is a Newbery winner or writing their second book, we all still look at the blank page when we start a new book.

3. You can't please everyone so try to please a small group a lot.

4. Pretend the day your novel sells is the biggest day for your novel. Maybe even better, the day you write The End after finishing the manuscript. You own the process of writing the book even if you don't sell the book.

5. Form a community of peers but don't listen to them too closely.

6. Use good moments to spark other good moments.

7. Don't talk smack about other writers.

8. Send handwritten cards to assistants and interns.

9. Calm down.

10. Nobody knows anything. Tim advises that after this weekend only take those things that give you confidence. Forget the things that freak you out, because nobody knows.

Bonus: Love your characters.

Here's the good news, blog readers: This is a "taste" of Tim's talk, but he has provided all the meaty bits on his website. Check it out. Amazing!

Lamar Giles: Stay Tuned - Using TV Techniques to Keep Readers Hooked

Lamar Giles writes for adults and teens, and in several genres. His YA debut mystery, FAKE ID, is about a teen in witness protection investigating his best friend's murder. A thriller called ENDANGERED will come out next spring from HarperCollins.

He talked to us about the art of the cliffhangers at the ends of chapters and scenes, and how we can use a television technique to keep readers turning pages.

When he was growing up, he loved television. "I was probably the only fourth grader in Hopewell, Virginia with a subscription to TV guide."

TV when he was a kid wasn't like TV today. There was no on-demand, and you couldn't always record what you wanted to watch. Lamar never wanted to miss a moment of a show, and a few times, he got burned by leaving the TV during commercial breaks. The experience left him with anxiety.

"I realized that anxiety was being manufactured," he said.

Something enticing happened at a commercial break. In a half-hour show, the creators would generate 3 of these (and more for longer shows). He tries to use this sort of manipulation with his stories.

"This is how I try to keep people reading even if they're tired, even if they have something else to do."
Shows take longer to read than a TV show does to watch, so we're asking people for a lot.

He gave us six techniques to use, and showed examples of books and TV shows that them.

Here are three of his techniques:

1) The Ned: Blindside the Audience 
In this technique, you lead the reader in a certain direction. They think they know what's going to happen. In GAME OF THRONES, for example, an unexpected death occurs in the ninth episode. In MOCKINGJAY, Prim dies unexpectedly when a brace of parachutes full of explosives detonate.

"Having that situation go down the way it did, there was no telling what would come next. But there's no way in the world you're not going to hang in there and find out what happens next."

Use The Ned in pivotal scenes. If you want to do this in a three-act structure, use it around inciting incidents or going into Act II.

2) The Winchester: Making a Vow or Accepting a Mission
In Supernatural, Sam and Dean lose their mother. Their father trains them to lose the same. Sam wants a regular life, but Dean becomes a hunter. In the season premier, their father is missing. Sam's girlfriend was killed in the same way his mother was. So they make a vow to hunt the demon down and find their missing father.

A novel called RED RISING by Pierce Brown uses a similar technique. It's set on Mars. The society is broken into classes. The ruling class punishes the hero by killing his wife. He leaves home with terrorists.

When you accept a vow, you're implying or stating there is a difficult, possibly insurmountable goal. If you use this, do it early in the book, because it sets the tone for the entire novel.

3) The Clark - Tell a Secret
This technique delivers information to a pivotal character. The effects of this secret keep people hooked. Laini Taylor's DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE uses this when Akiva kills Karou's family. This relationship and this moment drive two more books. So, it's a technique to use later in the manuscript because it pays off threads you laid earlier.

His approach to story structure and its emotional influence was really smart and helpful. And anything that lets you you justify delicious television viewing as work is OK by me.

Learn more about Lamar Giles
Follow Lamar Giles on Twitter


This could be your view, one day, too.

Golden Kite Award for Fiction: Tim Federle, for Better Nate Than Ever

Instituted in 1973, the Golden Kite Awards are the only children’s literary award judged by a jury of peers. The Golden Kite Awards recognize excellence in children’s literature in four categories. More than 1,000 books are entered each year—so the competition is stiff.

This year in the fiction category, Tim Federle received the Golden Kite for his hilarious, charming, and surprising BETTER NATE THAN EVER.

Tim was every bit as wonderful as his book, making everyone laugh with this observation: "Whether you're published or unpublished, we are the only people in the world right now who are in the same ballroom as Judy Blume." 

He talked to us about his shift from being a Broadway dancer to novelist. "As soon as middle schoolers learn that I played a rollerskating catfish in the Little Mermaid," he said, "they have a hard time believing that I want to sit behind a computer."

But there are benefits to facing the blinking cursor. "When you write down a story, it lasts longer than two hours," he said.

And while he misses the community of theater, that's what SCBWI brings to him as an author, and he loves it. And he offered instruction for us, once we're home. "Get back to the page or the art easel, to tell the stories only you can tell."

Learn more about Tim Federle
Follow Tim Federle on Twitter

David Meissner: Golden Kite Award for Non-Fiction

David Meissner accepts the Golden Kite for non-fiction for Call of the Klondike!

He tells us a couple of hilarious adventure stories, first his five-day hike up the steep, 33-mile trail retracing the trek of so many hopeful goldrushers.

But after the trail hike, David's return to the towns of the Yukon coincided with him being nearly broke. At the time he had nothing but a debit card, so he did what anyone in a financial pinch would do: solicit some campers for gas money, sleep-and-nearly-dine-and-dash at a bed and breakfast, and finally, nearly gamble away his few remaining Canadian dollars at Diamond Tooth Gertie's Dancing and Gambling Hall. It all worked out in the end, David was never thrown into an Alaskan debtor's prison, and we are glad because he is here today to leave us with these four rules:

  • Don't ever give depressing acceptance speeches.

  • Don't confuse your success as a writer with your self worth.

  • Writing is like a garden hose, if you put too much pressure on it, nothing will come out.

  • Never leave your own country without a credit card.

David before he was not eaten by a grizzly bear

Peter Brown: Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Illustration

Peter Brown has won for Mr. Tiger Goes Wild! And we have all, indeed, gone wild for Peter's incredible illustrations:

Peter thanks Lin for all of the drink tickets she gave him last night. Which explains a lot.

He went to school for animation not too far from where we are having the conference. Peter found halfway through school that he hated animating and couldn't figure out why, until he tried taking a children's book illustration class and realized that was what he loved because it allowed to tell his own stories. Shortly after this epiphany he found SCBWI. Peter's been a member for 15 years and loves the community of the group and the incredible bank of knowledge he's garnered from the membership resources and conference going.

Way to go, Peter!

Peter will be speaking at tomorrow's always fabulous Illustrator Intensive.
A recent photo of Peter, be sure to say hi to him!

Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller Winner of the Golden Kite for Picture Book Text

This year's Golden Kite winner for picture book text has been awarded to Pat Zietlow Miller's wonderful Sophie's Squash

"Wow," Pat says when she takes the podium. "And I'll say it again backwards. Wow."

Pat has always wanted to write books. She wrote her first draft when she was 19 years old. After being rejected she went on with her life, working and having a family, but she always thought she'd still write a picture book.

Twenty years later, Pat realized that no one was going to cold-call her from New York and say, "Hey, Pat. We want you to write a picture book."

So she began to study picture books and write. A lot.

The spark that lead to Sophie's Squash was a trip to the store with her daughter. Many items had been thrown into the cart but when Pat went to check out she couldn't find the butternut squash. Her daughter was cradling it like a baby and then took it home and drew a face on it. Needless to say, they didn't eat the squash. 

It took Pat many drafts and revisions to get that anecdote right for the story. The manuscript received many rejections, but Pat says, "One yes is all you need." Sophie's Squash received 4 starred reviews began winning awards. 

"Sometimes the goals we want to most are the hardest to pursue. Because what if we fail?" Pat encourages the room to go for those goals and dreams because you don't know where they'll take you. You might find yourself accepting a Golden Kite Award.