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.