Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Annual Juried Illustrators' Portfolio Showcase

A team of judges (including Loren Long, Justin Chanda, Mac McCool, Steve Bjorkman, and Alice Pope) spent two hours perusing dozens and dozens of portfolios and picked one grand prize winner and two honor recipients.

And the Grand Prize Winner is...

Honor Award recipients... 

Arthur A. Levine Workshop: Strong Emotion on the Page (DAY 2)

Strong Emotions on the Page is a four day master class.

Read about Day One HERE.

So far, no singing or disco (no matter what mbrockenbrough tweeted), but we're right back to finsihing up Step 2 that we started yesterday. New sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and sensations.

In addition to learnings from yesterday, the images that stay with us have much to do with the choice of words. Also, this particular group seems to have issues with sweaty thighs, birthday spankings, and smoking parents.

Arthur Levine now promises fun, followed by the word, HOMEWORK.

Step Three: Take the your snapshots (written in step one) and create a written piece, not be more than 350 words.

Will you being doing homework with us tonight? Before or after the "Heart and Soul" poolside gala?

Christopher Cheng's Book Trailer Hot Tip

Christopher, in his Pro Track Session on Making Book Trailers, made the point about how book trailers share a lot with movie trailers - keep it short and don't try to tell the whole story.

"It's a teaser to get you in. Keep them really short. A minute and a half or even 30 seconds."

Great advice!

Willim Low- Pushing Pixels: Picture Book Illustration in the Digital Age

To start the fourth session off, William Low gives us a glimpse into the life of an illustrator—he takes us through a picture book he worked on (very beautiful, and created completely in Photoshop). When he was almost finished with the artwork, he and the editor realized that the main character wasn't quite right, and almost every piece needed to be re-worked. A good reminder that creating a picture book is hard work, even for very experienced illustrators!

With a step-by-step hand out to refer to, Low takes us through some very useful processes in Photoshop, such as working with line art and creating digital collages by pasting textures and patterns into line drawings.

Low has been great throughout the session about reviewing this technical information thoroughly and taking time to make sure everyone in the class is understanding all of the steps.

In his Sunday session, he'll be talking about some really important topics for any illustrator who is or will be turning art in digitally.

E.B. Lewis Saturday Afternoon Keynote - Pursue Your Passions

E.B. Lewis is correcting Lin as she does her intro for him

Lin: He's illustrated over 30 picture books.
E.B.: 50
Lin: He's won three, Coretta Scott King awards.
E.B.: 5
Lin: He's 6'5"
E.B.: 6'3"

A screenshot of his awesome website, where you can see he uses the title Artistrator (which Lin says is a nice bridging of the artist vs. illustrator conundrum.)

E.B.: Being a writer or illustrator of children's books is an amazing thing. A beautiful thing. But author or illustrator is just a subtitle, our real title is: Artists. And when we become artists, we become scary people, we observe, we are critical thinkers, we try to shape and change minds. That's a lot of power. If you look back in history, we're the kind of people that get destroyed first.

E.B.'s putting a big elephant in the room: what feeds our passion to write and create art is inspiration. What happens when you don't have any inspiration or ideas? What happens when that dries up? For E.B., he had two and a half years of not feeling inspired or turned on by the work he'd been doing.

E.B. starts his slide show:

We see photos of him as a kid. And his uncle, who he credits with turning his life around. He enrolled E.B. in painting classes, talked to him about his paintings, took him to galleries, and bought him a book of Modigliani paintings, one of E.B.'s all-time favorite artists.

Slides of his art from the 1980s when he was not not sure what to paint, so he began documenting his life. He painted children playing outside, wheelbarrows, cheesesteakeries, 19th century slave safe houses, and Philadelphia neighborhoods in flux.

He relates the very impressive story of how he got an agent and got into the children's book world followed by a brief bibliography of his early books. So many great covers and stories.

And here's the book that won him the Coretta Scott King Honor this year:
So, we've seen all these great books and art being produced by E.B., but all that hard work takes a toll. During those two and a half years that E.B. was trying to figure out how to reinvigorate his inspiration and passions, he decided, no matter what, he would:

  • Go into his studio every day, even if it was just to sweep the floors
  • When on school visits out-of-town, always get some Thai food
  • And absolutely go to a local art museum

Two of these three practices resulted in a moment where "the ceiling opened up and a pearl dropped," E.B. rediscovered his passion.

I've omitted so much great stuff, but if you have a chance to see E.B.'s exquisite paintings that he made in response to the moment above, I think you'll be as blown away by the power of his ideas and images as the conference audience was. A true artist.

Bruce Hale: Skype School Visits

Bruce Hale wears a lot of hats, literally and figuratively. He's author of the Chet Gecko series and SNORING BEAUTY. He sings jazz, acts, and gives seminars on storytelling. And he can make illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka (don't miss his LUNCH LADY books) do his bidding. More or less*.

Bruce gave us a detailed overview of how to use Skype to bring your book act to schools.

Skype is free software that you can use for video conferencing. When the session began, we saw Bruce on stage, in front of a screen with a picture of Bruce on stage, and in that image was another picture of Bruce on stage. In other words, it was like looking at a Russian nesting doll, but one with a cool hat and a waistline. Also? Surreal.

Using Skype, Bruce and Jarrett demonstrated the things that could go wrong in a school visit. It took several minutes to actually connect--some of which was planned, some not.

It eventually worked, though, and Jarrett swore us to secrecy as he revealed a small disaster that occurred during his first school visit via Skype. I have censored this so that Jarrett doesn't hunt me down, which he promised to do should the vow of secrecy be broken.

So, Jarrett was waiting for his session to begin. The tech guys could hear him, but they couldn't see him. As he waited for a solution, he let rip a thundering fart.. They were too polite to comment on his flatulence, but everybody knew what had happened. They knew. The bottom line, so to speak: anything you say or do can be transmitted, he said. And then he farted.

Moving on.

Bruce gave some excellent, practical advice about using Skype for school visits. Among the gems:
  • Be visual. Gesture lots, and use props.
  • Prepare the students well beforehand (send them to your website, etc.)
  • Pile on the Q&A, but let the teacher run that session
  • Wear something suitable. No crazy patterns.
  • Get feedback afterward, and use testimonials for your site.

* Jarrett did more, specifically, he ate Tostitos during the Skype, which gave us an enhanced sensory experience.

Keynote: Marion Dane Bauer

Marion Dane Bauer is one of our industry's greats: She's written more than seventy books covering the gamut: fiction, nonfiction, early readers, novels, picture books, novelty books. She can do it all beautifully.

The same was true for her keynote, which not only silenced us (in the good way), but it made many of us cry. She not only talked about her work, but about her life and how her struggles have shaped her stories and understanding of what it is to be human.

She began her speech explaining the three-point trajectory that stories follow:

- Where does every story begin? With a character's desire
- Where does every story move? Toward a climax.
- Why write or read a story? To be able to feel the resolution of a desire.

"What I know when I begin to write a story--any story--is what a resolution is going to feel like. I may not have much of an idea of how I'm going to get there, but I know what it's going to feel like when I'm there," she said.

That's what she needs to get the first sentence on the page. She "feels her way" into an idea, even though her books tend to have a pattern to them. To find our stories, we have to look to our own experience. Most stories, she explained, begin in neuroses: "anger, fear, unfulfilled longing so deep it never leaves you, even in your sleep."

She explained how she shaped her story THE VERY LITTLE PRINCESS (which is now dedicated to Jon Sciezska, the princess-hater).

Marion spent a year and a half on a 65-page manuscript, and sent it off. She knew it wasn't quite right, but it was as close as she could get. Three weeks went by--no phone call. Marion got nervous. The editor finally called and they had a hard discussion.

Afterward, Marion pondered their conversation and realized that all this time she had been writing about her son's death. Her son died about a year before she started. At forty-two years old, he was one of the youngest people ever known to get a degenerative disease that first manifests itself like Parkinson's. Then comes dementia, then hallucinations that become psychosis.

"We lost him by inches. He spent his last 14 months in a nursing home, and left three small boys behind," she said.

During this long process, she didn't cry. The death was just so protracted. She realized the story was about her need to cry, and that question we all live with every day: the question of mortality.

It's the "same old story," she always writes, she said, but it's entirely new. "It's new because my life is new. Struggle will always be there. That's why we read stories, to write, as well as to read."

LGBTQ Panel (continued)

Tony: The finalists for the YA catagory of the Lamda Literary Awards are almost always from manstream publishers.

Arthur: There's less segmentaion in the BFYR area. (There's no "gay teen" section. Gay YA is shelved with all YA.)

Tony: Really satisfying careers happen when talented writers writer to this niche about which they are passionate. (Visit Lamda Literary at to learn more about their awards and programs.)

Lee: He started his blog, I'm Here, I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? two and a half years ago when he realized there was no "safe space" on the web that readers could go to as a resource for LGBTQ material.

Nick: Invites queries.

Noah: Don't hold back on what you want to create. It will stunt you creatively.

Lee: The tides have turned. There are about 250 books on his blog right now. Things are moving forward. And there's crossover into adult readership when it comes to LGBTQ YA lit. (Adults are reading the books the didn't have available when they were teens.) There are so many stories that need to be told--mid-grade crush books, fantasy, graphic novels.)

Aaron: Don't be afriad to tell the story in your heart. We have not reached critical mass when it comes to coming out stories. He's writing the book he wanted to read when he was young. (It's a YA memior that will be published y Little, Brown.)  And he had to get over his own inner-homophobia to begin to put it on the page.

Arthur: It's not just gay teens reading gay YA. Straight kids are reading them, too. But we're not living in "a rainbow land of golden goodness." It's important to strap on your blinders when you're writing. Don't focus on possible outcomes. Just focus on the story.

Tony: Homophobia still exists in the culture and institutionally. Choosing to write a beautiful LGBTQ story is a choice that could present obstacles. Those writers are choosing to battle those obstacles. That shouldn't stop an artist from telling the story they want to tell.

Caroylyn Mackler: Creating Characters That Come to Life

Warning: DO NOT read to the end of this post if you DON'T want a couple of great questions to ask yourself about your character.

When starting a novel, one of the first things she thinks about when creating character, are the details and the quirks that make a person (a character) who they are; those things they continuously do that make them them.

We're writers. We don't film it. We write it. So the language around the character is important. Each character has their own way of speaking.

Carolyn suggests reading your book out loud for many reasons related to language. "Nothing beats reading your book out loud."

Another essential piece is research. Research was very important while writing TANGLED. She wanted all four characters to have distinct voices. She spent time speaking to a teenage wrestler for hours to help her write a teen boy (Dakota). She also spoke with a teen actress, as well as sat in on an audition for a teen role to help her write the character Skye.

Carolyn asks questions about her characters. If she has a day when she gets stuck, she does something she calls Questions. She once heard Paula Danziger say she wants to know what the inside a characters closet looks like.

1. What does you character keep hidden in his or her underwear drawer? If nothing, then where do they hide things?
2. Who would your character call/text/email/send smoke signals to when something good happens? And what would that good thing be?

Panel: A Look at the LGBTQ Marketplace

Aaron Hartzler (author and SCBWI Director of Communications) moderated a panel including Arthur Levine (Scholastic VP and Publisher), Lee Wind (blogger,, and Tony Velenzuela (Executive Director, Lamba Literary and writer), Nick Eliopulos (Scholastic Editor), and Noah Woods (illustrator and writer) discuss LGBTQ books for young readers.

Arthur: There's a change in the market place from the past 10-20 years. It's no big deal to publishers, writers, book buyers, etc. to have books with LGBTQ content/charcters/themes. Yeah, your book may get banned or burned...yay! Publicity.

Nick: There's not that much out there. There are a lot of aspects to the gay experience that haven't been covered, so there's a lot of oportunity in this area.

Noah: You avoid authenticy if you censor yourself and avoid LGBTQ material.

* Disclaimer: The inclusion of the above image is not a commentary on Cheer  Bear's sexuality. However we strongly believe he/she is an ally of the LGBTQ children's literature community.

Agent Panel: Josh Adams (Adams Literary)

Literary Agents View the Market Place
moderated by Lin Oliver

Together with his wife Tracey, they started Adams Literary in 2004. They represent everything from picture book to young adult.

"I'm here to say today that the state of the market is strong." Editors in today's market are being cautious, but there is a resurgence in hiring and acquisitions.

Timeless is what Adams Literary strives for. They are in the business for the long run and want to build careers.

"Timeless will always be timely."

Lin: Explain a little bit about foreign markets.

You want someone who will aggressively market foreign rights. Generally, it's a much better deal for you as an author having your agents negotiate foreign rights for you directly (the publishers get a percentage too).

They've seen that authors' advances can be higher in foreign markets.

Lin asks about sub rights, especially in this time of new publishing platforms.

Authors want to keep all their rights.

More and more publishers are asking for audio rights because they are looking to recoup their investment, especially with a high advance.

How should authors feel about a simultaneous release of their books traditionally as well as on another platform?

There has been talk about ebooks for years. There has been growth with ebooks but it's still a very small fraction of the traditional.

Lin: There's much discussion about self-publishing and what defines a published piece of work. How do you all feel about that?

They've noticed it used as a way for people to break into publishing. Then people come to them with a track record, having built a fan base.

Lin: How would you assess the market place? And how do you access the opportunities for people to break in in a significant way?

In some cases (not generally true) it's easier to sell a debut than an author that has one or two books under their belt because there is no track record. There are opportunities for authors who are focusing on their craft. It may be more of a challenge these days, but it can still be accomplished.

Lin asks about the client/agent relationship.

It's all about teamwork, striving for the best for the agency and their clients. It's all about communication.

Compares the relationship to being a real estate agent. They're not the interior designer, and won't go in and completely redecorate the house, but they will go in and stage it for you.

Adams Literary wants to look at the big picture with their clients; to manage and maximize earnings over the lifetime of a career.

Adams believes part of their job is instilling in their clients the confidence they need to do their best.

Agent Panel: Ginger Clark

Ginger Clark has worked as an agent at Curtis Brown, Ltd. for about five years. She represents science fiction, fantasy, paranormal romance, literary horror, and YA and MG fiction. She handles British and Commonwealth rights for the entire Curtis Brown List.

Follow her on Twitter at @Ginger_Clark.

From her introduction: 

"A good agent thinks globally. A lot of my clients have made as much money abroad as in the U.S., and in some cases, more. The market for a certain kind of fiction is doing well here and it's doing really well abroad."

On editor lunches: Middle Grade is coming back. Editors are looking for series and good MG in general. "We've neglected the 8- to 12-year-olds."

On the YA side: She represents high fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance. "We've had a lot of vampires and werewolves and it's now time to look at the more unusual creatures," she says.

From the Q&A portion, moderated by Lin Oliver:

About international publishing: Think about how you can make sure your book isn't super, super American. A brilliant book about American football isn't going to win over British editors. A good agent should be aware that you can make money when your work is translated. (They have a man on the ground in Bulgaria—interesting! Or, as they say in Bulgaria, "интересен.")

What are subsidiary rights, and what should authors consider retaining: Publishers want to set audio rights as boilerplate—something that's been discussed and settled. Multimedia rights are an issue (especially "enhanced ebook rights," such as gently animated picture books). The problems she has with that: Film companies wouldn't want that to happen. If you're doing a film deal, film companies want the rights or want to "freeze" them so other people can't have them. Good agents think about these issues and talk them over with publishers, as opposed to just agreeing to the boilerplate.

How should writers feel about the simultaneous release of their book in digital format? When you start ebook negotiations, major publishers start by offering 25 percent of net. She's hoping that changes. The giant news last week was that Andrew Wylie had started his own e-publisher. "It was certainly an interesting shot across the bow of publishers."

How would you assess the business, in terms of the centralization of power? What are the opportunities for mid-list authors and unpublished writers? We're about to head into the golden age in terms of power for children's books. Interest in the children's markets is growing.

"The snobbier side of the industry is taking what we do seriously. As they should. Frequently it is the children's division that is making profits and paying people's salaries," she says.

What are the primary services you provide your clients? She's not your therapist, accountant, best friend or mother. "I am your bad cop. Your man on the ground in NY ... When it comes to sitting on the phone with you for two hours, talking about your problems, I'm not the right person for that. Sorry."

Premium Workshop - An Editor Over Your Shoulder: Polishing Your Picture Book with Diane Muldrow

photo from
Sat in on the first session of Diane Muldrow's Premium Workshop yesterday, and I am really excited for those 20+ attendees. They are going to get some ultra-polished picture book manuscripts out of these hours with Diane. And not just traditional, 32-page hardcover trade manuscripts. Diane is teaching the group about board books, Golden Books, novelty books, all sorts of formats.

Diane starts with a history of her career as a children's book editor and an author. She invites the class to reformat their manuscripts the way she lays them out, which is, at times, a radical departure from what most of us have learned is industry standard formatting. The caveat, however, is you do this only on your personal copy of the manuscript to see how it informs your self-editing. And all authors must self-edit, says Diane, so who better to teach us how than an editor!  Her ideas are superb, making authors who don't draw think visually, mapping out every single page turn and writing up all possible illustrations ideas.

The class looks at the evolution of Diane's book, WE PLANTED A TREE. A gorgeous hardcover illustrated by Bob Staake. She hands out a copy of her original manuscript. A story she thought about for ten years before actually putting pen to paper. Diane credits the powerful ideas and images in Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai's book about the Green Belt Movement in Kenya as being the inspiration behind WE PLANTED A TREE.

The next few sessions, attendees will be doing in-class exercises using existing picture book texts as well as their own manuscripts to learn about format, pagination, and art notes. Diane says all stories start out as lumps of clay and she's going to provide tools (like how to have good flow, suspense and mood in your story) to help attendees edit themselves and build stronger books.

This is going to rock! It sold out on the first day of conference registration, so here's hoping they do this again.

One attendee I recognized from my local SCBWI WWA was John Deininger. Check out his artwork in the portfolio show tonight, or on his site.

Christopher Cheng: A Step by Step Guide To Making Your Own Book Trailers

Books trailers. You love 'em. You hate 'em. You watch them. If they're good, they make you wanna read the book.

Christopher Cheng is an accomplished author, co-Regional Advisor for both Australia and New Zealand and was Ambassador for the Australian Government's National Literacy and Numeracy Week Initiative. He even has the #1 app for kids books on the ipad! You can check out these two trailers for Christophers books here. I'm really excited to get to sit in on Christopher's Pro Track session on creating your own book trailer.

He believes we as authors and illustrators have to get off our butts and promote ourselves.

"You gotta tell them how great you are and how great your book is - when kids see the trailers, kids take them out of libraries."

You need to make the trailer, because the publicists and editors don't have time.

He does trailers and merchandise. He advises to get your trailers on youtube (schools block this), teachertube, and Christopher is working on an upcoming kids book trailers portal. Oh, and YOUR website!

"Think outside the box - ways your trailer can get out there. Get your audiences to pick up your books!"

He uses keynote on a mac, and garageband for the audio, then imovie. (On a PC you can use powerpoint and moviemaker.)

He went over a list of do-s and don't-s, simple rules, analyzed what worked and what didn't work about a bunch of trailers, and shared some of his favorite book trailers.

Here's one of Christopher's favorite book trailers:

Haunted by Chris Eboch

Christopher is so good at teaching authors how to make trailers, here's one that an author made during a single session with Christopher (like this one!)

Ned Kelly and the Green Sash, by Mark Greenwood and Frane Lessac

He also showed us a trailer he built this morning in half an hour for his new picturebook, "One Child," and pulled apart elements to show us how it was built. Check the trailer out on his website soon... I bet it will make you want to check out his book!

"Cause that's what a good trailer does.

What an awesome session.

Literary Agents view of the Market Place: Lisa Grubka

Lisa Grubka is an agent at Foundry Literary and Media. When talking about what she was looking for in the current market, I was really interested when Lisa said that she had a strong interest in international stories for teens. She also said she liked grounded contemporary with a character she could identify with. Lisa also mentioned that there is a strong push to find MG books for boys.

Pat Cummings & Cecilia Yung- Illustrator Tips: On Portfolios and Promotion

Cecilia Yung, art director and vice president of G.P. Putnam's Sons and Philomel Books, and Pat Cummings, teacher and creator of over 30 books for children, are imparting some wisdom about illustrators' portfolios and promotion. As art director and artist, they offer differing perspectives on portfolios and promotion.

They point out that many items we'll discuss in the session are subjective, and Cecilia tells the group that our challenge for the weekend is to find out what the "rules" are, and figure out how to break them to our advantage. So, the session is offering some great rules—but if you break the rules, you better do it successfully!

Cecilia and Pat provide a detailed and rather specific checklist for the group, which covers topics that are important for any illustrator, beginner or experienced. The topics listed are:
Promotional Piece
Making Contact

Among many great pieces of advice given at the session is this one from Cecilia—she advises illustrators not to "throw words" at her, but to give her a paragraph of cohesive images.

Cecilia and Pat show the group a few examples of really successful illustrators' websites, two of which are Dan Yaccarino's and Sophie Blackall's.

At the end of the session we have some Q & A, and one of the questions is:

Should illustrators contact Cecilia with SCBWI in the subject line of their email?

Cecilia's answer: Yes, and having really great art attached will catch her eye, too!

Literary Agents View The Marketplace

The Agents Panel is starting!

From Left To Right: Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown), Ken Wright (Writers House), Josh Adams (Adams Literary), and Lisa Grubka (Foundry).

Team blog is covering each agent individually - look for those posts coming up in the next minutes...

Gordon Korman Hot Tip

Find out what's cool about you want to write.

When Gordon was assigned the story of Mozart for his first book in the 39 Clues series, his challenge was to figure out what was cool about Mozart...

And he did, and that was "One False Note."

How cool is that?

Great Advice!

Loren Long Saturday Breakout: The Illustrator Who Writes

Loren's session was the perfect session for any illustrators who are waylaid with doubt about whether they are cut out to be writers, too. Loren is a charming speaker, kind of like my uncle. I think it's safe to say he is avuncular. Below are some quips and simple tips from Loren.

Loren's evolution as a writer: "I knew I had ideas, but I realize now that I do have a voice, and I am good at writing. It's taken me a while to get that quiet confidence."

He mentioned his first job, illustrating the cover for Gail Carson Levine's book, and how he's still not sure if he could write an entire novel, but he definitely understands the work and crafting it takes to make a story like that. Loren thinks the same qualities of a good novel are found in a good picture book.

Loren spoke briefly of his publishing track record and had great, glowing art slides.

"When nobody knew my work, they teamed me up with the writer Angela Johnson, who already had a name in the field and was successful. It gives all the bookstores, libraries, and schools across the country something to hang their hat on, something they knew they could sell. TOY BOAT was the same way in reverse, a brand new writer with a so-called seasoned illustrator."

"After illustrating nine books that others wrote, I began to WANT to write."

"It is enough for me, by the way, to just illustrate other people's stories. I was put on this planet to illustrate children's books and there are so many great stories in the world. I don't think there's anything wrong with just illustrating other people's stories."

Loren admitted most of his first story ideas were bad. Or nothing more than titles. Or just beginnings without endings and vice versa. He doubted his abilities, but Loren paraphrases Avi by way of Jon Scieszka, "If you want to write children's picture books, you shouldn't take a year off to write, you should take a year off to read."

Gordon Korman's Keynote: Writing for Kids: A Three-Quarter Life's Work

Gordon Korman addresses over 1,100 rapt attendees!

We're starting off Saturday morning with jokes, a door prize drawing, and Gordon Korman!

I'm really excited, Gordon wrote "Schooled" (which was awesome - and juggled so many points of view so deftly)

and 2 of the 10 books in the 39 Clues series, "One False Note" and "The Emperor's Code," and 67 more!)

As Lin Oliver said in her introduction,
Gordon writes books that kids WANT to read!

Gordon started off his speech sharing his appreciation for Paula Danzinger, how he met her when he was 17 (and she was doing a school visit) and how her being there for him, the new guy, made such an impact on his life and career.

He has the room cracking up about all the books kids have to read in school where the dog dies... in fact, it inspired one of his books, "No More Dead Dogs"

He's talking about his career (he wrote his first book at age 12 - his Mom had to drive him to his first school visit at age 14!) He wrote it as a class project, and got a B+. He mailed it to the address on the Scholastic book fair order forms... And the guy in the warehouse at Scholastic Canada took it over to the editors... and ultimately it got him published!

"So my advice is to find a forklift operator with an eye for new talent and get out there and start!"

He is so funny. The room is rolling, wave after wave.

He just told a story about the problem translating the title of his book, "Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire." to French, where it might have become... when you translated it back - and because idiomatic expressions don't translate... "Teller of Untruths, Your Trousers Have Combusted." HA!

But through the humor, his main advice shines through:
Write what you think is cool.

What Gordon thinks is cool? Old heist movies like "Oceans 11" (the one with Frank Sinatra.) That was the genesis of his coming up with the idea for "Swindled." (Which now I can't wait to read!)

So many great (and funny) stories!

Nick Eliopulos - Graphic Novels

I caught the last half of Nick Eliopulos's Saturday breakout session on graphic novels. He was giving advice to the illustrators in the room about taking advantage of the Artist Alleys at comics conventions and recommended putting examples of your work (or even story segments) on the web (like Raina Telegmeier's SMILE or Jeff Kinney's DIARY OF A WIMPY KID.)

When asked what makes a good graphic novel, Nick said it's the same elements that make a good non-graphic novel: plot, character, and voice.

"Graphic novels are a medium that can accommodate any genre you can imagine. The sky's the limit."

"Lots of book to graphic novel adaptations happening now, some of it's cynical, but some, like CITY OF EMBER, are great choices."

From Cassandra Diaz's website
One title Nick is excited about is PANDEMONIUM a graphic novel by Chris Wooding, an established British SF/YA author with art by a US artist, Cassandra Diaz. Nick says, "It's basically a prince and the pauper type story. Genuinely funny, great love interest, but everyone seems to have horns and bat wings. Hopefully out in Fall '11."

Nick hopes the current practice of how graphic novels are shelved will change, "This isn't a genre, it's a format."

One of Nick's first graphic novel projects was SONS OF LIBERTY, a serialized historical fiction/fantasy that fits Nick's acquisition wish list—high concept guy book. The first is out and the second in the series should be out this fall.

Questions from the audience included:

Examples of young graphic novels? Nick mentioned the ever-awesome BABYMOUSE by Jenni and Matt Holm and Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman's Toon Books series.

What does a graphic novel submission package include and/or look like?
While there's nothing set in stone, Nick said it would be helpful to have: some sample artwork (5 to 20 pages,) the whole manuscript set up as a script (using software that Hollywood screenwriters use (like FinalDraft) or look to Marvel for script samples.) And within your script, you'll want to call out page and panel breaks as well as scenery changes.)

A Look At The LGBTQ Marketplace.. Look Again!

There's been a new addition to the panel for this morning's breakout workshop "A Look At The LGBTQ Marketplace" with Aaron Hartzler (Director of Communications, SCBWI), Arthur A. Levine (Vice President of Scholastic and publisher of his own imprint, Arthur A. Levine Books - as well as an author himself), and Tony Valenzuela (Executive Director of the Lambda Literary Foundation):

ME, Lee Wind (Writer and Blogger of "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" where over 200,000 visitors have come to find out about GLBTQ Teen books, culture and politics!

I hope you can join us in the Palisades Room, 11:15am - because this is going to be awesome!

Beyond the Breakout

There are so many great opportunities when you attend a SCBWI conference. One of the most helpful of those being the professional one-on-one critiques. Every year countless stories float around the floor of an author being "discovered" during a critique. Have one coming up? Author Cynthea Liu has a great post on how to make the most of your conference critique HERE.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Got "Conference Brain?" We have a solution... Yoga with Lori Snyder

It's not Mac & Cheese, it's Mac & Steve! 5 Lessons from Classic Picture Books That Can Help You Launch Your Career

There was a typo in today's conference schedule. I thought, and I believe so did the standing room only crowd, that we were in Room Constellation 1 for Free Mac & Cheese. But it turned out it was only author/raconteur/multiple-pattern-wearing Mac Barnett with his junior agent, the barely memorable Steven Malk.

Mac and Steve didn't have any food to share, but instead some practical lessons on how you can create better picture books by reading classic picture books.

Steve: There's always a place for great picture books. I sent out a book last week that was a real throw back, one editor called it 'the love child of Maurice Sendak and Sandra Boynton.' Editors still love and look to the classics in picture books... I always try to stay away from trends.

Mac: Which brings us to Lesson Number One: Vampire Picture Books.

The slide show starts, all the gorgeous hand-lettering of the rules slides (which you can't see) done by Laura Park.

Lesson #1: Let the Illustrations Do Their Job
A masterpiece of storytelling with no words, GOODNIGHT GORILLA 
A masterpiece of not overwriting the scene, THE STUPIDS STEP OUT
A masterpiece of leaving the whole joke to the art, THE CARROT SEED

Lesson #2: Understand the Picture Book's Conventions

The Page Turn (Mac thinks this is the most imporant aspect of plotting a picture book and here are some of his favorites)
Page layout formats, when repeated, create a visual rhythm for a book
(As an author, Mac especially enjoys writing wordless, two-page spreads.)
Good visual rhythm and suspenseful page turns in 
THE HAT (Mac hearts Tomi Ungerer!!!)

Lesson #3 The Writing Must Serve the Book
Pay a lot of attention to how YOU are going to write your book, not how Dr. Seuss would have written your book. Pick a tone and stick with it—will it be sweet? Or have an edge? If you do want to rhyme, Mac recommends Paul Fussell and Mary Oliver's great books on verse.
Some good examples of rhyme from Steve who says there's a logic to why they used rhyme and they read flawlessly:


Steve: Read your work out loud to lots of people. People that have never heard it before. Like when the UPS guy comes by, read your story to him.
Mac: Don't read your story to the UPS guy, that's a horrible idea, he'll start losing all your packages if you do that.

Lesson #4, Lesson #5 I will save for conference goers alone to relish. But here's a shot of Steve and Mac being mobbed after their session:
And here's illustrator/writer Dan Santat, illustrator of Mac's OH NO!. That is his happy face.

KEYNOTE: Loren Long

More from Loren:

  • His  first publishing assignment was the jacket art for DAVE AT NIGHT, by Gail Carson Levine (HarperCollins).
  • He didn't do his first picture book until he was in his late 30s.
  • He claimes Madonna is one of Jon Scieszka's favorite authors (this is not confirmed), and he says working on her book was a great experience.
  • Mood and emotions--and choosing the right one (the highs, the low)--is key in art.
  • He wants reader to feel his art, not just look at it.
  • Loren sang us a resounding version of "All by Myself" to demonstrate how he feels the emotions of his characters.

The GLBTQ Lunchtime Chat By The Pool

More than 40 of us took over the north row of gazebos by the pool at Friday's lunchtime to mingle and meet and talk Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Allied Characters and Themes in Children's and Teen literature. We were joined by Arthur A. Levine and Tony Valenzuela, who were gracious and candid in their answers and comments.

We went around the circle and everyone introduced themselves to the group, sharing what they were working on and mentioning what (if any) GLBTQ content was included in their work.

A few illustrators wondered what opportunities existed for children's book illustrators to include queer content, and we spoke about Marla Frazee's "Everywhere Babies" and a new picture book Arthur A. Levine has coming out (as an author) "Best Best Colors" as examples of the power illustrators have to show diversity in their art and in the books children experience.

Arthur fielded questions on how to include a gay character in a way that wasn't stereotypical (make sure the character is a fully realized character - i.e., if they're muscular - why? how did they get that way?) and about the challenge of including queer content (and diverse content in general) in middle grade books where it's not the main character's focus.

Tony shared that this past year, there were more Childrens/YA submissions than 21 other categories (second most out of 23) for the Lambda Literary Award.

And I brought up, from my perspective blogging at "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" that the tide is shifting - we're no longer in a world with only one or two books representing Queer characters - and with more representations, the pressure to make any one GLBTQ character representative, or perfect, lessens. (And who wants to read about perfect characters anyway?)

All in all, everyone's appetites were whetted for tomorrow's 11:15AM Workshop, when we'll be able to dive in even deeper!

A Look At The LGBTQ Marketplace - Palisades room

With Aaron Hartzler,
Arthur A. Levine
Tony Valenzuela
yours truly, Lee Wind.

Hope to see you there!

KEYNOTE: Loren Long: The Picture Book--My Two Cents Worth

Loren Long (a fellow Cincinnatian and amazing illustrator) is the #1 NY Times best-selling authors of WATTY PIPER'S THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD and Madonna's MR. PEABODY'S APPLES. Other titles that he's illustrated include Angela's Johnson's I DREAM OF TRAINS,  Randall de Seve's TOY BOAT, and OTIS which he wrote and illustrated. He is also part of the illustration team for Jon Scieszka's TRUCKTOWN series.

What we learned about Loren as he spoke:
  • He's won 4 Golden Kite Awards
  • He acquired a large contusion on his bottom playing paintball in a TRUCKTWON jumpsuit
  • He learned that illlustrators must take text and own it, make it their own
  • The get into a project, his goal is one sketch on one day, then onto the next (how do you eat and elephant--one bite at a time)
Some facts about Loren:
  • He uses acrylic paint, paiting thin with washes, building it up in layers.
  • He used guache for his most recent book OTIS.
  • It takes him 2 to 3 months to make th sketches for a book and  to 6 months on the final art.
  • He does 2 books a year, but it takes him a year and a half

Priscilla Burris & David Diaz- Illustrator tips: Tools and Techniqes

To begin with, Priscilla Burris gave a shout out to Kelly Light's website, Artists donate pieces to the site, and people can buy the art and all of the proceeds go funding for cleaning up the Gulf Coast. Dan Santat donated a piece that will be up for sale tonight, so check it out!

Priscilla mentioned that it's important for us illustrators to attend sessions for writers, too, while we're here at the conference. When she asked the group how many of us consider ourselves writer/illustrators, most of the group raised their hands.

Priscilla gave a bit of her background, which included going to fashion design school, and mentioned that one of her passions is drawing facial expressions. She handed out worksheets which prompted the group to practice drawing facial expressions on faces in different angles, different ages, and even characters showing strong expressions, shown only from the back.

David Diaz talked about his art background, and he's tried many different mediums over the years--everything from pastel, to digital, and at this point he does a lot of painting, typically on masonite.

David did a great demo to show us his current process, which went from a masonite panel with a house paint background, to a face made with charcoal, sprayed with fixative, painted with acrylic paint, covered in clear gesso, dried with a hair dryer, lined with rapidograph ink and a brush, and then back to some drawing with charcoal.

Two very different artists with great tips for the group!