Inspiration

20 07 2011

Somehow my vacations always seem to end up as working vacations. My husband could never understand why I didn’t consider camping a vacation. For some reason, cooking for all seven of us over an open fire or on a small cookstove while keeping an eye on smallfry who each ran in different directions, washing dishes under a pump, and spending the night on a slowly deflating air mattresses while being kicked in the ribs, head, and stomach by various sleeping offspring, never topped my list of summer fun. I usually went home more tired than rested, not to mention bug-bitten, sunburned, and sore.

So this summer I planned a different type of working vacation. I agreed to help teach writing sessions at an out-of-state university. I was expecting to come home exhausted and drained. Instead, I came back excited, energized, and eager to dive into my own creative work.

It probably helped that my destination was the Mazza Summer Institute in Findlay, Ohio. For those who aren’t familiar with it, Findlay University holds a fabulous weeklong conference featuring picture book authors and illustrators. The University is home to the famous Mazza Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of original picture book art.  From the early works of Randolph Caldecott to many of the latest award-winning picture book artists, Mazza has it all. Watercolors, oils, prints, collage, pen and ink, pastels, and every medium in between. Each piece of art hangs above a shelf with the picture book it’s printed in. For anyone who loves picture books the way I do, it’s an inspiration. So much so, that someday I hope to see my own work hanging on their walls.

So I spent a week co-teaching breakout sessions in between listening to famous illustrators give visual presentations on their artistic processes and tell about their lives. Even more fun was being around an audience of teachers, librarians, writers, and art lovers who enjoy reading picture books even when there isn’t a toddler within hearing distance. I felt right at home.

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Helping Japan

31 03 2011

I support Kidlit4Japan Authors are some of the most generous people I know. So many fellow authors have helped me along the road to publication by offering advice, critiques, and contacts. If it weren’t for their assistance, I wouldn’t be where I am today–able to make my living by writing. I only hope that I can do the same for others.

But authors aren’t only generous with their time and advice, they’re willing to give monetarily as well. Many children’s authors, illustrators, and publishers have banded together to help Japan. They’ve donated goods and services that are being auctioned at Children’s Authors and Illustrators for Japan. Everything from books to prints to editorial services are available.

Even if you’re an adult author, you can take advantage of some great critiques by well-known agents and editors going up for bidding over the next few weeks. Keep an eye out as postings are added daily.

If you’re a YA author, Leap Books editor Kat O’Shea is offering three critiques. If you’ve been dying to submit to Leap Books, here’s your chance. Normally they take only agented submissions, but the authors that Kat critiques can submit manuscripts to Leap Books. Watch for Auction #67 posted today.

Want a critique by agent Ammi-Joan Paquette? Or from Liz Waniewski from Dial? Watch for those coming up later this week.

And while you’re there, be sure to look at all the other great items. Nab one of these terrific badges to show your support. Better yet, pop over to the website now and start bidding.Link

Check out some other auctions:

Authors for Japan
Genre for Japan
Write Hope
Writers for the Red Cross





Characters Who Look Like Me

10 10 2010

I’m thrilled to have Kelly Starling Lyons here today as part of her blog tour leading up to the 15th anniversary of the Million Man March. I asked Kelly to tell us about her experiences growing up when there was a dearth of African-American characters in books. Here’s her reply:

As a child, I loved to read. Most days, you could find me snuggled somewhere with a book in my hands. I couldn’t wait to travel through the magic of stories into other lives and lands. But on my literary journeys, one important thing was missing – people who looked like me.

In my early years, I remember reading just one children’s book with an African-American character, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Though that book was set in Depression-era Mississippi, it spoke to me in a special way. For the first time, I was reading a story through the eyes of a girl whose skin color was the same as mine. Though I hadn’t realized it until I read that story, that was something I hungered for.

I was a grown-up writer when I rediscovered children’s books. At Ebony magazine, I wrote feature articles and chose books to showcase in the Bookshelf column. One day, I opened a package from a publisher and my life changed. I saw a picture book called Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth. Entranced, I read page after page until I reached the end. Then, I smiled, stroked the cover and read it again.

The story takes you on a walk with an African-American girl searching for “something beautiful” in her city neighborhood. She visits a laundromat, fruit stand and other places and learns what others consider beautiful. Then, she decides to create beauty herself by cleaning up her community. In the end, she learns who her mother considers the most beautiful person of all.

That book, just 32 pages, sent me through so many emotions. The story was told with such economy and grace. It reminded me of everything I loved about children’s literature and more.

That was the start of my mission to write for kids. Seeing picture books, middle-grade and young adult novels with African-American children as the main characters fed something inside my soul. I knew I had to add my voice.

I began writing for children because I wanted them to see their faces and hear their voices in stories. I began writing for children to help them discover parts of the world and themselves. I began writing for children to give back.

I know what it feels like to never see yourself, your family, your traditions or your history reflected in the pages of books. I write so kids today have a different reality. I love going into schools and sharing One Million Men and Me and hearing a child say, “That story reminds me of a trip I took with my dad,”or “That character looks just like me.”

As part of The Brown Bookshelf, a team that’s dedicated to raising awareness of the many African-Americans creating children’s books for kids, I continue the mission to help kids see themselves in the pages of books. Our signature initiative, 28 Days Later, shines the spotlight each February on African-American children’s book authors and illustrators who are under-the-radar or veterans of the industry. We’re taking nominations through the end of October.

Thanks so much for sharing a part of yourself with us, Kelly. It’s wonderful to know that kids growing up now have some fabulous choices of books with characters who look like them. Check out all the terrific titles at The Brown Bookshelf, including Kelly’s, of course. Her One Million Men and Me has received multiple awards.

Along with the blog tour, Kelly will be heading to several live events (more about those on the Susquehanna Writers blog):

October 15 – 4:30 p.m. Reading  & Meet the Author event at All Booked Up Used Books & Collectibles

October 16 – 15th ANNIVERSARY OF THE MILLION MAN MARCH — 11 a.m. Storytime & Reading  Hour at International Civil Rights Center & Museum

October 18 – 6 p.m. March Anniversary Program at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture





Pirate Party

4 08 2010

One of the dangers of researching a book is that you stumble across fascinating information that has nothing to do with your topic. Or it’s connected to your topic, but can’t be used. I have a bad habit of getting sidetracked, and here’s one of my recent forays into the world of pirates.

I was fascinated to discover that there’s a new political party that’s taken off in many countries. Ever heard of the Pirate Party? Yep, they actually have candidates, some of whom have won elections. It started in Sweden, but it’s spread to Germany and about 14 other European countries. And Canada now has one too.

Led by young tech-savvy voters,  PPI (Pirate Parties International) members support free sharing of intellectual property. As the Canadian Pirate Party leader, Jake Daynes, a 19-year-old video-game-design student, says, “We think that for the dissemination of culture — music, books, movies, you name it — that should be [considered] fair use.” They also want more government transparency as well as no patents on pharmaceuticals or software.

Interesting concepts… It would certainly reduce Internet piracy if all the copyrighted material were available free. It seems many of the younger generation are ready to embrace it, even those who design video games and create software. Then all countries and individuals would have equal access. Maybe the next step would be to compensate those who design intellectual property–including artists, musicians, writers, and inventors–the way we compensate our sports figures.

It seems the Pirate Party is gaining a foothold around the world. Here’s a list of places that either have or are starting a Pirate Party:

Argentina
Australia
Austria
Belgium
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brazil
Bulgaria
Canada
Chile
China
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Guatemala
Ireland
Italy
Kazakhstan
Latvia
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Mexico
Netherlands
New Zealand
Norway
Peru
Poland
Portugal
Romania
Russia
Serbia
Slovakia
Slovenia
South Africa
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Turkey
Ukraine
United Kingdom
United States
Uruguay

Quote from: Barber, Mike. “Pirate Party of Canada Calls for Canadian Copyright Reform,” National Post, May 1, 2010.




Leaps of Imagination: Fact, Fiction, & Fantasy!

4 06 2010

If you live near Maryland/Delaware/West Virginia, you might want to check out the cool conference that area has planned for children’s/YA writers sponsored by the regional SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) on July 17 & 18, 2010.

They have a fabulous lineup of speakers and breakout sessions for authors and illustrators at all stages of their craft–from beginners to the multi-published. Read on for a tentative schedule, then click here for more details, a brochure, and a downloadable registration form.

Saturday, July 17, 2010 

8:00 – 8:50 AM   Registration/Breakfast Snacks/Book Sales/Raffle Tickets/Making Friends
8:50 – 9:00 AM   Introductions & Welcome
9:00 – 9:50 AM   Stephen Fraser—“Leaping into Action: How an Agent Sells Your Book”
9:55–10:45 AM  Michelle Poploff and Edie Hemingway—“Partners In Imagination: The Author/Editor Revision Process”
10:45-11:00 AM  Break / Book Sales
11:00 – 11:50 AM  Morning Breakout Sessions
  • Marc Aronson—“Trends in Nonfiction”
  • Bonnie J. Doerr—“Writing the Eco-Mystery Novel / Balancing Entertainment with Education”
  • Carolyn Reeder—“Look Before You Leap”
  • Amie Rose Rotruck—“Building a Fantasy World”
  • 12:00 – 12:50 PM  Lunch / Networking / Book Sales and Signing
    1:00 – 1:50 PM Keynote Speaker, Margaret Peterson Haddix— “Along for the Ride: Taking Readers Where Your Imagination Takes You”
    2:00 – 2:50 PM   Afternoon Breakout Sessions
  • Editor/Agent Panel—Michelle Poploff, Louise May, Michelle Corpora, Stephen Fraser
  • Elana Roth (agent)—“The Great Query Caper”
  • Kelley Cunningham and Karen Nelson—“Illustrators’ First Look”—See registration page for details
  • 2:50 – 3:10 PM   Cookie Break/Book Sales and Signing/Networking
    3:10 – 4:00 PM   Marc Aronson—“The Truth Is… A Question”
    4:00 – 4:50 PM   “Steps in the Write Direction: A Panel Discussion on Writing Programs”
    4:50 – 5:00 PM   First Day Wrap-up and Raffle

    Sunday, July 18, 2010

    7:45 – 8:15 AM   (Optional) Regional Chat Session in Dining Room
    7:45 – 8:20 AM  Registration/Breakfast Snacks/Book Sales
    8:20 – 8:30 AM   Welcome
    8:30 – 9:20 AM   Elana Roth—“The Scoop on High Concept”
    9:25 – 10:15 AM  Carolyn Crimi—“Baking Chocolate Cake: All the Ingredients You Need To Make Your Picture Book Delicious”
    10:15 – 10:30 AM  Break / Book Sales
    10:30 – 11:20 AM  Morning Breakout Sessions
    •  Teresa Crumpton—“Where Self-Editing and Revision Collide—For Stronger Prose”
    • Mary Bowman-Kruhm and Wendie Old—“Leap into Blogging and Social Media! (Will There Be Time to Write?)”
    • Donny Bailey Seagraves—“Finding Fiction In Our Own Backyards: Creating Home-grown Characters and Imaginary Setting Inspired by Real Life”
    • Karen Nelson—“Taking Your Imagination to the Marketplace” (for illustrators)
    11:30 – 12:30 PM  Lunch / Networking / Book Sales and Signing
    12:30 – 1:20 PM  Keynote Speaker, Joyce McDonald—“The Transformative Power of Fiction: How Real-life Stories Inform and Shape Our Own”
    1:20 – 2:10 PM   Louise May—“Creating Books Featuring Diversity: How Do I Leap In?”
    2:10 – 2:30 PM   Cookie Break / Last Book Sales
    2:30 – 3:20 PM   Debra Hess and Kelley Cunningham— “Imagination Is Just The Beginning”
    3:20 – 4:00 PM   “First Page” Panel
    4:00 – 4:15 PM   Raffles and Farewell

    General Session Blurbs (in order of presentation)

    “Leaping into Action: How an Agent Sells Your Book” –Stephen Fraser

    Discussing the simple principle, which an agent uses to sell your book, agent Stephen Fraser of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency talks about some recent sales, how and why they sold, how to succeed in today’seconomy, and how to be your best creative self.

    “Partners In Imagination: The Author/Editor Revision Process”—Michelle Poploff and Edith Hemingway

    You’ve revised and polished before submitting, but what happens after your manuscript is accepted? More revision! Michelle Poploff, V.P. and Executive Editor of Delacorte Press, and author Edith Hemingway will discuss working together to make a book the best it can be.

    “Along for the Ride: Taking Readers Where Your Imagination Takes You”—Margaret Peterson Haddix

    So you’ve dreamed up an incredible plot and/or extraordinary characters and/or a fascinating setting. How do you make your readers understand and fall in love with your story, too? And how do you fill in parts of the story that your imagination is still a little vague about?

    “The Truth Is…A Question”—Marc Aronson

    My books center on questions that I, or an expert with whom I collaborate, want to investigate. Formulating the right questions, figuring out how to answer them, and then bringing the results to young readers require many leaps of the imagination. My session will show the risks that writing non-fiction requires.

    “The Scoop on High-Concept”—Elana Roth

    We keep hearing agents say they’re on the look-out for this mysterious beast called the high-concept project. But what is it? Is it just the simple Hollywood pitch? Also, if there’s high-concept, does that mean there’s low-concept? And does high-concept have to mean low-quality? In this talk, Elana will demystify this term and give you the scoop on why these high-concept books are so appealing in the market.

    “Baking Chocolate Cake: All the ingredients You Need to Make Your Picture Book Delicious”—Carolyn Crimi

    Picture books should be as enjoyable and as memorable as that perfect slice of chocolate cake. So why does yours taste more like broccoli? Carolyn Crimi will help you learn to mix, sift, and blend your picture book batter until it’s the perfect consistency. No cooking experience necessary!

    “The Transformative Power of Fiction: How Real-life Stories Inform and Shape Our Own”—Joyce McDonald

    When our inspiration comes from the news media, the reason we are drawn to these real-life stories isn’t always evident at first.  Sometimes these stories haunt us until we finally confront them through narrative.  We write to understand, and in the act of writing, we often arrive at unexpected places and surprising truths.  In this session, I will talk about the tragic facts that informed my novels, Swallowing Stones and Shades of Simon Gray, and how I transformed them into fiction.

    “CREATING BOOKS FEATURING DIVERSITY: HOW DO I LEAP IN?”—Louise May 3, 2010

    Is it okay to write and/or illustrate across cultures? Do I need to be of the same background as the characters in my story? Do books featuring people of color have to be nonfiction or historical fiction? Is there a place for realistic fiction? What about fun and fantasy in books focusing on diversity? These questions and more pertaining to creating diverse stories for all of today’s young readers will be answered, from the point of view of Lee & Low Books, one of the country’s premier publishers of children’s books “about everyone~for everyone.”

    “Imagination Is Just The Beginning”—Debra Hess and Kelley Cunningham

    This joint presentation by Highlights Editor, Debra Hess, and Highlights High Five Art Director, Kelley Cunningham, will discuss the practical realities of putting together a magazine—what they actually do on a day-to-day basis and how it all works.

    Breakout Sessions (in order of presentation)

    “Current Trends in Nonfiction”—Marc Aronson

    Marc Aronson will talk about trends in writing nonfiction—what is currently selling and traditional NF voice vs. creative or narrative NF voice, leaving plenty of time for Q & A.

    ”Writing the Eco-Mystery Novel / Balancing Entertainment with Education”—Bonnie J. Doerr

    Follow the unique writing journey of combining environmental science with fiction.  Topics covered include choice of location, inspiration, plot development, research, observation of endangered species, interaction with natural environment, character development, and teaching without preaching.

    “Look Before You Leap”—Carolyn Reeder

    Historical fiction is much more than a story set in the past. Explore why it’s important to know the history before imagining the fiction, discover ways of bringing the past to life for your readers, and pick up some tips on making your characters authentic.

    “Building a Fantasy World”—Amie Rose Rotruck

    What color is the sky?  Who’s the king/president/dictator?  What’s the most common tree?  How does the food taste?  Good fantasy is not only about a good plot and interesting characters, but a fully-realized world.  Even if you’re writing urban fantasy set in your own neighborhood, you still have some work to do to make your fantasy world believable.  We’ll look at some examples of well-created worlds, discuss how to find inspiration for your world, and do some world-brainstorming.

    The Great Query Caper”—Elana Roth

    Querying an agent is often the first step to breaking into today’s market, but even if you’ve written a novel, these brief letters of introduction can be intimidating. Elana will lead participants in a real-time simulation of her slush pile experience, followed with a group critique of those very real query letters she has received and reveal why they worked—or didn’t work—for her.  Please note this is not a pitch session but a chance to learn how an agent thinks and how you can stand out in the crowd.

    “Leap into Blogging and Social Media! (Will There Be Time to Write?)”—Mary Bowman-Kruhm and Wendie Old

    Award-winning, multi-published authors Wendie Old and Mary Bowman-Kruhm discuss two free blogging platforms (WordPress and Blogger) and strike a glancing blow at other social media.  Bring a laptop or pen and paper and you’ll leave the session with a start on your own blog and basic information about social media.

    “Where Self-Editing and Revision Collide—For Stronger Prose”—Teresa Crumpton

     

    This fast-paced session is for all writers of fiction from beginner to multiply published professional. Together, we will work through a structured method, which blends general self-editing with deeper revision. Based on a series of strategic worksheets, in a half-session we’ll work through a Structure Analysis Worksheet and demonstrate its power. In the second half, we’ll use a basic Self-Edit Worksheet and note its benefits. Please bring a story or novel (yours or a published one) to work with. Handouts will be provided.

    Finding Fiction in Our Own Backyards: Creating Home-grown Characters and Imaginary Settings Inspired by Real Life”—Donny Bailey Seagraves

    How do you take a real-life event and turn it into a fictional story? A local family tragedy inspired me to write the middle-grade novel that became my first published book, Gone From These Woods. In this hands-on workshop, we will walk through the real place that became my book’s fictional world and we’ll meet some of the people who morphed into the characters there. Can you make the journey from your real-life event to fictional story? Bring pen and paper and I’ll show you how.

    “Taking Your Imagination to the Marketplace”—Karen Nelson

    This session for illustrators will focus on the inner workings of a publishing company, art department and the role of the art director.  Learn about marketing tools, approaches that work, and case histories, leaving time for Q & A.





    TaleBlazers

    21 03 2010

    I always love it when I discover a new way to promote literacy. The Young Alberta Book Society has a tremendous program for connecting kids and authors. Called TaleBlazers, this festival runs from October 4-29.

    Here’s an explanation of this joint project from the website (http://www.yabs.ab.ca/TaleBlazers.asp).

    “During Taleblazers, YABS coordinates presentations and workshops by Alberta writers, illustrators, and storytellers in schools, public libraries and other venues province-wide. YABS subsidizes these presentations by paying for all travel and accommodation, thereby helping to make these important visits much more affordable for the hosting schools and libraries. We reach an audience of about 60,000 students each year with readings and workshops by Albertan literary professionals.”

    How cool is that? They provide literary programs for schools and libraries, many of which couldn’t afford to host an author visit. What a great way to connect kids and literature!

    Here’s a round of applause for this literary venture!!