Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Top Five #NY12SCBWI Conference Highlights and a peek at my Conference Journal

#1  The LGBTQ&A session I moderated and hosted was wonderful, and seemed to really fill a need - the over 40 attendees were so enthusiastic to be having the conversation.

With Alvina Ling, Editorial Director at Little, Brown)

T.S. Ferguson, Associate Editor Harlequin Teen

Jennifer Laughran, Agent at Andrea Brown Literary


Ellen Hopkins, Best-Selling Author

The LGBTQ&A Session Faculty, left to right: T.S. Ferguson, Alvina Ling,  Me (Lee Wind), Jennifer Laughran, and Ellen Hopkins

Attendees mixing it up after the panel discussion

We covered a lot of territory, but I'll just share two highlights:  Alivna, T.S. and Jennifer all said that they get under 5% of submissions with any diversity at all (Queer characters or characters of color) - which means that 95% of the stuff being submitted to them is about straight, white, middle-class or rich kids.  There's an opportunity there, and all of them voiced that they wished they would get more submissions that had GLBTQ content.

And Ellen Hopkin's words are still echoing in my ears,

 "Write Bravely." 

My thanks to Alvina, T.S., Jennifer, Ellen, and all the attendees!

#2  Blogging at the SCBWI Conference Blog with my fellow awesome Team Bloggers: Martha Brockenbrough, Jolie Stekly, Jaime Temairik, and Suzanne Young.

Team Blog, from left to right: Suzanne Young, Me (Lee Wind), Martha Brockenbrough, Jaime Temairik and Jolie Stekly

We also tweeted and other social-media-ized up a storm!  Together, we are the best!  Thank you Jaime, Jolie, Martha and Suzanne!

#3  All the very kind people who came up to thank me for blogging, both for SCBWI and here at "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?"

#4  Feeling like I was with my tribe, and embraced.

#5  Community, which I'm learning I sometimes spell K-a-r-a-o-k-e!  Hanging out in the hotel bar, and at the Saturday night party and all throughout my Conference stay, talking with other people - friends old and new - as passionate about creating children's books as I am.  It was so much fun.

Here are some moments from my #NY12SCBWI journal:

Lin Oliver acknowledging and praising the writers in the Friday Writers Roundtable Intensive, saying that it is a "very brave thing" to put your work forward.

"Readers go where tension is" - Cassandra Clare

"There is always a market for awesome books." - Jennifer Laughran

Little Brown Books for Young Readers Editor Kate Sullivan sharing that they ask before acquiring a book, "Do you like this book or do you want to marry this book?"

"If you're going down the tragic road, you want to go just as far down the comic road." - Chris Crutcher

"The Truth that you know is the one that will get you published - Chris Crutcher

Print = story+illustration
Digital = story+illustration+experience
- Rubin Pfeffer

"Protagonists are more aspirational than regular kids at the same age, especially in fantasy because they're going to need to be to deal with what's coming." - Courtney Bongiolatti

Alexadra Penfold's tip:  "Google yourself and make sure it's what you want agents and editors to see with your submission."

Jordan Brown said of his job as Senior Editor at Harper Collins, "You're in the business of acquiring authors, not books."

"Tell the truest truth you can and tell it in the language it needs to be told in." - Chris Crutcher

"When readers feel the characters in a story have the same feelings they have - it's a relief." - Chris Crutcher

"Your content should touch heart, soul or funny bone." - Rubin Pfeffer

Rubin Pfeffer on ebooks, enhanced ebooks and Apps:  "If it's not a story, then it's really not anything."

The idea Rubin brought up about custom font sizes when you read on a screen being a way to reach reluctant readers.

"The bigger the obstacles the greater the love needed to overcome them." - Cassandra Clare

"People like really big obstacles.  Go there.  High stakes are good." - Cassandra Clare

"The greater the un-put-down-ability, the easier it is for me to sell." - Jennifer Laughran

Cheryl Klein's description of Fermatas, a last line that holds the emotional resonance of a scene.

"Your success is directly proportionate to your ability to take rejection." - David Gordon

"Whatever that character needs is the story."  - Dan Yaccarino

Regina Brook's theory on the popularity of Fantasy, in that publishers want to look at books that have a global reach, and Fantasy isn't locked into the U.S. domestic marketplace.

Also Regina rattling off six new YA imprints from the top of her head as a sign of the kid lit market's robustness.

And her line, "There's an agent on this Earth whose divine assignment on this Earth is to represent you."

Kathryn Erskine saying that after two years of writing and trying, she thought maybe she should give up.  But then she heard a speech where the agent or editor said to her and the rest of the SCBWI attendees that if they keep at it, they'll improve, and they will get published.  And she kept at her craft.  From her first writing class to getting her first book published took 10 years.  And now she was giving the closing keynote of the Lucky 13th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference, and ended it with this fermata,

"Go out there, and go create."

My Thanks to everyone at #NY12SCBWI - faculty, staff, Regional Advisors and attendees, for making January in New York so fantastic!


Monday, January 30, 2012

Shades of Purple - A Music Video by Bye June (all about same-sex - same-love - marriage)

Gil Kline, singer, guitarist and songwriter for Bye June, sent me their new video "Shades of Purple" to share with all of you!

It's pretty awesome (the song, the shadowgraphy, and the message) - Enjoy!

My thanks to the band!


Sunday, January 29, 2012

#NY12SCBWI Sunday!

Today is going to be remarkable, I can just feel it.

We'll find out who won the Portfolio Showcase.

Jane Yolen will be appearing!

We'll hear from the Bookmaker's Dozen.  And from four literary Agents:  Regina Brooks, Serendipity Literary Agency; Chris Richman, Upstart Crow Literary; Ken Wright, Writers House; and Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown Ltd.

There's the closing Keynote from Katherine Erskine, "What's Your Focus?"

And then the autograph party!

Every moment will be full of inspiration, craft, business and community!

Don't forget to check in at both the Official SCBWI Conference Blog and our twitter hashtag #NY12SCBWI for the latest and greatest from the Conference floor!

Let's keep getting our Conference On,

Saturday, January 28, 2012

#NY12SCBWI Saturday!

Today is going to be amazing!

From Chris Crutcher's opening keynote "Turning Real Life Into Fiction" to the LGBTQ&A session I'm hosting with special guests Editorial Director Alvina Ling and Agent Jennifer Laughran, this conference day is packed with great stuff!

We'll get to hear Senior Vice President & Publishing Director at MacMillian Jean Feiwel, Strategic Innovating Advisor at Penguin Barbara Marcus, President and Publisher of Nancy Paulsen Books Nancy Paulsen, and Agent at East West Literary Agent Rubin Pfeffer talk about "Children's Books: Today and Tomorrow: Four Expert Impressions."

There's a keynote by Cassandra Clare, "Love Triangles and Forbidden Love: Creating and Maintaining Romantic Tension in YA Literature."

And there are 14 break out sessions with industry-leading experts on topics from Thrillers to Revision to Picture books for Illustrators to Ebooks and Apps to Diversity and Multiculturalism and nine more!  (The trouble is, you only get to go to three!)

Let's get our conference on!

Don't forget to check in at both the Official SCBWI Conference Blog and our twitter hashtag #NY12SCBWI for the latest and greatest from the Conference floor!

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Lucky 13th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City... Friday Intensives!

I'm very excited about participating in the Writers Roundtable intensive today, and about the whole conference.  After all, this is my first conference as the head of SCBWI Team Blog and the official blogger for SCBWI: THE BLOG!

You can check in on the conference at The Official SCBWI Conference Blog as well as follow the stream of info and comments on twitter with the hashtag #NY12SCBWI (and you don't even have to be on twitter to access it!)
Later tonight there's the New York City Kit Lit Drink Night, organized by Chrstina McTighe (@LaFabuliste on twitter) and other fabulous New York Kid Lit folk (including @newsboyhat, @Aunt_Feather, and Mackenzie Reide) to overlap with #NY12SCBWI so all us out-of-towners can attend.   It's tonight, Friday January 27, 2012, at 8pm at Public House on 41st and Lexington.  Right around the corner from the Hyatt!

It's the gathering in of our tribe...

Exciting stuff!


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Inside the lives of LGBTQ Teens Today: "My Queer Testimony"

This Tumblr site, My Queer Testimony, has some great stuff!

The "My Queer Testimony" Tumblr page

I really liked this testimony by Patrick,

who writes on the difference to him between identifying as gay versus identifying as queer:
"‘Gay’ is really nice and friendly and, you know, you’re friends with all the really nice girls and you look pretty and wear your v-neck sweaters and you want to maintain your privilege. You don’t want to step on anyone’s toes and you don’t want to be in-your-face. ‘Queer’ is in-your-face and calling people out and not being afraid to speak your mind and that’s more me, more of what I’m about. I like ‘queer.’ I am ‘queer.’"

And Janet Mock's story of growing up as a transgender teen is powerful.  And you have to read this poem by Rex.

The site includes photos, videos, essays, heartfelt birthday wishes and organizations fighting for LGBTQ equality.  Be aware, it does include some adult content (like the bisexual rapper Imani's lyrics.) 

Awesome and diverse, My Queer Testimony is well worth checking out.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The 2012 Comment Challenge Finale!!!

More than 150 participants.

With a goal of 100 comments each.

Over 21 days.

That's 15,000 comments.

15,000 connections, just in our world of people blogging about children's literature.

That's community.  Or, in pictures...

lonely blogger

five-a-day commenter

commenter with a new habit!

ten of us with a new habit!!!!!!!!!!

150 of us with a new habit makes a COMMUNITY!

So whether you reached your commenting goal, or started reading blogs with a more participatory mind-set, or just felt more connected, we hope you've created a new habit... and that you'll continue your commenting on kid lit blogs throughout the year ahead.

If you'd like to be in our random prize drawings, please leave a comment (of course!) here and/or at MotherReader's with your final thoughts about the challenge, your how-you-did comment tally (honor system), and luck will determine the rest.

There will be prizes for those who made 100 and for those who just gave it a good try as well...

Thanks again for participating in the 2012 Comment Challenge, and keep on Commenting!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, Behemoth and Goliath - A Steampunk Trilogy with a Teen girl disguised as a boy

It was great to talk with Scott Westerfeld about these books:

Leviathan, Behemoth & Goliath

Here's the synopsis of the triology from Scott Westerfeld's amazing website:

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected ways, taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

All three books in this series are illustrated novels, full of incredible art (more than 50 plates in each book) by Keith Thompson.  Here are two of them:

Add your review of "Leviathan," "Behemoth," and "Goliath" in comments!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Today is the start of No Name-Calling Week!

Inspired by James Howe's awesome MG novel THE MISFITS, No Name-Calling Week is a wonderful real-world event.

With lesson plans (for elementary, middle and high school), resources, and even art lessons - No Name-Calling Week is a great event to know about - and to integrate into your life and school.

Imagine our world being one where no one said "gay" or "lame" or "bitch" as a negative. 

Think about the names you're heard - and maybe even the ones you've said.  We have the opportunity to recognize that our words are powerful... and we can use that power for good!  And we can start right now!


Friday, January 20, 2012

A young child sums up the problem with how toys are marketed

This is genius!

I'm really proud of Riley for "getting it" - shopping over the holidays it was very clear how there were "boy" aisles of toys and "girl" aisles of toys... and we can do better. We have to do better.

For my kid.

For Riley.

For all of us!


ps - My thanks to the GSA students who shared this with me!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Love and Leftovers - A Straight Teen Romance (where the Teen has a Gay father)

"Love and Leftovers" By Sarah Tregay

When her parents split because her Dad is gay and begins life with a new boyfriend, Marcie is dragged from Idaho to a family summerhouse in New Hampshire. She leaves behind her friends, a group of freaks and geeks called the Leftovers, including her emo-rocker boyfriend, and her father. By the time Labor Day rolls around, Marcie suspects this "vacation" has become permanent. She starts at a new school where a cute boy brings her breakfast and a new romance heats up.  But Marcie already has a boyfriend...

Written in poems, this is the Sarah's debut novel.  Add your review of "Love & Leftovers" in comments!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The 2012 Comment Challenge Week Two Check-In... Are You Feeling the Habit?

I love this image.  It's all 'The Sound of Music' meets 'The Matrix,' isn't it? 

Here on day 14, I hope you're feeling the commenting habit becoming more a part of your blogging and online experience!  If you've been keeping up with the 5-comments-a-day-is-habit-forming-goal, you should be right around 70 comments so far.

Let us know how it's going - we have well over 150 participants in this year's Comment Challenge, and that's a great list over at Mother Reader's to browse if you're looking for new blogs of other avid kid lit bloggers to explore (and leave comments at!)

Keep on commenting,

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A New Path For Pre-Adolescent Transgender Children and their families... A chance to be Themselves

This is a remarkable story of 'identical' twin boys, one of whom has always been gender conforming, and the other who always said they felt like a girl.

And for that transgender child, the family has supported their transition from Wyatt to Nicole.  She's on hormone blockers to avoid starting male adolescence, and the plan is for her to start estrogen this year.

The parents' journey.  Their father, Wayne, going from unbelieving to supportive to a transgender rights activist, who said:

“We told our kids you can’t create change if you don’t get involved,’

The brother's journey.  Nicole remembers her brother telling their father

“Dad, you might as well face it...You have a son and a daughter.’’

Fighting their schools, and the statehouse.

The clinic helping them.

And most of all, Nicole's spirit of pride in herself and hope:

“Obviously my life is not going to be as easy as being gender-conforming, but there are perks like being able to get out there and do things that will benefit the [transgender] community,’’ she says. “I think everything’s going to turn out pretty well for me.’’

 It's inspiring.  And to Nicole and your family... We're cheering you on!


ps: My thanks to Lawrence for sharing this with me, so I could share it with you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Taking Time To Honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and His Dream

Every time I watch Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" Speech, it inspires me.


Join me in standing up in 2012 and working to make the dream a reality!


Friday, January 13, 2012

Publishing LGBTQ Characters, Themes and Stories in Kid Lit - A Discussion at #NY12SCBWI

I'm excited to share with you that I'll once again have the honor of hosting and moderating the LGBTQ discussion at the Lucky 13th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City!

At last year's conference in New York we had over 50 attendees, and it was a great conversation!

The giant "Find the LGBTQ in SCBWI" circle at #NY11SCBWI that still felt 'cozy'

From left to right: Myself (in the checked shirt), last year's special guests Executive Editor Ari Lewin, Agent Jim McCarthy, and Aaron Hartzler

Here are the details for this year's discussion:

Find the LGBTQ in SCBWI

7:45pm-8:45pm Saturday January 28, 2012

Room: Broadway

Started at SCBWI's 2008 Summer Conference in Los Angeles and held at every conference since, a group of editors, agents, art directors, authors and illustrators will meet informally to discuss LGBTQ publishing, the submission process, who is interested and what kinds of stories they are interested in.

Maybe you've written a book about or for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer or questioning youth; maybe you're interested in doing so, and you're not sure where to begin; maybe you are just curious to learn more about this vital corner of the market for young readers. Whatever your interest in the subject matter, all are welcome. Bring a friend and any questions you may have.

Hosted by SCBWI Team Blog's Lee Wind, our special guests for this event will be Editorial Director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Alvina Ling and agent Jennifer Laughran

Alvina Ling is Editorial Director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers where she has worked since 1999. She edits award-winning children's books for all ages, from picture books to young adult novels, with some nonfiction mixed in. Some of the books she has edited include Newbery Honor winner Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, a young adult series by Libby Bray (The Diviners), as well as the middle grade novel The Land of Stories among many others. She contributes to the children's book blog Blue Rose Girls at http://www.bluerosegirls.blogspot.com

Jennifer Laughran joined Andrea Brown Literary Agency in 2007. Her clients include Daniel Pinkwater, Calef Brown, Matt Faulkner, Jackie Dolamore, Ilsa J. Bick, Eric A. Kimmel, L.K. Madigan, Adam Selzer, Tara Kelly and Kate Messner, and many excellent debut authors. She is always on the lookout for YA and middle grade fiction with unusual, unforgettable characters and vivid settings. You can find her online at http://literaticat.blogspot.com

I hope to see you there!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, January 12, 2012

John Rocco, the #NY12SCBWI Team Blog Pre-Conference Interview

Author/Illustrator and #NY12SCBWI Faculty Member John Rocco

Author/Illustrator John Rocco is leading and participating in three sessions at the upcoming Lucky 13th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference - a keynote at the Friday January 27th Marketing for Illustrators Intensive, "New Methods of Promoting Your Book: Trailers, Co-Op Marketing and More," he'll be on a panel that afternoon in the same Intensive called "Is Self-Marketing Cost Effective? Wise Use of Your Money and Time" and he's presenting in the Sunday January 29th keynote: "Methods to the Madness: The Process of Making Picture books, Featuring the Bookmakers Dozen."

Here's our interview:

Lee: Hey John, glad we could connect!

John: Hi Lee, thanks for having me over to your blog-o-sphere! It’s been another busy year but I sure am looking forward to seeing you and everyone else at this years SCBWI conference. Now, on to the questions….

Lee: You've done some incredible cover art for authors like Rick Riordan and his "Percy Jackson" and "Kane Chronicles" series. Can you tell us how you approach doing a cover - do you have a punch-list of sorts from the editor and art director? Do you try to match the tone of the book? How do you do all that and still have it be your "voice" as an artist?

John: When I am creating a cover, I ALWAYS want to read the book first. Sometimes a publisher will send you a one-sheet with a description of the book, characters, and what they would like to see on the cover. I do my best to ignore that. (Don’t tell them.) Usually after one or two readings of the manuscript some imagery will start to rise to the surface in my head and get stuck there. That’s when I know that it’s right. Very seldom is it an actual scene from the book, but rather a dramatic moment that conveys the adventure you are about to embark on with the characters. I try to keep the image simple and iconic, with a limited palette so that it can be easily read from across the room at your local independent bookstore. More often than not, you cannot see the characters' faces on my covers. The reason for this is two-fold. One; I want the reader to be able to project themselves onto that character, to become that kid. If there is a very recognizable face on the cover it is difficult to do that. Two: When I have characters facing inward, or into the book, to me it feels more inviting. The reader is then positioned right behind the main character and is going to follow them on this crazy adventure.
Another thing I have to keep in mind is that the illustration is only one piece of the cover. There is also the Title, sometimes the Series title with a logo, the Author’s name, and possibly other things like “New York Times blah, blah, blah…”. So it is important for me to work directly with the Art Director of Designer to make sure that all the elements are supporting each other in a way that makes for a great cover. I have been very blessed to work with some great designers, including Joann Hill and Christine Kettner on the Rick Riordan books.

Lee: That's fascinating to know why the characters on the cover are sometimes facing into the book! You write and illustrate your amazing and beautiful picture books (Like "Fu Finds the Way," "Moonpowder," and your newest, "Blackout").

How does story evolve for you? Do you start with words, or pictures, or in some other way?

John:  When I am writing and illustrating a picture book, it starts out as a movie in my head. There is a great quote by Gordon B. Hinckley that says, “You can’t plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind.” I love that. But, I have to say, I do quite a bit of plowing in my mind. It starts with a story. I will write down a couple of ideas, could be just one sentence. Then I plow in my mind for a couple of months while I am working on other things. Then I doodle. Images that I just have to get down. The doodles start to fill up notebooks, then, they graduate to sketches. Words start to form. I start thinking about interesting page turns. I ask myself, “If I want this spread to have impact, what should the previous page show me?”.
And slowly it builds itself into a book dummy. Then I spend the next six months re-working the dummy. Taking things out. Changing the pacing. Adding things in. Until... it…feels…just…right, or I am exhausted. I just spent over a year on my latest book dummy. I have about five bad versions, five or six pretty good versions, and one that I think really works well. We shall see…

Lee:  I recently learned (from a great talk Scott Westerfeld gave at KidLitCon 2011) that the deer stalker hat that Sherlock Holmes is famous for wearing is actually never mentioned in the text by Arthur Conan Doyle. Rather, it was a creation of the illustrator of those illustrated novels, Sidney Edward Paget. When you're illustrating someone else's text, as you did in "The Flint Heart"

written by Katherine and John Paterson, are you thinking about making the story - and the characters - your own in some way?

John:  I think there is no other choice. I mean, yes, I spent hours looking at the works of others who delved into the “fairy world”. But I think no matter how any of us are inspired by others, the work will always have your own fingerprints on it.

Lee:  Your trailer for "Blackout" is remarkable - so different from the pan and scan variety!  And so focused on evoking an emotional response in the viewer to transform them into a reader. 

To get our 'marketing minds' ready for your presentations at the Marketing for Illustrators intensive, are there some other best book trailers you'd suggest we watch?

John:  Stephen Shaskan has a book called Dog is a Dog. This trailer is simple and clean, and lets you know that this book will be a great read-a-loud hit.

Another one that is very simple and effective is Selina Alko’s Trailer for Every-Day Dress-Up.

Dan Santat’s book trailers are always hysterical, but here are a couple that I particularly love. Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo, and Dancing with Dan Santat

Lee:  That Dan is one funny guy!  *laughing*   Still with my marketing mind-set, what are the top three things we authors and illustrators can (and should) do to promote our books?

John:  Top three? A lot of that will depend on what your book is about, honestly. But I would say having an internet presence really helps. Talk about it on your blog, facebook, website..etc. Another thing to do is develop relationships with your local independent bookstores. Help them get excited about you and your books. Have launch parties at their store and invite everyone you know. (You have to do all the heavy lifting at first, but as your relationship grows, you will find they will really help you and your books become local favorites.) And lastly, make sure all your relatives know that anytime they visit a bookstore, they must find your books and turn them face out or you will never speak to them again!

Lee:  Good tips!  Most books published in the U.S.A. do not feature GLBTQ or characters of color. Your picture book "Wolf! Wolf!" pushed the envelope of cultural diversity by taking 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf' story to Japan... and telling it from the Wolf's point of view!  What's your take on the power of illustrators to portray diversity?

John:  This is an interesting question Lee. To be honest, I don’t spend too much time thinking about it, and yet I do feel that as creators of books we have a responsibility to represent diversity when it is “right” for a book. For example, in my book BLACKOUT, the mother and father are a multi-racial couple. Did I spend a lot of time thinking about that? No. This book takes place in Brooklyn, one of the most diverse and interesting places I can think of. It’s for that reason that it doesn’t feel out of place, or forced. In one spread there are two men walking down the street and one man has his hand tenderly resting on the other's shoulder. Are they gay? Maybe. Did I think to myself, “I better put a gay couple in this book.” No, they just happen to be two of my friends, who happen to be gay and I wanted to put them in my book. Just like I wanted to put one of my editors in the book. You can see Namrata Tripathi on the same spread in the upper right, singing on the stoop.
In a book I am working on now there are four boys. One is white, one is black, one is Asian and one is mixed race. I never spent a lot of time thinking about it, I just ended up drawing them that way. They all have very different hair, and THAT was important for this book. The marketing folks asked me if I would change one of the kids to a girl. I could easily do that, but I am not going to. This is a book about four boys.
My feeling on the matter is this; do what feels right to you as an artist. If you have the opportunity to represent diversity without it feeling forced, do it. Why not?

Lee:  Well said!  Can your share any portfolio tips with illustrators who will be attending #NY12SCBWI and entering their work in the portfolio showcase?

John:  Your portfolio should consist of only your absolutely best work. Remember, an art director will look at the weakest piece in your portfolio and think “This is the best I will get from this person.” Start with a stunner and end with a bang.
And only put in the kind of work that you want to do. If you happen to have a really great painting of a cat, but you hate drawing cats, leave it out. Also, make sure the work all looks like it came from the same person's hand. It is okay to have more than one style, just make sure you separate those styles in different sections of your portfolio.

Lee: What's the best piece of advice you've received as an author/illustrator on your journey in the world of Children's Literature?

John:  The best piece of advice I ever received, came to me many years ago when I was working on a picture book with Whoopi Goldberg. I had the opportunity to meet Maurice Sendak. He knew I was working on my first picture book and said to give him a call if I got stuck. Well, in short, I did get stuck and his advice stuck with me. In short, he said, “Draw what you love and if you love it, other people will too.”

Lee:  I think that works for writers as well.  Write what you love and if you love it, other people will too.  Excellent - a new mantra.  Thanks very much!

John:  Thanks Lee. See you at the Conference!!!

You have the chance to attend John's presentations at #NY12SCBWI as well - registration is still open for the conference!

Hope to see you there.

Illustrate and Write On,

ps - you can check out all the links to the Team Blog pre-conference faculty interviews at the Official SCBWI Conference Blog!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The 2012 Comment Challenge Week One Check-In!

Today is day seven - to make the Comment Challenge goal of 100 comments in 21 days, you should be around 35 comments in...

Have you noticed any changes in how you read blog posts?

Have you seen any difference (number, quality) in the comments on your own blog?

Share what's been going on...

And I'll share that I've put together some pretty awesome packets of books as prizes (more on that later...)  For now, let's let the process be the prize, and keep the commenting, and the community interaction, going!

And if you're looking for a good list of kid lit blogs to explore in your own commenting rounds, you should check out the list of the over 140 participants in the 2012 Comment Challenge at MotherReader's sign up post!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Author Holly Cupala on the "Dear Bully" Anthology and her latest Young Adult Novel, "Don't Breathe A Word"

I love getting the story behind the story, and that's exactly what Holly Cupala shares in our interview:

Don't Breathe A Word By Holly Cupala

"Joy Delamere is suffocating...

From asthma, which has nearly claimed her life. From her parents, who will do anything to keep that from happening. From delectably dangerous Asher, who is smothering her from the inside out.

Joy can take his words—tender words, cruel words—until the night they go too far.

Now, Joy will leave everything behind to find the one who has offered his help, a homeless boy called Creed. She will become someone else. She will learn to survive. She will breathe…if only she can get to Creed before it’s too late.

Set against the gritty backdrop of Seattle’s streets and a cast of characters with secrets of their own, Holly Cupala’s powerful new novel explores the subtleties of abuse, the meaning of love, and how far a girl will go to discover her own strength."

Dear Bully: 70 YA Authors Tell Their Stories
Edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones

A Non-Fiction Anthology of "dear bully" essays and letters by "today's top authors for teens and young readers"

The list of contributors is impressive, including Holly Cupala and a number of authors whose YA books (with GLBTQ characters and themes) are featured here:  Carrie Jones, Cecil Castellucci, Ellen Hopkins, Jo Knowles, Lisa Yee, and Nancy Garden.

There's also a wonderful website, dearbully.com, that shares one new "dear bully" story a week - and these are stories not included in the book! You should definitely check it out:

Add your reviews of "Don't Breathe A Word" and "Dear Bully" in comments!

Monday, January 9, 2012

"Whats goin on" - one teen's wrenching cry to end bullying

Watch this.

It's so powerful. It's been viewed nearly 9 million times. And while he's received some support, there has been so much meanness and denial and flat-out bullying continuing in the online responses to Jonah's video.

We have to stop anti-GLBTQ bullying. We have to stop all bullying.

Right now.

And how is Jonah doing?

This is from the video's page on youtube:

To all my friends and supporters,
I made this video 4 months ago just before school was about to start. I was 13. It was a very emotionally dark time in my life. I made the video at 4:00 am in the morning; I hadn't been sleeping at night for a long time, too many things going on in my head. I was dreading going back to school and I had not come out to my family yet. Only my closest friends knew. I didn't know how to say what I needed to say. All I could think about were all the bad things that had been happening at school last year, every year for that matter. I just couldn't bare to go through that anymore. I was done being fake happy, pretending hateful words didn't hurt, done hiding it from my family.
So this video was made for my friends that had moved on to High School who were worried for me, to say to them that I was going to take a stand, and to the haters at my middle school that I'm not going anywhere. I am who I am. I posted the video here and told people were to find it. That was it.
My friends were moved by the video and thought I did something important. I was encouraged to link it to my Facebook page so more people could see it. Maybe it could help someone else going through the same thing. So I linked it Dec. 1st. My Parents saw it for the first time Dec, 2nd.
Then..... all this happened.

I never expected in a million years that it would have such a wonderful impact on so many people. I am truly humbled and truly thankful for all the love, encouragement and support from people all over the world. It's been incredibly overwhelming. I don't know what to say. Thank you so, so much!
Lastly, yes you have seen me happy in a couple short videos replies I posted; I would think that would be a good thing, and yes I do have friends, my High School friends. And I have made friends because when I came out they realized that they had hurt me and that they felt sorry.

The video is real, and true. In the last few months everything eventually came out in the open, I felt a huge weight off my shoulders; I'm happy, I'm excepted for who I am, I'm more confident and feel stronger every day.
Thank you all, Love and peace to all who are hurting.
Jonah Mowry

Let's make our world a better place, for Jonah, for all teenagers - Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning and Straight - for all of us.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Ari Lewin, the #NY12SCBWI Team Blog Pre-Conference Interview

Ari Lewin, Executive Editor, G.P. Putnam (Penguin) and #NY12SCBWI Faculty

Arianne Lewin is an executive editor at G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers. She has edited award-winning authors including Cinda Williams Chima; Julie Anne Peters; Michael Rex; Rachel Hawkins, and Jessica Spotswood. She'll be giving three breakout sessions on FANTASY on Saturday January 28, 2012 as part of the Lucky 13th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City.

Here's our interview - enjoy!
Lee: Hi Ari, thanks so much for taking the time. You’re giving three breakout sessions on FANTASY. Are there any books (that you’ve worked on or otherwise) you’d like to suggest attendees read in advance so they can get the most out of your workshops?

Ari: I can't think of any particular books I'll be referencing yet, but I might do a handout on first pages or chapters of successful fantasy novels. My hope is that anyone interested in publishing into the genre will be able to get something out of the discussion, no matter how much or little they've read.

Lee: For many manuscript critiques and conferences (and it’s true of the Writers roundtable intensives on the Friday before this conference) authors have a chance to share the first few pages of their work with agents and editors. But it’s only the first few pages. Or the first 500 words. Or maybe even just the first page (which starts half-way down!) Often, writers despair at this – how could anyone know if they love it (or not) so soon? How far do you need to read something to know?

Ari: I consider first page sessions an opportunity to decide if I like the premise and the writing enough to want to read more.

Lee: Speaking of beginnings, since you’re talking about fantasy I have to ask: Prologues: Love ‘em or hate ‘em?

Ari: That's not a fair question! I love good prologues that draw me in and tease the rest of the book. I don't love prologues that exist solely for exposition -- that just feels lazy to me.

Lee: How about trends: How much should authors care about vampires being in or out. Or angels, or unicorns, or… the next BIG thing. (And yeah, I just added unicorns in there. But I don’t have a unicorn manuscript, I’m just asking…)

Ari: I suppose it's worth considering the idea that if the market is already glutted with a trend, publishers may not want to buy more. That being said, if someone handed me a dystopic novel that I absolutely LOVED, I wouldn't turn it down. I would never suggest writing to a trend -- authors should write what comes naturally.

Lee: What’s your opinion of the Hollywood-style pitch (“It’s ‘Mad Men’ meets ‘Aliens’… in middle school!”) Useful, or too reductive?

Ari: I vote useful. TV is such a big part of our consciousness that using it as shorthand seems natural. I do realize that there are a lot of books out there that can't be described in those terms, though, and that's okay too! If I were an author I'd spend about twenty seconds thinking about this, then get back to writing my story. NOTE: It’s easy to sound grandiose when using TV/Movie references, so try to stay reasonable...

Lee: Can you tell us what you’re looking for?

Ari: "I'm looking for writers who use words and story in a way that makes me feel something. I like all kinds of stories, but I want something to wake me up!"

Lee: Most of the people working in Children’s literature do it because they (we) love it… but I wonder if there’s a fear that once you make something you love your work, you can’t enjoy it ‘simply’ any more. Can you turn off your editor-brain and just enjoy a good book, or are you always in ‘editor’ mode?

Ari: I can forget myself if the book is good enough. And isn't that what you want every book to do? I’m probably not as patient a reader as I used to be– I don’t try to “push through” books that are not engaging or very flawed. I just put them down and move on.

Lee: To follow up on that, what are you reading for fun?

Ari: I'm trying really hard to read grown-up books, mostly so I'm not a total fail at cocktail parties. I just bought *am the last person on earth to buy* Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Lee: Illustrators and writers will be coming to #NY12SCBWI with lots of hopes. Some hope to be discovered and break through to be published. Others, who are published, hope to break out from the mid-list and really soar in their careers. Any many, from those just starting out through best-selling authors and illustrators, hope to immerse themselves in inspiration and community. What are your conference hopes? Do you come ‘shopping’ for new illustrator and writer talent?

Ari: SCBWI is such an amazing community. I always come to conferences hoping to recruit for my list, but I also come because I find it so refreshing and inspiring to spend time with people who are passionate about our business.

Lee: Is a business card something you like to have handed to you when you speak to an author or illustrator at a conference?

Ari: The unfortunate truth is that I don't keep 99% of the business cards that are given to me (does anybody?). If there's a reason for me to get in touch with someone, I'll ask for their information and probably plug it right into my phone.

Lee: Can you share with us your advice for conference-goers?

Ari: Talk to lots of other writers, and don't worry too much about meeting agents and editors -- that will come in time. Pay special attention to any lectures that will help you become a better writer.

Lee: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given that you’ve used in your career in children’s literature?

Ari: Work on what you love.

Thanks so much, Ari!

Now I'm even more excited about her session! You can still register to attend Ari's FANTASY Break Out Workshop yourself and experience the entire Lucky 13th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, January 27-29, 2012.

Hope to see you there.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Fourth Annual Comment Challenge Starts Today!!!

What's The Comment Challenge?  

Across the kidlitosphere, there's a very small percentage of blog visitors who actually leave a comment. And since research shows it takes twenty-one days to create a new habit, Mother Reader and I are asking you to commit to leaving five comments a day for 21 days on Kid Lit blogs, starting today, and culminating on January 25, 2012!

Participating in The Comment Challenge will change your online life by turbo-engaging you in our kid lit community.

You'll start conversations.  You'll see more traffic.  You'll feel great knowing you're being heard. 

Try it.

Take The Comment Challenge, and see what it does for you!

Questions? We've got answers.

Go sign up over at Mother Reader's, and check in here on Wednesdays for encouragement and to let everyone know how it's going.

Let's get our comments on!

ps - I adapted this old Hoover vacuum ad from this March 1950 ad in Life magazine.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Don't Let Me Go - Gay Teen Romance

Don't Let Me Go By J. H. Trumble

"Some people spend their whole lives looking for the right partner. Nate Schaper found his in high school. In the eight months since their cautious flirting became a real, heart-pounding, tell-the-parents relationship, Nate and Adam have been inseparable. Even when local kids take their homophobia to brutal levels, Nate is undaunted. He and Adam are rock solid. Two parts of a whole. Yin and yang.

But when Adam graduates and takes an off-Broadway job in New York--at Nate's insistence--that certainty begins to flicker. Nate's friends can't keep his insecurities at bay, especially when he catches Skyped glimpses of Adam's shirtless roommate. Nate starts a blog to vent his frustrations and becomes the center of a school controversy, drawing ire and support in equal amounts. But it's the attention of a new boy who is looking for more than guidance that forces him to confront who and what he really wants."

Add your review of "Don't Let Me Go" in comments!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Barbara Marcus, the #NY12SCBWI Team Blog Pre-Conference Interview

Kid Lit Marketing Expert and #12NYSCBWI Faculty Member Barbara Marcus

Barbara Marcus is a leading business and marketing strategist in the areas of children’s content and distribution. She's currently Strategic Innovations Advisor to Penguin Books USA focusing in the area of new ventures and new publishing opportunities and Advisor to Open Road Integrated Media in the area of children's digital publishing. Barbara is on the Board of Knowledge Adventure, a children’s software and technology company and Media Source, a children’s books direct marketing company and publisher of Library Journal and School Library Journal. Prior to that, she was President, Scholastic Children’s Book Publishing and Distribution where she was responsible for children’s consumer book publishing and distribution in the United States. After acquiring J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for publication in the United States in 1998, Barbara led the publishing effort for six out of the seven Harry Potter titles.

She will be speaking Saturday morning as part of a super-star panel exploring "Children's Books, Today and Tomorrow: Four Expert Impressions."

Here's our interview:

Lee: Hi Barbara, thanks so much for making the time to chat! The first question I have to ask is: There are so many people inspired by the success of Harry Potter - and you were right in there, part of making that success happen. While there's obviously no clear magic-potion formula to write and market a book series that successful - or we'd all have run-away best-sellers - can you share what were the elements, from your perspective, that made it all come together into such a perfect storm?

Barbara: I always say that the real reason that Harry Potter became the phenomenon of Harry Potter was because of the genius of Jo Rowling's story and writing. She created a world that was so fantastic and characters that every child thought could be their friends. It was an incredible combination of fantasy and reality. We all wanted to be best friends with Harry, Hermione and Harry and go to school at Hogwarts.

So much has changed since that time but we were lucky enough to create some firsts such as no review copies before publication, distributing the books at midnight with parties, creating a hardcover with embossing and foil.....now things that often can be part of regular publishing plans.

Lee: Do you see children's books following the path of adult books with the ever-growing consumption (and market share) of e-books, or is there a different future for kid lit?

Barbara: Children's books will have the best of both worlds. I think there are many paths for children's books as digital books. Some YAs will sell the same percentage in ebook form as adult books. There will also be original YA titles with enhanced features like music and video. Picture e-books and apps will be read alouds and have interactive features and also will exist in print. I think the push to use e-books in school and libraries will be slow and steady which translates into a longer time before e-books are as dominant as they are in adult publishing. The future of children's books as e-books also depends on the pricing of tablets. As the prices decrease, the possibility of more children's books being read as e-books increases.

Lee: Do you think being innovative with how stories are told is something that only established authors and illustrators can get away with, or does the Wild West of all this new technology create opportunities for new talents to break into the industry?

Barbara: I think authors and illustrators should always focus telling the best story they can. If technology or innovation is something that the artist feels is integral to the story, then they should include it.

Lee: Do you think every author and illustrator should be aware of building themselves as a "brand?" Or, to paraphrase Mo Willems, is branding just for cattle?

Barbara: I feel so repetitive when I say that a brand also comes out of a special story and characters. One big well defined story with a world and characters can lead to a brand but you can't just build one.   Just write or illustrate the best book you can and with your agent and publisher you can explore the possibility of creating a brand

Lee: For attendees, the SCBWI winter conference is full of amazing networking, crucial information from experts, craft, business, inspiration, community, and opportunities to move our careers forward. What's exciting to you about coming to the conference?

Barbara: This is my first SCBWI so I am looking forward to the conversations I will be having with the other attendees about what is happening in the world of children's publishing

Lee: Words of wisdom for attendees?

Barbara:  Try and make sure you think about what you really are trying to accomplish before getting to the conference.  There will be lots of interesting people and sessions.  Make sure that you come away with something that really resonates with you post conference.  These are fascinating and sometimes confusing times in publishing so focusing can really help. 

Thanks Barbara!  That's great advice.

I'm really looking forward to hearing Barbara's presentation, and you can be there, too.  Registration for the Lucky 13th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, January 27-29, 2012 is still open.

Hope to see you there.

Illustrate and Write On,


Monday, January 2, 2012

U.S. Secretary of State Clinton's Address on the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People

Happy New Year!

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke last month in Geneva to the United Nations on the Human Rights of LGBT People.

Her words and the Obama administration's positions are powerful and important.

"Gay Rights are Human Rights, and Human Rights are Gay Rights."

"Being Gay is not a Western invention, it is a Human reality."

"...Let us keep in mind that our commitments to protect the freedom of religion and to defend the dignity of LGBT people emanate from a common source."

and she asks this question of non-lgbt people and the leaders of countries who don't defend the Human Rights of LGBT people, for them to consider for themselves,

"How would it feel to be a crime to love who I love?"

Her address is 30 minutes long, and is well worth watching.

As we embark on our new year 2012, this is a shining moment of hope, and a vision towards creating a world where things are better for all of us gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and queer people.

And that will make it a better world for all.


ps: If you want the under two minute highlight version, check out, in the words of the Huffington Post, this "Hillary Clinton's Gay Rights Speech: State Department Turns Historic Moment Into Music Video"