Member Monday: Old news or news to you?

I’m just back from a two-week research/family trip to Italy where I visited Florence and small red-roofed, hill topped towns in Tuscany. I’ll be posting more about that later this week, but first I’m passing on some of the news, blogs and articles that I missed while I was away. Perhaps these are just old news, but perhaps you missed some of these too. Hope they are helpful.

Most important on my list is this announcement from SCBWI. The On-the-verge Emerging Voices Award. I’ve been sitting on this since before my trip, itching to tell you all about this news and then they go and announce it at the LA SCBWI National Conference. Follow the link above for the full press release but here is a quick snippet.

The annual award, established by SCBWI and funded by Martin and Sue Schmitt, will be given to two writers or illustrators who are from ethnic and/or cultural backgrounds that are traditionally under-represented in children’s literature in America and who have a ready-to-submit completed work for children. The purpose of the grant is to inspire and further the emergence of diverse writers and illustrators of children’s books.

Here is the link for the grant eligibility, process, and deadline. 

This issue is close to my heart. I hope that writing programs across the country, most notably VCFA, my alma mater,  and Hamlin College– and publishing programs, NYU and others will stand up and take notice. Action can be taken to increase diversity in publishing. Here are some thoughts from the CBC Diversty blog from those in the industry.

Here is a wonderful post from Laurie Halse Anderson that discusses the lack of diversity on the recently released NPR YA list.  Happy & Sad about the NPR Top 100 YA List In her post she also posts the following links which are important enough for me to list them again here:

On NPR’s Very White Best Young Adult Books List, by Shaker Laurie.
Reading in Color’s Booklists

And… one of my favorite sites The Brown Bookshelf.

(The link for the NPR Top 100 YA List is here if you haven’t seen it.)

In other old news:

Women On The Rise Among The World’s Top-Earning Authors This is an interesting article on celebrity authors but I’m not exactly sure what it says for the rest of us. The article celebrates that there are now six women on the list at all. Perhaps I’m a glass half empty person, (No, I’m not.) but what I see here is a continuation of women earning 78% of what men earn. Even if you go from the Stephen King’s $39 million (instead of James Patterson’s $94 million) 78% of that is about $30 mill. That- and below- is where we find the women.Of course, once you get into the millions of dollars, this may matter less but it is still true. For more on gender and writing see my post here or take a look at VIDA- Women in the Literary Art’s annual count for 2012. 

Publishing Is Broken, We’re Drowning In Indie Books – And That’s A Good Thing Okay. I need a while to both read and process something like this but if you are interested in the economics of the publishing industry and are concerned/interested in the changes in traditional vs. digital, this is the article for you.

That’s it for today, friends. Read, write, draw and do at least one of those outside. Two weeks and counting until kids go back to school in the home of Creative Chaos.

Member Monday: Getting the most from Social Media

This weekend I had lunch with some wonderful, experienced NESCBWI writers and illustrators who are, like many in the industry, a little overwhelmed and perplexed by social media. They wonder if they have to do everything– Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, Goodreads… They want to know how they are supposed to have time to still do their work if they are busy posting status updates and being cyber-social with everyone on their list. They want to know what their ROI (Return on Investment) will be once they take the time to learn and then use social media platforms.

I’m not a social media expert but here’s what I’ve gleaned from listening to editors, agents, and other writers/illustrators about the subject:

  1. If you don’t like it, don’t do it.
    Social media is at its cyber-heart– social. Whatever platform you adopt should be one that you enjoy and that you will do regularly. If you don’t want to put the time into blogging– don’t blog.  If you don’t enjoy perusing Facebook updates or following others on Twitter, your friends and followers will know. Take some time to be familiar with the various sites out there and make an informed decision. This is one of my favorite explanations:

    Social Media Explained From
  2. Once you decide on a social media site, take the time to learn about it. Watch a few tutorial videos, read a few blogs so that you can maximize the time you waste put into it in the future. Most of these sites have ways to make groups so that you can view your close friends, your writer/illustrator friends, and industry professionals separately. Learn how to search for keywords that are important to what you do. There are a bunch of “Third-Party Applications” that you can use to follow more than one social media site at a time. I’m currently using one called Tweetdeck but I hear that Hootsuite is good too. I’ve included a few links here to other blogs that review/discuss these and more. This one has an interesting graph that shows the variety of apps out there: THIRD-PARTY TWITTER APPS STILL THRIVING This one is a review post: 8 of the Best Third-Party Twitter Apps for iOS [App List]
  3. What goes around, comes around. Even if you are doing this to expand your marketing platform, no one will follow/friend you if all you do is toot your own horn. Pass on industry info, help launch other people– in general, be a good neighbor in the kidlitosphere. No one really knows what the ROI is. Does social media really sell books? Maybe not. One thing marketing professionals agree on is that word of mouth is very powerful. I can tell you that if I follow a link to your book and I’m interested, it goes on my Goodreads list which I pull up on my phone every time I go to the library or  bookstore. That’s social media in action.
  4. Set some limits for yourself. You can set time limits. (ex: I will look at Twitter for 15 minutes three times a day.) Or day limits. (ex: I will make Monday and Friday mornings my marketing time.) Or carrot limits. (ex: If I write 1500 words today/ finish the color study on this spread, I will go online.) If you don’t have this kind of self-control, there are productivity programs that you can set to block your own internet. Freedom. Or you can literally unplug your router. Remember, if you don’t DO THE WORK: write, read, draw, paint, focus on craft– there will be nothing to market.
  5. The party goes on without you. I distinctly remember when my parents would have parties (I was about five years old) and I wouldn’t really want to go to bed. I’d sit on the stairs and watch them talk until I got so tired I’d fall asleep on the landing. At some point, Dad would take me up to my bed, but the party went on. In the social media party, you will always miss something. Make your peace with it. Look at whatever is on your screen at the time, set your limits and then move on with your life. Cyber space is vast. Don’t fall into a black hole.

Member Monday: The importance of the nap…

Sleep. Many Americans get too little of it and use sugar and caffeine to keep going during the day. Just look at the proliferation of caffeinated products including gels, liquid shots, pumped-up water, and on the horizon- caffeine you can inhale.

Sadly, what people really need is just more sleep. The deep stage of NREM2 sleep allows your brain waves to slow, NREM3 allows your endocrine system to release growth hormones, deeper REM sleep consolidates memories and ingrains skills, and solves problems that you were exposed to before sleep.

I’m a huge fan of the nap. When my husband is around, I feel guilty about napping (he has a work ethic that won’t quit). On my own, I’ve found that I really need naps to handle the daily grind and to increase my creativity. If I’ve hit a problem in my manuscript, or I’m incubating on an issue in revision, I will often wake with a new insight or at least renewed energy to see the problem differently and reengage. Twenty minutes is good for a power nap but it is the 90 min to 120 min nap that allows us to visit those deeper REM stages of sleep. Napping also can give you more energy to exercise which in turn produces neurochemicals that affect mood.

Happy napping!

Here’s more from Design Taxi:

Member Monday: Google Me, Baby

Come on, you know you want to….
Everyone is doing it…

Google yourself.

If you haven’t taken the time to type your name (in all its forms including any screen names you use on bulletin boards and listserves) into the massive internet search engine Google, then you are missing a chance to control your brand as an author. Take a look at the web search. Ideally you want your name to result in a top hit for your professional blog, website, twitter, etc. If it isn’t you, you may want to consider adding a middle initial or name or re-titling your blog to something catchy and memorable. Remember to Google those too before you make the change. You want to stand out, be true to the brand you want to project (in tone and content), and be easy to find.

If your web presence is there but below the fold, there are a few things you can do to optimize your place on a search engine but they all take work. By the way, this is called SEO or Search Engine Optimization.

  1. Update content often. Make it well-written and relevant.
  2. Inbound links. When others link to your content or put you on their “blog rolls” that drives traffic to your page, which optimizes the search.
  3. Use key words. Tag your blog posts. Be consistent.

If unprofessional images come up in your image search, click on them to see where they are posted. If it is on your own social media pages, check and tighten your privacy settings and tighten your self-control. Never post what you wouldn’t want on the front page of the New York Times. Contact others and ask them to remove images from their site– especially if you didn’t give them permission to post in the first place.

There are companies that help people with their online reputation, but I have no experience with these. If anyone does, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

FMI check out these resources:

Google article about online identity.

Info about Google dashboard app: Me on the web.

Mashable article: Five ways to clean up your social media identity.

Have a great week, and happy writing & illustrating!

Member Monday: So others may read

Book worship is inherent in all of the posts here at Creative Chaos. The art and craft of the book as object is certainly part of this but more– it is about the unlimited possibilities and pleasure of reading. As many of my blog readers know, I’ve posted before about the  many children and adults around the world who struggle with illiteracy. However, we need not travel far from home to find people who are learning to read.

Very close to my heart and home, at my own Shepherd Elementary school in Northwest Washington, DC, my Mom and a group of volunteers are working with ESL and other early reading students three times a week to bring them one on one and small group read aloud experiences.

Bicentennial Anna. As a proficient reader, I was skipped to 1st grade when I turned six years old.

Because of ubiquitous budget cuts the Shepherd School library is no longer staffed and the books are outdated.  Today I’m calling on all authors and readers out there for book donations. Students in the program are African-American, Asian, Latino, and African and the organizers are especially interested in books that mirror this diversity.

If you have written a picture book or early reader and you are wondering what to do with your author copies, consider donating them to the Early Readers Program. If you are an MFA student at VCFA, Hamlin, Lesley, Simmons, or any other Children’s and Young Adult Writing/Literature programs, I know you have a shelves of books. Yes, some of them you will love and cherish forever, but some you could pass along to others. If you are just a reader. Just a reader? A wonderful, amazing reader… Please consider donating a book to:

Early Readers Program
1220 East West Highway, Apt 504
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Thanks to all and happy summer reading!

Member Monday: All in the family

I know, I know. It isn’t Monday. I also know that I didn’t post on Friday. I was rerouted by a wonderful visit from my Mom and Dad, then my sister-in-law, her husband, and her two kiddos (under two years old) showed up. Needless to say, there was no peace or quiet but there was tons of fun. The 20 month old fell in love with our yellow lab. First word out of his mouth each morning? “LUCY!”

With all that was going on: parades, beach, playing outside, weeding gardens, going to baseball games, grocery shopping, laundry… no internet happened at all. No blogging, no email responses, no twitter and absolutely nothing wrong with that. It was great to get a break from the computer. The world in front of us and all around us is the one we must inhabit. Still, as a writer, the worlds I build in my WIP’s often seem as real, and as important as those flesh and blood settings in which I reside. A part of me needs the solitary activities of writing and drawing.

This makes me think about the upcoming summer months. Writing definitely has its rhythms. I write more in the October to December, and January to April season then most of the rest of the year, but I’d like to work all year long. I pulled my kiddos aside last night at dinner to discuss the fact that Mom still wants to work even when they are out of school. Did they have suggestions about how we would manage that? The conversation quickly refocused on them and whether or not they were old enough for jobs in town so I never got my answer. I’m curious, how do those of you with tweens and young teens make time to write in the summer?

At home today, waves of thunder and lightning crash outside my window. In the quiet space in between, the rain beats on the shingles, and birds twitter and chirp. My house is dark and calm and silent. Dog is snuggled on the rug. I am revising.

Member Monday: Spring Cleaning

Perhaps it is because we lost an hour this weekend, but I’m only just getting to my computer today and it is 9:40 at night. I have to admit that when the sun comes out, and warms the Earth (it was 60 degrees here in Maine today) it becomes harder and harder to put butt in chair.

Nevertheless, we all have to move forward with our work despite the weather. Spring does put me in a clean up mode. This weekend I hosted my book club which resulted in an epic “sh*t-out” session. For the moment, I have clean kitchen counters that look like this…

Anything that stayed, got moved to my office though so now it’s time for some office organization. Whether you have an actual office space or desk in the corner of another room, it is good to have some sense of order, even if it is an order only you understand.

Here are ten quick tips to help you out with your spring cleaning whether you are a piler or a filer:

1. I tend to be a piler but piles take up a lot of space on my writing desk. Recently, I picked  up these binder clips at the clearance shelf of Staples.

(What writer doesn’t love office supplies?)
As I clean, I plan to clip these babies onto my piles and hang them on the wall with easy to remove hooks.

2. I find that my bulletin board gets covered in layers of paper. Strips of cork attached to the wall gives me space to hang plot charts and illustration sequences. 

3. I have a dedicated book shelf for books that I’ve borrowed from the library or from friends. That way the loaned books don’t get mixed in with my books. The library books move from the shelf in my office to a tote that I keep in my mudroom. This way, I can grab the bag and go. (Finding my kid’s library books is another question.)

4. I’m lucky to have a skinny but longish space for my office. I have a corner desk for my computer then I have another desk that I try to keep clean for journaling by hand, correspondence, bill paying, editing and revision. I still need to feel the pen in my hand from time to time.

5. My printers are on a wire shelving unit that also holds my paper. I keep a recycling bin and ink and toner in bins under the unit. I can easily grab already printed paper for quick drafts so that I’m reducing paper use.

6. I have a basket on my writing desk that holds all of my bills. Twice a month I do as much as I can online then write checks. (Don’t ask me about taxes. My only advice there is hire an accountant. Best thing we ever did.)

7. My family teases me incessantly about my love of tote bags but they help keep me organized. In addition to the library tote, I also have a tote with the folders (my handouts and syllabus in one and a second for collecting work that needs to be graded) and books I need to take to the college class I teach.

8. When I’m at conferences, I tend to collect a lot of business cards and illustrator postcards. I try to write a little something to remind me of the interaction I had with each person then I slip them into plastic baseball card protectors. If I was really good, I’d have specific separate and divided sections of the binder for industry professionals (agents/editors), authors, illustrators, and other Regional Advisors.

9. Google Calendar is my lifesaver. I hardly do anything without checking the calendar and the fact that I can sync my iPhone and my calendar is a lifesaver. Each kid has his own color for his events, I have school calendar info on there, I even use it as an editorial calendar for my blog– noting book release dates and when I hope to post reviews.

10. I’ve never been able to keep my To Be Read list as well as I do with Goodreads. Again, I can access the list on the go, with the Goodreads App, when I’m at the library or indie book store. This helps with getting books that are on my list, as well as adding to my list. (And adding, and adding.)

Still, projects take over my life and my office, and I’m okay with that. There’s a sense of satisfaction in cleaning it all up and starting over again. Ahh… spring! What tips do you have to stay organized. Please share in the comments!

Member Monday: Critique Groups in New England and Beyond, Part 2

Happy Monday Morning! I am slowly adjusting to the dry, cold and snowy weather that is  Maine (read: not Puerto Rico). I’m so glad that you are here to read Part 2 of my interview with NESCBWI Critique Coordinator, Stacy Mozer. If you missed Part 1, take a look here.

Today we talk about critique group conflicts, intellectual property, and setting structure norms. How does your crit group deal with these issues? What do you get from your writing pals? Join the discussion and leave a comment.

Hey Stacy, welcome back. Sometimes crit groups are made up of long-time friends and sometimes they are constructed of writers and illustrators who have just met. Either way, there are bound to be issues. What if a group is having problems with a member? Are you (as crit group coordinator) available to help? What types of problems do crit groups have?

Critique groups certainly can have issues with members. The best way I’ve seen it handled is to go back and review the group’s norms (which should be set up at the first meeting). If that doesn’t change a member’s behavior, the critque group leader needs to have an honest conversation with the member, which I am happy to help with either by coaching the leader or making the call. If things continue not to work, it is time to part ways.

Some people are reluctant to join a crit group because they are afraid someone will steal their ideas. What are your thoughts about crit groups, the SCBWI community, and intellectual property?

You have ownership of what you write, even if you don’t have a copyright on the work. If a member is still worried, set up email submissions. That gives the file a date stamp you can use if it should ever come to it.

I know that a crit group can ask important questions that make a manuscript tighter, but what other benefits do you hear about?

The critque group is your tribe, a group of people who are there to help you survive. Make sure to leave time during group meetings to share more than your work. It will help keep you going through the very slow process that is writing and publishing a book.

Is there a structure for reviewing work in an SCBWI crit group that is standard? What does it look like?

Each group needs to set up their own norms. Some like to submit work before, some like to bring it. Some critique into the circle, everyone talking when they have an idea. Others like to go around, giving each person a chance at critique. There really is no “one right way” to do it. It’s a good idea to take a step back every so often and review the group’s norms to determine which are working and which need to change. I also find it helpful to type up the group’s norms so that they can be reviewed later. One of my leaders sends new members the group’s norms before their first meeting.

What are the differences between online crit groups and in person groups? Structure, relationships, etc.

I don’t know if there is a good answer for this question every in person and online group is different. I can tell you that SCBWI is creating a new website which will make finding online groups much easier. They are hoping to have that up and running by the summer.

I know that our Illustrator Coordinator, Casey Girard is working on a new illustrator sharing blog. How many of the crit groups are for illustrators?

At this point we have few open illustrator groups. We do have illustrators that belong to picture book groups if they are author/illustrators. I would like to see this area grow in the future.

Thank you so much, Stacy. I wish you luck on your current WIP!

Your welcome, Anna. For more information, members can look at past NESCBWI News. I write a column each month that focuses on some area of critique groups.

SCBWI Members from any region can access the NESCBWI News by logging in to going to the Regions tab>Regional Chapters> click on any New England State>Regional News and scroll down until you get to the PDF links.

What’s new in New England SCBWI?

Unless you’ve had your head deep in your WIP you know that last night’s Super Bowl was  rematch of the Patriots vs. Giants Super Bowl from four years ago. Both times the New England Patriots lost in a dramatic, clock-ticking ending. I watched the game with my kiddos, my husband (on Skype chat in Africa), and my writer friends (in a separate window on twitter). Hubby went to shower at halftime, (It was about 3 am his time after all) and the writers heated up. Talk of the ads, the show (costumes, choreography), how Madonna looked at 53, her energy level, and the guest appearances kept me refreshing my screen every few seconds. The funniest part of the tweet show was when my writer friends disappeared to watch the PBS Masterpiece Theater period drama Downtown Abbey. Well, if you were a stalwart Patriot fan and stuck it through to the bloody end, I give you some New England SCBWI news and events to boost your spirits and keep you going through spring.

Live Animal Study: A Children’s Book Illustrator’s Workshop:

Sunday, February 26, 2012, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The Edna Lawrence Nature Lab
13 Waterman Street, Providence, RI

Bring your sketchbooks, pencils, and light painting supplies and enjoy a rare opportunity to study a handful of live exotic (and some not-so-exotic) animals up close and personal!

RISPCA Humane Educator Laurelin Sitterly will present on each creature’s basic anatomy, movement, and habits that will be sure to inspire you and provide a wealth of knowledge for your animal-themed book projects. Taxidermy and skeletal models will also be available to examine, courtesy of RISD’s Edna Lawrence Nature Lab.

This is an event to gather inspiration from the animal world, practice your craft amidst an active environment, meet your fellow SCBWI illustrators, and benefit from a critique of your day’s efforts by your peers.

Registration Form

Must be completed and mailed to Christina Rodriguez, Workshop Coordinator by February 17, 2012
***Note: This program is for SCBWI members only. Not an SCBWI member? Join now!

Applications are now being accepted for the Ruth Landers Glass Writers Scholarship and the Ann Barrow Illustrators Scholarship:

Deadline for application: March 10, 2012.

Scholarship winners will receive one day’s free tuition for the 2013 New England SCBWI Spring Conference or any other NE SCBWI one-day event including Encore, Salon or other one-day workshop that we hold. The scholarship is for tuition only and does not cover any other expenses such as editor critiques, hotel or travel. Click for more information include rules and registration.

***Applicants MUST be registered for the 2012 New England SCBWI Spring Conference.
***Note: These scholarships are for SCBWI members only. Not an SCBWI member? Join now!

Working with a Book Marketing Consultant:

Saturday, March 10, 2012, 10:00 – 3:15
Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
125 West Bay Road, Amherst, MA

Are you feeling unsure of your path after publication?
Do you wonder how best to handle the promotion of your book?

Many children’s book creators are supplementing their publisher’s book promotion efforts with the advice and tactics of marketing consultants.  Is this the right step for you?

Listen to authors and illustrators discuss their relationship and work with their marketing partners, Deborah Sloan and Kirsten Cappy. Then ask question of your own.

$15.00 for SCBWI members, $20.00 for non-SCBWI members
Registration fee includes admission to the museum.
No food or beverages provided. Please bring your own lunch and eat at the museum with other attendees.

And of course… The NESCBWI Annual Spring Conference:
Keeping it Real
April 20-22 in Springfield, MA

When last I checked there were still spots available for the conference but they are filling quickly so register today!

All of this information is also listed on the Chapter Home Page on the website. Go to Regions>Regional Chapter and pick your state. In order to receive news and event information, and membership renewal emails, remember to keep your member profile up to date. Spring will be here before you know it!

SCBWI Member Monday- Conference To-Do’s & the contest winner.

Last Wednesday, I posted an interview with Toni Buzzeo and reviewed her new picture book, One Cool Friend. If you commented at the blog or on Facebook, I put your name in a hat for a chance to win One Cool Friend. And the winner is…

Agy Wilson!!! Agy, message me on Facebook with your snail mail address and I’ll send you a new book. Thanks to all who participated. Please keep reading and sharing links to the blog.

If you are going to the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC, and you have a smart phone or iPad, do yourself a favor and download the Guidebook App. Once you get Guidebook, search “SCBWI” and tap on the SCBWI “Winter Conference.” 

The Guidebook app gives you schedules of each conference day and maps of the hotel, as well as the conference evaluation form, and faculty bios with great pictures. (Just the thing for networking.) 

If you are a social networking addict you’ll love Guidebook. It has an instant twitter link to #ny12scbwi so you can follow the conversation as well as a link to the SCBWI Facebook page. I’m especially fond of the “to-do” list feature. It is a great way to keep track of meetings on the fly, and sessions you must attend. In fact, if you browse the faculty and tap on their bio it gives you an instant “to-do” link so you can remember to go to their session or send them a manuscript/illustration sample. 

Speaking of things to do, make sure that you have your postcards (illustrators) and business cards ready to go. Pack business casual and bring layers. You never know if a workshop room is going to be hot or chilly. 

Once you get to NYC there are plenty of fun things to do. Take a look at the official SCBWI blog for three new fun social events added to the conference schedule.

Please say hello and introduce yourself at the conference. See you soon!

Disclamer: SCBWI information on their website  is accurate and true. Any opinions here are my own and not necessarily the opinions of SCBWI.