MWPA Workshop A Success!

Since my last post there have been a lot of changes in my personal life. Changes that I’m not going to go into here. Suffice it to say they have taken up a lot of my brain and heart space and so blogging has been low on the priority list.

What came in high on the priority list this week was my workshop preparation for the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. That presentation, “Desire in the Middle Grade and Young Adult Novel,” went very well (if I do say so myself). I was honored to spend the day with seven aspiring writers who braved five hours with me at the Patten Free Library in Bath, ME. Together we explored model texts including Julie Berry’s; All The Truth That’s In Me, Linda Urban’s, A Crooked Kind of Perfect; Ingrid Law’s, Savvy; and Alan Cumyn’s, Tilt.

We asked questions, challenged ideas, reviewed manuscripts, wrote, revised, and even meditated. The day was a success!

Now I’m looking forward to my next presentation. May 2nd, I’ll be at the NESCBWI Annual Spring Conference presenting a workshop called, “Active Mind, Active Body.” We’ll be exploring the connection between physical activity and creativity, developing physical and creative goals, and crafting plans to achieve our goals. Finally, we’ll be doing some gentle physical activity (stretching, dance, yoga) to jump start fun writing activities. Register today!

If you were in my workshop today, share your learning, a new epiphany, or something that went well in the comments below.

If you are coming to NESCBWI New England introduce yourself in the comments and get your own badge here.

101 Kidlit Links (okay not that many…but a lot)

The English class that I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays lets out just in time for me to turn on Maine Public Radio and catch Maine Calling with Keith Shortall. Yesterday’s program put a spring in my step as Keith had author illustrators Scott Nash, Chris Van Dusen, and Kirkus reviewer Vicky Smith discussing writing and illustrating for children, and the publishing industry. Click here for the archived show.

I pulled over and called in immediately to remind the listeners that over 500 SCBWI members in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, and over 1,800 members in New England take the art, craft and business of children’s books seriously. Since then, I’ve had a few emails and wanted to post a few quick answers to FAQ’s and links for anyone who might be curious about SCBWI, New England SCBWI, critiques, professional development, etc. Feel free to leave me comments below with other questions and I’ll try to answer them in a timely way.

If you are just getting started, you can find the top 10 FAQ’s about writing and publishing for children and Young Adults, how to format your manuscript, info about publishers, and an editor’s point of view here.

If you are more experienced and are looking for further professional development you can try various adult or continuing ed programs including MECA. For more intense and academic study take a look at Vermont College of Fine Arts, Hamline, Lesley, or Simmons. RISD, and Hollins are a couple of the children’s book illustration certificate programs. Google MFA Children’s Illustration if that is what you want.

If you are a teacher or librarian and want to hire an author or illustrator to present their book and teach about the craft of writing or illustrating, I suggest the SCBWI speaker’s bureau. You can search by state, or look for specific people. The New England region also has a database called Connections.

If you live in the New England area and want to find out more about the New England region of SCBWI, visit our website. We are an active region with many events. Coming up is our annual spring conference. One of the largest regional conferences, New England welcomes more than 500 participants and 100 faculty to Springfield, MA for three days of workshops and speakers May 305, 2013. The focus this year is craft and we are featuring PRO tracks for those who are published. Registration will begin in February. Watch the website for more info.

The SCBWI community is especially welcoming and supportive and that is only the beginning. Discounts to professional development conferences and workshops, publications, critique groups, and a whole series of grants and awards are benefits of membership. Check it out. There’s a link at the bottom of the page to actually register as a member.

SCBWI critique groups are only available to members. To see if there is already a group in your New England area you can click on your state here. There is a two part post with Stacy Mozer (our Crit group organizer) here, and here.

There are some writers and illustrators who are not interested in waiting for or supporting traditional publishing and so they choose the self-publishing route. There are plenty of print-on-demand, and epub companies. I’m not qualified to recommend one company over another. Do be aware that some companies are Vanity Presses (often they contact you) who make promises of publication with hidden costs. Educate yourself about publishers and agents by doing a quick check on Predators and Editors.

If you are taking your first steps on your journey to become a writer or illustrator, I have two messages. One: Welcome. If you are here you probably can’t stop yourself. You write and draw because you are compelled. The journey is long and comes with many pitfalls and no promises. You are in good company. Two: If this is not your heart’s desire, turn back now. The journey is long and comes with many pitfalls and no promises.

 

Five on Friday: Happy 5773 Edition

If you missed it, last Wednesday marked the Jewish New Year. (Edited to add: Technically, Wednesday was Yom Kippur, the day of atonement after the new year, Rosh Hashanah a week before.) Civil, religious, or cultural, the new year gives us a chance to right our wrongs, wipe the slate clean, set goals, and get to work. Some of us need that more than others and therefore, I invite everyone to participate and take advantage of all new year celebrations.

For me, the holiday is not about sin but about what I can do to move the world (or my little piece of it) towards peace, good health, and prosperity through good-work and kindness. I see it as sort of a sliding continuum with goodness at one side and discord at the other. At the end of the day I can look back and see what things made the sliding marker move towards one end of the continuum or the other. I can make an effort to live in a way that skews towards goodness and helpfulness.

1. I’ve found this year to be especially challenging. As of this writing my husband has been away from home for a year. We expect him back from his Navy deployment in February. This week, a single-parent friend of mine told me, “What you’re doing feels hard because it is hard.” It is. I yell at my kids when they are not to blame. The house is often a wreck even though I feel that I should be able to manage it. Long distance relationships are wicked hard. Take everything that is difficult in your own marriage or relationship and then add 6,000 miles to it. Yeah. Not easy. Still, positive thinking– skewing towards goodness– is a good goal.

2. The summer found me submitting my YA manuscript to five agents. I was pleased to get notes from each of them with helpful feedback. I wish the notes had been “Yes, and…” notes instead of “No, but…” notes, but there are still some open doors there and many more waiting for me to knock. I am using the feedback in another round of revisions and hope to have the manuscript back out and about by November 1. (Public announcement of goal. *check*) This paragraph makes me sound like robot writer– get notes, make revisions, send it out again. However, the late summer and fall were emotional and filled with self-doubt. Of course, my current life situation was a factor. (see #1) I sat down a couple of times to write a big post about self-doubt and fear in art but just couldn’t do it–couldn’t bare my soul.

3. Because of #1 and #2, I found myself looking for “real jobs” again. I applied to a couple right away, got interviews and didn’t make the final cut. I subscribe to the everything-happens-for-a-reason theory and believe that right now writing and taking care of my family need to come first. I’m still looking (searching “Event Planning, Teaching, Writing, Public Relations” in all possible job search engines) but hope to find something that starts more towards January of next year.

4. I am not idle. On Saturday, the 2nd annual Children’s Book Illustration Symposium took place at New Hampshire Institute of Art. As the main event organizer, I’ve been knee deep in those preparations for a good six-eight months. The event was a huge success. We had about 60 participants, wonderful presenters, and new this year– portfolio reviews. Evals are still coming in but generally, the symposium faculty and attendants were all pleased.

5. Friends and family have been so important recently. I’ve found amazing support from friends in my town who have taken my kiddos for overnights, or invited us to dinner. My bookclub and writer’s groups have been irreplaceable. Mom and sister know that they might have to initiate the contact but that I’m so grateful to get the call.

For those of you who enjoy a capella, here is a parting song.

Member Monday: NESCBWI Fall Events!

The RA’s in New England have not been idle during the summer months. No… after the spring conference we all hunker down and keep planning events for you. Three events are on the docket in the next few months!

2nd Annual Children’s Book Illustration Symposium

The Illustration Symposium takes place on Saturday, September 29th from 9:30 to 4:30 and includes a snack and lunch. The event is a presentation of SCBWI in Northern New England (contact Northern RA, Anna Boll) and New Hampshire Institute of Art. Last year this event was “Illustrator Day,” but with its fancy title comes some extra bells and whistles. In addition to a keynote speech by Melissa Sweet, and an encore presentation of highly evaluated illustration workshops from our spring conference (from Anne Sibley O’Brien and Brian Lies), we’ve added in an exciting panel discussion about book production of Melissa Sweet’s ALA Sibert winning book Balloons Over Broadway. A designer from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and the Art Director from Candlewick Press are also available for portfolio critiques. Book sale by Toadstool Books. Sign up today!

Overcoming Challenges: A Program for Writers and Illustrators

On Saturday, October 6, 2012, from 10:00 to 3:30, at the Eric Carle Museum in Western Massachusetts (contact PAL Coordinator, Melissa Stewart) four authors and author-illustrators will participate in a two-part program that addresses the challenges we all face as writers and illustrators of children’s book. A book sale and signing will round out the day.

Encore! 2012

On Saturday October 20, SCBWI in Southern New England (contact Southern RA, Sally Riley) will host ENCORE! 2012, a day with four writing workshops by faculty who received high evaluations at our spring conference. For this event, NE-SCBWI teams with the Alliance for the Study and Teaching of Adolescent Literature (ASTAL) at Rhode Island College in Providence. The registration fee of $50 includes a continental breakfast and hot buffet lunch.

Whether you are a writer or illustrator living in northern or southern New England or in between, please take advantage of the amazing professional development opportunities provided by NESCBWI.

Children’s Book Illustration Symposium Poster!

Click through for registration, workshop description, portfolio critique information, schedule, and faculty bios!

A huge thank you to the design department at NHIA for this beautiful poster. Special thanks to Melissa Sweet for the images, Jim Burke, Illustration Department Chair, Ryan O’Rourke, and Lara McCormick.

Feel free to spread the word and the image. Tweet away!

Registration opens today for NESCBWI/NHIA Children’s Book Illustration Symposium

Note: This event used to be called “Illustrator Day.” SCBWI members you have dibs on registration for this event for a week. Also, this is my first time working with PayPal on a Google form so if anyone chooses those links for payment, could you leave me a comment telling me that it worked and sent you back to the form or (eek) didn’t.

NESCBWI and NHIA present
Melissa Sweet in
The 2nd annual Children’s Book Illustration Symposium

When: Saturday, September 29, 2012
Time: 9:30-4:30
Where: Emma Blood French Auditorium (The French Building) on the New Hampshire Institute of Art campus in Manchester, NH.

Keynote speaker: Melissa Sweet

The workshops:

“The Process, Challenges, and Rewards of Teamwork.”
Melissa Sweet, Author/Illustrator, Rachel Newborn, HMH Designer, Crystal Paquette, HMH Print Production Coordinator will discuss the teamwork required to publish the ALA Sibert Winning book Balloons Over Broadway. The panel will focus on the processes, challenges, and rewards of working with/and integrating two and three dimensional art.

“Color Your World”
As poet Lucille Clifton said, “The literature of America should reflect the children of America.” But in the 21st century, the children’s book field is not nearly as racially diverse as our society – neither in those who select, create and produce the books, nor in the books themselves. We’ll review some of the reasons for this reality, including some good news: research demonstrating that exposure to diverse children’s books can actually reduce prejudice. For the bulk of the workshop, Anne Sibley O’Brein will focus on what illustrators can do now, including exploring your own experience of race, creating characters from races different from your own, drawing racial differences (we’ll do some quick drawing exercises), supporting writers and illustrators of color, and choosing diverse books. Together we’ll imagine possibilities for creating books in which all of our nation’s children can see themselves reflected.

“How to Sell Your Book Without Selling Your Soul”
Brian Lies has had his books read on NPR, his Batmobile spotted at book signings across America, and his artwork used for public library summer reading programs. In this workshop, Brian will give you concrete marketing tools to become the best advocate for your book.

Portfolio Critiques:

We are introducing a limited number portfolio critiques at this year’s event. Critiquers (starred in the presenter list below) will be randomly assigned by the conference staff. Critiquers will use the SCBWI Illustration “gold form” to give feedback. Since the critiquer will not have the work before the symposium, we have asked them to give their first impressions regarding the areas on the “gold form” in a way they might if they were at the office, got a postcard that interested them, and took a first look at your online portfolio. The critique fee of $45 is not included in the symposium fee.

Registration Fees/Dates:

SCBWI Members, $70
Portfolio Critique, $45
SCBWI Registration opens Monday, August 27th. There are limited spaces available for portfolio critiques. Please register/pay early.
Payments may be made by check or online.

If you choose to pay by check, your registration is not confirmed until we receive your check. Checks should be made payable to: NESCBWI Checks should be sent to:

Denise Ortakales, Illustrator Coordinator
711 Shore Drive, Laconia, NH 03246
Those who choose to pay online will incur a $5 processing fee.

Click here for registration and payment, speaker bios, and a schedule of events.

Member Monday: 5 + 1 Tips on Conference Proposals (the inside scoop)

I spent most of yesterday either driving to, being in, or driving from an NESCBWI RA/Advisory Board meeting. The driving I really hate, but the people I get to work with on the Advisory Board are wonderful.

We spent a great deal of time processing the evaluations from the most recent annual spring NESCBWI conference. Yes, we really do look at all of the comments so thanks to everyone who filled out an evaluation. Your workshop feedback helps us choose the Encore! schedule. You comments on how to improve the conference are implemented by the next conference director. This year, that person is Joyce Johnson. All conference communication should go to nescbwi13 at gmail dot com.

As an RA, the first question that I start to field about next year’s conference is, “When will you put out a call for proposals?” I can tell you that the announcement will be out sometime this week, and I’ll certainly post the info link that Joyce publishes.  If you are interested in presenting, now is a good time to get your ducks in a row. Below I’ve listed some tips to help you hone your workshop proposal idea.

  1. NESCBWI caters to many different constituents: writers, illustrators, industry professionals, beginners, intermediates, and PAL published. You will not be able to meet everyone’s needs. Don’t try. Be specific about your audience. If you say your workshop is for the most advanced members, be sure to be sophisticated, dig deep, and expect a high level of prior knowledge. We are eager to involve PAL members and would love some expert workshop presenters for this crowd.
  2. Also consider the time you will need. Too much time and you’ll be fumbling for enough info to fill the slot, praying that someone has a question for you. Not enough time and you’ll deliver your information so fast that no one will glean the benefits of your knowledge.
  3. Your MFA is awesome, and your graduation lecture/critical thesis was great but that doesn’t make it an SCBWI lecture. People want workshops that give craft-based how-to’s that inspire them to go home and get to work. MFA work is often very theoretical. See if there is a way that you can make your expertise more practical. If not, come up with another idea.
  4. If NESCBWI is going to pay you to come to teach at the conference, they want to get their money’s worth. If you have more than one AMAZING idea, or if you have an idea for something so popular that the conference committee would want to run it twice, that’s a benefit. In this same vein, panels are expensive. If you can do it yourself, and do it well, submit alone.
  5. Consider craft issues that you and your fellow writers/illustrators have faced and surmounted. (Humor in picture books, the omniscient narrator, multiple narrators, ripped from the headlines plots, diverse characters, showing emotion, rhythm in prose) How did you do it? How did others do it? Gather that info, analyze it, and present it in a direct and succinct way with clear examples, humor, time for questions, work time and …
  6. Never forget chocolate for the attendees.

Member Monday: Post Conference Reminders and WHAT?! an event for illustrators!

It was an amazing weekend at the New England SCBWI Annual Conference jam packed with workshops, academies, portfolios, posters, speeches, networking, and fun! If you were there, and you blogged about the event, post a link in the comments below! Two big reminders for conference attendees:

1) Fill out your evaluation. The organizers and regional advisors look at all the data and really use it to make next year’s event even better. You can find the online eval here.

2) If you •attended the conference AND •live in Maine, NH, or VT you can write to me at NorthernNERA at nescbwi dog org to receive Submission Guidelines for the editors and agents who were there too. Please note: I do check your name against the conference roster as this is a conference benefit. I am a writer first and need to protect my work time, therefore I will respond to about 20 a day until I’m done so be patient. (If you live outside of Northern NE, write to your RA. If you are outside the region, write to Marilyn Salerno. Contact info here.)

TODAY, I’ve invited Renee Kurilla (@reneekurilla) to Creative Chaos to discuss an exciting event for NESCBWI illustrators at FableVision Studios in Boston, MA:

“Creative Juices Freshly Squeezed: A Visionary Art Show”
Friday, June 1st, 6-10 pm
308 Congress Street, Boston, MA

Casey Girard, our NESCBWI Illustrator Coordinator, and Renee worked together to create this meet up and they’d love you all to show up. Put the date on your calendar now. I’ll wait. No really, I know illustrators. If you’re an illustrator near Boston put it on your calendar now and add a couple of ringy-dingy vibrating reminders too.

Welcome, Renee! Tell us about FableVision and your position there.

FableVision was founded in 1996 with a mission of taking on projects that are not only meaningful and fun…but educational. My role at the company is Lead Artist, which means that I create characters, storyboard animations, design websites, books, etc. I often develop the “look and feel” for a project and work with a team to make sure my initial vision is carried through the project end. It’s fun…and challenging.

How are the Reynolds family involved in Fable Vision and how do they set the tone for the company?

Twin brothers, Peter H. Reynolds and Paul Reynolds are the pulse of the company. They make sure the work we do continues to be meaningful and full of impact. They maintain the morale of the studio, always adding life to any room they walk into. Personally, whenever I have hit a creative wall or need a critical eye, I can go to either of them for help and walk away feeling inspired.

We often create animated films from Peter’s books. Last year, our team animated The North Star and this year we will be working on a new film for his upcoming book, Sky Color. You can watch some of our films and game demos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/fablevision/featured

Little known fact: Paul Reynolds is our CEO and a very smart businessman, but he is also a very talented artist. That artistic ability and creative thinking runs in the Reynolds family through and through. 🙂

What is Creative Juices. A gallery? A blog? Both? How does it help employees and staff of the company? Tell us more.

Creative Juices started as a blog that was a place for anyone on our staff to contribute what they found inspirational. For a long time we shared articles about animations or new technology and wrote short essays about things that interested us.

Then, the art team decided a great way to keep our creative juices flowing was to initiate a drawing/creation challenge. Every two weeks, we would pick a new word and “illustrate” that word however we interpreted it. We called it “What the Doodle!?” (WTD for short)

You’ll see if you scroll through previous posts that not all of the entries were illustrations. Everyone at FableVision (Artists, Developers, Producers, and Writers) contributed something, and that is why we had a vision of a gallery show.

In 2010, we had our first Creative Juices Art Show and it was a huge success. In 2011, we also had a successful event! What makes it different from a regular gallery show is that we transform our working studio into a gallery space. We clean the walls, rearrange everything, hang track lighting and showcase the art that our staff makes in their free time. You won’t see any project work hanging, but we’d be happy to show you what we’re working on if you ask!

The current show is called “Freshly Squeezed” to pay homage to our very first blog post, by our Director of Art and Animation, Bob Flynn.

One year, our Technical Director, Brian Grossman created the most amazing software for making waffle art. I highly recommend checking out his blog post about it here: http://funfoodfight.blogspot.com/2010/04/art-of-waffle.html

We just recently brought back our “What the Doodle!?” Challenge after a brief hiatus and opened it up to the public. Check out our studio twitter for frequent updates: @FVStudioBoston The next due date is Friday April 27th and the chosen word is: OBSTRUCT (Just tweet at us to participate!)

We very much look forward to seeing what you all come up with!

What is the purpose of the NESCBWI partnership with FableVision?

It seems a very likely partnership to me! The idea for an event came from the NE Illustrator coordinator and good friend of mine, Casey Girard. Genius! We’re all storytellers and worlds are merging a little bit more than they used to – we definitely embrace that at FableVision. I think illustrators and writers should be more aware of the vast realm of possibilities in the industry. And even if you already are aware, it’s a great excuse to open our doors and let lots of talented people mingle! Sometimes all it takes is a conversation to inspire your next big project!

We also have three members of SCBWI in our midsts, myself, Peter H. Reynolds, and John Lechner. The three of us definitely know how amazingly awesome it is to be a part of the undying support system that is SCBWI.

How is FableVision on the cusp of publishing?

We have a very talented team with big ideas. We pay close attention to what’s current and also pay homage to what makes us nostalgic. Every single person on our staff is passionate about something whether it’s games, stories, children’s books, animation, or comics and we are always thinking of new ways to deliver a really fun experience. We also love projects that help us learn, whether it’s about american history or how to code an interactive app – with magic, of course!

Disclaimer: We don’t really use magic 🙂

What kinds of opportunities are available for NESCBWI illustrators with FableVision?

Most of our art team is made up of illustrators! You too could be an artist at FableVision!

How will the event for illustrators in Boston be structured?

We haven’t yet finalized all the details of the evening, but the primary goal is to create an informal space where members of SCBWI can mingle with FableVision staff. We’ll probably do a quick introduction of ourselves, but then mostly just have snacks, drinks, and conversations. It should be a really, really fun time.

What haven’t I asked you that you’d love to tell our members about?

Please check out our studio website, facebook page, blogs, and twitter page for updates on the event!
Here’s a list of all the places we’ll be posting:

fablevisionstudios.com/blog
fablefolk.blogspot.com
twitter.com/fvstudioboston
http://www.facebook.com/FableVisionStudios

Thanks so much for reading and to Anna for asking! We hope to see you on June 1st!

On the road to the NESCBWI conference: Part 3: Friendships

If you’ve been following my April break journey here, and here you’ll know that I was in New Jersey yesterday. I had a lovely time visiting Meg Wiviott, talking writing with my VCFA friends, and lunching with a friend from my DC days.

The drive to Springfield from NJ was bearable because he gave me CD’s from hilarious comedians. I listened for as long as they lasted– sadly not the entire three hour drive but they got me through a traffic jam when everyone was rubber necking at a non-accident.

The rest of the way, I was able to contemplate friendship and aging and other existential concepts. My friends are far flung. I’ve met them in summer camp and college, through volunteering and in Vermont. Some I’ve kept from the old DC neighborhood. My book club and writing friends have been in my life the longest.

Social networking sites have certainly helped me reconnect with many and  stay in touch with most but I often close out a session on Facebook feeling more lonely then I when I started checking everyone’s status. In my current situation, with hubby deployed, it is difficult to make the time to see people in person. This week I took the time to refuel with friends face to face. I laughed and hugged, and sipped tea with people who stimulate my mind, reflect my emotions, and give me the kick in the butt I need to keep going.

Today, I’ll be swamped with hugs and handshakes. There will be over 500 attendees at the Annual Spring NESCBWI Conference. To each, I extend the following challenge– meet five new people each day. You never know, that person sitting next to you at the keynote speech, may just be a new friend.

Hello, Springfield, Mass. We’ll be here all weekend!

The road to the NESCBWI Conference: Part 2: Moving on

If you are a parent, you may remember the exhaustion that accompanied those first months with a new born. However, as with the pain of childbirth, dirty diapers, and ear infections, you may have forcibly siphoned those excess memories (ala Harry Potter and the Pensieve) to make room for other more important thoughts. I had. Or thought I had.

For the last two days I watched my sister-in-law exist in the zombie state that is the milk machine, sleep deprived way of a woman with a child under two and a new born. She is my hero. Despite her situation, she was grace and kindness and patience in a way that I don’t remember ever exhibiting.

She is willing to embrace toddler time in a way I never could. You remember toddler time right? We will eventually get to that-there playground 20 yards away but only after we pick each dandelion along the way. No, I  hoisted the kiddo and off we went. This doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate toddler time, the magic of discovery, or the pleasure of the teachable moment– I’m just not practiced in its workings at present. That is, in some ways, what this vacation is about. Trying to slow down long enough to pick the dandelions along the way.

Nevertheless, it was time to move on and leave the Cutie Cutes and their wonderful mother and father behind. Time to get behind the wheel and drive to the next stop.

Meg Wiviott is the author of Benno and the Night of Broken Glass (SLJ best picture books 2010, Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards Gold Medal for Multicultural Books, CCBC 2011 Best Choice List , and the Gelette Burgess Children’s Book Award for Multicultural Picture Book) AND lucky for me she is a dear friend. Today and tomorrow we get to catch up a bit in her home state of New Jersey. We will talk about books and writing and friends. I will nap. I will read. I may even go for a run. All in my own good time.