Children’s Writing 101 with MWPA: Blog and Retreat Links

Last Saturday I presented the workshop “The Business of Children’s Writing 101” with the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. We had a cozy class which allowed the participants to get some great one on one attention as they crafted their elevator pitches and queries in advance of the New England SCBWI spring conference. We discussed the journey of a book from manuscript to publication, defined Midlist, and learned not to defend our work in a critique. We even got to have a mini-workshop for those who had brought picture book manuscripts.

The afternoon brought a web hunt of great kidlit blogs, social media, and kidlit community events that I’ve listed below.

Most important—we discussed that craft comes first and that if you have trouble with your pitch or query it often means that your manuscript is not quite ready for prime time.

If you missed this class and would like MWPA offer this or other kidlit workshops again, please contact Josh Bodwell, Director of MWPA. Happy writing!

A Few Great Blogs:

Through the Tollbooth: VCFA students who do in depth pieces on craft.

Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Be Someone’s Hero, No Cape Required: Specific connections with literacy, student success, and educators.

Cynthia Leitich Smith, Cynsations: Clearing house of amazing info from the industry including guest bloggers.

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast: In depth illustrations and illustrators, process, production, and more.

Jama Rattigan, Alphabet Soup: Reviews of food-based books, poetry.

Ingrid Sundberg: Great posts about story structure, screenwriting, and plot.

Pub(lishing) Crawl: Group of authors and industry professionals posting about craft and business.

A Few Great Kidlit Retreats/Resources:

Highlights Founders Workshops

The Writing Barn

Vermont College of Fine Arts

Falling Leaves/Green Leaves from SCBWI Eastern NY

Rutgers One on One

Picture Book Boot Camp with Jane Yolen

SCBWI

 

Muslim Author’s Book Named Among ‘100 Greatest Children’s Books’ of the Last 100 Years by New York Public Library

I was so happy to see this wonderful news that I want to share it with all of you. Rukhsana Khan’s book BIG RED LOLLIPOP  is on the New York Public Library’s Children’s Books 2012: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing list. She is the first Muslim author of Pakistani origin to be named on the list. Quoting directly from their press release, NYPL stated that all books on the list have “withstood the test of time at the New York Public Library or are on their way to becoming new classics.”

Ms. Khan receiving the Golden Kite Award. Photo from her website.

Rukhsana Khan is originally Pakistani and learned English as a second language. Her prolific writing and huge success has seen BIG RED LOLLIPOP scoop up a string of coveted awards. The book has been voted America’s ‘best picture book’ twice (The Charlotte Zolotow and the Golden Kite) – now, the New York Public Library has named it as one of the ‘100 greatest children’s books’ in the last 100 years. 

 

In BIG RED LOLLIPOP, Rubina has been invited to her first birthday party, and her mother, Ami, insists that she bring her little sister along. Rubina is mortified, but she can’t convince Ami that you just don’t bring your younger sister to your friend’s party. So both girls go, and not only does Sana demand to win every game, but after the party she steals Rubina’s prized party favor, a red lollipop. What’s a fed-up big sister to do?
Rukhsana Khan’s clever story and Sophie Blackall’s irresistible illustrations make for a powerful combination in this fresh and surprising picture book.

“…It’s an ending worthy of a novella, and once again signals that Khan is one of the most original voices working in picture books today.”
-Publisher’s Weekly Starred review of BIG RED LOLLIPOP

Learning English as a second language has been no bar to Rukhsana Khan’s success. Khan arrived in North America as a child from Pakistan and now, her writing career sees her visit over eighty schools a year across North America, make countless presentations and shatter cultural barriers through a string of awards.

As the author explains, her book is already beloved by many families around the world.

“It’s wonderful to see it listed alongside other classics such as ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ and ‘Charlotte’s Web’.” says Khan. “At a time when the world is becoming increasingly polarized, stories like ‘Big Red Lollipop’ tap into universal themes and are crucial to forging a smooth path toward the growing diversity of the North American landscape. As a practicing Muslim, the road hasn’t been easy. I have done my best to battle xenophobia and terrorist stereotypes with wit and humor. I have also worked diligently to create inroads to cross cultural dialogue and understanding.”

While this particular children’s book has helped Khan further build her name, she frequently tours the world to discuss her other works ranging from gritty teen novels on suicide, Afghanistan and issues of parental abandonment. 

“It’s not just about writing – but about sharing my work with others and using the stories to open up a series of vital dialogues. I’ve also recently launched a free literary resource for educators as part of my popular YouTube channel,” she adds.

With such a unique bibliography and passion for her work, interested readers are invited to visit Khan’s official website for more information: http://www.rukhsanakhan.com

I was lucky to see Rukhsana Khan accept her SCBWI 2011 Golden Kite Award at the New York SCBWI Conference for her book BIG RED LOLLIPOP. I’ve never seen an author as ebullient as Ms. Khan.  She told us the true story that inspired the book. Her love and joy were contagious. Congratulations to Ms. Khan and the others on the New York Public Library’s Children’s Books 2012: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing list.

 

Three Links to Great Web Content: August 4-10, 2013

When I was about eight years old, I used to sit on the landing and listen to the adult conversations that went on at dinner parties my parents would hold. I’m sure my parents thought I was asleep, and sometimes I would indeed fall asleep on the landing and they’d have to carry me to bed. The point is, that I didn’t want to miss anything. Sometimes Twitter and social media reminds me of this. With the incessant stream of tweets and updates I’m bound to miss out on something crucial.

The fact is, there is so much information out on the web that you can’t, and shouldn’t, try to keep up with it. I thought I’d post a few great links from my week and would love to see your favorite links, and a few sentences about them, in the comments.

First off, Ingrid Sundberg. Ingrid Sundberg is a fellow VCFA alum. She recently posted a fabulous series taken from her thesis on story architecture. If you only saw bits, or missed the whole thing, bookmark this page which includes the links for the entire series. Organic Architecture: Links to the Whole Series

If you are a parent or an educator, and haven’t found PragmaticMom.com, you should take a look. In addition to crafts, education, and parenting tips, she is an avid children’s lit reader with wonderful book lists. Her Multicultural Books for Children: 40+ Book Lists are an amazing collection of books broken into various helpful categories.

Lee Wind and the amazing SCBWI blog team were super busy last weekend at the LA Conference. Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend this year (I’m planning to go in 2014), but I was able to get the juicy tidbits on the Official SCBWI Conference Blog. If you are searching for an agent, you may want to read the many agent profiles. Illustrators will want to check out the winning portfolio images, and writers will be inspired by the encapsulated keynote speeches.

Again, I’d love to see your favorite links of the week– interesting industry news, and craft discussions that you retweeted, reblogged, tumbled or pinned that my readers might have missed. I’ll be watching the comments. 

I’m Thankful for Digital Hugs

Even though I had a week before the big reveal to digest the news that I was one of the winners of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Discovery award, I was not quite prepared for the outpouring of digital love that came my way. My blog and twitter feed gained followers, I gained friends on Facebook, and I heard from friends who haven’t contacted me in years. My comment boards lit up, and for a moment I thought, “Oh my, everything has changed.” That was until I opened up my WIP, stared at a blank page on Scrivener, and slapped myself upside the head. The hard work, joy, and pain of writing haven’t changed one bit.

What has changed is that I get a moment to celebrate. After a particularly difficult year that often felt hopeless, I find myself with a group of growing businesses serving authors and illustrators. I get to read a manuscript that I love in front of members of a community that have taught and nurtured me. I’m in this situation because the difficult things forced me to expose my writing and myself to the universe in a way that I had not been brave enough to try in the past. (Note to self– no one can see your awesome manuscript if it sits on your desk.) Yes, the universe works in mysterious ways.

I also get a chance to be recognized in my community of writers for my writing. Here’s the thing about our community and SCBWI in particular. There’s no one standing at the door telling new authors or illustrators they can’t come in. You can be in a room full of 1000 people at a national conference and have no idea who can write well and who is new to the craft. This allows people to be welcomed and safe, while they learn and grow. I’m grateful for this, and I’m grateful for the community of writers, illustrators, librarians and teachers who gave me a digital hug this week. Thank you all for your kindness.

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.

 

Giving Thanks for Readers!

Thank you! Shepherd Elementary School Early Readers.

This morning I accompanied my mother to her volunteer position as a reader for the Shepherd School Early Readers program. I’ve discussed the program here originally, and here as a follow up. (So I suppose this is a follow up to the follow up.) I was fabulously surprised by the number of books that my colleagues at the MidAtlantic SCBWI region collected and was there as an SCBWI representative to take pictures and do a little research for an article I’m pitching to the SCBWI Bulletin. I DID NOT know that I was the main event. How wonderful for me that I got to talk a little about my own book, do a reading, and meet the inspiring children who will read these donated books.

They kept thanking me, and gave me a gift, and that wonderful signed poster in the picture– but truly no thanks was necessary: 1) the MidAtlantic SCBWI folks did the heavy lifting and 2) being able to read to and take in the energy of the kids was more valuable than any gift.

It was just what I needed to keep working on my new novel and handle the agent waiting game– AGAIN. At the end of the studying, and the work, and the art, and the craft, and the business, is the children. Let us all give thanks for the readers.

Service Revisited: Darthia Farm & Shepherd School Literacy

From time to time I post about service projects to benefit of members of the children’s and young adult writing community, the writing community at-large, and readers. I’ve gotten good news from a couple of those projects recently and thought I’d follow up.

In May, I had heard from the Maine Writers & Publisher’s Alliance about a tragic fire at the Darthia Farm (a frequent location of writing retreats for the organization.) The barn had been destroyed and many of the animals killed. This week, I received a thank you email from the farm for my donation. Thank you, from me, to any Creative Chaos readers who also may have donated. They have rebuilt and have had donations of new animals as well.

The Phoenix Barn!

There are more pictures of the new barn, happy animals, and children visitors at the Darthia Farm blog here!

In June, I posted about a volunteer literacy initiative at my own Shepherd Elementary School in Washington, DC.  After I posted here, I also contacted Ellen Braaf who is the Regional Advisor of the SCBWI Mid-Atlantic region. I told her about the lack of books and asked if she might put my notice in her occasional newsletter. She went one better and posted the call for books in their annual conference materials. At that recent conference, the support for the literacy program was wonderful. SCBWI Mid-Atlantic members, and industry professionals donated boxes of books to the help the program. My mother, who volunteers for the program, is so pleased and we both extend our thanks to Ellen and the generous members of SCBWI, Mid-Atlantic. She can’t wait to bring the books to the school in the upcoming weeks.

If this has inspired you to give to others, please see yesterday’s post about great Kidlit Auctions to benefit the Red Cross. (Reviews, Critiques, and more from industry professionals).

If you love Books of Wonder as much as I do, they need help too.

And DO NOT FORGET TO VOTE. Polls close at 8pm, Tuesday, November 6th, 2013.

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!