Saturday, June 07, 2014

Guest Author Snapshot: D.J. MacHale

D.J. with Casey; follow @DJMacHale
By Laini Bostian (and Omar Elbulok)
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Librarian Laini Bostian blogs at The Made Up Librarian. 

This winter, Omar Elbulok, one of my library’s teen advisors, and I had the pleasure of talking with author D.J. MacHale. He challenged us to ask him something he had never been asked. 

We enjoyed our Skype/telephone visit, and we definitely learned more about him.

On Teen Voice

D.J. said he didn't try too hard to make his characters sound young by using current slang or pop culture references. It is “all about attitude,” he explained.

D.J. noted that he had an “uncanny ability to remember what things were like back at that age [in his teens]” and that he had in fact recently penned a 12-page letter to a friend about events that had happened 40 years prior.

D.J. emphasized that teens are confident and arrogant about what they know, that they maintain an attitude of “the older I get, the less I know.” Then he admitted that not all teens are arrogant, but they try to hide their uncertainty, and he writes his characters from that perspective.

D.J. considered himself “painfully mediocre” in his teens, but was also “comfortable" in his own skin. This is how the main protagonist, Tucker Pierce, from D.J.’s book, SYLO, comes across.

On Romance

D.J. said that he tries to write about all of the types of relationships characters “old enough to get around on their own” have and that he would be remiss not to mention the boy-girl stuff happening at that age.

He did note that he “almost shot himself in the foot” when he started out the book Merchant of Death, first in the Pendragon series, with Bobby, the main protagonist, kissing a girl.

He risked boys “putting the book down, thinking it was going to be a mushy girl book.”

D.J. wants girls to read and relate to his stories as well..and he has gotten lots of fan mail from girls who loved the sixth Pendragon book, Rivers of Zadaa, most. D.J. also noted that once a boy gets to eighth or ninth grade, he is generally not put off by romance in a book.

On Fan Mail

D.J. said that he was consistently surprised at how many teens wrote to him with heart-wrenching stories about what was going on in their lives and let him know that his books got them through those rough times.

He also recalled a piece of hate mail, an e-mail he got from a woman questioning his use of “foul” language in his stories. This particular woman was upset that he'd written “fell on my ass.”

D.J. wrote back, letting the woman know that he respected her views, and that what was right for one person to say was not right for everyone. However, he did want the voice of the character to sound real, and this language was part of an internal thought train the protagonist had. It was not something he said out loud.

The woman did not accept this answer however, writing back and stating that C.S. Lewis did not need to use this type of language in his Chronicles of Narnia books.

D.J. tells his 10-year-old daughter that using curse words makes one look stupid. However, he doesn’t believe you can have “bad words” in books, and there are times where situations are extremely unpleasant in a story and it feels appropriate for characters to respond with more extreme language.

What was most interesting to D.J. was that the woman was not bothered by the fact that, in the same book the woman was writing to him about, a homeless man flung himself in front of a speeding subway. She just seemed so intensely focused on a few words.

On Influences

D.J. has difficulty watching or reading things that are similar to what he likes to write. He finds it particularly challenging to watch without thinking about things like why a writer was making certain decisions from a plotting point of view.

He called this “writer brain,” and went on to say that he did not read Harry Potter, for instance, because then, if he came up with an idea similar to one he had read about in that book, he would not use it. By steering clear, he could use all of his ideas.

On Being an Author

D.J. loves coming up with a new idea and typing up the end of a first draft after “pulling teeth” at times to get it all down on paper. He loves when someone comes up to him and simply says “I loved your book."

He loves it even more when someone gives him a specific about what they enjoyed in a story, such as a line of dialogue. He works hard on every word of it, and said, “it is nice to know you are not the only one amused by it.”

Friday, June 06, 2014

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith for Cynsations

Illustrator April Chu Takes Us Behind the Art of Summoning the Phoenix from Lee & Low. Peek: "...gives readers an inside look into centuries-old Chinese musical instruments and the more recently formed modern Chinese Orchestra."

Anti-heroes: Why Devious is So Delectable, and Where Are All the Women? by Heather Webb from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "I skimmed my books, looking for these dark characters and after I had gathered a few, I analyzed what made them so dadgum fun to read. This is what I discovered..."

Serving Military Families in the Public Library by Jan Marry from ALSC Blog. Peek: "...over two million American children have had a parent deployed since 9/11, and current military families total over five million people. If you include veterans, military retirees, Department of Defense civilians, grown military children, and parents of military members, interested people can live anywhere and be served by any library, including yours."

Talent and Skills Entry: A Knack for Languages by Becca Puglisi from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "They naturally pick up on patterns and nuances, quickly learn to understand other languages, and are able to speak them fluently in record time. A knack for languages can also enable people to cue in on the cultural cues, idioms, and humor of a culture, which can be difficult for outsiders to grasp."

Secrets to a Good Logline by Mary Kole from Kidlit.com. Peek: "Nailing it in one sentence is more of an exercise for you than a requirement of getting published."

Learn more about this wordless picture book.
How Wordless Picture Books Empower Children by Sarah Bayliss from School Library Journal. Peek: "Because these stories are conveyed visually, children are free to interpret as they wish and project their own emotions, the panelists said."

Celebrating the Critique Comments I Don't Agree With from Shelli Cornelison. Peek: "All critique comments are valid, even the ones (maybe especially these) that I don't agree with. If I ask someone to take their time to give me feedback, I want their honest feedback."

Publishing Under a Pseudonym by Jael McHenry from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "As I said, I think it’s the right choice, and I’m thrilled. It’s another debut, where I can use what I learned from the first debut, but starting with an external clean slate. It just feels...kind of weird."

On Definitions: Independent vs. Self Publishing from Joshua Isard's Blog. Peek: "Independent publishers are presses not connected to a larger media conglomeration. ... A lot of times the term 'small press' is used to describe these publishing houses, and I'm not even sure that's accurate now. Graywolf, for example, isn't really small, though it is independent."

14 Tips to Surviving Your Book Signing by Stina Lindenblatt from QueryTracker. Peek: "Bring candy to entice readers to stay long enough for you to chat with them. The other benefit of the candy is it will provide you the necessary energy to survive the long book signing session, and you will be popular with the authors near you when you share it." Note to children's authors: some kids (and adults) will gravitate to candy, but health-conscious parents/caregivers may become vexed at you for putting it in play (and perhaps triggering a meltdown if they say "no").

How to Create a Villain by Michael Noll from Read to Write Stories. Peek: "The problem with creating villains is that the word usually makes us think of characters like Sauron from The Lord of the Rings or Darth Vader—i.e. characters whose evil exists on a grand scale. Most stories simply don’t have room for that kind of character."

Creating a Believable Tween Voice by Anna Staniszewsky from Janet S. Fox at Through the Wardrobe. Peek: "Not all young people sound the same, so if you’re writing what you think a thirteen-year-old sounds like instead of what your specific character sounds like, you probably won’t get very far."

Catalyst and Catharsis by Donald Maass from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "...what is the catalyst event that causes the seething pot of your protagonist’s inner conflicts to boil over? How does your protagonist act out? What is released? What change results?"

The Muscle-Flexing, Mind-Blowing Book Girls Will Inherit the Earth by Linda Holmes from NPR. Peek: "There are boys and men and older women who love many of the books that the Book Girls do, but it is the Book Girls who scream at authors the way people screamed at The Beatles on 'Ed Sullivan.'"

BookReels, an MVT for Books? by Wendy Werris from Publishers Weekly.  Peek: "BookReels, a dedicated interactive website that allows publishers and authors to post multimedia visuals ranging from animated book covers to trailers, is now available for readers as a unique way to preview and browse books."

2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards for Excellence in Children's Literature


Picture Book Award Winner: Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown (Little, Brown)


Fiction Award Winner: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith (Dutton)


Nonfiction Award Winner: The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Book)

See also honor books and more information.

 Cynsational Giveaways

The winners of The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science: Poems for the School Year Integrating Science, Reading and Language Arts (plus a student edition) were Crystal in Wisconsin, Frances in Illinois, and Lauren in Washington.

See also a chance to win Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg (Arthur A. Levine), winner of SCBWI's 2014 Sid Fleischman Humor Award, from SCBWI: The Blog. Note: post includes interview with Bill by Lee Wind.  

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally 

Farewell author-librarian-goddess Jeanette Larson! Austin misses you already!
With author-illustrator Don Tate -- look for him at the upcoming ALA Conference!

Busy week! I'm combing through the copy edits for Feral Pride (Book 3 in the Feral trilogy), working on an interview for The ALAN Review and musing on my lesson plans for WIFYR.

Bashi and Leo "help" with my Feral Pride copy edits.

It's also come to my attention that I've surpassed 15,000 followers @CynLeitichSmith on Twitter. Thanks for the support! I'm hugely flattered and vaguely baffled by this development.

I'm honored that my picture book, Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow/HarperCollins) was included in Grace Lin's Cheat Sheet for Selling Diversity in conjunction with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks panel at BEA.

See also Lynn Miller-Lachmann's report on the panel itself and #We NeedDiverseBooks Announces Initiatives from Publishers Weekly.

On a related note, I appreciate SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver's open letter on diversity and my online pick of the week is "Exotic" in Wisconsin by author Crystal Chan. Take the three minutes to listen to her thoughts on growing up biracial in the midwestern U.S. Peek: "...the word 'exotic' reflects only the speaker's perspective."

As a YA author reading Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy (Knopf, 2013), this mother-character-voiced paragraph (not Bridget-voiced) jumped out at me:

"'So you can just sit on this doorstep and instead of putting your ENTIRE BRAINS into getting to the next level on MINECRAFT, you can apply them to CHANGING MY MIND about letting you back in. And don't you dare touch that dustbin or I shall enter you in the HUNGER GAMES.'"

YA lit is definitely permeating the international lexicon.

In other media, having seen the female love interest fridged this month in "Godzilla," "Looper," "The Amazing Spider-Man" (yes, of course I saw that one coming) and "Supernatural" (for the third time in the series), "Malificent" came as a relief.

Caveat: I would never take a trope off the table, if only because, in the right hands, it could be played for, say, juxtaposition or irony.

Congratulations to Greg Leitich Smith on his rave review of Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn (Roaring Brook, 2014) from The Horn Book! Peek: "...Aidan, Louis, and Dru must depend on one another in a plot that twists and turns like a roller coaster through the engaging setting. The book design and spot cartoon art with a retro space-age feel work well with the wacky characters and situations of this enjoyably beach-y sci-fi escape."

Personal Links
Currently reading!

Cynsational Events



Middle Grade Mayhem! Join Varian Johnson, Greg Leitich Smith and Jennifer Ziegler in celebrating their new novels at 2 p.m. June 14 at BookPeople in Austin. See more information. Don't miss this article about Varian and The Great Greene Heist (Scholastic) from Kirkus Reviews.

Breaking news! Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith will speak at the Writers' League of Texas 2014 Agents and Editors Conference to be held at the Hyatt Regency Austin from June 27 to June 29 in Austin, Texas.

Join Cynthia Leitich Smith in discussing Feral Curse (Candlewick, 2014) with the YA Reading Club at 11 a.m. June 28 at Cedar Park Public Library in Cedar Park, Texas.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Guest Post: Karen Rock on Happily-Ever-(NOT): Writing Unforgettable Endings

Get to Know Karen Rock!
By Karen Rock
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations
Warning: some spoilers for model books.

Many jobs entail courage and risk. Writing is one of them. Creating unforgettable endings that are not ‘Happily-Ever-After’ may be one of the bravest and most honest things an author can do.

Sure, it might mean opening your P.O. Box with one-eye shut, bracing yourself for penned diatribes. Some fans may chastise you for leaving out the rainbow-unicorn finish.

Brace yourself. The conviction to end your novel in a true and realistic way isn’t easy, but it’s invaluable.

In a recent workshop I gave at the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference with fellow YA author, Trisha Leaver, we dubbed these haunting, unforgettable finishes, Happily-Ever-(Not)s, or HE(N).

Sherman Alexie, National Book Award-winning author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian (Little, Brown, 2007), had this to say about books with HE(N) endings in his blog “Why the Best Kid Books are Penned in Blood” (Wall Street Journal, June 2011), “There are millions of teens who read because they are sad and lonely and enraged. They read because they live in an often-terrible world. They read because they believe, despite the callow protestations of certain adults, that books- especially the dark and dangerous ones- will save them.”

As authors, it’s our calling, as well as our profession, to reflect the human condition and existence. We are charged with accurately depicting children’s lives.

If everything always turns out well in fiction, how will children learn, in safe ways, to cope with adversity? Loss?

The Snowman, a picture book by Raymond Briggs (Puffin, 2011), gently shows the very youngest readers that sometimes people we love must leave. This lesson is crucial.

If the Snowman magically gained the power to withstand the sun, would kids understand that their grandparents won’t come back? Their pets?

Human experience is full of sacrifice, suffering and pain. By not showing that, we’re not being honest. If the words in our story aren’t honest, than they are just words.

“Not everyone in life gets an HEA and therefore, characters shouldn’t either,” says Trisha Leaver, author of the upcoming YA suspense thriller/horror novel, Creed (Flux, November 2014).

Kids whose lives aren’t HEA need characters that speak to them and their experiences. They’ll realize that there is nothing wrong with them. Take Wilbur from Charlotte's Web (Harper & Brothers, 1952). He has a classic conflict: identity. Until a spider friend weaves descriptive words, he doesn’t understand his own worth. He gains confidence, but it isn’t until he loses Charlotte--a must-- that he learns a critical skill. Resilience. Like many children, he’s lost a parental figure, but he will go on. He doesn’t need others to validate his self-worth. He can and will survive.

The same rule applies in John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (Dutton, 2012). Many children contend with series illness, injury or disability. John’s novel gives us two, strong protagonists battling cancer, one winning and one losing. This is a balanced, realistic peek into the world of doctors, treatments, desperation and hope. An HEA ending would have been a disservice. Readers leave John’s novel with a better understanding that life is meant to be lived and celebrated, regardless of our circumstances.

An HE(N) ending isn’t meant to leave the reader feeling bereft. In fact, within tragedy there is hope! Wilbur can pass on what he’s learned to Charlotte’s offspring. Winter will return and another snowman will be built. Hazel Grace has Augustus’ memories and the new desire to live her life, even if it no longer includes him. The reader will understand that they can survive hardship and come out even stronger. Life goes on and young readers need to know that they will too, no matter how much life has let them down.

Writing a HE(N) ending requires us to dig deeper. To go to painful, emotional spaces that are realistic to our story. Not all writers want to go through dark places with characters we’ve grown attached to- to even kill them off or hurt them. It takes an emotional toll. Yet it’s one we must pay to write the story that demands to be told.

Derek Landry, best-selling children’s author, wrote in his post It’s the Beginning of the End for Skullduggery Pleasant (TESCO Books Blog, August, 2012), “I really hope they have a happy ending. But sometimes the story goes where the story goes, and the characters will do what the characters do, and the writer just has to sit back and document it all.”

When a story entails a HE(N) ending, here are a few tips to guide you:

  1. Identify the central conflict of the book. There are competing threads that can be very powerful and vivid. However, it’s important to separate them out and focus on the best resolution to the main obstacle.
  2. Characters are a product of their fictional environment and their decisions reflect that. Find the most high-impact environment and toss them in.
  3. Find a strong voice and let it dictate the tone of the manuscript. Is the narrator sullen? Hopeful but desperate? Using humor to shield himself or herself from pain?
  4. Weave the theme through the story using the literary elements to hone the message that is ultimately and absolutely underscored by the ending.
  5. Don’t slap on a sad ending; it’s not that simplistic. This is about tone, characterization, theme and voice. Not merely plot points.
  6. Take care with unsettling endings. Readers don’t want to be left feeling confused. An unhappy ending is not an untidy ending.
  7. Closure doesn’t equate to happy feelings. However, there should be an illusion of hope, no matter how small that sliver may be.
  8. Maintain full character arc. Make sure the main character has finished making the growth needed, even if that entails tragedy. Often it does.
  9. Competing threads need to be addressed and a death is not a fait accompli. The saying "life sucks and then you die" doesn’t work here. In Rodman Philbrick’s Freak the Mighty (Blue Sky/Scholastic, 1993), Max (Mighty) pens a memoir after his best friend dies. Had the book ended with Kevin (Freak’s) death, Max’s illiteracy thread and the central conflict (Max’s sense of worthlessness/lack of identity) would not have been resolved. Additionally, the protagonist’s character arc would have been incomplete.

When challenged by editors, agents, beta-readers, and even fans about writing an unforgettable, HE(N) ending, just remember this from novelist Aryn Kyle in her article “In Defense of Sad Stories” (The Writer, June 2011), “‘You should write something happy’, people tell me, and I don’t understand. Happy like Anna Karenina? Happy like The Grapes of Wrath? Happy like…Catch 22 or… 'Hamlet'?”

The stories that stay with us speak the truth. If we write that we will never disappoint the most important person in the writing process-ourselves.

Karen & Trisha at their 2014 New England SCBWI workshop.
Cynsational Notes

From Karen: "I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments section below. Please feel free to contact me directly through my webpage. Thank you!"

Learn more!
Karen Rock is an award-winning YA and adult contemporary author. She holds a master’s degree in English and worked as an ELA instructor before becoming a full-time author. With her co-author, Joanne Rock, she’s penned the Camp Boyfriend series with Spencer Hill Press under the pseudonym J.K. Rock. She also writes contemporary romance for Harlequin Enterprises.

When she's not writing, Karen loves scouring estate sales for vintage books, cooking her grandmother's family recipes and hiking. She lives in the Adirondack Mountain region with her husband, daughter, and two Cavalier King cocker spaniels who have yet to understand the concept of "fetch" though they know a lot about love.

Check out her website, her co-author website, her Facebook page, and follow her on Twitter @karenrock5. Then check out Camp Boyfriend.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Guest Post & Giveaway: Varsha Bajaj on Reading Across Borders & Cultures

Varsha (taller girl) with her mother and sister.
By Varsha Bajaj
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

I grew up reading cross culturally because I didn’t have a choice. In the late '60s and '70s, British and American authors wrote the children’s literature available in India.

While I had not seen anyone with red hair like Anne Shirley in Anne of the Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1908), I understood her desire to please Marilla Cuthbert; it was the same as my desire to please my mother.

I felt Jo’s grief when Beth died of scarlet fever in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868, 1869).

I also fell in love with the idea of winter and a Christmas tree.

I devoured the Secret Seven series by British writer, Enid Blyton (1949-1963). We mimicked their “secret society” and had a meeting place and passwords. It was a girls versus boys club on my street back in Mumbai.

These books did not set out to “educate” me, but they did. They also entertained me and made an indelible impression.

When I traveled to England and then America in 1986, I felt like I was finally visiting a place that I had known for a long time. I understood that our differences were skin deep and that we all wanted to belong and feel loved, and have friends.

Reading cross culturally had prepared me.

In 2014, the world is at our front door. We live in a multicultural society, we eat foods from all over the world, we communicate with people from across the oceans far easily than we did before.

So how can we not read and know each other through our stories?

I have read your stories and will continue to do so.

Do you want to read mine?

Cynsational Notes

Varsha Bajaj came to the U.S., as a graduate student in 1986. She earned her master’s degree in Counseling from Southern Illinois University and worked as a Licensed Professional Counselor in St. Louis. Her debut novel is Abby Spencer goes to Bollywood (Albert Whitman, 2014), and she looks forward to the release of Our Baby, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler (Nancy Paulsen Books).

Varsha & Cyn
Cynsational Giveaways

Enter to win a signed copy of Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj (Albert Whitman, 2014). Author sponsored. Eligibility: North America.

Or enter to win an unsigned copy of Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj (Albert Whitman, 2014). Author sponsored. Eligibility: international.

a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Guest Post: Pamela S. Turner on Telling True Stories

By Pamela S. Turner
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

It's hard to write a boring book about dolphins. They are the low-hanging fruit of reader interest.

Dolphins have personalities. Dolphins are active, highly social, and ridiculously smart.

Who doesn't love dolphins?

To write The Dolphins of Shark Bay, with photographs by Scott Tuason (Harcourt, 2013), I traveled to Western Australia and spent a couple of weeks tagging along with Janet Mann, a scientist who has been studying bottlenose dolphins for over twenty-five years.

Spend any time with Janet and you'll learn that dolphins are very complex animals with very complex lives.

Janet Mann
Reggae hydroplanes out of the water to nab fish. Dodger uses a tool to catch hers (no kidding). Puck is an ideal mother, and the members of Puck's large and loving extended family often "pet" each other with their fins. Awww...so cute.

Puck and her son Samu
But not everything dolphins do is admirable or endearing. Take Nicky. Nicky is a terrible mother and almost all of her calves have died of maternal neglect. A male named Cookie rejected his best friend, Smokey, after Smokey was injured by a shark.

All of the male dolphins in Shark Bay engage in kidnapping in order to score mating opportunities with females, and may react violently if the female tries to escape their clutches.

In fact, the lives of adult male dolphins in Shark Bay resemble an awful sixth-grade slumber party where everybody is trying shoulder into the "popular" crowd.

Nicky
There are always moments when a writer of narrative nonfiction for young readers wonders what's appropriate to include. If you're writing a picture book biography of Thomas Jefferson, should you mention Sally Hemings? Should drug abuse be a topic in a middle grade book about The Beatles? When you are on a research boat with a scientist watching three dolphins engaged in what can only be described as "sex play" and the scientist says, "Are you really going to put this in a children's book?", what do you say?

I have never had to make those judgment calls about Thomas Jefferson and The Beatles (Though "Thomas Jefferson and the Beatles" would be a terrific book title).

But I said, "Yes, it's going in the book," to Janet's question about the dolphins' sex play. You can read about it in a chapter called "Dating Games."

Sex play, deadbeat moms and kidnappers may not align with most people's image of "Flipper." But by telling true stories about Reggae, Dodger, Puck, Nicky, Cookie, and Smokey, I was able to show readers the sorts of challenges wild animals face and how they respond to those challenges.

Dodger
Taken together, I think these stories give a picture of dolphin life that is rich and fascinating.

And just speaking for myself: the more I learn about dolphins, the more I love them.



Monday, June 02, 2014

Guest Post & Giveaway: Debbie Ridpath Ohi on Illustrating Naked! (& what I did differently from I'm Bored)

By Debbie Ridpath Ohi
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Naked! is a new picture book written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by yours truly, published by Simon & Schuster at the end of April 2014.

This was my second picture book project and second collaboration with Michael.

While some aspects of the process stayed the same, I also discovered several differences.

​In this guest post, I'm going to tell you some of them as well as what I've learned, in case it helps other writer/illustrators.

What Was Different This Time Around?

1. Whereas I'm Bored was written without a particular illustrator in mind, Michael had written Naked! for me to illustrate. He told me later that he purposely left a lot of room in the story for me....which made the story even more fun for me to illustrate.


Tip for aspiring picture book writers: Trust the illustrator. So many new picture book writers mistakenly believe that the illustrator's job is just to draw what it is in the text. Because of this, these writers feel compelled to include lots of art notes to make sure that the illustrator doesn't veer from how the author envisioned each character, each scene.

If I was approached to illustrate that kind of manuscript (heavy in art notes or text description) at this point in my career, I'd probably pass on the project.

Naked! appealed to me for so many reasons, but mainly because I knew I'd have a ton of fun working on the project and looked forward to the creative collaboration.



2. I had a much tighter schedule for Naked! than I did for I'm Bored.

I'm finding that with each book project, however, that my process gets more streamlined, and I feel more confident about what I can and can't do.

Tip for aspiring picture book writer/illustrators: When putting together your portfolio or when working on developing an illustration style, make sure that the style(s) you pick are ones you'd be willing to work on for months at a time. If you have an illustration style or technique that is especially time-consuming, be aware that it may limit the number and type of book projects you are able to take. Which is fine, of course! But it doesn't hurt to always be thinking of ways you could streamline your process without sacrificing the quality and enjoyment of your art.

3. I was (a tad) more organized. For I'm Bored, I used painter's tape to stick sketches on my office walls and ceiling, to help me get a quick overview for flow and consistency. But the pictures kept falling down, and it was a hassle whenever I had to replace pictures when updated versions.

This time around, my husband set up a system in my office using heavy string stretched across my ceiling and small paperclips. Much easier! You can see the progression of sketch hangings in this video:



4. I used more photo reference for Naked! than I did for I'm Bored. Part of the reason was because I wanted to experiment more with slightly different angles.


Another reason was because I've discovered that sometimes if I draw from my head without photo reference, I use the obvious position/scene placement. Experimenting with photo reference helped me try different ways of showing the same scene.



Tip for aspiring picture book illustrators: Learn basic photography. You don't need a fancy camera; even a camera on your smartphone is fine. If you use someone else's photos for reference, avoid image plagiarism. Jen Betton has a great blog post series about copyright for illustrators, but here's her post specifically about photo reference and copyright issues.

5. I did my earliest sketches on paper, not on the computer.



I did more experimenting with loose hand-drawn sketches for Naked! than I did with I'm Bored, just to see if it made a difference. And it did, mostly because I could sketch by hand pretty much anywhere, not just at my computer or with an iPad. Which meant that I did a lot more character sketching in the beginning, and a lot more experimentation.

Tip for aspiring writer/illustrators: Don't get too precious about your sketches, or you'll tighten up. Carry around a sketchbook or at least some blank cards or scrap paper all the time. Also don't get too precious about your drawing tools, at least not for your sketches. Draw every day, draw different things than you'd normally draw, experiment.



Cynsational Notes

Debbie Ridpath Ohi write and illustrates books for young people. Most recently, she illustrated Naked! written by Michael Ian Black (Simon & Schuster) and the covers of seven Judy Blume classics being reissued by Atheneum. Her illustrations will also appear in three Judy Blume chapter books being reissued by Atheneum on June 3rd, 2014: Freckle Juice, The One In The Middle Is The Green Kangaroo and The Pain And The Great One. See also a Teacher's Guide to Naked! and "How Naked! Was Made" and on Twitter: @inkyelbows.

See also How Naked! Was Made: The Making of a Picture Book from Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win an illustrator signed and doodled copy of Naked! by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi (Simon & Schuster, 2014). Illustrator sponsored. Eligibility: international. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Guest Post: Christopher Cheng on SCBWI: Celebrating 10 Years in Bologna

SCBWI Bologna Booth
By Christopher Cheng
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

The SCBWI booth, a hotbed of activity? Yes, according to Publishers Weekly!

This year the SCBWI celebrated 10 years in Bologna. We have had a Bologna Children's Book Fair presence every second year since 2004. That first booth was under the direction of the Erzsi Deak.

Here's a peek at what happened at the 2014 SCBWI booth from March 24 to March 27.

Showcasing the PAL works of our members and regions worldwide is what SCBWI Bologna is all about. Those members who showcased were Erzsi Deak and Nelly Buchet-Deak; Sarah Towle, Carmel o’Mara Horwtiz, Evelyn Ghozalli, Theresa Bronn, Susan Eaddy, Rachelle Meyer, Evi Shelvia, Doug Cushman, Judy Goldman, Isabel Roxas, Bridget Strevens-Marzo, Margaret Bateson-Hill, and Twyla Weixl.

Erzsi Deak and Nelly Buchet-Deak

The regional showcases came from Australia East, New Zealand, British Isles, Belgium, Singapore, Indonesia, Spain, Mexico, Netherlands, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Germany/Austria, and for the first time, a U.S.-based region - the MidSouth.

First timers!

Posters, Booth Design & Book Display

Throughout the fair, PAL books are displayed on the shelves in our booth and, afterward, are donated to the International Youth Library in Munich.

Our new International Illustrator Coordinator Rachelle Meyer designed an exquisite series of posters featuring an eye-catching SCBWI banner, the SCBWI world map, and the winner and honoured entrants from our BiG.

The booth

BiG

Bologna Illustration Gallery, is the renamed "Illustration Display Portfolio" and it's open to all SCBWI illustrator members. Visit the 2014 BiG Gallery and the cumulative display of works from previous years in our Illustrators Gallery.

This was a juried showcase with certificates being sent to the winner and honourable mentions. A wonderful display of the creativity within the SCBWI illustration community!

BiG

SCBWI Success Stories

Prior to the fair, PAL members were invited to produce a single slide showing their success stories since the last fair. Visit the 2014 Success Stories to see the presentation, which was on rotation throughout the fair.

Illustrators Wall

Duelling Illustrators

We spread the impact of the Duelling Illustrators over three days, and our second day was also filmed by a crew from the Sharjah International Book Fair for promotion of their upcoming fair.

Our illustrators were: Anne Marie Perks, Sarah Underwood, Bridget Strevens-Marzo, Sally Kindberg, Susan Eaddy, Sarah Baker, Darcy Zoells and Carmel O'Mara Horwitz, Twyla Weixl, Nathalie Marin-Baldo Vink, Doug Cushman and Paul O. Zelinsky. They were dueling to unpublished texts from Norma Klein, Sue Thoms, Kathleen Ahrens, Laurie Cutter, P.J. Lyons and Christopher Cheng.

Duelling illustrators!

Portfolio Reviews and Critiques

Authors and illustrators were able to sign up each morning for one-on-one sessions with Team Bologna staff and other experienced SCBWI members.

Consultations

Membership

As in the past, brochures and membership forms were available and widely distributed, but this year, with the availability of the laptop and reliable connectivity, we were able to offer immediate SCBWI memberships ... and people joined on the spot!

Authors Cafe

A central feature of recent Bologna Book Fairs is the Authors Cafe and SCBWI. A near-full audience heard Kathleen Ahrens (IRAC) interview Chelsea Confalone and Sarah Baker from SCBWI headquarters on the secrets to gaining one of the organization's grants, mentorships and awards.

Authors Cafe

Bologna SCBWI Website

In the months leading up to the fair, the content from our old website, which included many photos and previous galleries, was migrated to the new site. Jump there to have a look!

http://bologna.scbwi.org/

Cynsational Notes

Cheers to the SCBWI Bologna team Christopher Cheng, Kathleen Ahrens, Angela Cerrito, Rachelle Meyer and Susan Eaddy.

With more than 35 titles in traditional and digital formats, including picture books, non-fiction, historical fiction, a musical libretto and an animation storyline, Christopher Cheng is well experienced in Australian children's literature.
More about Christopher Cheng.

He conducts workshops and residences for children and adults and holds an M.A. in Children's Literature. He is a board member for the Asian Festival of Children's Content and on the International Advisory Board and co-regional advisor (Australia and New Zealand) for the SCBWI.

A recipient of the SCBWI Member of the Year and the Lady Cutler Award for services to children's literature, Chris is a devoted advocate of children's literature, speaking at festivals worldwide.

Christopher will be covering the children's-YA book scene in Australia, New Zealand and across Asia for Cynsations. Read an interview with Christopher.
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