Be a Changemaker wins a Crystal Kite Award!

Be a Changemaker cover

Be a Changemaker coverIt’s a huge hon­or to announce that Be a Change­mak­er has won the Soci­ety of Chil­dren’s Book Writ­ers & Illus­tra­tors’ (SCBWI) Crys­tal Kite Award for the West divi­sion, which includes Washington/Oregon/Alaska/Idaho/Montana/North Dakota/South Dako­ta! This award is vot­ed on by oth­er SCBWI mem­bers, who are also authors and illus­tra­tors, so it’s espe­cial­ly reward­ing to be recognized.
Win­ning is a bit bit­ter­sweet, though. First, there were so many great books in the over­all list of eli­gi­ble titles (includ­ing the one I vot­ed for, which did­n’t make the finals). Sec­ond, the oth­er three final­ists are all fan­tas­tic books, writ­ten by a trio of love­ly authors whom I’m glad to call my friends. I hon­est­ly would’ve been just as hap­py to see any of these fine books win as I am to see my own. If you haven’t seen these yet, please check them out!

This year’s Crys­tal Kite Award announce­ment was excit­ing for anoth­er rea­son, too. My friend and agent-sis­ter Tara Dair­man won the South­west divi­sion with her book, All Four Stars! I love All Four Stars, and I’m thrilled to see it get this recog­ni­tion. Con­grat­u­la­tions, Tara!

It was also pret­ty great to see so many awe­some non­fic­tion books mak­ing the list this year. Here are some of my favorites:

California/Hawaii New Eng­land New York

Thank you to all who vot­ed! For a com­plete list of all the 2015 win­ners, click here.

SCBWI-WWA Nonfiction Intensive highlights

On Fri­day, Andrew Karre from Lerner/Car­ol­rho­da gift­ed a group of our region’s non­fic­tion writ­ers with over five hours of his undi­vid­ed atten­tion. And, wow, was it an after­noon to remem­ber! He brain­stormed with the group and helped us hone our ideas into some­thing mar­ketable. He gave feed­back on our short pro­pos­als and/or first pages. And he gave insight into Lern­er, the broad­er indus­try, and what makes for great non­fic­tion for kids. Here are a few of the gems from my notes:

  • Ask your­self, would it still be a good book if it was fic­tion? It shouldn’t mat­ter where it ends up get­ting shelved—a good sto­ry is a good story.
  • “Be writ­ers, not com­pil­ers of thin­ly-veiled lists.”
  • Straight biogra­phies aren’t real­ly need­ed any­more dead due to Inter­net and online data­bas­es. They need to be MORE than just a biog­ra­phy to be pub­lished as books today.
  • It’s hard­er for non­fic­tion authors to “brand” them­selves, because there is so much less inter­ac­tion with readers.
  • As school librar­i­ans dis­ap­pear, it gets hard­er for kids to get to great non­fic­tion and vice ver­sa. Kids will still man­age to find a copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, for exam­ple, but they might not dis­cov­er The Many Faces of George Washington.
  • Reviews are espe­cial­ly impor­tant for nonfiction.
  • One impor­tant facet of a non­fic­tion author’s job is to decide what to exclude.
  • Non­fic­tion pro­pos­al should first and fore­most com­mu­ni­cate your pas­sion for the sto­ry, not fol­low a spe­cif­ic form.
  • Above all, you must CONNECT to kids!

I feel so lucky to have spent this time with Andrew and some of our region’s non­fic­tion authors. I have a slew of excit­ing ideas and a boat­load of new inspi­ra­tion and enthu­si­asm and for the work that we do. And I can’t wait to see the drafts that come out of it (my own as well as every­one else’s!). Hap­py [non­fic­tion] writing!

SCBWI Western Washington’s 2011 conference wrap-up: part 2

I did­n’t think SCBWI West­ern Wash­ing­ton’s 2011 con­fer­ence could get any bet­ter than it was on Sat­ur­day, but yes, it could! Sun­day start­ed a lit­tle lat­er (thank good­ness, after all that danc­ing!). On Sun­day, April 17, we start­ed out by cel­e­brat­ing our awe­some­ly tal­ent­ed and ded­i­cat­ed advi­so­ry com­mit­tee. And they cel­e­brat­ed us with a great big sur­prise presentation!

Copy­right Dana Sullivan

Before we even had time to see what good­ies they put togeth­er for us, we jumped right into gear with Dan San­tat’s keynote. He not only gave a peek into the tra­jec­to­ry of his career so far (and trust me, it’s only going up, folks!), but he showed us that he, too, is indeed human. He made him­self cry by show­ing us a pic­ture of why he works so hard (his fam­i­ly), and he took the rest of us right along with him. 400 peo­ple want­ed to give Dan a hug, but I think most of us set­tled for buy­ing his books and becom­ing life­long fans.
The local suc­cess sto­ry pan­el is always one of my favorites because 1) I usu­al­ly know most of the peo­ple of the pan­el and love cel­e­brat­ing their suc­cess­es, and 2) the sto­ries are always so inspir­ing and leave us all feel­ing that some­day, if we keep work­ing hard, we could be up there telling our sto­ries (about our sto­ries). This year’s panel–featuring Car­ole Dagg, Cari­dad Fer­rer, Liz Mills, Craig Orback, Wendy Wah­man, Jesse Joshua Wat­son, and Jim Whit­ing–did not dis­ap­point! From the 14-year labor-of-love per­son­al-his­to­ry nov­el to the 90-day start-to-fin­ish top­i­cal and time­ly pic­ture book (writ­ten AND illus­trat­ed by the same per­son!), these folks were all full of exam­ples of the rewards that come from hard work and dedication.

Copy­right Dana Sullivan

Dur­ing lunch I final­ly had a chance to peek at the good­ies from AdCom–HUGE MISTAKE! They had all writ­ten per­son­al notes and mes­sages inside the card (see awe­some pic­ture of the card front, above), and I total­ly teared up, again! We have such a great team, and I’m so thank­ful to work with each and every one of them. For them to go all out to thank ME reduced me to a blub­ber­ing mess. I final­ly pulled myself togeth­er enough to return to the ball­room, where I watched our awe­some Assis­tant Region­al Advi­sor, Kim­ber­ly Bak­er, open the thank you gift we got her. She burst into tears, so yeah, there I went AGAIN. Then, our Pub­lished Pro Liai­son, Sara East­er­ly, pre­sent­ed our region’s first ever Life­time Achieve­ment Award to Peg­gy King Ander­son. You can read Peg­gy’s take on it here, but we all know and love Peg­gy, so–yep, you guessed it–MORE tears!

Thank good­ness the after­noon was jam-packed with infor­ma­tion! First I went to Jim Whit­ing’s talk on Non­fic­tion Hooks. He had oodles of exam­ples of revis­ing to hook the write audience–with hand­outs! Then Jesse Joshua Wat­son talked about Writ­ing for Change, with the inspir­ing sto­ry about how his book HOPE FOR HAITI came to be and orga­ni­za­tions he has part­nered with since (okay, I got a lit­tle teary here, too). Final­ly, the last break­out of the day for me was about authen­tic­i­ty, pre­sent­ed by agent Mari­et­ta Zack­er. Mari­et­ta gave a bril­liant talk illus­trat­ing the need to be absolute­ly true to your­self while still per­fect­ly address­ing your audi­ence (yep, misty-eyed, sigh).
The rest, unfor­tu­nate­ly, is a bit of a blur. But I know I end­ed the day on a total high–even before the foot mas­sage and cocktails. 😉

SCBWI Western Washington conference 2011 wrap-up: part 1

Yes, the SCBWI West­ern Wash­ing­ton’s 20th Annu­al Writ­ing & Illus­trat­ing for Chil­dren con­fer­ence was over a month ago. I’m final­ly com­ing down from the high that week­end always leaves me with–and recov­er­ing from the hard work and long hours that go into orga­niz­ing it. So, I thought I’d share some of the high points (for me) here.
On Fri­day, April 15, 2011, I attend­ed our first ever Non­fic­tion Inten­sive, pre­sent­ed by Lionel Ben­der, Edi­to­r­i­al Direc­tor at Ben­der Richard­son White (BRW) and Jim Whit­ing, author and free­lance edi­tor. They gave us a great over of work-for-hire non­fic­tion from ini­tial con­cept all the way to pro­mo­tion and reviews, with every­thing in between. Some of the key take­aways for me were:

  • Always ask for a style guide
  • Con­sid­er get­ting your own con­sul­tant to fact-check for you
  • Always think glob­al­ly for the broad­est appeal
  • In many high­ly graph­i­cal non­fic­tion titles, design and lay­out come first, with author fit­ting appro­pri­ate text into des­ig­nat­ed spaces.
  • Nev­er sub­mit a man­u­script that is under the request­ed word count. Bet­ter to be over if nec­es­sary, but try to stay as close as possible!
  • Try not to use any sources more than 4–5 years old.

Sat­ur­day, we start­ed out with the editor/agent/art direc­tor pan­el. I always love hear­ing a) opti­mistic, b) down-to-earth friend­ly, and c) sim­i­lar these indus­try pro­fes­sion­als are. Far the doom and gloom sce­nar­ios we hear so often (pic­ture books are dead, ebooks are going to destroy the world, etc.), these peo­ple believe in the pow­er of sto­ry, and the need for those who can deliv­er it. They’re human beings (and darn nice ones, usu­al­ly, if they’re in chil­dren’s pub­lish­ing). And they all want to find the same thing, a great book.
Deb­o­rah Wiles gave one of the best keynotes I’ve ever heard. She’s a human being, too, and one of the most authen­tic and love­ly ones I’ve had the plea­sure of meet­ing. I was not the only one in the room dab­bing my eyes and try­ing not to start the day with my make­up all a mess!
For Sat­ur­day’s after­noon break­out ses­sions, I first went to Lionel Ben­der’s “Work­ing With a Book Pack­ager.” Did you know most work-for-hire projects are pub­lished with­in about 6 months of when they are STARTED? I also went to Lionel’s “Vis­it­ing Book Fairs and Exhi­bi­tions.” I can’t wait until ALA mid­win­ter is right here in Seat­tle in 2013! How great would it be to have a book to pro­mote by then? I also learned about revi­sion from the amaz­ing Deb­o­rah Wiles in a stuffed-to-the-gills room. She ana­lyzed some won­der­ful pic­ture books for uni­ver­sal exam­ples we should all try to emu­late. Some of her tips included:

  • Every good sto­ry has a surprise–the end isn’t real­ly the end.
  • Stick with NOUNS and VERBS!
  • Incor­po­rate both con­trasts and echoes.
  • Every emo­tion has an ACTION. What does it LOOK like? Show, don’t tell.
  • “The bet­ter you know your own sto­ry, the bet­ter writer you will be.”
  • Make and keep lists!

Sat­ur­day night we ate, drank, and danced the night away with both the fac­ul­ty and the atten­dees. Ah, could it get any better?
I’ll answer that in the next blog post!

I’m off to NYC for #NY11SCBWI!

I have to admit, I’m a lit­tle more ner­vous about attend­ing the SCBWI con­fer­ence in NY this year. Yes, they’re going to have great speak­ers (Lois Lowry! Jane Yolen! R. L. Stine! Mo Willems! and plen­ty of oth­er won­der­ful peo­ple!). And yes, there will be agents, edi­tors, and pub­lish­ers there. But I’ve got­ten fair­ly used to that by going to so many great SCBWI events over the last few years.  No, that’s not why I’m nervous.
I’m ner­vous because NYC has been called “the bed­bug cap­i­tal of the world.”

I guess that’s sup­posed to be me, although the incred­i­bly tal­ent­ed Dana Sul­li­van must have missed my tweet about pack­ing to stay warm and only wear­ing com­fort­able shoes this trip (sor­ry NYC fash­ion­istas, but it’s not like I had a chance any­way). And a mar­ti­ni? Per­haps he also does­n’t know I’m more of a Guin­ness-girl. At the very least, cock­tails should def­i­nite­ly not have veg­eta­bles in them. Besides that, though, Dana’s pure bril­liance. You can see more fun­ny things from him, or even sign up to receive one by email every week, here.
Any­way, I’ve got plas­tic bags for all my clothes, I plan to keep my suit­case and clothes off the floor at all times, and I WILL be check­ing the bed and room when I arrive. So, let’s hope the only new things I bring back home with me are books.
Wish me luck!