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!