Spring Luncheon Speaker Interview: Juana Martinez-Neal

Posted on: February 28, 2017


Spring is just around the corner, and with it—the Spring Luncheon: Creating Richer Narratives. We’ve put together an interview series to introduce the speakers. Today we welcome Juana Martinez-Neal.

 

Juana Martinez-Neal

Juana Martinez-Neal is a mixed media, traditional artist born in Lima, the capital of Peru. Juana illustrated LA MADRE GOOSE (Putnam 2016), and LA PRINCESA AND THE PEA (Putnam 2017) both written by Susan Middleton Elya, and SWASHBY AND THE SEA (HMH 2018) written by Beth Ferry. ALMA, her debut picture book as an author illustrator, will be published by Candlewick Press in Spring 2018 Juana was named to the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Illustration Honor list in 2014, and was awarded the SCBWI Portfolio Showcase Grand Prize in 2012. Juana now lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with her family.

 

You grew up in Peru. In what ways did your childhood influence your work as a writer and artist?

"I moved when I was 24. Peru influences my work in every single way. Maybe the way a mom carries a baby, how a character is wearing a blanket, the patterns, the landscapes, my palette, the way I portray and represent family. Our work is what we know and after 22 years living in the US I still find Peru in me every day."

 

Your debut picture book as an author illustrator will be published in Spring 2018. What inspired you to branch out into writing for children?

"I knew for a while that I wanted to become an author-illustrator, and with that in mind I was exploring different ideas for books. In fact, I had the initial idea for ALMA in 2011 but it took several rewrites and more character versions to get to what the book is now.

 

"Most of the time it takes time to get a book contract when you are a new illustrator. Being an author-illustrator, you are creating the stories for your art."

 

What is your artistic process like?

"I always start with character sketches. I can make between 20 and 40 versions of my main characters. The more I work on books, the longer I’m taking finding my characters. Once I found them, I move on to thumbnails and then to full size sketches. I tend to sketch in order from spread 02-03 to 32. My sketches are very tight so taking them to final art is easy. I’ve figure out palette, backgrounds, textures and even how much of my drops and splashes I need on each spread while I’m sketching them.

 

"I’m a mixed media, traditional artist. I prepare my surfaces, and tend to tweak my technique a little bit on every book. Both to keep me interested and to stretch my abilities. I (most of the time) work with acrylics, gesso, colored pencils and graphite."

 

How has SCBWI helped your career?

"SCBWI has made my career! I joined SCBWI in October 2004 - the week I decided to go back to illustration. I attended my first Regional Conference a few weeks later. I have met great friends, my editors and art directors, my agent Stefanie Von Borstel from Full Circle Literary, and even my baby’s Godmother! Thank you, SCBWI!"

 

Who are some of your favorite artists and illustrators?

"Here are some: Paul Klee, Paul Gauguin, Rebecca Dautremer, Isabelle Arsenault, Ana Juan, Sean Qualls, Erin Stead and Beatrice Alemagna."

 

Juana Martinez-Neal’s’ talk at the spring luncheon will be “I Am You. I See You.” Accurate Representation in Children’s Books. Learn more about Juana at her website and follow her on Twitter: @juanamartinez.

 


Rochelle Melander

 

Rochelle Melander is an author, speaker, and certified professional coach. She’s the author of ten books, including the National Novel Writing Month guide—Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It). She is the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop for children and teens in Milwaukee. She regularly interviews authors and publishing professionals at her site, writenowcoach.com. Connect with her on Twitter @writenowcoach and Facebook at WriteNowCoach.



 
Spring Luncheon Speaker Interview: Alicia Williams

Posted on: February 22, 2017


Spring is just around the corner, and with it—the Spring Luncheon: Creating Richer Narratives. We’ve put together an interview series to introduce the speakers. Today we welcome Penny Moore.

 

Alicia Williams

Alicia Williams is a graduate of Hamline University's MFAC program. She is excited to announce her middle grade novel, GENESIS RISING, with Atheneum/S&S will debut fall 2017. She started her storytelling as a folk storyteller and captivates audiences young and old with the Breh Rabbit and Breh Fox tales. She also writes and performs one-woman historical plays, featuring the likes of Sojourner Truth, Margaret Garner (slave that Toni Morrison based BELOVED on), Mamie Till (Emmit Till's mother), to name a few. Alicia is also a Master Teaching Artist, combining her love of storytelling and acting, to teach writing based on an arts-integration pedagogy.

 

You’re a playwright, storyteller, teaching artist and actress. In what ways have these roles influenced your work as a writer?

"Just yesterday I came across this quote in Creating Fiction: '…authors are not unlike actors, needing to dig into the depths of their own experiences to understand the emotions their characters might feel.'

 

"This is so true. As an actress and storyteller, I conjured old memories and even created false ones to tap into certain emotions. Using voice, facial expressions and body movements, actors are taught to remain true to the character. As I worked on my story, writing what I knew, I would delve into my own past experiences in order to connect with my protagonist. I'd read the scenes out loud to find the voice of my characters and the flow. That technique seemed to help a bit; although, I'm still learning how to bridge the different art forms. But still, all of it works together, everything artistic and creative. Like, some writers are musicians and the rhythm of words just come naturally, right? So, we artists tap into all of our gifts, they overlap."

 

As an advocate for diversity in children’s literature, what do you see as holes or needs in the market?

"The holes? The obvious hole is the lack of diversity in publishing. The excuse of not being able to discover 'talented, diverse writers' is just that, an excuse. Too many testimonies exist of editors and publishers stating that they 'can't connect to the story.' If the difficulty is not in the writing, but in the setting or characters, then there is a problem. That means the gatekeepers of literature are willfully holding back narratives that would allow readers into worlds beyond their own. And it is of the utmost urgency that those doors be open, that we become a more inclusive society. Often, the door is closed to marginalized writers, but the stories are then published by white writers. I'm sure you can name a few titles yourself. Anyway, when other authors are allowed to tell these stories, not only does it take away from a writer with the authentic experience–BUT also, the stories tend to rely on stereotypes and be offensive. The Twitter world is quick to call out these novels, but the damage is already done. The book is published, and marginalized readers (children) will be hurt by the characterizations, and white readers will believe the falseness to be true. Not understanding that we all are responsible for the images we put (and not) into the world is a major disservice to our readers."

 

In a recent blog post, you posed the question: What are some qualities that makes a strong female protagonist admirable for girls? What makes them enduring and heroic? How would you answer that question?

"I love a flawed character, and believe that it is important for girls to be okay with being flawed, too. We ladies are told to be perfect in so many ways–looks, studies, disposition, etc. 'Act like a girl!' What the heck does that mean? We have to give girls permission to mess up and find ways to express their individuality. Female protagonists should offer discovery and growth. Boys are allowed to discover all they want, they're encouraged to be adventurous, brave, STEM wise.

 

"In grad school at Hamline, I wrote about the lack of female role models in kid lit. For research, I interviewed my daughter's Girl Scout troop. Guess what? All of the girls admired Harry Potter's Hermione, but none of them wanted to be like her. Why? The other characters shunned her, describing her as an 'annoying know-it-all.' Initially, none of the other characters (Ron and Harry) liked her, they only tolerated her. They preferred Ginny, she was likeable. Well, thank heavens for the following books in the series because Hermione blossomed into a brave, knowledgeable, resourceful girl, and plenty of young readers want to purchase her wand!"

 

"Oh, and another thing …. YA novels featuring girl protagonists almost always include a love interest. This predictable narrative is overdone. The girls in the troop were tired of that thread, especially when boy books didn't include it. Boys get to focus on saving the world. Gender roles and stereotypes are most often reinforced in literature with girl protagonists. I'd love to see more girls who are witty or plucky, and who can cleverly figure out how to overcome challenges.

 

"Okay, okay, one more thing! Last year I was on a panel about feisty female protagonists. Anne Ursu shared how her character, Hazel, from Breadcrumbs, was criticized as not being feminist because she wasn't decisive. Really? What elementary aged girl is decisive? Obviously, Hazel made the decision to rescue her friend, which in itself was a heroic act. The bravery of facing your fears, going out of your comfort zone, wavering in the act, and determining that 'yes, yes I can do it, even though I'm scared to death'–those are heroic and memorable qualities for girls."

 

How has SCBWI helped your career?

"SCWBI keeps me connected. I'm at the beginning of my career, so my journey with the organization is still sort of new. I remember going to my first conference here in Charlotte. I was still a graduate student, and it felt like home. I was amongst like-minded individuals, and we all wanted to write great literature for children. And now, SCBWI is offering me this amazing opportunity to share my experience and knowledge! So, I can't say that the organization has 'helped' my career, but rather that it is 'helping' it."

 

What are some of the books you loved as a child and teen?

"Believe it or not, I was a huge Judy Blume fan. I devoured her book. My brother called me fat, my granddaddy called me squatty, and my mom comforted me by letting me know that I was just 'pudgy.' So naturally I was drawn to Blubber, and of course Fudge and Super Fudge. They were hilarious. And, I’ll never forget Margaret’s talks with God and the secrets to increasing my bust size. When I was a teen, I found a stack of my uncle’s books in my grandmother’s basement. They were raw and full of grit, nothing that I should’ve been reading. One was Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown. As a girl growing up in Detroit, it really opened my eyes to what life was really like for Black men, and truthfully, there weren’t any books that reflected me or my environment."

 

Alicia Williams’ talk at the spring luncheon will be Mocha, Caramel Latte: The Risks and Rewards Of Writing POC. Learn more about Alicia at her website The Uncut Opinions of Alicia Williams and follow her on Twitter: @storiestolife.

 


Rochelle Melander

 

Rochelle Melander is an author, speaker, and certified professional coach. She’s the author of ten books, including the National Novel Writing Month guide—Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It). She is the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop for children and teens in Milwaukee. She regularly interviews authors and publishing professionals at her site, writenowcoach.com. Connect with her on Twitter @writenowcoach and Facebook at WriteNowCoach.



 
Spring Luncheon Speaker Interview: Penny Moore

Posted on: February 20, 2017


Spring is just around the corner, and with it—the Spring Luncheon: Creating Richer Narratives. We’ve put together an interview series to introduce the speakers. Today we welcome Penny Moore.

Penny Moore

 

Penny Moore has always had a love of books, especially young adult and middle grade. While completing degrees in Linguistics and Japanese Language & Literature at the University of Georgia, she spent time studying comparative literature at top universities in Japan and South Korea. She then worked as a middle school TESOL teacher, which is where she solidified her passion for publishing and kids lit in particular. Penny joined Empire in 2016 as an agent after working at FinePrint Literary and while she’s interested in all genres, she’s specifically seeking inventive works featuring breakout voices and compelling plot lines.

 

You’ve studied in Georgia, Japan and South Korea. Can you talk a little bit about where you grew up and what led you to seek an International education?

"I was an Army brat growing up. I lived in Korea and Japan as a child due to my dad’s job. We were always moving around during my childhood, so after he retired, I wanted to go back an experience both countries on my own as an adult during college."

 

In your bio, you talk about how your work as a middle school TESOL teacher solidified your passion for publishing and kids lit. What did you see and learn in that experience that ignited your passion for literature?

"I’ve always loved kid’s lit, and when you’re teaching children a new language it’s often times difficult to get them interested in the subject matter. Learning a second language can be daunting, especially when English has so many crazy grammatical exceptions. So I found choosing universal favorites, like Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar (for my young students), and Harry Potter (for my older advanced students), was a great way to get them excited when it came to improving their reading comprehension. It was the power of books and their ability to transcend language barriers that made me think I’d love to play a hand in shaping the marketplace for kid’s lit."

 

When you look at the kid lit market today, what excites you?

"Diversity. I think in the last few years, publishing has been making more of an effort to introduce diversity into the market, knowing full and well that they need to reach young readers of all backgrounds."

 

What is missing?

"More diversity, specifically own voice diversity. It’s great when any writer wants to include diversity in their stories, while doing it in a thoughtful and well-researched manner. However, if you see the ratio of marginalized voices in comparison to those who are white, able-bodied, straight, and cis-gendered, the numbers are pretty sad. Not to mention there is a lot of poor representation of minority characters that majority-authors and big publishers didn’t stop to properly research before sending a book to print."

 

Is there anything specific you’re looking for from new authors?

"I always looking for anything that’s high concept with a stellar voice. My main passions are YA SFF and YA contemporary, but I’m pretty much open to anything if the author has a fresh take and compelling voice. I’m also looking for contemporary MG that will make me ugly cry. My list is pretty heavy on YA right now, so I’d love to represent a standout MG project as well."

 

What are you reading now?

"I’m currently reading The Reader by Traci Chee and it’s so incredibly engrossing. Exactly what I’d love to find in a YA fantasy."

 

Penny Moore’s talk at the spring luncheon will be Building a Richer World through Diversity in Books. Learn more about Penny at empireliterary.com and follow her on Twitter: @precociouspenny.

 


Rochelle Melander

 

Rochelle Melander is an author, speaker, and certified professional coach. She’s the author of ten books, including the National Novel Writing Month guide—Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It). She is the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop for children and teens in Milwaukee. She regularly interviews authors and publishing professionals at her site, writenowcoach.com. Connect with her on Twitter @writenowcoach and Facebook at WriteNowCoach.



 
Tips: How to Get an Agent & Avoid the Slush Pile

Posted on: January 3, 2017


On December 2nd, the Southwest area writers gathered for a panel discussion on "How to get an agent and avoid the slush pile." While the query letter is still the main way to get an agent's attention, more success stories are happening every day with a writer finding an agent through an online contest, conference, or mentorship.

In case you missed the event, a few of our panelists offered to share helpful tips.

 

Consider applying to a mentorship program: 

Apply! My mentorship with Ann Angel was a life-changing experience. She gave me in-depth feedback about making the voice and point of view in my novel more consistent, cutting unnecessary scenes and words, and raising the stakes for my character. Melissa Hammond

For those currently involved in a mentorship, here are some tips:

"Be proactive. Your mentor wants to read your work, but you have to send it to her. Don’t wait for her to prompt you for more pages.

"Involve your mentor in multiple stages of the process. Your mentor can help you with a lot more than just sentence-level edits. Talk with her before you dive into a big revision or new project, and she can help make sure you’re heading in the right direction. She can also help you with query letters and synopses.

"Learn about your mentor’s journey. I asked Ann about her own writing journey. She gave me a great perspective on how to make time for writing, how to make sure an agent is a good fit for you, and how to work with an agent once you have one.

"Get lunch. Lunch is just the best." Melissa Hammond

What’s one or two main tips you have for writers who have never pitched at a conference?

"Pitching is a high-stakes situation, so your body will naturally be in a state of high arousal. Instead of trying to fight that, you can take control of the feeling by reinterpreting high arousal as 'excitement' rather than 'anxiety.'

"There was something that inspired you to write your project. Be excited about it! Be so excited that your passion is contagious. You don’t want your audience to think 'hmm, that story might have some cool nuggets.' You want them drooling the way you do when you see a delicious new book ready to read."  - Jacob Turner

"You don’t need to have your pitch memorized BUT have it rehearsed to the point where you feel so comfortable with it, you could recite it from memory anyway. This way, you’ve built up muscle memory. You’ll know which words to put emphasis on and where to take your pauses for breath. In the week leading up to a conference, I love practicing my pitch in the car on my way to work (so no one thinks I’m weird when they hear me talking to myself). Also, read your pitch sloooowly. Agents are trying to listen and if you speed-read through (this happens when you’re nervous), it’s harder for them to catch the details of what you’re saying. Practice, breathe, and enunciate." Ashley Hearn

Enter online writing contests:

"Do them! 



 
Announcing: Spring Releases 2017

Posted on: December 7, 2016


It’s that time again… not just the holidays, but time to celebrate the upcoming release season for books by our members. If you’re not among those with a book(s) coming out between January and June, why does that matter to you?

 

It matters because when your turn comes, (and it will) what else would you love to see our members doing to help support your launch season?

 

You can now view the flier on our regional page here.

 

Due to a website glitch, you currently cannot download the several versions of the SPRING 2017 release flier. However, I’ll notify via social media and the listserv when the release link is working properly. Downloading is precisely what you’ll hope everyone among us is doing when your name is among those on the release fliers in the future. For now, if you plan to see/contact significant folks before the download works properly, just email me directly and I’ll send them to you as an email attachment.

 

Let me count the ways:

 

1.  Share the download link on social media, more than once, throughout the spring, shouting out specific titles, authors, topics, illustrators, publishers to increase spontaneous circulation.

 

2.  Send direct emails with links to your family, and friends, suggesting which of the titles featured you can imagine would be “just right” for ________________.

 

3.  Asking those among your contacts who are involved with libraries, bookstores, schools, etc. to print and hand-deliver a copy or two to those who make book-buying decisions.

 

4.  Print out copies for yourself and use the power of eye contact and word-of-mouth to deliver to those you know personally in schools, libraries, bookstores, etc.

 

5.  Check these titles out at your local library, even if you don’t plan to read them. Books that circulate stay in stock.

 

6.  If your library system doesn’t stock the titles, request them then check them out. It will raise awareness and could result in a system purchase. It also means the librarian would read it, which could result in it being featured in a book group or staff recommendation.

 

7.  If you see a selection that really does seem perfect for someone you know, consider gifting it. If you know a reader, you know that books are always welcome gifts.

 

8.  Use those school, bookstore, and library contacts to suggest potential author / illustrator visits.

 

9.  Don’t forget about any of the above after doing these things the first time.

 

“Kidlit” books have a greater potential to stay in print than books for adults, sometimes over decades rather than only months or years. That’s because there is always a new audience being born and growing into our books. Those incoming audiences/readership will find these titles through teaching/librarian fans who find them now.

 

That, of course, is a good thing.

 

On the other hand, each book has one and only one “LAUNCH” window. The current release season is the time and opportunity to really “party hard”, making key readers and decision-makers aware of the books. Just as we hope the books will live long and prosper among their target audiences, we know that those decision-makers are bombarded by a new series of releases each and every season ahead. Unless books make a memorable splash in early days, or find avid fans among readers who book-talk the titles among friends and young readers, it is all too easy to slip out of the main current and become beached among the rocky shallows.

 

Well, that emptied my bag of trite metaphors and overused expressions, so Ill end with this: The best possible gift is the one we receive all year long: the support and encouragement of our friends and families.

 

Have a wonderful holiday season and 2017.

 

 


Sandy Brehl

 

Sandy Brehl is the PAL Coordinator Facebook administrator for the Wisconsin chapter. She is also the author of Odin's Promise. Find her at sandybrehl.com and on Twitter @SandyBrehl & @PBWorkshop.



 
Interview with Author Bridget Birdsall

Posted on: October 17, 2016


In anticipation of Wisconsin's SCBWI Fall Conference, we've put together an interview series as a way to meet the people behind this year's presentations and breakout sessions. Today, I'm spotlighting author Bridget Birdsall.

Bridget Birdsall

Bridget Birdsall is a multidisciplinary artist who overcame dyslexic challenges and made a mid-life decision to pursue her dream of writing. She received her Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of the Fine Arts in 2005. Bridget has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships and has taught writing and literature classes in both academic and contemplative settings. She has published two novels: Ordinary Angels and Double Exposure.

 

Bridget, we are thrilled that you will be attending our fall conference. Thanks for answering a few questions for us!

 

Tell us a story about your favorite SCBWI-related experience.

"My favorite SCBWI experience was listing to Scott Peck talk in the lower level of Aliotos Resturant in Milwaukee, across the street where I had my first job at the Big Boy on Mayfair Road as a strawberry pie girl. Mr. Peck spoke about writing out his novels on an old fashion typewriter, neatly collecting all the pages of the manuscript, then peeling the first chapter off the top, ripping it up, and throwing it out.

There was an audible gasp in the room as he said this aloud.

He went on to explain that he never knows how to start a book until he’s written the entire thing front to back. After he destroys the first chapter without even looking back at it, he then re-writes a new first chapter and that’s it: he has his book.

He also spoke about persistence and perseverance. Two things I learned from my Big Boy employment experience just across the street two decades earlier. Only I had no idea I’d be applying them years later to my own writing life.

You see, I was only 15 then. I was not a stellar student. I was seriously dyslexic, and no teacher, counselor, parent or other concerned adult in their right mind would ever have recommended that I pursue a career as writer. Yet it was in the basement break room of the Big Boy restaurant where I was earning a whopping $1.75 an hour filling up pie shells with red glop and strawberries that I decided unequivocally, that come hell or high water, I was going to college!

I did not want to end up like the young woman I found myself consoling. A waitress who’d been working at the Big Boy since she was my age. Who’d decided long ago that she sucked at school and she'd never be smart or rich enough to go to college. Who’d come to work after her boyfriend had beat her up for forgetting to bring home a bucket of fried chicken (which I learned later she usually snuck out the back door) and because she had not made enough in tips to pay for an abortion procedure they'd scheduled for the following day.

She was fired the next day for stealing. I never knew her name, nor have I seen her since, though I’ve often wondered what happened to her. And after that, as I pushed strawberries into red gloppy pie shells for countless hours, I began to wonder if I was going to be smart or rich enough to go to college?

Because, well, I already knew, I sort-of sucked at school too.

Today, I don’t write my novels like Scott Peck because believe it or not, even after earning an MFA, I remain a two finger typer, and word processor is much more forgiving. However, I do write to the end of my books and stories and poems to discover what they are really about.

And no matter what is going on in my life, I do keep reading and writing, even if it’s only in my journal, even if it’s a grocery list or something odd that strikes my fancy.

In fact, I have no idea why I feel compelled to write certain things down. Like the fact that strawberries aren’t really berries, not like a blueberry or a grape, they are actually a member of the rose family and they are the only fruit to wear their seeds on the outside, usually up to 200 of them.

But perhaps the very fact that I wrote this down will serve me or my story or someone in the future. Who knows? And I probably won't know until I get to the end, and when I get to the end, my goal is to be as confident and clear as Scott Peck. To cross out that first line, tear up that first chapter, kill all my darlings. Because as a writer what Mr. Peck actually taught me was that once the story finds it’s feet you must let it dance!

And what I learned in the basement of the Big Boy Resturant is that yes, not only will persistence and perseverance pay off, but no matter how smart or rich I might be, me and my stories are worthy of the dance! "

 

What should a writer or illustrator do to make the most of the conference this October?

"Listen and take notes and save your notes, they are golden!"

 

Can you share a piece of advice you received that helped you on your artistic journey?

"80% is good enough."

 

How has SCBWI helped your career?

"It’s connected me to so many amazing people who love children’s literature, like me. It feed my heart, and thus my life and thus my 'career.'"

 

What have you recently learned that has had an impact on your work?

"Only the constant reminder that the joy is in the journey, the writing itself, and still today, when I read a good book, one that reaches in and massages my heart, I whisper prayers to my Creator of gratitude for the power of literature to change and save lives. Write on!"

 

Thanks, Bridget!

 

You can learn more about Bridget Birdsall and her books on Twitter, Facebook, and on her website. At the Wisconsin SCBWI Fall Conference, she will present at the breakout session Got Plot? on Saturday, October 22 from 10-10:45 a.m. She will also moderate two panels on Sunday, October 23: Self/Indie Publishing Panel (1:30-2:15 pm) and Boutique/Small Press Panel (2:15-3:00 pm).

 


Colleen Riordan, SCBWI-Wisconsin Blog Editor

 

Colleen Riordan is a SCBWI-WI Blog Editor, freelance magazine writer, and a nonprofit communications coordinator. She writes MG and YA fantasy has been a member of SCBWI since 2014. Find her at online at cmriordan.com, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

 



 
Interview with Author Lisa Moser

Posted on: October 17, 2016


In anticipation of Wisconsin's SCBWI Fall Conference, we've put together an interview series as a way to meet the people behind this year's presentations and breakout sessions. Today, I'm spotlighting author Lisa Moser.

Lisa Moser

Lisa Moser is the author of a number of children's picture books including Perfect Soup, Squirrel's Fun Day, and most recently Stories from Bug Garden. She is a former teacher and avid reader living in Wisconsin.

 

Lisa, we are thrilled that you will be attending our fall conference. Thanks for answering a few questions for us!

 

Tell us a story about your favorite SCBWI-related experience.

"I loved learning from all the wonderful writers, teachers and editors through all of these years. So, I eagerly agreed to be the Picture Book Mentor for Wisconsin in 2012 and 2014. What a wonderful experience! I love working with writers, showing them some things I’ve learned along the way, and then watching them soar. It’s such a proud, joyful moment!"

 

What should a writer or illustrator do to make the most of the conference this October?

"Be open to the advice you are given by experienced authors and editors. It may take a bit of time for all of the wisdom to sink in, but if you ponder what you hear and really try to learn from it, you will be off on a wonderful journey. "

 

Can you share a piece of advice you received that helped you on your artistic journey?

"'Don’t be too precious with your work.' The wonderful writer/teacher, Gretchen Mayo, said these words to me years ago. She encouraged me to listen to critiques, to approach revision in a positive, energetic way, and to not cling too tightly to the words on the page. Trust that you have another story to tell. This story that you’re working on is not your last. Stories can be written in many different ways, so let go, explore, and create."

 

How has SCBWI helped your career?

"I have learned from great teachers, been involved with talented and amazing people in my writing group, met editors, sold manuscripts, tried to help others by giving lectures and critiques, and been thankful for this great organization every step of the way. "

 

What have you recently learned that has had an impact on your work?

"Everybody has peaks and valleys in their writing career, but you are surrounded by incredibly supportive people who are experiencing the same thing. Join hands and walk together. "

 

Thanks, Lisa!

 

You can learn more about Lisa Moser and her books on her website. At the Wisconsin SCBWI Fall Conference, she will present at the breakout session Building a Picture Book Character Garden: Bug by Bug on Saturday, October 22 from 3:15-4:00 pm.

 


Colleen Riordan, SCBWI-Wisconsin Blog Editor

 

Colleen Riordan is a SCBWI-WI Blog Editor, freelance magazine writer, and a nonprofit communications coordinator. She writes MG and YA fantasy has been a member of SCBWI since 2014. Find her at online at cmriordan.com, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

 



 
Interview with YA Author Kym Brunner

Posted on: October 17, 2016


In anticipation of Wisconsin's SCBWI Fall Conference, we've put together an interview series as a way to meet the people behind this year's presentations and breakout sessions. Today, I'm spotlighting author Kym Brunner.

Kym Brunner

Kym Brunner is the author of the young adult novels Wanted: Dead or in Love, One Smart Cookie, and coming soon: Flip the Bird, which will be available Nov. 1, 2016. She dreams entire novels in her head, but needs about a year to write it all down. She wishes there was an app for this. She's addicted to chai tea, going to the movies, and reality TV. When she's not reading or writing, Kym teaches 7th grade full time.

 

Kym, we are thrilled that you will be attending our fall conference. Thanks for answering a few questions for us!

 

Tell us a story about your favorite SCBWI-related experience.

"Hard to pick just one! Ever since joining SCBWI ten years ago, I've learned so much and met so many great writers who are now my lifelong friends. Attending my first national SCBWI conference when I was just starting out as a writer however, was an eye-opening experience. Putting names to faces of editors I'd heard about from some of the largest publishing houses in the world, and hearing tips on what they were acquiring and why, made me feel like an insider. Being privy to a breakout session with a fresh-faced John Green and his editor Julie Strauss-Gabel where they talked about the ups and downs of publishing Looking for Alaska; chatting up close and personal with Judy Blume (who said "Don't take a picture of me, take one with me!); and hanging out with Jay Asher at the pool where he "hoped" 13 Reasons Why when it would come out several months later are just a few of my favorite memories. If you ever get a chance to attend the national conference in LA in August, go for it! You'll be glad you did."

 

What should a writer or illustrator do to make the most of the conference this October?

"Take a ton of notes, ask questions, and make new friends! I can't tell you how many wonderful things have happened because of a simple connection: I've made hundreds of writer-friends over the years which then translates to a mutual sharing of information, opportunities, and sharing of book news; I landed my first agent after a writer at a conference mentioned to me that her agent was looking for a humorous tween story like mine (she was); after chatting about social media during a luncheon, I was asked to head a workshop for our local SCBWI group (Social Media for Scaredy Cats) which then led to being asked to do the same workshop on a local talk show that appeared in five states! So sit next to someone and strike up a conversation––ask if they're on Facebook and then follow each other after you get home."

 

Can you share a piece of advice you received that helped you on your artistic journey?

"I once submitted my work at a conference to get a one-on-one review of my work. The editor asked me to tell what my story was about in one sentence. I started to ramble and quickly realized I couldn't pinpoint what was so great about it. He said, "When you can make that one sentence summary hook me and make me want to read your book, that's when you are ready to submit." It was a bit harsh, but I realized I needed to have a dynamite hook that featured a unique plot, super cool characters, and/or unusual setting in mind before I began my story. As the editor pointed out, if if my writing was flawless, a dull story wasn't going to interest anyone. He told me to throw my characters into danger and make my readers sweat it out so they'd keep turning the pages. To do that you need to read a lot of articles and books on the craft of writing, read widely in the genre you write, and write every day to keep those characters in the room with you, alive and fresh. "

 

How has SCBWI helped your career?

"Attending SCBWI conferences really gave me an insight into just how much determination and skill was needed to get my book published. Listening to (and then following!) the suggestions given to me by established authors, agents, and editors about the hows and whys of traditional publishing led me to my first "yes!" from an editor. I scoured "The Blue Boards" (SCBWI discussion boards) to find answers to my newbie questions and then applied what I could to my own work and to the submission process. Joining an SCBWI critique group was truly the turning point however that led to improvement of my work. Belonging to a network of bunny-eat-bunny writers who gently pointed out weaknesses gave me the critical eye I needed."

 

What have you recently learned that has had an impact on your work?

"Get out of your comfort zone! Try new genres, approach new people, submit articles on a whim, make your characters go somewhere you hadn't planned…just see what happens! I happen to be writing a humorous tween novel that involves space travel and decided to follow NASA on Twitter. The next day I saw an application for 30 people in the U.S. to attend a splashdown trial of a prototype of the Orion, a spacecraft that will be heading to Mars one day. I thought "fat chance" but also thought, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained," so I filled it out and…they accepted my application! I flew out two weeks later and experienced being at the NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia, which of course, will flavor my novel in a special, eyewitness sort of way. It was a super cool experience––one which wouldn't have happened if I didn't get out of my comfort zone."

 

Thanks, Kym!

 

Keep in touch with Kym Brunner by following her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website. At the Wisconsin SCBWI Fall Conference, she will present at the breakout session Ha, Ha, How… To Add Humor to Your Manuscript on Saturday, October 22 from 2:15-3:00 pm.

 


Colleen Riordan, SCBWI-Wisconsin Blog Editor

 

Colleen Riordan is a SCBWI-WI Blog Editor, freelance magazine writer, and a nonprofit communications coordinator. She writes MG and YA fantasy has been a member of SCBWI since 2014. Find her at online at cmriordan.com, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

 



 
Interview with Jennifer Swanson, Author

Posted on: October 14, 2016


In anticipation of Wisconsin's SCBWI Fall Conference, we've put together an interview series as a way to meet the people behind this year's presentations and breakout sessions. Today we're spotlighting Jennifer Swanson.

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Jennifer Swanson is the award winning author of over 25 nonfiction books for children. Her books in the “How Things Work” series by The Child’s World were named to the 2012 Booklist’s Top 10 Books for Youth. Top reviews include a starred review in Booklist, and recommended reviews from School Librarians Workshop, Library Media Connection, the NSTA and a book in a series that was a JLG Selection. Jennifer's passion for science resonates in in all her books but especially, BRAIN GAMES (NGKids) and SUPER GEAR: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up (Charlesbridge). She is also an instructor of the Nuts and Bolts of Science Writing workshop at Highlights Foundation each spring.

 

 

Let's see how Jennifer answered some questions about her work and the creative process.

 

Your experience as a middle school science instructor gives you an unique perspective. How has teaching informed your writing?

 

As a teacher, I see what gets kids excited about science, and also, what does not. It's really neat to watch how they respond to information about new technology and engineering. They love to hear about new discoveries and explorations that have happened and most importantly, they ask questions. Kids ask tons of questions– ones adults may never even think of! It's amazing how their brains work. I listen to their discussions and then try to capture that excitement and their quest for knowledge in my books. My goal is to make my books accessible and interesting to kids of all ages. 

 

At the fall conference, you will be presenting on "How to Get an Editor’s Attention" and "Nuts and Bolts of Science Writing." What are the differences in your approach for fiction versus nonfiction when you are trying to appeal to an editor?

 

I would say there isn't much difference at all. When you are trying to get an editor's attention it pretty much comes down to two basic things: your writing ability and the hook. For both fiction and non-fiction the hook must be strong. Regardless of what kind of hook you have (emotional, sci-fi, historical, action-adventure, etc.), it should be interesting, unique, and exciting. The writing must be polished and top-notch. Those two things are exactly what every editor seeks. How do you get these into your writing? Research your topic thoroughly. Know your characters inside and out. Have a strong story arc and if possible, a knock-your-socks-off title. Sometimes a great title is enough to capture an editor's attention and get them to read on. In these two presentations I'll give specific tips about how to make your manuscript sparkle and get editors to sit up and take notice.  

 

How do you generate ideas for your stories? What inspires you?

 

Since I mostly write STEM books these days, I read tons of articles, watch TV programs, and keep track of emerging technologies. I love science and all things STEM, so I am inspired by new discoveries, new frontiers in space and technology, and anything about engineering.  When I go out, I'm a people-watcher. I like to observe (and occasionally take notes) on how people interact with one another.  I guess that's the scientist in me. Anyway, it helps me to understand how I want my character to act, and also the best way to get information across to the reader. 

 

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

 

I really enjoy editing. Many of the author friends I have say how much they dislike the editing process, but I love it. To me, the hardest part is getting the words out the first time. When I write nonfiction, I research as I write, which is good, but makes for very long days of writing. Most of my books take pretty in-depth concepts and chunk it down to middle school-age thinking.  That takes a lot of brain power! The days when I can edit are much easier and allow me to actually use the craft of writing more. When I edit, I re-write sentences to make them less technical. I can take the time add in more words to make the story flow. I really get involved in the overall arc of the book. It is much more enjoyable for me to work this way. 

 

What are you most excited about as you imagine the future of the publishing industry? 

 

For me, I'd love to see more STEM books in the big trade publishers, particularly ones about engineering. The scientific advances that are being made in all STEM fields are just so exciting and kids want to know more about them. I hope that the trade industry continues to grow and evolve to reflect the interest of these kids in  new books and series about the hard sciences (physics, space, engineering, etc.). This can only help to stimulate thinking and inspire kids to become scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, all of which will be greatly needed in the future.

 

Thanks Jennifer!

 

Jennifer will present How to Get an Editor’s Attention at the SCBWI Fall Conference, on Saturday, October 22nd, from 11:00-11:45 am. She will also present Nuts and Bolts of Science Writing on the 22nd from 3:15-4:00 pm. You can visit her at www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com.


Colleen Riordan, SCBWI-Wisconsin Blog Editor

  

Colleen Riordan is a SCBWI-WI Blog Editor, freelance magazine writer, and a nonprofit communications coordinator. She writes MG and YA fantasy has been a member of SCBWI since 2014. Find her at online at cmriordan.com, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

 



 
Interview with Beth Terrill, Picture Book Editor

Posted on: October 14, 2016


In anticipation of Wisconsin's SCBWI Fall Conference, we've put together an interview series as a way to meet the people behind this year's presentations and breakout sessions. Today I'm spotlighting Beth Terrill.

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Beth is the US picture book editor for NorthSouth Books. Beth is currently working with Kwame Alexander, Daniel Miyares, Monica Brown, John Parra, Rashin Kheirieh, Torben Kuhlmann, Shana Corey, Gregory Christie, and Sven Nordqvist. Other authors she has worked with include Phillis Gershator, Dan Yaccarino, and the Dr. Seuss estate. Prior to working at NorthSouth, Beth worked as an editor at Random House in the Books for Young Readers Group for 12 years. Beth is also the executive producer of Pete Seeger: Storm King, a Grammy® nominated audio project featuring spoken word and multi-genre music. Beth is happy to announce that NorthSouth Books is now accepting manuscripts and portfolio samples from US-based picture book author/illustrators in addition to artists from other parts of the world. NorthSouth Books is known for publishing fresh, original, fiction with a broad range of artistic styles.

 

Let's see how Beth answered some questions about her work and the creative process.

 

What is the best part of being a picture book editor?

 

Being exposed to so many creative people and ideas—stories and art—and having the opportunity to use my imagination. 

 

Diversity in children's literature has been a major topic over the past few years. What is your vision for future kid lit?

 

I really like the way Kwame Alexander said it. These aren't his exact words, but the gist of it was this: a future where books can be a reflection (of our joys, sorrows, triumphs, struggles, daily lives) and a window through which we learn can new things about different kinds of people.

 

The idea that every child can find a book where the main character or hero looks like they do. And having access to books that can introduce us to people, places, and ideas that we might not come otherwise come across. 

 

What inspired your career path in publishing? Did you always plan to work within the industry?

 

Working in publishing wasn't a plan that I articulated to myself until I was in my late 20s, but I believe it was in my consciousness from a very young age. My inspiration came from many places. My mom read to me as a child. It really instilled a love of words in me. Also, my elementary school had a friendly librarian and a wonderful collection of books and art—little framed prints of famous paintings by Mary Cassatt, Van Gogh, etc. I came home with different books and paintings to hang in our house each week. It was great. Lastly, I have always loved to write. I wrote stories as a child and would often write letters to the school principal about different things that might be fun to try. My letters were never answered. But I never stopped writing them. If I was really upset about something, I'd say to my friends, "I'm writing a letter." They would laugh. But I still believe in the power of the written word. And, luckily, I remembered these childhood passions and found a career that lets me play with ideas, words, and pictures all day long.  

 

When looking over manuscripts and illustrations, what catches your eye? What things do you pay attention to most?

 

With manuscripts, many things can catch my eye: a great character, unique word choices, a satisfying story arc, a story that makes me think, makes me learn something, makes me feel something (surprises me, makes me smile, laugh, cry, scream or want to take action on behalf of a cause, slows me down, speeds me up, scares me (just a little)), the list goes on and on. I guess the thing that I pay most attention to is when I find a manuscript that I can't forget—that I could read over and over and still enjoy.  

 

With illustrations, I think the thing that catches my eye most is seeing a bit of the human hand in the art even if something is created on the computer. Something that is as unique as we are (even if it's only evident in the smallest of details). 

 

What is your favorite part of the editing process?

I love problem solving and listening to authors and illustrators and trying to help them bring their visions to reality. I especially like brainstorming with authors and illustrators.

 

Thanks Beth!

 

Beth will present Picture Book Magic: How Words Plus Pictures Equal More Than the Sum of Their Parts at the SCBWI Fall Conference, on Friday, October 21st, from 6-7 pm. You can learn more about NorthSouth Books by visiting their website.


 

Genevieve Angelique Artel, SCBWI-Wisconsin Blog Editor

Genevieve Angelique is a YA writer, blusher, & Ravenclaw librarian turned SCBWI-WI blog editor. You can also find her online @Genevieve Angelique or on Twitter