Thursday, February 23, 2017

Check out this wonderful conversation between Nikki Grimes and Kwame Alexander on the Power of Poetry

It's a wonderful discussion, shared with us at Publishers Weekly...

We learn about The Golden Shovel form of poetry, hear the latest on Kwame and Nikki's books coming out and in-the-pipeline, and hear them speak from the heart on the power of hope and poetry.

Two standout moments:

"...if you want to have something authentic and powerful to write about, you have to live an authentic, empowering life. I learned that from my parents, from my mentors like Nikki Giovanni, from writers, in particular black writers, who always believed that writing is just a tool to carve out our dreams." -Kwame Alexander


"The Harlem Renaissance poets were always writing with a larger intent than mere entertainment. Their work might have been—is— entertaining along the way, but that was never the point of the poetry. The poetry was about encouragement, about uplift, about planting seeds of hope. I am all about hope. It is the one thread I repeatedly use to stitch all my poems and stories together. " -Nikki Grimes 

The whole article is well worth reading!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Creative Habit Achieved!

Back on January 10, 2017, I asked, What's Your New Creative Habit Going To Be? 

Leveraging the science that 21 consecutive days of doing something helps it to become a habit, I shared that my own goal was to write for at least an hour every day.

I'm happy to share that today's hour and seven minutes of writing was day 43, and yes, I do feel that I have a healthy, creative new habit! (It was day 16 or 17 that I really felt the shift, from oh-yeah, I'm supposed to do that to I really want to do that!)

Your 21 days to a new creative habit can start any time, even today.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Literary Hub explores the use of sensitivity readers in publishing

Christine Ro interviewed author Becky Albertalli (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda), sensitivity reader Sangu Mandanna, and publisher Stacy Whitman (Tu Books), who together give a good picture of sensitivity reading, with lots to consider.

Read the piece here.

The article also recommends "Writing in the Margins" which has a Sensitivity Reader Database (from which Christine found Sangu Mandanna for the article.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Twitter Highlights and Resonant Moments of #NY17SCBWI

Some of the most popular conference moments, captured on twitter with the hashtag #NY17SCBWI...

"I never set out to have an audience. I set out to share what I love." Great social media advice from  at 

Feb 11
"Everything you are awkward about is the very thing that makes you so special." - Bryan Collier 

A lot of standing ovations at this conference. Why? Because we are fortifying ourselves to fight and write for the good of kids. 

Leave room for the reader. Don't do it all yourself. A book is not a monologue. --Sara Pennypacker 

51% of the kids in the US are POC. Repeat. -- 

NEW FOR 2017: 's nat'l (& internat'l!) BOOKS FOR READERS initiative, getting 📚 to the kids who need 'em. "Give Books. Build Dreams."

Feb 11
If you find something that inspires you, dig into that a little deeper. -Andrea Beaty 

Tomie dePaola at  (1/2): My wish for you: The joy of compassion, the joy of creating something that didn't exist before…

Tomie dePaola at  (2/2): The courage to do it in the first place, and to do it again, and again and again. And bit of good luck.

More moments that resonated for me:

"My thin skin allows me…to exhale emotions and humanity onto the page." -  inspires me at 

"Your passion is what's going to set your book apart" -great advice on Nonfiction for kids & teens from @ emily6560 

"The world is waiting for you to dream... You'll only get half. The kids get the other half." - Bryan Collier makes us feel 

What moments are still resonating for you?

And check out all the conference blog posts here.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Wait, what are you doing here?

The SCBWI Winter Conference party is over at the Official SCBWI Conference Blog

And on social media with the hashtag #NY17SCBWI

See you there!


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Always Learning: "People of Color" Does Not Accurately Include Native People

It came up this week, and to understand it further, a friend pointed me to Debbie Reese's indispensable "American Indians In Children's Literature" blog and the essay, Are we "People of Color?" 

Part of Debbie's essay reads:

A common phrase used to describe minority or underrepresented populations is "people of color." American Indians are not, to quote Elizabeth Cook Lynn, a member of the Crow Creek Sioux tribe and founding editor of Wicazo Sa (a leading journal in American Indian Studies), "people of color." Cook-Lynn writes:

Native populations in America are not "ethnic" populations; they are not "minority" populations, neither immigrant nor tourist, nor "people of color." They are the indigenous peoples of this continent. They are landlords, with very special political and cultural status in the realm of American identity and citizenship. Since 1924, they have possessed dual citizenship, tribal and U.S., and are the only population that has not been required to deny their previous national citizenship in order to possess U.S. citizenship. They are known and documented as citizens by their tribal nations. (1)

She goes on to say that placing us within a multicultural or ethnic studies category has a negative effect because those categories obliterate our political difference. The political dimension she refers to is our status as sovereign nations, a distinction based on treaty and trust agreements made between early European nations who came to what we now call the United States, and, later agreements made between the United States and Native Nations.

(1) Cook-Lynn, Elizabeth. "Scandal," in Wicazo Sa Review, Spring 2007, page 86.

The entire piece is well-worth reading.

We don't know what we don't know. But we can (and should) be open to learning, and to growing, and to listening. Particularly when we're discussing diversity and representation, listening to people share about their own identity and experience is key.

I've used "people of color" in the past, thinking that I've been including Native people within that category. Now I know better, and how to be more respectful. And I'm grateful for that.

I'm always learning...

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, February 2, 2017

SCBWI stands for freedom of expression, for inclusion, for absence of hate, and for equality of opportunity for all!

From the February 2017 Insight, the SCBWI member newsletter... 

A Timely Editorial

There's no doubt that we are living in a highly charged political environment. Everyone has an opinion and is expressing it vigorously, as well we should.  This freedom of expression is one of the precious rights guaranteed to Americans by the First Amendment. All of us at SCBWI cherish our First Amendment freedoms, which are so crucial to the work of writers and artists.

The SCBWI is made up of 25,000 individuals, individuals whose beliefs range broadly across the political spectrum. There is no one profile of an SCBWI member; nevertheless, we are bound together by a common goal. This goal, as stated in our mission statement, is "to support the creation and availability of quality children's books around the world by fostering a vibrant community...and to act as a consolidated voice for writers and illustrators of children's books worldwide."

In working towards this goal, we believe SCBWI members share certain core values. As creative people, we promote and advocate for freedom of expression. As providers of windows into all worlds, we support inclusion, diversity and equality of opportunity for all individuals. As visionaries for today's children, we strive to avoid hate and hate-speech while promoting acceptance and understanding. As teachers and role models, we hope to inspire young people to be curious, to question and think critically and humanely about the world they are inheriting.

The climate of our nation, and increasingly of the world, has become deeply polarized. It's easy for all of us to resort to social media to express our opinions, frustrations and feelings. With that fact in mind, it's important to state here that the SCBWI as an organization does not represent a particular political point of view. We would hope that you, our members, never confuse individual political points of view expressed by our staff, board or your fellow members, with those of SCBWI. Although we encourage the expression of individual ideas, they do not represent the organization. What does represent the SCBWI are the GOALS we've listed above. We stand for freedom of expression, for inclusion, for absence of hate, and for equality of opportunity for all. These are not political ideologies, but expressions of our shared human values.

Each and every one of us should be free to create. Children should be free to read. Our hope for these times is that our organization can stand for positivity, that our shared consolidated voice will be a beacon of freedom and love and civility, and that these values rise above ideology in support of the best possible future for our children.

 ---- Lin Oliver, Stephen Mooser and the SCBWI Board of Advisors

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

To Be, Or Not To Be... Political On Social Media. That is the question

Caldecott Award-winning Author/Illustrator Dan Santat posed a version of this much-debated question over the weekend on Facebook, writing:

A question to my fellow authors. I've had discussions with many of you and we've all discussed our dilemma of expressing our view on politics while knowing it can be possibly bad for business. I know most of us don't talk politics and we're actually not even very political until recent current events. There are many others who understand the consequences but have been so distraught by these matters that they've simply said, "To Hell with it. I'm speaking up because this matters and I can't sit idle." My question is where do you vent, and how do you vent? Do you use Twitter? Facebook? I've tried desperately to calm myself but, alas, my New Years Resolution flew out the window within hours of the new year. Peace.

As of this posting, there were 169 comments in response from the famous, the up-and-coming, and the aspiring (for those that don't know, that's a LOT of response.)

If there is any consensus, it's that many of our fellow children's book writers and illustrators are struggling with figuring out their own answer to this question. Here are some of those comments:

Barney Saltzberg I don't think we can separate our politics from our work. Not at this point in the world, given what's going on in our country. To not say anything, as writers and communicators and artists is contrary to what we're doing on the planet.

Eugene Yelchin Holly crap! Use whatever you can. Blow from every hole! The way this administration is moving ahead, there'll be no business for any of us!

Grace Lin Rogue Dan Santat, thanks for this question. I don't know what the answer is but I want to tell you how much I admire you and all authors who boldly state their political opinions. I've found it really difficult; but I think the time has come that we have to take a stand. There are things that matter more than the selling books. I don't know if FB or twitter is where I will go, but I will always support you.

Loni Edwards I am with you Dan. I can't just sit back and be idle while our whole country and the rights of many friends and family are on the line. If it losses potential customers, than those are not the ones that I want buying my stuff anyways. I promote the positive and love in my art, and I will do so as an individual citizen as well. It is our right to protest. It was how our country was founded. If some have their voices silenced, we need to be louder for them.

Lee Sheppard I drew political cartoons under a pseudonym for that reason. It didn't affect my illustration work and I got the chance to vent.

Georgia McBride Author and publisher who has lost many a social media friend, lost business from writers seeking to cancel contracts and even sue who support the new regime and who have been so bold as to admit it.

Tony Abbott I think if you take the position that you’re going to write and illustrate books that only tell the truth to young people, then your work is part of what you “say.” That said, people who work creatively for children and young adults are an incredibly powerful voice against tyranny and illogic and oppression and intolerance. We don’t need or want an audience that would like us to be silent about what we believe. If we alienate by telling the truth, that’s part of being a human these days; I mean, after November 8, 2016. Speak, Dan! We need all voices! FB and Twitter. Everywhere.

Kate Messner I've gone from being mostly not political on social media to speaking up almost daily. It feels morally wrong to me to be quiet in the face of what's happening. But that said, I wouldn't say that I "vent" on facebook or twitter. I try to share things there that are thoughtful and helpful and on the side of good. I vent at home and when I'm in closed groups, both in person and online, with other people I trust.

Donalyn Miller I do not express my political beliefs when I'm working in schools, or presenting at educational conferences (particularly in conservative areas), although much of what is going on has little to do with politics and a lot to do with human decency. I don't see speaking up about civil and human rights as political, so I express these views everywhere. I also don't post anything on my BookWhisperer fan page. On my personal social media accounts, I feel I can say what I want as long as I am civil, do my best to fact check what I post, and maintain professional decorum. Same for my writing. I'm a citizen and I have these rights and the responsibility to speak up.

Dianna Burt I've been typing into a document that is password protected just titled Rant. So I can get it out of my system and it's down somewhere. I figure if I need to I can print it out and set it on fire.

Heidi Stemple Here's the way I see it--our readership is exactly who will be hurt by the insanity. This administration is destroying their--our child readers'--natural world and creating a hostile global environment. I think it's our responsibility to speak out. Will it hurt me professionally? Perhaps. But I cannot live with myself if I don't speak truth to power. I'm trying to find ways to also be positive, but I will not be quiet--silence is what allows evil to multiply.

Liz Garton Scanlon This is not democrat vs republican. This is democracy vs totalitarianism. Humanity vs inhumanity. Good vs. evil. Voice vs. silence. That last part is our role. Writing is, at its heart, a political act in that it is truth-telling, it is giving voice to what might otherwise be unspoken. I think this, now, is where the rubber meets the road. We speak.

Of course, what's missing are the voices of the people who don't feel (for a multitude of reasons) ready or comfortable to speak up, on either side...

Have you considered where you draw the line?

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, January 26, 2017

More Than Half-Way to That New Creative Habit

I blogged about the 21 days to establish a new creative habit back on January 10. 17 days ago. And I've managed to write for at least an hour every one of those 17 days.

The first week or so was hard. I set my timer, and kept checking it. Every ten or fifteen minutes. And I'd stop right when I reached an hour. But it started to get easier. About day 8 I got really excited about what I'd written. (And didn't check my timer even once!) And even though things got crazy (a flooding house) on days 11 and 12 I made getting that hour in my priority, my escape. And the last three days, 15, 16, and 17, have been great. (Dry house + creative time = happy me.) I feel like I have momentum in my story, and every time I sit down, what I did yesterday is fresh in my mind. I jump in, and move forward, and it's really cool. It's feeling like a habit that's taking hold, and I'm thinking, maybe this is the gift I give myself for this year. The gift of time to be creative, every day. Just an hour, if that's all I have. But I can find an hour every day. I have 17 days of proof. And tomorrow will be 18.

How about you? Are you on your way to a new creative habit? Do you need the jumpstart of a conference, like the upcoming SCBWI Winter Conference in New York city, or maybe you just need to tell yourself, "Today is the day I start." And give yourself the gift of time to be creative.

Wishing you great writing and illustrating ahead,

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The 2017 ALA Youth Media Awards Are Announced!

What a gift to us all - a reading list of some of the BEST books for young people published in 2016, and you can sort through it by the category you write and/or illustrate! Some highlights of the award-winners...

The John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature goes to:

 “The Girl Who Drank the Moon,” written by Kelly Barnhill.

The Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book illustration for children winner is “Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat,” illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (written by Javaka Steptoe.)

The Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African-American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults winner is: “March: Book Three,” written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin (Illustrated by Nate Powell)

The Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award winner is: “Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat,” illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (written by Javaka Steptoe)

The Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award winner is “The Sun Is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon.

The Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement goes to Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop. "Her influential writing, speaking, and teaching articulates the history and cultural significance of African-American children’s literature. Her globally cited work, “Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors,” has inspired movements for increased diversity in books for young people, and provides the basis for the best multicultural practice and inquiry for students, teachers, writers and publishing houses."

Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop won the 2017 Coretta Scott King -Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement

The Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults winner is: “March: Book Three,” created by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell.

The Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience winners are,

for young children (ages 0 to 10): “Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille,” written by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Boris Kulikov''

for middle grades (ages 11-13):  “as brave as you,” written by Jason Reynolds

for teens (ages 13-18): “When We Collided,” written by Emery Lord

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award is for an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children. The 2017 winner is Nikki Grimes, whose award-winning works include “Bronx Masquerade,” which won the Coretta Scott King Author Award in 2003, and “Words with Wings,” the recipient of a Coretta Scott King Author Honor in 2014. In addition, Grimes received the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award in 2016 and the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children in 2006.

Nikki Grimes won the 2017 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award.

The Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults: The 2017 winner is Sarah Dessen. Her books include: “Dreamland,” “Keeping the Moon,” “Just Listen,” “The Truth about Forever,” “Along for the Ride,” “What Happened to Goodbye?” and “This Lullaby."

Sarah Dessen won the 2017 Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement

The Mildred L. Batchelder Award for an outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States winner is: “Cry, Heart, But Never Break.” Originally published in Danish in 2001 as “GrĂŠd blot hjerte,” the book was written by Glenn Ringtved, illustrated by Charolotte Pardi, and translated by Robert Moulthrop.

The Odyssey Award for best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States winner is: “Anna and the Swallow Man,” written by Gavriel Savit and narrated by Allan Corduner.

The Pura Belpré Awards honoring a Latino writer and illustrator whose children's books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience winners are.

The BelprĂ© Illustrator Award winner is “Lowriders to the Center of the Earth,” illustrated by RaĂșl Gonzalez (written by Cathy Camper.)

The Pura BelprĂ© Author Award winner is "Juana & Lucas,” written by Juana Medina

The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children winner is: “March: Book Three,” written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell,

The Stonewall Book Award - Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award given annually to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience winners are:

 “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor,” written by Rick Riordan,

and “If I Was Your Girl” written by Meredith Russo.

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book winner is: “We Are Growing: A Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! Book,” written by Laurie Keller.

The William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens winner is: “The Serpent King,” written by Jeff Zentner.

The YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults winner is: “March: Book Three,” created by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell.

You can see the full list of all the winners and honorees here.

Congrats to all!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, January 19, 2017

John Green gets very helpful about common mispronunciations

From the archives of Mental Floss and youtube, check out this excellent under seven-minute video by YA Author extraordinaire John Green...

How many did you just learn to say correctly? (It's okay, you don't have to tell. It's just good to know. For us, and for our characters!)

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The 2017 SCBWI Spark Award Winners are...

The SCBWI Spark Award recognizes excellence in a children’s book published through a non-traditional publishing route.

 The 2017 illustrated book winner is Soldier by Kara Van Kirk Levin.

Soldier tells the story of a lonely young porcupine who feels isolated from his community, and the friends that band together to help him feel valued. The rich illustrations were created by Vlada Soshkina and Polina Doroshenko. Drawing on themes of compassion and inclusivity, Soldier is Levin’s debut book. Find out more about Kara’s independent publishing company Little Wooden Flute at

The 2017 book for older readers winner is Through the Barricades by Denise Deegan.

Deegan’s romantic young adult novel brings to life turn-of-the-century Dublin, as two teenagers, Maggie and Daniel, confront issues of class and privilege during the 1913 workers strike. Deegan has also published contemporary YA with Hachette and adult family drama novels under the pen name Aimee Alexander. You can find more of her writing at

Congratulations to both Kara and Denise! Both winners will be invited to take part in a book signing at an SCBWI conference this year. They will also receive free conference attendance, a Spark seal for their books, a press release and publicity through the SCBWI media networks.

You can find out more about the Spark Award here.

Illustrate and Write On,