Ten writers for children. All with something to say.



I will preface by using one of my favorite sayings: Free advice is worth exactly what it costs.

So, as I continue, please pick and choose...

Honestly, it's all about the writing. My 2011 is going to be about fixing the wrongs I committed in 2010. For starters, I spent way too much time on the internet. For some reason, I thought that I should be seeking out and communing with other writers. But that meant less writing. Way less writing. So I'll be keeping my blog over at http://latteya.livejournal.com/ , but instead of it being a social thing, it'll be mainly to let people know news about my writing. Like that The Gardener was named a 2011 ALA Quick Pick and will be out in Russian soon. Which was the whole point of it in the first place. Italic

Secondly, I have curtailed my time in writer based sites. Again, I spent way too much time not writing. Hmmm, I'm sensing a pattern here...

I get story ideas all the time. I hear words on the Discovery Channel or I hear about some crazy piece of history on the History Channel, and I jot them down on the backs of receipts and bills that happen to be lying around, and then I can never find them. Yesterday I took a big step toward putting value on my little bursts of inspiration. I own several journals that various people have given me over the past few years.

Beautiful things that I lust after whenever I see them in stores. Know what? They are all empty.

Why? I'm not a journaler, for one. But mainly I have believed that I need to come up with something worthy if I'm going to mar those lovely pages. I realize I have been wrong. So last night I picked the prettiest one, with watermarks on all the handmade pages and a leather cover with snaps, and even a fancy pencil with its own compartment. It was a gift from a place I spoke at in March 2009. I opened it up and jotted down some of my ideas. Scrawled more like, given my handwriting skills.

That was it. A couple of novel ideas. Three vocabulary words I heard yesterday. Even a cool name of a band. That was it. No great prose or poems. Nothing I would want anyone to see. But it doesn't mean those words aren't worthy. Do I believe I will write those novels one day? Absolutely. They are great ideas. Just disjointed, incomplete sentences at the moment, but they are safe and I know where they are when I need them.

And I'm looking forward to opening up that leather cover again soon to add more ramblings of little value to anyone but me.


Ten pieces of advice from an author who needs to follow her own advice:

1. Write every day, even if it's just an entry in a journal.

2. Set aside one day a week to do the business side of writing, such as researching publishers/editors who publish the type of manuscript you're writing, etc.

3. Stay current with trends by reading books currently being published in your chosen genre.

4. Turn off the internet and write every day.

5. Keep a notebook handy for jotting down descriptions of scenery, character sketches, snatches of interesting conversations, names, etc.

6. Find a group of writers whose opinions you value and whom you can trust to give you honest, constructive feedback.

7. Do the same in return for those writers.

8. Take a chance--enter a contest, have your work critiqued, submit your work to an editor or agent.

9. Become emotionally invested in your work.

10. Allow yourself to write a not very good (crappy) first draft. Then you'll have something to go back and revise!

Beyond the Book

Last week I was honored to be part of an exhibition at the Bloomington Center for the Arts called: Beyond the Book: A Book Illustrator's Fine Art Exhibition. The illustrators Nancy Carlson and Stephen Gammell, in a conversation two years ago after Stephen had shown both his book illustrations and non-illustration paintings to a class Nancy was teaching, realized that a show of the work outside books by book illustrators might be a wonderful thing. And after much organizing on their parts and the gallery's, seven illustrators were chosen to show their "art beyond book illustration" and it was a wonderful thing!
Before making books, I was a painter/sculptor, so I was able to show some of the sculptures that continued early on in my book illustrating career~ inspired by my book, Scarecrow. But as illustrating books took up more and more of my studio time there has been very little time to saw, carve, and build with wood, thus the surface of clay panels seduced me and I began a series simply called: "Crow Paintings".
The Crow paintings have evolved over a period of ten years. They come from the deep places an artist can meander into and render in paint. Because books take me into the public and satisfy that part of me that loves to show my work, I am allowed to explore images like the "Crow Paintings" in the studio that do not necessarily need to be seen. I admit that I was reluctant to say yes to exhibiting at first, but the urging of a couple of artist friends convinced me to participate in the show.
I think the intention of the show was to blur the line between fine art and illustration, but for me as an artist, my approach to illustrating a book is very different from the intimate conversation between painted surface and myself in the studio. When illustrating a book, I am very aware of the collaborative effort of myself, author, editor, and publisher. With my paintings beyond the book, it is the quiet that dwells deep inside that is expressed like a poem.

There will be a panel discussion at the gallery in a few weeks. I am looking forward to the conversation on art in and out of the book!


10 easy steps to make a Newbery or Caldecott award your own

Just kidding! With ALA announcements yesterday, we all have awards on the brain. I know nothing simple and sure that guarantees such results. This round we are posting on advice for aspiring children’s book creators.

I enjoy when authors and illustrators share their paths to publication. A couple years ago I was one of many speakers at the MAZZA Museum Fall Conference. Author/illustrator Tad Hills (Duck and Goose, How Rocket Learned to Read) projected a wedding photograph and suggested, “Marry your publisher.” Tad is an accomplished artist and storyteller, so his wife and publisher, Lee Wade (Schwartz and Wade) is lucky too. Fortunately, there are other ways to get attention for your work.

My path bears a little resemblance to Tad’s. I worked in-house at NYC children’s books publishers before receiving my first manuscript to illustrate. I studied illustration and design at Pratt Institute, but was too shy to show my portfolio. Rosemary Brosnan my colleague at Dutton, was determined to encourage me. I illustrated three books with Rosemary under the Lodestar imprint. I continued to work as designer/art director for many other publishers, and illustrated numerous other books offered to me by my editor-friends. I had proved myself to each of them through our working relationships.

Working in-house at Dutton, Putnam/Philomel, Bradury Press, Macmillan, Four Winds Press, and Simon and Schuster, I gained a deep knowledge of the collaborative bookmaking process. Not everyone has this opportunity or even desires to work in-house in publishing. There are other ways to learn how the system works: books, conferences, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator (SCBWI) events. In addition to understanding the how, who is also a key factor. I enjoyed proximity to people in the field. If I never got up the courage to show my portfolio, and never made these connections, I would remain unpublished. Wherever you are on your creative path, find others who can help you. Start with critique partners or groups. Seek out local chapters of SCBWI, writing/illustration classes, and all opportunities to meet editors and agents. Go to the library and read, read, read! Resources are available.

Most important advice I can offer is the old slogan, “just do it.” Put one foot in front of the other, put pen to paper, and go for it. Make lots of mistakes. Everyone learns through process. Don’t imagine awards or financial success. Do this for yourself, because you love it.

I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes.
—Edna St. Vincent Millay