Posted on: August 5, 2017
By Emily Johnsen
One of the esteemed keynote speakers at this fall's North Texas SCBWI Conference will be children's book author and founder of the 12X12 Picture Book Challenge, Julie Hedlund. I had the honor of e-chatting with Julie to find out a little bit more about how she so successfully and creatively made children's book writing into a lucrative business. With some out-of-the-box thinking, inspiration, and perseverance, you, too, can Make It Your Business. So without further ado, here's Julie:
1. What brought you to this career path?
I took the circuitous route. I was a huge reader, always, and loved writing as a child. I never expected I could be a "real" writer though, so I spent many years in the banking industry before returning to my love of literature in a serious way. I was inspired by the books I was reading to my children and, of course, by their own antics.
2. Can you please tell us a little about your background and experience in the literary world?
All of my experience is self-generated. Meaning, I didn't study English in college or get an MFA. I did take many children's writing courses, joined organizations like SCBWI, and read hundreds (literally) of blog posts and other material about writing for children. I am proof that you don't need a degree or a lifetime of writing to be successful. You do need LOTS of patience and perseverance.
3. 12 X12 is a challenge to write 12 picture books in 12 months. What initially inspired you to create this challenge?
What initially inspired me to create 12 x 12 was MY need to generate more picture book drafts. Picture book authors need to be prolific in order to succeed, and let's just say I was not at all prolific before I created 12 x 12. I would write maybe one new draft a year, then spend a year revising. Not a recipe for success. For full disclosure, I have never written 12 drafts in a year. I am averaging between 5-7 though, and revising like crazy every month. I'm not only a much stronger writer, but in that time, I signed with an agent and have had multiple manuscripts go on submission (including two right now!).
4. I believe 12 X 12 is in its 6th year. How has it changed from your original vision? And how has that changed your life?
First, I could never have imagined how big it would become, or that it would turn into a family. I call it "The Greatest Writing Community on Earth" because the level of support and camaraderie we give each other makes all the difference in our careers. Whenever I feel discouraged, I remember all of my 12 x 12 members and how we're not only all in it together, but that I need to find the strength and energy to keep THEM going when they're down. If 12 x 12 disappeared (not likely since I run it – LOL), I'd probably have to give up writing picture books.
The original vision is still there – a place of support, encouragement, and accountability for writing. It's just gotten bigger to include more specific kinds of support and education, such as manuscript critiques, webinars, submission opportunities, book studies, etc.
5. What advice do you have for new children’s book writers?
I always want to think I can come up with an original answer to this question, but the truth is, the recipe for success is the same for all children's book writers – new and established. Read, write, revise, repeat. And never, ever give up.
Thank you, Julie! I look forward to meeting you face-to-face in September!
Register now for the upcoming It’s Your Business: 2017 North Texas SCBWI Conference!
Date(s) – 09/23/2017
8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Addison Conference & Theatre Centre
15650 Addison Road – Addison, Texas 75001
Posted on: July 22, 2017
By Jennifer Judd
Susanna Hill is a picture book writing dynamo, a generous supporter and champion of picture book writers, and one of our featured faculty members at our “It’s Your Business” fall conference.
Her blog features the popular “Would You Read It? Wednesdays” pitch challenge and “Perfect Picture Book Fridays” book review, as well as the well-loved Halloweensie, Valentiny, and Holiday writing contests. Susanna is the creator of “Making Picture Book Magic,” an acclaimed online picture book writing course. She is also the award-winning author of over a dozen books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis (A Book List Children's Pick and Amelia Bloomer Project choice), No Sword Fighting In The House (a Junior Library Guild selection), Can't Sleep Without Sheep (a Children's Book of The Month), and Not Yet, Rose (a Gold Mom's Choice Award Winner and an Itabashi Translation Award Finalist.)
Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, and Japanese, with one forthcoming in Chinese. Her newest books, When Your Lion Needs A Bath andWhen Your Elephant Has The Sniffles just debuted this month by Little Simon (click here to find out more). She lives in New York's Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs. We are thrilled she took a few moments to answer some questions for our blog today.
Posted on: July 16, 2017
By Jennifer Judd
We are thrilled to feature Melissa Edwards of Stonesong Literary Agency on our blog today. Melissa is one of our all-star faculty members at our fall conference this September. Melissa joined Stonesong as a literary agent in August 2016. Previously, she was a literary agent at the Aaron Priest Literary Agency, where she managed the foreign rights for a 40-year backlist. After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis and Vanderbilt Law School, Melissa began her career as a litigation attorney before transitioning into publishing. She is a tireless advocate for her clients and a constant partner during the publication process and beyond. Melissa represents authors of children’s fiction, adult commercial fiction, and select pop-culture nonfiction. She is looking for warm and timeless middle grade fiction and accessible young adult fiction. She also manages a select picture book list. Here's the scoop on Melissa!
1. What brought you to this career path?
I was a lawyer first and I found it really unsatisfying. I knew I wanted to work in a more creative field, and I wanted to work with books. I ended up working at my first agency by emailing Harlan Coben's literary agent and asking about her job. She told me they were looking for an assistant and I jumped at the opportunity. It was challenging to learn a whole new industry from the ground up, but starting from the bottom gave me the building blocks to understand the art of being a literary agent.
2. Can you please tell us a little about your background and experience in the literary world?
I have been working in publishing for over 4 years. I started at the Aaron Priest Agency solely assisting for the first 9 months, and then I took over foreign rights for Aaron's clients including David Baldacci and Robert Crais. I started building my a domestic list two and a half years ago and moved over to Stonesong to work exclusively on my own list in September 2016. Stonesong has been an incredible place to work because it's so collaborative, especially for children's books.
3. What are you looking for in a manuscript?
I am looking to be captivated in some way–captured, enthralled, thrilled, swept away. That can occur in any genre and for any age group–it's the immersion that speaks volumes. If I am standing on crowded train, ignoring the huge mass of people around me, because a submission has me glued to the page… that's the ultimate sign. I tend to gravitate towards contemporary realistic YA and heart warming middle grade (sometimes with a magical element), but I am looking for other genres as well.
4. What are you looking for in a client?
I want someone who has done their research about the business. I like answering specific questions, especially during the offer of representation phone call. I like a curious client who wants to be engaged in the publication process. And with the amount of self-marketing an author has to do to be successful– it's nice to know early on if a client is going to be willing to put in the time and effort to really hustle for his or her book.
5. What advice do you have for new children’s book writers?
Google. Twitter. SCBWI. Talk to people– published authors, querying authors, industry professionals (if possible.) Curiosity is your friend. You might get differing or opposing advice, but at least you'll have a breadth of knowledge to apply to your own circumstances. And of course, read, read, read. Read in your genre. Read in your age group. Read a book from the bestseller list; read a backlist book that was successful 2-3 years ago; read a debut. Understanding what's happening in your chosen market can only be helpful. (I would not recommend writing to trends, but rather understanding what the trends are and why.)
6. What are your have favorite books–the ones you want to read again and again?
The classics: THE VIEW FROM SATURDAY; ELLA ENCHANTED; ELOISE.
The new classics: ALL RISE FOR THE HONORABLE PERRY T. COOK; LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR; ELEANOR & PARK; GERTIE'S LEAP TO GREATNESS; EVERYTHING EVERYTHING; I WANT MY HAT BACK.
7. Are you actively seeking submissions?
Yes x100. I am constantly on the hunt for voice-driven, smart, beautifully-written, sometimes funny, sometimes sad middle grade and young adult literature!
Thanks for chatting with us today, Melissa, and sharing a little about yourself with our North Texas SCBWI family! If you’d like to learn more about what Melissa is looking for in a manuscript, she can also be found on Twitter @MelissaLaurenE, where she often tweets her active Manuscript Wishlist requests under #MSWL. Melissa will be presenting "THE CALL: What to Ask When You're Offered Representation," at our fall conference, as well as holding a limited number of individual pitch sessions, so be sure to register soon.
Posted on: July 13, 2017
Writing, for me, has never been hard. I look forward every day to immersing myself in the worlds I create. What is hard, though, is what comes after a work is finished—being disciplined to consistently get my work out and enduring whatever response comes after.
Award winning Dallas author Ben Fountain once told a friend of mine about his experience with the challenge of rejection before he finally hit it big with his short story collection, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, and later his novel, Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk. Day after day he’d toil at his craft, send his work out—and watch the rejections roll in. I believe the term he used was ‘soul crushing.’
Lately, even when I’ve gotten promising news, there’s still a mini Debbie Downer perched on my shoulder, telling me how the odds are against me and I might as well give up—in between warnings about anthrax and mad cow disease. Since I attended North Texas SCBWI’s workshop facilitated by literary agent Marisa Corivisiero, I find myself flicking Debbie off before she gets in another negative comment. (Don’t worry; she bounces.)
What I learned from Marisa is that if we want to make our dream of publication come true we have to break free of a negative mindset. There was a time years ago when I often found myself curled in the fetal position on my couch after receiving a rejection. Thankfully I’m well beyond that useless activity, but just before the workshop, I’d had some moments of serious doubt. The workshop came at the perfect time for me. Now I’m making plans and dreaming big, and not letting any of that pesky ’stinkin’ thinkin’ get in my way of moving toward seeing my dreams come true.
Marisa shared these words from Einstein to set us on a path away from rigidity: “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” Never stop learning new things. Talent isn’t enough; we have to put in a lot of effort if we want to see our work in print. And effort combined with flexibility are the keys to being resilient and moving ever closer to success.
Kim Batchelor writes stories incorporating magical realism for children and adults. She is the author of The Island of Lost Children, a contemporary reimagining of the story of Peter Pan and Wendy, and Golondrina and the White Butterflies, an environmental fable, both for middle grade readers. Her young adult novel-in-progress is Gem of the Starry Skies.
Posted on: July 5, 2017
I interviewed author/illustrator Salina Yoon about her unique path to becoming the author/illustrator that she is today. She has published over 150 childrens and novelty books, created the popular pengin picture book series, and will be one of the keynote speakers at this year's North Texas SCBWI Fall Conference. She is holding critiques during the fall conference, so make sure to register for this great opportunity today. Salina Yoon has also generously given some signed copies of her books to send to one lucky winner. See the end of this post for contest information!
1. You were an art director/designer before becoming an illustrator/writer. What were your biggest challenges when making that change? And what advantages do you think having been an art director has had on your book process?
As an art director and designer at a small publishing house, I worked with a team of creative people who collaborated with me on every book project. The biggest challenge of working as a freelance children’s writer and illustrator is having to make all of the decisions on your own when creating a book for submission, including art, design, editorial, and format decisions without anyone to bounce ideas off of. While I liked the freedom to make these decisions, I struggled with self doubt often.
The biggest advantage of having been an art director is my ability to direct a project from start to finish, and design it. Once I come up with a concept or idea for a book, I consider the target audience, the publisher I’m intending it for, and the current market before I decide on how I will illustrate the book. I know how to put together a book with art and lay out the text, and make a mock up in physical dummy or in digital form. Graphic design skills are very helpful for any author/illustrator!
2. Do you work on multiple book ideas at a time or just like to focus on one?
I prefer to focus on just one project at a time. But often, multiple ideas compete for my attention which makes focusing on any one idea very challenging!
3. Can you share a little bit on what your illustration/writing process is like?
It always starts on paper, whether it be in my notebook, a sketchpad, notepad, sticky note, or even a tissue box. I start with words or a doodle of whatever inspired me. This could be a book title, an ending to a story idea, a must-illustrate scene, a character sketch, or any other bits of a loose idea. From there, it grows outward to more bits and pieces until I have something to work with and refine. Most ideas never make it past the bits and pieces phase! I drop projects often that I don’t feel are special enough.
4. What step(s) do you find the most difficult aspect of preparing a book to submit?
Finishing it! Or I should say, knowing when it is ready. I rely heavily on two close writer friends (one published, and one not), my literary agent, and my gut. And even with these trusted allies, self doubt creeps in and makes it difficult to move forward. My brain and my gut are sometimes at odds.
5. Have there been any particular submission wins/rejections that stick out in your memory? What did you learn?
One of my first submissions to a major publishing house in New York was an exclusive submission. That exclusivity was given for no good reason, but I naively thought it would be rude to not wait for an answer before sharing it anywhere else. I waited a full year for a definitive answer (after several emails of interest) only to get a rejection. I learned NOT to offer exclusive submissions unless there’s a very good reason for it! (The project was then submitted to another major NY publishing house and was sold within 6 months).
6. As illustrator/writers we like to focus on the creative aspect of making a book, but eventually also have to deal with the business-end of selling, such as contracts and promoting our books. What do you think you do well to promote yourself, and what business-side aspect of publishing are you still growing in? Do you have any resources you go to when you have business-related questions?
For the first 12 yrs of my career, I did not have a literary agent so I submitted books, negotiated contracts, and networked with editors on my own which lead to about 130 published books up until that time. I was very good at selling books to publishers, but not at all good at promoting them. In fact, I did very little promotion (online or in person) and believed that it was the publisher’s job to promote, market and sell them. After all, they have a whole department who does that! But now is a different time. And I also have a literary agent!
The best way that I promote my books is by creating more books. Publishing momentum has been key for my success. I’ve regularly published for the last 19 years. My publisher also sends me on book tours and book festivals all over the country, and I also do school visits in order to promote them. I’m not the best online—but I’m accessible to my readers. When I have business related questions, I ask my brilliant agent!
7. If you could go back in time and give yourself some tips back when you started out as an illustrator/writer, what would you say?
Breathe! It will all work out, and it will be SO worth it! Also, find yourself an agent! (At the time, my current agent was not an agent. So I would tell myself to wait for her, because she’s worth waiting for.)
8. What illustrators/writers currently inspire you?
9. You worked for a while without being repped by an agent – what factor(s) helped you decide you needed an agent and what are the benefits of having a good agent?
I decided I needed an agent when I wanted to pursue picture books because I was unfamiliar with this world. I had mostly published novelty or concept books on my own at the time. For picture books, I wanted editorial help with my manuscripts, editorial contacts specifically for this genre, expertise in negotiating these contracts, and any other opportunities that I may not know about in this genre of publishing. Turns out it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Our first picture book submission lead to many rejections but I learned a lot from it. Our second one was Penguin and Pinecone, and that sold at auction to Bloomsbury. Since that sale in 2011, we’ve sold an additional 12 picture books, 3 early readers, 6 novelty books, and numerous licensing and foreign edition deals. I’m not sure I would have sold my first picture book without the editorial help and support of my agent from start to finish.
10. Your career has spanned quite a few ventures, from art director/book designer, to being a prolific writer (over 150+ books) from novelty to picture, so what's next? Can you share what you're working on or are excited about?
My nearly 20 yr career has certainly evolved over the years. Even within a single genre, there are challenges with each new project. After doing lots of picture books in recent years, I wanted to try something new. I created a dialogue only early reader chapter book series titled, “Duck, Duck, Porcupine!” Writing short stories through dialogue-only text was a unique challenge, but so much fun to illustrate. The third book in the series, “That’s My Book! And Other Stories,” will be released in the fall of 2017.
I’m excited about traveling all over the world and connecting with readers! This excitement is something new for me because I had been terrified about public speaking in my earlier years and travel gave me anxiety. In fact, just 6 yrs ago, the thought of speaking at a school or at a conference made me feel ill inside. I didn’t think I’d ever get comfortable with it, but after being put in the situation of having to do it over and over (through book tours in particular), I now feel I’ve overcome this fear for the most part! I still do get nervous from time to time, but it’s no longer anxiety filled, and I look forward to wherever my events might take me. I’ve gone as far as Hong Kong to visit schools, and the experience has been life changing.
Salina Yoon's Bio
SALINA YOON is the award-winning and bestselling author and illustrator of over 150 books for young children, specializing in formats that are unique and interactive, including the popular Penguin picture book series. She studied art and design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, and now lives in San Diego with her family.
Salina Yoon is generously giving away a set of signed books! All you have to do to enter is to comment on the link posted about this interview on either our Facebook page or our Private Facebook Group Page (for SCBWI members only). If you have trouble with commenting, you may also email me at northtexas-ic @scbwi.org.
A winner from those who have commented will be picked randomly from entries after 8:00 pm CST on Wednesday, July 12th and will be announced on this blog and our social media. Good luck!
CONGRATS TO OUR WINNER: Paula Speer White!
Posted on: June 22, 2017
Natascha spent most of her childhood in a leather chair with her nose in a book. Formerly an editorial assistant at Simon & Schuster, her passion for books across genres and her desire to finding amazing talent drove her to make the transition from editorial to literary agent.
Her editorial philosophy stems from the idea that all books should be well written and entertaining. Some of her favorite authors include Molly Idle, Sherwood Smith, Ann Rinaldi, Sabaa Tahir, and Meg Cabot. Check out her Pinterest for a quick look at her favorite books. https://www.pinterest.com/nataschamorris/
A Texas native, Natascha can often be found hunting for the best Tex-Mex in New York. Outside of reading, she is interested in urban farming and cooking.
Natascha is primarily looking for picture book, middle grade and young adult manuscripts across most genres, including contemporary, mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, historical fiction, and narrative non-fiction. She is also looking for artists that speak to her creatively.
She is not a good fit for adult literary fiction, horror, true crime, or serious nonfiction.
Jackie Kruzie, our chapter's most excellent Regional Advisor, had the chance to e-chat with Natascha and here's what they had to say…
Jackie: What brought you to this career path?
Natascha: I always knew I wanted to work with books. I love shaping stories, and fan girling about them. After being in editorial, I found myself limited to what the imprint brand was. Being an agent let’s you follow your passion and the books you love, no matter what they are.
Jackie: Can you please tell us a little about your background and experience in the literary world?
Natascha: I took a bit of an untraditional route. I interned at a ton of different places, everything from agenting to editorial to digital marketing. Everything informed my role as an agent. At the same time, I was getting my Master’s Degree in Publishing (I’m a uber-nerd when it comes to publishing). After all of this, I knew I was meant to work with authors to shape their stories.
Jackie: What are you looking for in a manuscript?
Natascha: The number one thing for me is writing. After that, it’s the hook. What will make it stay in my mind? What will pull me in and make me want to live in the world? I run the gamut from literary commercial hybrids to straight commercial so hook is big for me. And ultimately, do I love this manuscript?
Jackie: What are you looking for in a client?
Natascha: Fit is big. I like people who understand that this process can take time and are patient. I’m impatient by nature so it’s nice to have a client who knows patience is needed. Also Team Nat is just made up of cool women, so I am looking for someone who fits in with them.
Jackie: What advice do you have for new children’s book writers?
Natascha: Research. Research your market, read as much as you can, and never stop. Publishing trends change and since trends start changing up before the books hit the market; if you as a reader have a feeling, then the industry is having the same. And when you are querying, research the agents. Know their quirks, and what they like and don’t like. It will save you time.
Jackie: I often talk to kids about having a book best friend, that one book that you can read over and over again. For me it is Charlotte’s Web. What book is your book best friend?
Natascha: Hard one. I have so many! I tend to re-read Ella Enchanted and Alana a lot. But it depends on the mood I am in.
Jackie: Are you actively seeking submissions?
Natascha: Yes! Right now my focus is on YA and MG, but I am open to everything from PBs, to graphic novels, and illustrators. Query me here at: http://QueryMe.Online/1067
Would you like to learn more about Natascha? Click HERE.
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2017 North Texas SCBWI Conference, 9/23/2017
Posted on: May 24, 2017
By Gaye Galloway
SCBWI’s May event, A Year in the Life a Self-Published Author, featured YA Dallas author, Jane Alvey Harris. Her presentation was intended to help us avoid some of the pitfalls she has encountered during her journey to publish, RIVEN, book one in her My Myth Trilogy. This series, per a quote on her website, is “a realm where fantasy and reality collide.” This book has several accolades including, Best Ebook, YA Fiction, 2016, YA Fiction winner of 2016 Publisher’s Weekly Booklife Prize in Fiction and 2017 Reader Views Reviewer’s Choice Award.
I was especially fascinated by her daringness to tackle the subject of mental illness. This encouraged me since my character suffers through depression brought on by circumstances in her life. I have struggled with my decision to discuss this topic, especially in a book for children and young adults. But it seems it has worked for Jane. It intrigued me that she used several fonts to identify the separate voices that were talking inside the character’s head. I purchased her book to see how this style worked and explore how the book all came together.
Edit! Edit! Edit! I was amazed at the number of rewrites Jane had done. I had imagined I was a Stephen King: that once I had written a scene, it was the best it could be. I expected to go straight to the head of the publisher’s line or self-publish and be through. Now I can approach my writing from the new perspective that I may face many rejections and rewrites from the first draft to the “final” product, but that it is all just a part of the process. I also did not realize the number and types of editors available. I discovered that I do not have to get every comma and period in the right place. There are editors for that. Editors are also available, for a fee, for a variety of edits, including a broad stroke review, as well as line by line.
Passion, Stubbornness and Impatience are traits that Jane said helped her along the way. I had thought that my story might be too close and emotional, since it is about my grandmother’s life, but now I believe that this closeness may be an important factor in my determination to finish my project and see it through to publication, promotion and presentation to the public.
Okay, you have been published. Now what? I would have never guessed the number of things that must be done post-publication. School visits and readings at bookstores were on my list. But according to Jane, there are many more things that need to be done, including but not limited to a YouTube trailer. I now know I need a much longer list. I was astonished at the amount of money that could be spent to publish and promote a book.
Always! Always! Look ahead to your next project. Your ideas, while writing your first book, may jump ahead or spur ideas for subsequent books or a series. I learned that scenes may not occur linearly, but should be captured and possibly later woven into the current story or saved for later.
As you can see, this seminar proved especially helpful to me. I was encouraged to continue to write, to rewrite and not to expect my first draft to be my best work. There is a process and path to publishing, with lots of possible stumbling blocks along the way.
I left with these thoughts… Don’t get discouraged.
Write! Write! Write!
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Posted on: April 10, 2017
When I checked my e-mails, my eyes were drawn to a message from North Texas SCBWI. I read, "Schooled on School Visits Workshop," and I devoured the information. It was Thursday night and the workshop would be on the following Saturday. I had already given my word to my beloved daughter to watch my little granddaughters, seven and three years old. I apologized and told her that I really wanted to go to the workshop with a big smile on my face. She understood, as she knows how happy mom is about my passion and dreams of becoming a published writer and illustrator one day.
I made planes to attend. I did not know if the location was near or far, but I didn’t care–even if it was two hours away. My imagination took me to the place and I saw myself perched on my chair, listening and writing. Things worked out in my favor. When I checked on google maps, it showed that the location was only fifteen minutes from where I live! This could not be better, I thought.
On Saturday morning, I left early with the help of my friend "GPS," and I arrived early. I am here! I headed to the entrance of Bedford's public library feeling thankful and grateful. I proceeded to find the room where the workshop was going to be with the guidance and kindness of a nice woman at the front desk. I am where I belong! That’s what I thought, and I felt so special just to be there.
In a few moments, writers and illustrators were meeting. We introduced ourselves and prepared for the event about to take place. We were ready to learn. I was delighted to meet in person my North Texas SCBWI Regional Advisor, Jackie Kruzie. The workshop started with published author, Madeline Smoot, who shared her personal experience as a writer and provided extensive information on the workshop’s subject, presentations, and school visits. I was writing and writing; I did not wanted to miss anything!
Thank you, Madeline, for sharing your time with us and for listening to and advising me! Jackie kept us entertained with her presentation about one of her books. We all participated in a raffle while she read and added sounds, voices, and questions with the help of her precious little girl. Jackie guided us through the steps of giving school visit presentations and shared what she carries in her small tote bag to make school visits a success! Thank you, Jackie! I want to do that one day!
Presenter and a published illustrator, Korey Scott, shared his talent with musical instruments and dance to make children enjoy his school presentations. I had the opportunity to talk with him and we agreed on the importance of taking care of children, and the need for support in this world of confusion. Especially those children from different cultures and backgrounds. They need guidance!
Korey offered advice and answered questions about my portfolio. Thank you! My best wishes to you all at SCBWI North Texas. Special thanks to published illustrator, Carolyn Dee Flores, who I met at Irving Arts Center during her workshop in September 2016. And toMeg Medina, who gave a presentation at the school where I work. They are my pioneers in advising me to join SCBWI and told me, "Do not give up!"
Published or not at the present, I am so happy to be part of this wonderful experience and thankful for the opportunity to write and share my thoughts.
Forever writer and illustrator,
Don't miss North Texas SCBWI's awesome upcoming events. Click HERE to learn more.
Posted on: April 1, 2017
By Sandy Lowe
Don’t be confused. CALF is not one of Abilene’s world-class rodeos or stock shows. CALF stands for Children’s Arts and Literacy Festival. The name is a bit fancy but the party, hosted by the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council and others, is a blast!
The first festival, held in 2012, celebrated Dr. Seuss. Six of his quirky characters now make their homes as bronze statues in Abilene’s Everman Park, directly across North 1st Street from the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL). Since then every sweaty, swinging summer has seen another influential picture book illustrator featured including William Joyce, David Shannon and Mark Teague.
This year Garth Williams, whose work brought us close-up looks at a little mouse named Stuart and an amazing spider named Charlotte, will be honored. An exhibition of his work will open at the NCCIL on Thursday, June 8, 2017.
One of the highlights, The Costume Contest, kicks off CALF on Thursday immediately followed by the Storybook Parade at 6:00 pm. The brand new Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden opens at 6:30 and will include the unveiling of five statues of William’s characters. Next on the schedule is Wilbur’s Garden Party.
CALF attendees can download the Beacon app to hear story overviews of Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf, The Three Little Kittens and their Mother and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
At 7:00 pm, Leonard Marcus and Diane Muldrow will present an Authors Talk followed by signings of their books “Golden Legacy: The Story of Golden Books” and “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book.”
Marcus is well known as one of our country’s foremost experts on children’s literature and has published numerous books on the subject. Muldrow is the author of two Little Golden Books: “Where Do Giggles Come From?” and “How Do Penguins Play?” plus other picture book titles.
If you have one child or more handy, you’ll want to bring them along for the Festival daytime activities. Here’s partial list:
- Ventriloquist performances
- Petting zoo
- Sculpture workshop
- Write and Illustrate workshop
- Hair chalking
- Face painting
- Digital character creation
Dramatic readings of books illustrated by Williams are scattered throughout the weekend as well as showings of movies based on several of those works at the historic Paramount Theater. Youngsters can collect a total of twelve buttons, one for each activity they attend.
As you can see, there won’t be a dull moment in Abilene June 8th through 10th. Some of the activities require reservations, and you won’t want to miss a thing! So register now at www.abilenecac.org/calf/registration.php. If you register before May 15th you’ll receive a 30% discount.
While you’re at it, mark you calendar for June 2018. Oliver Jeffers is coming! Hopefully, he’ll bring those famous crayons along.
See you in June!
Sandy Lowe writes magazine articles for grownups and aspires to publish picture books. She has published one story for kids, “Patrick the Pickle” in Gannett Press’s Pennywhistle Press. Sandy hails from Abilene, Texas, recently designated The Storybook Capital of Texas by the Texas Legislature.
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Posted on: March 27, 2017
“My Name is James Madison Hemings" written by Jonah Winter and illustrated by North Texas' own Terry Widener, was named by The New York Times as one of the 6 Great New Picture Books for Kids and listed as one of the Notable Children's Books of 2016. Most recently Widener's illustration work from the book has made him a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Awards. I interviewed him about his career, artistic process, and what he's working on next.
I started out as a graphic designer. We had a graphic design class in high school that I did for 3 years that covered all areas of graphic design. When I went to college I majored in graphic design but it was very much doing what I had already been taught. I really had no intention of doing anything in art as I had a golf scholarship. So mainly I played golf during my college years. I did take a couple of pottery classes and the basics like drawing, painting, printmaking but as far as graphic design classes there was nothing that I had not been taught in high school. High school was where I learned to do lettering with a brush, just in case I would want to be a sign painter someday.
When I graduated I took a job at Dillards's department store art department. I stayed there a month before I left. During that month we did the illustrations and layouts for the newspaper ads and I within two weeks work I had been promoted to drawing men's and women's shoes and received a raise. I was now making $.50 cents an hour less than the artist who had been working there for 15 and 20 years. I could see that there was not much of a future, so I left.
I got a job at a country club as an assistant golf pro, but before I started that job the head of the art department at the University of Tulsa wanted me to go on an interview for an art director at an ad agency. The job paid $150.00 more a month, so I took it. Stayed there for a little over two years. It was a small agency so the art department was two people and we did everything. Illustration, photography, whatever needed to be done. Because of my time there, and the awards I received, I was hired by the best design studio in Tulsa. This was some of the most fun I had in the ad business. There were four of us and we did some very good work that received lots of attention and recognition. However, after a three years there, the studio merged with another studio and it changed.
In 1979 the studio sent me to The Illustrators Workshop in Tarrytown, NY for three weeks to work with Bernie Fuchs, Mark English, Bob Peak, Alan E. Cober, Robert Hinder, and Fred Otnes. These were very much the superstars during the 60's and 70's. I came back and knew I had to make a change in my career. I contacted some design studios in Dallas, came down to interview with them but only did one interview and was hired that day by the design studio branch of the Richards Group. The design studio was Richards, Sullivan, Brock and there were twelve designers and we worked on our own projects and sometimes helped on projects that the ad agency part of the Richards Group was doing. I stayed there about a year and a half before starting my own business in 1981 doing illustration (editorial, corporate, and advertising) plus a little design work.
I did quite a bit of work in Texas my first couple of years, but after that I started to do work mostly out of New York and Boston. I had an agent in New York and she kept me very busy. In 1995 an editor asked my agent if I would be interested in doing a picture book. She had seen my work around New York for several years and had a story. Without knowing what the story was I said yes. The pay wasn't much but it was something new to do and the editorial illustration business was going through some big changes. The story turned out to be the Lou Gehrig book. The book ended up receiving some major awards and that's how I ended up doing books. Within a year or so I began to work primarily on books.
3. What led you to doing non-fiction illustration work and what are some of the challenges?
The non-fiction just happened with my first book but I have done quite a lot of fiction books also. You can see some of those on my website or on Amazon. I also do lots of baseball themed books due to my first book. The biggest challenge in doing non-fiction is making sure your research is as accurate as possible. I do my own research and I don't depend on the author's research. Most of the time my research comes out the same as the author, but there have been occasions when I find some differences. When that happens I contact the editor and let her make the decision about what to do. But there are always reviewers out there who are looking for mistakes and if they find one it can ruin a book. I normally have two to three sources for my research. That way I have plenty of backup if an editor should have a question.
Being "pigeon holed" as a only being able to do baseball. Before I began doing books I illustrated many different subjects.
Terry has been an SCBWI member for many years and often attends our local North Texas events. When he's not illustrating and researching for a book, he paintswestern themed artwork and recently won an award for his acrylic painting titled "Dog Soldier".
For more of Terry's Illustration work, information on school visits, and to see artwork from the books he's worked on you can visit his website at terrywidenerart.com
Terry's Art website can be viewed at: terrywidener.com