When Writers Are Generous

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I’ve been a soccer mom for 17 years which means I’ve watched (and coached) a LOT of soccer games.  I love the moment shown here when competition is transcended by compassion and respect. 
I also love these moments within the children’s book industry, another highly competitive endeavor. Even when Writer A knows that Writer B sitting next to her at the critique table might be published before she is, Writer A is suprisingly willing to share what she knows about craft, editors, agents, art directors, publishing houses, how to move to the next level, etc.  This sharing happens at Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) events and it happened this past week at the fantastic WOW Retreat hosted by writer Kristen Fulton.  She opened the Retreat by sharing her remarkable story from veterinarian to cancer survivor to children’s book writer with multi-book deals — all within a few years — and mindfully set the tone for generosity at the Retreat. This tone continued throughout the week and was passed between writer, agent, and editor. 
When competition could call the shots, writers can choose to lend a hand. When writers are generous, great things happen. 

A Book Walk in the Woods: Nature Conservancy

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, a nonprofit land conservation organization, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Their 2016 Storybook Hike Series is  such a fun way to celebrate this milestone. They hosted me and A Warm Winter Tale at their Kalamazoo preserve on February 27, 2016 and I had a blast!

The intent of our storybook hikes is to introduce nature to children in a fun and engaging way, that also supports their language arts development and their love of books.
​                                                                                           — C.M. Dargitz, Development Associate
                                                                                           Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

The book had been laminated and stationed throughout the trail. We stopped to read each page, digest the wonderful illustrations by Christina Wald, and learn about how animals adapt to keep warm in the cold weather. Sunny skies, happy children, nature = a perfect day!
Check out Kathy Halsey’s post about nature book walks today on GROG blog and learn how your community might sponsor their own.

The HOW of reducing PB text!

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Laura Backes, former children’s book editor and now co-founder of Children’s Book Insider, wrote a helpful article in their newsletter about the perennial topic of leaving room for illustrations. I’ve blogged about the “why” of this concept before and now Laura’s perfect algorhythm for “how” to keep word count down follows. To read the full newsletter and access all of their publications and resources, consider becoming a member of Children’s Book Insider.

“Leave lots of room for illustrations. I mean LOTS of room. This is the best way to cut down your number of words, and the hardest thing for most writers to do (unless you’re also an illustrator, in which case you’ve got an advantage here). First, study books with short texts and see how much of the story is contained within the pictures. Then write your first draft, forgetting about word count. As you revise, think about what each illustration might look like. It helps to create a 32-page “dummy” book and put your text on 26-28 pages (leave the other pages blank for title page, copyright, end pages, etc.). * HERE IS THE EXCITING PART! Then write a description of each illustration, or sketch one out (don’t worry, no one will see this but you). Now, what do you say in the text that’s also depicted in the pictures? Take it out of the text. It doesn’t need to be stated twice. Kids are looking at the illustrations while an adult is reading the words, so they’ll get that information.”

​And let me tell you, IT WORKS! Kaboom! Useless words are out! Try it and let me know how it works for you!


How can I combat my child’s summer reading slump? SCBWI to the RESCUE!

All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer (White, 1906; Heyns, 1978; Entwisle & Alexander 1992; Cooper, 1996; Downey et al, 2004). National Summer Learning Association

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The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) has created an innovative program that will combat the summer slump and share exceptional books by its members. They have compiled, published, and released their first ever Summer Reading List 2016!

The list includes over 1,400 titles from 350 publishers by SCBWI members world wide. The list is divided by fifteen geographical regions and organized by genre and the following grade levels:

  • Kindergarten – Grade Two
  • Third – fifth grade
  • Sixth – eight grade
  • Ninth – twelfth grade

SCBWI says, “The ultimate goal of this program is to give our PAL* members more exposure, and to instill the love of books and reading in children, so they become life-long readers.” 

* A PAL member of SCBWI has published a book with a recognized professional publisher. 

The plan is to share one list in the summer and one list during the winter.

Feel free to share the Summer Reading List 2016 with readers, writers, librarians, bookstores, indie book store owners, and all consumers of literature:

Come up with ways to make it even more fun for children to read books on the list. How about books from your state, region where you reside, where Grandma lives, or in a state/region you are visiting this summer. Check out other regions and compare titles listed for your state. 

What books will you share with a child this summer? 


SCBWI Writers: Don’t Miss This Opportunity! 

Are you taking advantage of your SCBWI Membership?
SCBWI offers several awards and grants for members. I know this because in 2013, I won a Work of Outstanding Promise (WOOP) grant that allowed me to research a new manuscript. [stay tuned for more news on this project]

Work-In-Progress (WIP) Awards assist children’s book writers and illustrators in the publication of a specific project currently not under contract. 

​The Work-in-Progress Awards for writers showcase outstanding manuscripts from SCBWI members. Selected works will receive a special platform to be showcased to the most prestigious publishing houses in the field. They choose one winner in each of the following 6 categories.
Categories:
-Picture Book Text
-Chapter Books/Early Readers
-Middle Grade
-Young Adult Fiction
-Nonfiction
-Multicultural Fiction or Nonfiction
Award:
The works submitted by winners and honorable mention recipients will be made available on a secure webpage and presented to a hand-selected group of editors for their consideration. Although this is not a guarantee of publication, the opportunity to have your work presented to acquiring editors, along with an SCBWI endorsement, is a unique opportunity.
Deadline: March 1- March 31, 2016
Eligibility: 
You must be a current SCBWI member when your work is submitted and when the award is announced in September.
You may not submit a work that is under contract.  If the work becomes under contract before the award is announced, you will become ineligible.
Each member may submit only one manuscript to the WIP awards each year. (The Cushman grant is an exception, you can apply for this grant in addition to the primary WIP)
The grant is open to authors with a current work-in-progress.
Illustrators can apply for one of the Don Freeman Grants
Guidelines:
PLEASE FOLLOW THE BELOW INSTRUCTIONS COMPLETELY.
1. You must submit your application electronically in the form of ONE PDF.
YOUR PDF APPLICATION MUST INCLUDE:
1. A first page that contains:
Your name
Manuscript Title
Grant Category
A double-spaced synopsis, max 250 words
2. The first 10 pages of your completed manuscript.
Your manuscript must be double-spaced and cannot exceed 10 pages. Please use an 11 or 12 point standard font.
3. Title the PDF with your name (first_last.pdf)
Your application can be no longer than 11 pages total.
TO SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION:
Put the category you are applying to in the subject line of the e-mail.
Put your full name and the name of your manuscript in the body of the e-mail.
Send the PDF as an attachment to your e-mail
E-mail your completed application to: wipgrant@scbwi.org
View 2015 Work-in-Progress Award Winners
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Questions?  grants@scbwi.org

Looking for A Writerly Connection, STAT?

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I’ve been invited to speak at the Rochester Writers’ Conference on October 17, 2015 in Rochester Hills, MI and I’m excited to share the podium with an impressive line-up of authors and professionals. With lectures and workshops (including how to avoid bad sex scenes which is a topic I don’t often see in my children’s lit world!), there will be something helpful for everyone in attendance. Check it out here. But be quick; the open spots are disappearing faster than sugar donuts at a coffee break.

“How do I publish my children’s book?”

Here are the two questions I find most often in my email inbox or am asked when I see people out in the world:

  1. “I want to write and/or illustrate children’s books. Where do I start?” or
  2. “I’ve written (or illustrated) a children’s book. How do I get it published? 

  I often respond by saying “That’s a big [long, involved, twisty-turny] question” and then begin. But in the future, I am going to direct curious minds to two great resources. The first is a link to a webinar SCBWI-Michigan produced called “Children’s Book Industry 101.” Its a great overview to how the industry works and how to jump into it — all for an hour of your time and $10. Here is the link: https://www.regonline.com/webinars_1578845copy
The second resource is the video below that illustrates the benefits — tangible and intangible — of joining the SCBWI tribe. Check them both out and you’ll be one giant leap ahead. And let me know what you think!

How to Keep Your (and My) Eyes On the Real Prize

If I start thinking about how many eyes (read: opinions) are needed to bring a book to a child, I can get overwhelmed to the point of resorting to cleaning the refrigerator.   
AAAGGGHHH!

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But, it is important to step back and remember to write for (NO! Not Santa!) this little girl. Me. The little girl who wanted to tell Santa about my Christmas list and who wanted to please my parents (who wanted me to be a “big girl” and sit on Santa’s lap for a cute picture), but I was scared of him and he smelled bad. So while it looks like a Hallmark moment, in my memory, it is full of layers. If I focus on writing for this little layered girl, I stop thinking about infographics and gatekeepers and suddenly, writing a story for that girl feels like what I really want to do. Does this ring true for you?

The Michigan Reading Association Summer Literature Conference Is Almost Here!

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When I accepted the invitation to speak at the 2015 Michigan Reading Association Summer Literature Conference on Mackinac Island, July 8th/9th seemed so far away. But now, here we are on the almost-eve of the conference and I’m really excited. Aside from the obvious way the Island captivates (no cars allowed!), it will be a treat to be surrounded by lit lovers at every turn. I’m looking forward to sharing my talk, The Intersection of Fiction and Nonfiction, with teachers and librarians and the mind-expanding discussions that always follow. Safe travels to all who are headed to the place where time forgot but fudge survived. 

Let me know if I’ll see you there!