Thursday, May 22, 2014

Lee & Low New Voices Award for writers of color: Manuscripts accepted through September 30, 2014

This is cool!
Lee & Low New Voices Award for writers of color:
Check it out. Manuscripts will be accepted through September 30, 2014.
Our fourteenth annual New Voices Award writing contest is now open for submissions!

The Award is given annually by LEE & LOW BOOKS for a children's picture book manuscript by a writer of color. The contest encourages writers of color to submit their work to a publisher that takes pride in nurturing new talent. Past winners include Bird by Zetta Elliott and It Jes' Happened by Don Tate.

Contest Submission
Writers of color who are residents of the United States and who have not previously had a children's picture book published are eligible.

The Award winner receives a cash grant of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash grant of $500.

Manuscripts will be accepted through September 30, 2014. See the full submissions guidelines here and answers to some FAQ's about the contest here.

Spread the Word
Did you know that last year, books written by authors of color made up less than seven percent of the total number of books published (see these CCBC stats)?

Change requires more than just goodwill; it requires concrete action. We were heartened by First Book's recent commitment to purchasing 10,000 copies of select books from "new and underrepresented voices." Likewise, the New Voices Award is a concrete step towards evening the playing field by seeking out talented new authors of color who might otherwise remain under the radar of mainstream publishing.

Take a look at Arree Chung's and Kristin Aker Howell's Thoughts on the Writing Process Author Blog Tour

Dear Imaginary Readers,
Head on over to Arree Chung's and Kristin Aker Howell's blogs to check out their posts on The Writing Process Author Blog Tour.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

My dear Imaginary Readers, 
Please imagine I’ve been blogging regularly, okay?

Thanks to Frances Lee Hall for tagging me for the Writing Process Blog Tour (and reminding me I have a blog!)  
Okay, onward to the writing process questions!

What am I currently working on?
I am multi-tasking as usual, working on a few projects in different children’s book genres. I’m revising a couple of picture books, one about a cat that might or might not be real.

I’m also diving back into a middle grade novel with a supporting character whose friend might be imaginary. I guess I am working through my own creative imagination process!?

I’ve also been taking a poetry class this spring. I’d made it through high school, my undergraduate career and two masters degrees without ever taking a poetry class—until now that is. Needless to say, it’s challenging but I’m learning a lot. I’m stretching my comfort zone which is always a good thing.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
First off, I write in various genres: picture books, young chapter books, middle grade and young adult. In all of these, I tend to include both younger and older characters, often in an extended family, alternative family or community. Whatever the genre, I aim to write stories filled with humor and heart.

Why do I write what I write?
I don’t seem to have a choice. The characters, ideas and stories come to me and inspire me, but often in incomplete form. My job is to try to capture the heart of the characters and figure out their story or journey on the page.

How does my individual writing process work?
It’s often a puzzle. I’ll have the snippet of an idea that intrigues me, or perhaps a spunky character, a unique question or line of dialogue, or an interesting opening scene. I’ll start writing to see how the scene develops and explore what the characters have to tell me. Then of course, I keep writing more scenes. Once I’ve captured the first draft, I revise, revise, revise, share my work with my trusted critique partners, then revise and revise again.

Who's next? Tag you are it!
Okay, I'm tagging the very talented Arree Chung. Just wait until you see the cool video he made for his book, Ninja! Arree will post his responses next Monday May, 19th

Arree makes picture books but he didn’t always do so. Once he made spreadsheets all day long and he decided that he wanted to make pictures instead. Arree learned how to draw, paint and think a little bit differently at Art Center College of Design.

In the past decade, Arree has worked in the games industry as a designer and Art Director. Arree’s first debut picture book, “Ninja!” publishes June 3rd, 2014. When Arree is not practicing his Ninja moves, you can find him playing basketball or riding his bike.

Tag #2, who's next? Tag you are also it, Kristin Aker Howell!
I'm also tagging Kristin Aker Howell. 

Kristin Aker Howell currently enjoys her job as Teacher Librarian at Ohlone Elementary School In Palo Alto. She has co-written a few musicals produced at the First Congregational Church of Palo Alto, and published a couple of personal essays. Her short story, Bondo, won an honorable mention in the Glimmer Train Fiction Open. Kristin earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Hamline University where she developed a deep appreciation for the revision process, which she continues to practice on her many manuscripts for children and young adults. Kristin is searching for a cure to her bad case of stripes. It is definitely not lima beans. 

While we await Kristin's & Arree's posts, please click below to see more authors on the tour.

If you are on the tour and I missed you above, please feel free to leave a link in the comments. Thanks!

Forecast: More writing with a chance of blogging?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dear Imaginary Readers,
I've been away a bit. Yes, writing.
I've also been busy here in San Francisco planning and creating The Writing Garden--where creativity blooms & grows.
To find more info about The Writing Garden: 

This week, I'm offering 3 different 3-hour classes.
I hope you can join me. All classes & workshops are open to aspiring as well as experienced writers.

Beyond the Basics: The Craft of Writing Picture Books
Wed. June 20, 2012
3 hours in one evening
6:30-9:30 p.m

Introduction to Writing the Middle Grade or Young Adult Novel
Saturday June 23rd
3 hours on a Saturday morning
9:00 a.m.- noon

Writing Prompt-a-Palooza
Saturday June 23rd
3 hours on a Saturday afternoon
1:00 p.m.- 4:00 p.m

Subscribe to the mailing list to hear about future classes here:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Stanford Continuing Studies: What's My Genre? Finding Your Voice in Children's Literature

Dear Imaginary Readers,

Please join us for a 3-day workshop:

What's My Genre? Finding Your Voice in Children's Literature

3 Saturdays, Oct. 22-Nov. 5, 2011 (Register at the link above. We'd love to see you there)

Children’s publishing presents a vast array of writing opportunities, with many genres to consider: picture books, chapter books, middle grade, poetry, fantasy, and young adult fiction. Many important questions face an aspiring writer of children’s literature. When discovering their own genre and voice, writers must consider: What age is the main character? How old is the intended audience? What’s currently being published? Over three Saturdays, this course will introduce students to exemplary titles that showcase the unique qualities of various genres. Through fun and absorbing in-class writing exercises, students will begin to discover their own voices while exploring various genres in children’s literature.

The course is open to aspiring as well as experienced writers, and students may bring five pages of their work-in-progress for discussion in the workshop.

Elissa Haden Guest, Author

Elissa Haden Guest is the author of numerous children’s books, most recently the picture book, Harriet’s Had Enough!. Books in her ten-book early reader series, Iris and Walter, have been named Junior Library Guild Selections, an ALA Notable Book, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and a PEN Center USA West Literary Award.

Lynn E. Hazen, Author

Lynn Hazen is the author of the young adult novel, Shifty, which was named on VOYA’s Top Shelf Fiction list, and was a CCBC Choice and a Smithsonian Notable. Her other books include Mermaid Mary Margaret, Cinder Rabbit, The Amazing Trail of Seymour Snail, and Buzz Bumble to the Rescue. She received an MA in education from San Francisco State and an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Join Seymour Snail and his author, Lynn Hazen at SF MOMA Family Sunday on 9/18! (Kids under 12 are free!)

Seymour Snail, the world famous artist, is sliming his way to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art this Sunday September 18th (along with his author, Lynn Hazen) for Family Sunday at SF MOMA!

Come join the family fun!

11:30 a.m. Reading of The Amazing Trail of Seymour Snail & Author Talk at the Koret Center (2nd floor)

12:30 p.m. Book Signing at the SF MOMA Museum Store

1:00 on Be sure to join us in the Koret Studios (2nd floor) after 1 p.m. for a chance to work with Lynn to create your own Amazing Trail book mark and multi-media snail in the Koret Studios.

Lynn E. Hazen writes children's and young adult books filled with humor, heart and hope. Lynn's books for younger readers include: The Amazing Trail of Seymour Snail, Cinder Rabbit, (both young chapter books), Buzz Bumble to the Rescue (a picture book), & Mermaid Mary Margaret (a middle grade novel). She has also written a young adult novel called Shifty. Inspiration often comes from her own kids as well as the exuberant children she encounters as a preschool director.

More About Family Sundays at SF MOMA:

Every Sunday
Kids get in FREE!

11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Family tour at 1:00 p.m.

Explore art, create your own, travel to virtual worlds, get hands-on, discover special places, be inspired. That’s just a hint at the fun we have in store for you on Family Sundays. Moderators guide participatory art projects, and docents lead family-friendly gallery tours. Special programs like book readings and movie screenings round it all out. Look. Think. Create. That's the plan for Family Sunday. See the Family Sundays page for details.

Program and museum admission are free for children 12 and under. Regular admission applies for adults and students.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Saturday, June 11, 2011

An Interview With Jim Averbeck and his Editor, Namrata Tripathi

Hello Imaginary Readers.
Today, I'm delighted to offer an interview with author-illustrator, Jim Averbeck, and his editor at Atheneum, Namrata Tripathi.

Hi Jim and Namrata. Welcome to the Imaginary Blog.

Lynn: To start us off, could you each please tell us a little about yourself, your career, and one unusual thing that few people know about you?

Namrata Tripathi: Let’s see…I’m from India but I grew up in several different countries and then I moved to NYC, a
town I’m so happy to call home. I started my publishing career ten years ago at HarperCollins Children’s Books. From there I went on to Hyperion Books for Children (now called Disney/Hyperion). And in December 2008 I came over to Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. As for an unusual fact: I was a competitive archer in college and was All-American/ranked 10th in the country in women’s collegiate recurve bow. (Nerd Alert! Dangerous Nerd Alert!)

Jim Averbeck: Okay that’s weird – because I also was on the archery team in college. I wasn’t ranked, but I owned my bow and stabilizers and had a lot of fun. Wait! Does that mean I’m a nerd, too? I always suspected I was. As for my life and career: I grew up in Ohio, in a suburb of Cincinnati, on a little cul-de-sac that abutted the woods. I always wanted to travel, so after graduating from Case Western Reserve University and working for a few years, I joined the Peace Corps. I lived for four years in Cameroon in Central Africa. I’ve touched foot on five of the seven continents and plan to hit the other two before I die. I think that’s why I became a writer – because Planet Earth really wasn’t enough for me, but the only way to travel to other worlds is through fiction. My first book, In a Blue Room, won a Charlotte Zolotow Honor. My second book, except if, just came out. Few people know that I have a Master’s in Intuitive Medicine, an alternative healing technique.

Namrata: Yes, Jim—it means you’re a nerd too! You know what they say about birds of a feather…

Lynn: Jim, could you please tell us about your inspiration for except if? And is it true that this story was partly inspired as one of those year-end “assignments” in your Revisionaries critique group?

Jim: Yes, that’s’ true. Each year the group has an assignment to write something entirely new, from a theme or writing prompt. In 2008 the theme was “baby book.’ I didn’t want to write a book about a baby as that felt too predictable, so I asked myself, “what is like a baby, but not.” My answer was “an egg is not a baby bird, but it will become one.” And that was the first line of the story.

Lynn: Namrata, what did you think when you first saw Jim's manuscript and sketches? Was it love at first reading? Did you have any challenges getting everyone on board at the acquisitions or marketing meetings?

Namrata: It was indeed love at first sight. The concept was brilliant. And in my acquisitions memo I wrote, “This one is a winner!” and everyone agreed.

Lynn: Jim and Namrata , Did you always imagine the illustration style to be like the final result? What was your process?

Namrata: We always knew we wanted the style to bold, simple, and graphic. We worked really hard on the illustration style as Jim was being really adventurous and trying a whole new direction. The art director, Ann Bobco, and I fell in love with Jim’s line quality and we tried to guide the art and palette so that Jim’s gorgeous line work would be showcased.

Jim: My usual art up to that point had been more… I guess ‘sophisticated’ would be the word. But when I wrote except if I did so in a child’s voice, as one long run-on sentence. (You know how kids will related a story: “and then Johnny did this and then I did that and then… and then…and then…” Maybe “and then” can be my next book.) I wanted the art to be closer to the kind of drawing I see children do, to match the text. My first sketches were very childlike, but I knew for someone to buy the book, they would need to change. So I worked with oil crayons and textured paper to get an interesting line quality. I drew the same sketch many times quickly, often with my left hand, to get a childlike quality to the drawing. The original book had a bit of a color-concept-book aspect to it, with bright bold color blocks. Nami and Ann suggested the line would pop more with muted tones and I agreed. We retained a bright color for the dino star of the book, but dialed back the rest of it. It took me a while to get there because I am naturally drawn to super-vibrant colors. I love the end result. I hope others will too.

Lynn: Jim, were there any first readers, critique group members or others who did not "get" what you were aiming for?

Actually they all got it and urged me to submit it immediately. But this was at our holiday party and I decided to bring it back when less wine had been served. I worked on it for a few weeks and then was satisfied and turned it over to my agent.

Lynn: One thing I completely love about except if is the fun celebration of the unexpected. Sometimes unexpected events in the life of an author-illustrator or an editor are less than fun and we feel like that once sure and sticky-footed lizard who realizes he is a dino and falls on his rump.

Could you each please share two unexpected moments in your career (one positive, one less so)?

Jim: In the long run, there really is no such thing as a “negative” fall. Things that seem so tragic in the moment usually turn out to be a great opportunity for growth. If it is your writing or art you are struggling through, you usually end up with a stronger product. I mean look at the dino in except if. True, he loses the lizardy abilty to climb walls, but he grows into a friggin’ DINOSAUR! How cool is that?

For my example, I’ll turn to the next book on which I am working with Nami and Ann, Oh No, Little Dragon! I turned in what I thought was a perfectly lovely idea for the backgrounds of the book. I wanted this mottled purple that would feel like the interior of the castle where Little Dragon lived and would emphasize his awesome fire. Nami and Ann … uh… disagreed. For a while I did some work that we all thought was okay, but didn’t really send any of us into rapture. In the end my crit group helped me light upon a new idea, which I loved and which excited Nami and Ann as well. It has a more sophisticated design feel and while still showcasing my linework. See what you think.

Namrata: That’s a perfect example! And like Jim, I’m not sure I see the process in terms of falls and triumphs. It’s really all an evolution (you know, from an egg to a snake to a lizard to a dino...). The funny thing is, when we’d first seen Jim’s rough sketches, we’d actually assumed that the final color art was going to be pulled back with just pops of color for our main characters. We’re thrilled that our art evolution got us there. (…and back to an egg! Wow…we really milked this analogy!)

Lynn: Jim & Namrata, since this is an imaginary blog I’m hoping you each have some advice for writers and illustrators on how to keep going when we feel we are falling, failing or what we are imagining is not yet showing up on the page?

Namrata: Hmm…I have two almost contradictory pieces of advice.

1.) Just sit down and do the work. Do it again and again. It takes time and practice and discipline. No one said creating art or literature is easy!

2.) Get out in the world and explore. Allow yourself the opportunity to engage with the world. Read other people’s books, look at other people’s art, listen to great music, eat fabulous food. Do whatever it is that makes you energized and inspired. I find that surrounding myself with people who are super talented (or surrounding myself with their work) is a good place to start!

Jim: Chocolate. (and then do what Nami said.)

Lynn: Namrata, could you please share any advice on how to surprise an editor (in a good way :-), and any TOO surprising or unexpected things we may want to avoid?

Namrata: My favorite surprise is always a brilliantly written manuscript or a fantastic art sample. One surprise I could have done without: a mini bottle of Sambuca that came with a submission.

Jim: Nami, you may forward all sealed food and drink and anything with an e-bay resale value to me. I shall dispose of it properly.

Lynn: Jim, you are the master of poetic brevity, page turns, the unexpected, and bringing your story full circle in except if. Could you share any tips for aspiring writers on how to accomplish such literary feats?

Jim: You know how when you make whipped cream, you need to whip it and whip it, but not overdo it, or you will end up with butter? (Which is fine, but butter isn’t something you want to eat by the spoonful.) The same is true of writing. I feel like my best writing springs nearly full-grown from my head, like except if. If I find I am working and working on a project but it just isn’t “peaking” then maybe it is time to set it aside and start a new project. That’s how you achieve the sort of things you mention in your question. (But don’t despair of that project that you set aside. That was just training for creating your perfect whipped cream. And you can often use a little of that discarded butter to spread around on other projects to sweeten them up. No time spent writing is a waste of time.)

Lynn: Jim and Namrata, since this is an imaginary blog, what aspects of your writing & illustrating (or editing) career is surprisingly different than you ever imagined?

Namrata: I never thought that as an editor I’d have so little time to read. That was the rudest surprise for me. On the flip side, I didn’t know, going into this industry, how many wonderful friends I’d make in the authors and illustrators I’ve worked with along the way.

Jim: The publishing business model, with its returns and complicated royalty structure and glacially slow payment system makes for a lot of financial stress on the author. Yuck. – My flip side would be similar to Nami’s. Unlike most businesses where people are cut-throat and competitive, the children’s book world is one where everyone seems to celebrate other people’s success, because no matter who connects a child with a book, it is a victory for everyone.

Lynn: Jim, what are you working on now? What can your readers look forward to next?

Jim: I have a second book that I mentioned earlier Oh No, Little Dragon! and I also have a book coming out after that called The Market Bowl, which is set in the country in which I was a Peace Corps volunteer. And I am working on a few novels and some other picture books.

Lynn: Jim and Namrata, what is the one question you’re hoping to be asked? And of course, what is the answer.

Namrata: Fill in the blank: “Two boards, binding, and paper is a picture book…EXCEPT IF…”
“it is imagination itself!”

Jim: Okay Nami, that is just plain eerie because I have been signing except if like this : A book is just paper and ink, except if you read it, then it’s a world.

Namrata: That is weird! An author/illustrator and his editor are separated by a continent, except if they are psychically linked. Clearly!

Lynn: Thank you, Jim and Namrata, for your fun and inspiring responses. Imaginary Readers, you can discover more about Jim and his books at the link below.

Forecast: A surprisingly fun read for young children and their grown ups with except if. And more great books for years to come from psychically-linked Jim and Namrata.