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.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gifts! Wow--just wow!

The next stop on my Napa County Reads SHIFTY tour was Silverado Middle School. The students were great again. We were in a library here--and take a look at the student work I discovered on the library bulletin boards. Fun, fun, fun!! I saw SHIFTY-themed bookmarks and a great art and literacy activity where students made "gifts" for the characters in my book. What a gift to the author to see this--so inspiring. The students really showed a lot of creative thought toward the characters and the story by the gifts they chose to give.

It's was a colorful visual delight.
Wow, just wow!
Take a look at the gifts the students gave to Soli/Shifty, Sissy and Martha. Baby Chance and Lester the Cat got gifts, too. Even one of the book's antagonists, Sheila-not-Shelly, got a gift (some "chill pills," a happy stamp and candy to sweeten her life and make her chill out a bit!) Ha! That made me smile!

And the gift to the author? Meeting all the students who were reading SHIFTY--and the whole Napa Reads experience! Thanks Napa County students, teachers, arts and educational community. If you were the teacher(s) who created this project, please re-introduce yourself to me. Thanks so much. Please thank your students, too. Posting these pics made me happy all over again.

Here's the cool video about Napa County Reads.
Be sure to watch to the end to see the children's chorus!

Napa County Reads 2010

To read more about my experiences with Napa County Reads, please look here, here, and here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Napa Valley Opera House & Redwood Middle School

Here we are back at the Opera House. And here are some of the students who attended. I think these delightful young ladies were from Redwood Middle School. They came up to have their books signed and to strongly encourage me to write a sequel to SHIFTY! We took this picture to keep reminding me to write a sequel or companion book. Seeing their sweet faces and remembering all the student and professional artists I met that night will certainly inspire me when I'm in the midst of writing and rewriting.

I met Redwood Middle School's After School program teachers and several of the student artists.
Here is the Teacher's Statement and some of the truly wonderful planter boxes created by the student artists. Take a look and also take a look at the video made by the Napa County Office of Education and the Arts Council Napa Valley to see the students in action. At the end of the video is the Napa Valley Children's Chorus, too!

This planter was on wheels! And there's Lester!

Here is the other side of the planter on wheels. Soli would approve!

Love the colorful peace symbols below and how Lester keeps showing up again and again.

A couple of weeks after the event, a friend who attended surprised me with a gift of the red-heart planter above. Sweet! I'm using it to keep my CD's organized and every time I see it, it makes me smile.

Below, here's Lester again. Maybe Lester needs a book of his own next? Love the colorful flowers and use of buttons and objects on the Shifty-themed planters.

These two are also cool, as were the rest of the student-made planters. See the video for a view of a few more. I could have spent hours taking pics of them all and reading the artist statements.

Are these the work of student artists? Or professional artists? I'm not sure. The pictures got all jumbled on my camera, I was so excited to see them all. Either way, I love all the colors and designs and how different artists interpreted various characters, themes and scenes in the book. If you are one of the artists of any of these planters on this page or any other blog pages here and want credit for your great work, please comment below and I'll add your name. (Students, please ask your parents' permission of course)
If you bought of the planters at the auction, please comment which one. I'd love to see pics of them in their new homes, too!
The day after the Opera House event I spoke at Redwood Middle School. The venue this time was the school library, so there were not nearly as many students as at Harvest Middle School, but they were equally well-prepared, they had great questions and were very enthusiastic.

School visits, Shifty Music, and a "this is not a drill" FIRE ALARM!

Napa County Reads SHIFTY!

My first day of Napa County school visits after my Napa Valley Opera House presentation began at Harvest Middle School. I met the principal and more amazing teachers including science teacher extraordinaire, Ms. Laura Lewis. Ms. Lewis had rallied the other science teachers in the weeks prior to take a bit of time to read SHIFTY aloud to their students during their science classes because the English curriculum was filled to the max with little time for reading aloud.
That's me on the left, Laura Lewis to the right of Shifty, and another great teacher. (I met so many amazing teachers and librarians, counselors and youth advocates during Napa Reads! I hope someone reminds me of the other teacher's name.)

Ms. Lewis was great. She showed me her copy of SHIFTY with several different bookmarks, marking the slightly different progress of several science classes. Because of Ms. Lewis and the other science teachers, most of the students had heard at least half of SHIFTY read aloud. This makes all the difference for a successful author visit. She also prepared a totally cool mix of music from the songs in the book, mostly the songs of Martha's misheard lyrics. So that made me smile and put me in a good mood as the students filed in (and in, and in, and in!) Bleachers and bleachers of students! We're talking about a half-gym full of 6th, 7th and 8th graders, maybe 300-350+, which would normally make me a bit nervous to start. But like I said, the songs made me remember some funny moments in the book and put me at ease. Thank you Ms. Lewis!

Harvest Middle School students created the colorful poster below of the cover of the book which they asked me to sign. The poster will hang in their school library with several other author visit posters.

I wish I could have gone to the library to see all the posters hanging in there--but it was time to start my presentation!

The students were super responsive and engaged! They participated actively, asked great questions, and then suddenly--

Yikes! It was LOUD! I was told "this is not a drill." Okay, so it was time to leave the gym. The teachers and students were incredible as they filed safely out of the gym along with the rest of the school to the yard outside. It took some time to make sure everything was okay and to file everyone systematically back into the gym! Luckily we were in a 90 minute block period so once everyone was seated again we resumed with a teensy bit more of my presentation and Q & A (my favorite part). Again the students were lively and engaged and had really great questions.
That's me again with Dr. Barbara Nemko, superintendent of schools, admiring the poster at Harvest Middle School. Today in the mail, I received a BIG packet of letters from Barbara. She shared the letters that the students at Harvest Middle School had sent, thanking her for the copies of SHIFTY for the students to read and for bringing me to school. I'd like to thank Dr. Nemko, too!

The students' letters were fun and I'll quote some here soon, but now I need to post more pics of Shifty-themed planter planter boxes created by the after school students at Redwood Middle School.