Having a Mentor Just Might Lead to a Manuscript That Sells


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by Karol Ruth Silverstein, Contest Coordinator

It’s common knowledge that having a mentor can impact your writing career in wonderful ways. Sometimes the impact is immediately apparent; other times it takes a while for the coaching a mentee receives to translate into career success.

My own experience falls into both categories. Continue reading


LitMingle Minute: The Birth of South Los Angeles LitMingle


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By Jean Perry, SOLA LitMingle Coordinator

*EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was accidentally emailed before Christmas, but was not scheduled to post on the blog until today. So just in case you missed it or were looking for it on Kite Tales… Here it is again!

Left to right: Karen English, Marjorie Smith, Jean Perry at Meeting #1

The idea for a South LA LitMingle was born where so many great ideas in Los Angeles are born: in traffic. When construction projects increased traffic congestion, my drive-time from South LA to Hollywood, as the then-Hollywood LitMingle Coordinator, went from thirty-five minutes to one hour. Returning time wasn’t much shorter. If it was too much of a commute for the coordinator, what about potential attendees coming from the same area? The answer seemed reasonable: set up a South LA Mingle.

I was surprised to find the shorter commute didn’t exactly bring in the minglers. Where did all the people go? My first meeting consisted of two friends plus me. The second meeting was me with a woman who wandered by during the last fifteen minutes. My third meeting is coming up on January 25th. One writer is interested in writing about her family, another about a trip to West Africa, another about a childhood experience. None have shown up more than once. Continue reading

#KTWriteOn with Melissa Manlove, Chronicle Books Senior Editor


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KTWriteOnJust in time to help power your new year’s writing resolution, we’re introducing the Kite Tales Writing Prompt: #KTWriteOn. Each quarter, we’ll feature a writing challenge crafted by a kid-lit publishing professional. To kick things off, here’s a writing prompt created by Chronicle Books Senior Editor Melissa Manlove. As a bonus, Melissa is inviting submissions related to this exercise. Read on for details.

By Melissa Manlove

This writing prompt is for storytellers. Even those of you not interested in nonfiction—keep reading! We need you!¹

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HarperCollins Editor Karen Chaplin on Defining Voice, Trends, & Time Management


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Karen Chaplin began her publishing career at Scholastic. She was an editor at Puffin Books/Penguin Young Readers Group for six years before she moved to HarperCollins Children’s Books, where she is currently a senior editor of picture book, middle grade, and young adult fiction and nonfiction. Karen received her undergraduate degree in English from the University of Delaware, and her MA in English from Simmons College. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, finding DIY projects to do, and dabbling in photography. She also has graciously offered to do a Q&A with us!

Sarah Parker-Lee: As an editor, its your job to take a writers labor of love and not just fine-tune it but take it to the next level. What are you looking for when you first begin this process?

Karen Chaplin: One of the first things I look for in a manuscript is voice. The voice of the story, of the main character, of all the characters, really needs to draw me in from the first few pages, and if that happens, then the author has got me hooked. Plot points, character issues, the ending—all of that can be modified. But the voice is difficult to accomplish, and if an author nails that, it’s a fantastic start.

SPL: Any advice for writers working with an editor, whether they are first-timers or old pros? Continue reading

Ask an Editor: Query Letter and Cover Letter


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“Ask an Editor” is a forum wherein SCBWI members submit questions thatAskAnEditor_2 are answered as part of our quarterly Kite Tales blog.

Dear Editor – What is the difference between a query letter and a cover letter?

—Marissa, the Valley

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Emma Chichester Clark’s TOTO Illustration Process and Her Muse—Her Dog, Plum


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Emma Chichester Clark is the illustrator of the beautiful middle-grade chapter book, Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of the Wizard of Oz. Its 250+ full-color images showcase Chichester Clark’s signature style.

CHRISTINE VAN ZANDT: Welcome to Kite Tales! In Toto, you collaborate once again with author, Michael Morpurgo. How does illustrating well-known stories differ from working on new fiction? Does having a dog as the narrator change your focus when you work on the art?

EMMA CHICHESTER CLARK: In fact, it’s my sixth collaboration with Michael. We have also done versions of Pinocchio, Aesop’s Fables, Hansel and Gretel, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, and a Christmas story called The Best of Times. Almost all of them were about well-known characters and I had to find my own ideas about that. This is a challenge because the images we all already know so well are imprinted in our heads. With each character, I have to draw and redraw them, over and over again, until I find someone that belongs to me but who is, at the same time, true to the character I’m representing. [In Toto], having a dog as the narrator was the most fun of all because I adore dogs. I have one, Plum, who is not unlike Toto in appearance and I spend a lot of my time trying to interpret what is going on in her doggy brain.

CVZ: You are also an author. Please give us some insight into your process, both as an illustrator and an author-illustrator.

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Author Michael Morpurgo on His New Book, TOTO, and Writing From an Animal’s Perspective


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Today, we feature Michael Morpurgo, author of the middle-grade chapter book, Toto: The Dog-gone Amazing Story of the Wizard of Oz. This retelling of the classic is from Toto’s point of view. Each chapter begins as he tells his tale to his puppies—only one of which usually stays awake until the end.

A former Children’s Laureate, Morpurgo has published over 150 books. His novel, War Horse, was successfully adapted into a Tony Award-winning Broadway play and a Golden Globe-nominated film by Steven Spielberg. Morpurgo’s books include retellings such as Pinocchio by Pinocchio (told from Pinocchio’s viewpoint), also a collaboration with illustrator, Emma Chichester Clark.

CHRISTINE VAN ZANDT: Welcome to Kite Tales! What influenced your decision to rewrite The Wizard of Oz?

MICHAEL MORPURGO: We all know the original story from the film and perhaps less from the L Frank Baum book. It is a wonderful and magical tale—funny, frightening—and strange and a wonderful film, but I always felt that there was one character who had little part to play in the story. Dorothy we know and love, but her little dog, Toto, does little more than accompany her on her adventures, providing her with comfort and company, but we never know what he thinks of all that is going on. He just gets carried around a lot. So, I thought why not tell the story again, but through Toto’s eyes. But it was really my friend, the illustrator of Toto, Emma Chichester Clark, who originally had the idea of a retelling the story with her own beloved dog, Plum, as the inspiration for Toto.

CVZ: Please tell us about your writing process.

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SAG Winner Karen Jameson on Getting Published & the Mentors That Got Her There


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By Karen Jameson

Sometimes the person who’s about to change your life has been there all along!

Children’s author and friend, Dianne White, and I met way back in 1996 when I joined the teaching staff at Peachland Elementary. A well-respected primary teacher with an encyclopedic knowledge of children’s literature, Dianne pursued her love of children’s writing after hours. Sixteen years later, when Dianne announced plans for an early retirement (and a move to Arizona), I knew that it was now or never. I finally summoned my courage and shared my own secret writing dreams. I never could have imagined what happened next!

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