The Winners of the 2018 Sue Alexander Grant Are Announced!

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By Karol Ruth Silverstein, SCBWI-L.A. Contest Coordinator

To deem the results of the 2018 Sue Alexander Grant a “close call” would be putting it mildly. The top five manuscripts all ranked within a point of one another, with this year’s winner just edging out the runner-up.

Speaking of the winning manuscript, one of our anonymous judges noted, “It has all the pieces: Great voice, unique world-building that is nicely integrated into the storytelling, a cliff hanger ending, great humor mixed with tension and good dialogue.” Another judge added that it was the “most original manuscript of the group” and a “perfect middle grade” story.

The cherry on top? This year’s winner was last year’s runner-up! Continue reading

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HarperCollins Editorial Assistant and SCBWI-L.A. WWR Faculty Member Stephanie Guerdan on Intersectionality, Representation, and Geekery in Kid Lit

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HarperCollins Editorial Assistant Stephanie Geurdan is on faculty for this year’s SCBWI-L.A. Working Writers Retreat (WWR). She came to HarperCollins in2017 following jobs at a literary agency and as a bookseller. Some of the titles she’s worked on include New York Times best-selling author Natalie Lloyd’s ProblimChildren trilogy, critically acclaimed author Tiffany D. Jackson’s sophomore novel Monday’s Not Coming, and The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, the sequel to the Stonewall Honor-winning The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. She is interested primarily in middle grade and YA, especially in speculative genres and graphic novel formats, with a focus on inclusive stories from fresh voices. And she’s here today to share her insights and expertise!

SARAH PARKER LEE: We’re so excited you’re joining us for the WWR! At these kinds of events, what are editors hoping to accomplish? If you come away from them with a manuscript you want to acquire, what catches your eye first?   Continue reading

#KTWriteOn with Agent Bridget Smith: Query Letters When You Have No Idea Where To Start

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KTWriteOn

As you celebrate Independence Day, why not free yourself from the agony of the query letter with the third installment of the Kite Tales Writing Prompt: #KTWriteOn? Each writing challenge is crafted by a kid-lit publishing professional to help spark ideas and creative energy. This prompt was created by Bridget Smith, an agent at Dunham Literary, Inc., where she represents middle grade, YA, and adult novels, including contemporary fiction, historical fiction, and science fiction & fantasy. She is also the co-host of the podcast Shipping & Handling, and you can follow her on Twitter @bredalot.

By Bridget Smith

As an agent, I very often hear complaints from writers about how hard it is to write a good query. And I sympathize! I have written many pitches myself, after all. But unfortunately, it’s a necessary skill – and it doesn’t stop once you get an agent, either.

Luckily, with all the pitches I’ve written, I’ve figured out a formula that can give me a workable draft quickly. This isn’t necessarily the form your final pitch needs to take: I’m always delighted to see a pitch that breaks out in interesting ways, whether it’s hauntingly minimal or a clever inversion. And, of course, there is LOTS of room here for adding flavor: voice! Jokes your characters would make! Emotion! Tension!

But if you have absolutely no idea where to start, here’s a handy map:

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Peer2Peer Critique Day 2018: Inspirational Setting and Writers

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By Renee Carter

SCBWILA-CritiqueDay2018-1It was a spectacular Saturday morning. The temperature was in the low seventies and the sky blue. The Peer2Peer Critique Day facilitators, Daka Hermon and Pamela Rippey, arrived early to the Skirball Cultural Center, armed with candy and great attitudes. I was warmly greeted, efficiently signed in, and encouraged to pick any spot for my group. Within minutes, other SCBWI members arrived. There were several familiar faces; two from my mingle group and two from prior Critique Days.

The table where I sat was composed of four other middle grade writers. We were a diverse group: a teacher, life coach, retired banker, retired physical therapist and a full-time author. Our common ground lay in the areas of writing children’s literature and a positive, supportive attitude.

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SCBWI-L.A. Twitter Banner Contest Winner: Illustrator Gail Buschman

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In SCBWI-L.A.’s first Twitter Banner Contest (a bi-annual event), illustrators were asked to submit their most creative response to our prompt: GROW. The winning contestant’s artwork is featured on the Los Angeles Region SCBWI Twitter Profile until the next contest with a feature article published here on Kite Tales. Illustrator Gail Buschman won! Read on to learn more about Gail, her tips and tools, her own illustration prompt for anyone looking for some inspiration, and to see her winning image!

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Ask an Editor: Where Can I Find a Critique Group?

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

Dear Editor – I think my YA novel is finished but would like to show it to other people for feedback. Where can I find a critique group?
—Effie, Culver City Continue reading

Interview with Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat

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In April, I had the pleasure of watching funny men AARON REYNOLDS and DAN SANTAT dazzle elementary school kids by acting out their new one-word picture book, Dude! Afterward, they graciously shared their wisdom and expertise.

CHRISTINE VAN ZANDT: What advice do you have for prepublished writers and illustrators?

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Volunteer Spotlight: Lisze Bechtold, SCBWI-LA Illustrator Coordinator, Illustrator Events

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Lisze Bechtold is an animator as well as an author & illustrator of picture books and early readers. Her published works include Edna’s TaleSally and the Purple Socks (a Children’s Choice and Imagination Library book), and the award-winning Buster the Very Shy Dog series. She has taught workshops, reviewed portfolios, and studied writing with such luminaries as Myra Cohn Livingston and Patricia Lee Gauch. A long-time member and volunteer for the SCBWI, she’s co-coordinated several SCBWI Illustrator Days, sits on the L.A. Regional Board, and has quite a few ideas and events in mind for our region’s illustrators and author/illustrators. “What ideas and events?” you ask? We wondered that too, along with a few other questions you didn’t even know you wanted to ask. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with this installment of “Volunteer Spotlight.”

SARAH PARKER-LEE: Just in case anyone out there has avoided approaching you at events or something because of this, before we go any further, how do you pronounce your name?

LISZE BECHTOLD: “Liz” or “Lizzie”, if you need to pronounce all the extra letters.

SPL: Phew! We haven’t been saying it incorrectly! (Introverts worst nightmare.) With that out of the way… You’ve been an SCBWI volunteer for a long time, off and on, why did you recently take up the mantle of Illustrator Coordinator?

LB: I had too much fun coordinating the illustrator contests at the 2016 Writer/Illustrator Day and realized as an author AND illustrator, I have specific insight into the different needs and interests of each. I love connecting people who should meet, as well as the detective part of helping other artists — pointing out their strengths and the direction they are already taking that perhaps they themselves may not have noticed.

SPL: As an experienced illustrator and author, what types of workshops, exercises, or tools have helped you? Continue reading

Paying it Forward: Going from Mentee to Mentor is Easier than You Think

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By Sherry Shahan

Elizabeth Van Steenwyk signs her new picture book Blacksmith’s Song. (Peachtree Pub.)

I was clueless about children’s books when I signed up for a writer’s workshop years ago with the prolific Elizabeth Van Steenwyk. Her credits: Seventy-five fiction and nonfiction titles. Impressive. But what struck me most was her generosity.

After reading my WIP, Elizabeth offered to send it to her editor at a school book-fair publisher. Willowisp Press became home for my first six middle-grade novels.

When our SCBWI region began discussing a mentorship program, I knew I wanted to be involved. Continue reading

Helping Special Needs Kids and Breaking the “How to Get Published” Rules

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by Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh

Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh’s daughter

You may have heard these rules about getting published: Don’t pitch as a team with an illustrator. Don’t pitch directly to the publisher. And do not write in rhyme. I followed those rules until I didn’t. Here’s why breaking the rules was so good for me.

I started as a rule-follower. I joined SCBWI and formed a writers group. I read most of THE BOOK, SCBWI’s definitive guide to kid lit, agents, and publishers. I thoroughly researched agents and I penned cover letters.

Then I waited for responses. Continue reading