Most folks in kid lit were big readers, and writers, as soon as they could string together sentences, myself included. But literacy among children isn’t a given. Kids’ book sales have been rising, which is great news, but there are still huge populations of kids who are underserved and overlooked when it comes to literacy. And that isn’t just bad for kid lit sales, it’s bad for society at large. According to the NEA, “…poor reading skills correlate heavily with lack of employment, lower wages, and fewer opportunities for advancement…And deficient readers are less likely to become active in civic and cultural life, most notably in volunteerism and voting.” Nobody wants that! So I decided to do something about it, and there’s an easy, fun way that you can too: Continue reading
Ashlyn Anstee is a story artist at Nickelodeon on Harvey Beaks as well as the author/illustrator of Are We There, Yeti? and No, No, Gnome! (Simon & Schuster, 2015 & 2016), a comic artist, film maker, and devourer of cookies. She talks with us about finding her agent through SCBWI, how professional relationships are just like any other relationship, and how she keeps her skills sharp.
Sarah Parker-Lee: You’re an illustrator, author, and storyboard artist for animation. Which came first and how do you find time for both?!
Ashlyn Anstee: It helps that all of them are a little different, so it’s actually been fun to jump between them, thank goodness. I started out first as a reader–I was a voracious reader as a kid (and my mom’s a teacher-librarian). I didn’t really start to draw until my teens. I fell in love with animation, and it wasn’t until I graduated from college that I started to rediscover illustration and kids’ books. I find writing the hardest, so I’ve been focusing on that, lately!
SPL: For those unfamiliar, can you tell us a little about being a story artist? How does it compare to illustrating a book? Continue reading
Agent and author Kari Sutherland joins this year’s LA SCBWI Working Writer’s Retreat faculty. She was a Senior Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books before joining the Bradford Literary Agency in 2017 and she co-writes the middle grade Menagerie series with her sister, Tui Sutherland. She’s worked with bestselling and critically acclaimed authors on projects such as the #1 New York Times bestselling Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard and the #1 New York Times bestselling Pretty Little Liars series by Sara Shepard. Needless to say, she knows a thing or ten or about writing, editing, and publishing books, and she’s here to share some of that knowledge with us!
Sarah Parker-Lee: You graduated from Williams College with a B.A. in English and Psychology. Why do you consider this the perfect combination for working with authors on character and plot development?
Kari Sutherland: I’d say both fields help me pinpoint when a character is behaving in a way that isn’t authentic or in a way that may produce a reaction in readers that the author is not intending. Having studied the way minds work, it gives me insight into personality and character growth. With my English studies, I know how to catch and keep a reader’s attention through voice, sentence structure, and plotting. Psychology classes also prepared me to be an excellent listener and to help coax out what a person really wants to say – in this case, through their manuscripts.
SPL: Your Bradford Lit bio says you’re passionate about helping to polish each manuscript and equip your clients for success. What does that entail? Continue reading
By Ann Rousseau Smith, SCBWI CenCal News Liaison
Rediscovering Your TRUE Voice with Robin LaFevers, by Andrea Custer
Equal parts group therapy and expansion of craft, the Voice Workshop with Robin LaFevers, held on April 29, explored the concept of voice in all its forms: writer, character and story.
The main objective of the day was to help us identify our unique writer’s voice by connecting with our core selves. To accomplish this, Robin led attendees through a series of writing exercises that revealed our emotional truths. Continue reading
Written by Heather Banis and Ronna Mandel
Hot dogs! Peanuts!
The 2016-2017 WSGV Mingle World Series, led by Ronna Mandel and Heather Banis, is coming to a close in July with the annual, celebratory, planning picnic in the park. It may not be Dodger Stadium, but the plays we’ve seen all year have kept our fans coming back month after month. Starting in September with “The First Pitch,” minglers pitched new story ideas to one another in a workshop format. Racing ahead to “1st Base” in October, our focus was on the creation of a big-screen-worthy team of characters. As so often happens in the world of sports, unavoidable date and venue changes kept our minglers on their toes. In November, our plotting workshop moved us collectively forward to “2nd Base” and minglers with plotting problems were coached on ways to best remedy plot issues. Continue reading
By Marcelle Greene, SCBWI-L.A. Contest Coordinator
Our anonymous judges were unanimous in their opinion that awarding this year’s Sue Alexander Grant was one tough decision. But after three rounds of whittling more than one hundred entries, there emerged this clear winner:
I do my best thinking in my underwear. Mamma always understood that about me.
“We Rockfort women are at our best when we’re wearing the least,” she’d say. But Lord in Heaven, I don’t think she had in mind that I’d be wearing a man’s jockey shorts, standard Army issue, second-hand no less. And I’ll say it plain, as much time as men have spent getting into my drawers, I can’t quite get right with walking around in theirs.
Catherine Linka, author of the A Girl Called Fearless series, joins this year’s LA SCBWI Working Writer’s Retreat faculty. She is a world traveler, former buyer for an independent book store, and was almost thrown out of boarding school for being “too verbal.” She spoke with me about her work, your work, Wonder Woman, and the kid lit community’s place in the world.
Linka first became involved in SCBWI “forever ago.” It was the first time she’d found people interested in the same kid lit things as her. Later, she added her Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA community and then the debut author community. “Everyone was so generous and warm and inclusive.” That’s why she believes it’s so important to give back. “It costs me nothing but time to help someone else out, really, so why not?”
True to that ideal, Linka is a huge supporter of SCBWI and an active SCBWI mentor and member. She knows every writer needs a supportive community. “It can take years to develop your craft, and you need people to cheer you on, point out opportunities, open doors, celebrate successes and mourn defeats. We really can’t do this alone, and it is so much more fun and satisfying to do it together.”
Linka acknowledges that writers who are often introverted, herself included, may feel overwhelmed in social situations, even when taking advantage of SCBWI’s group activities and professional development opportunities. This can also make it harder when we eventually have to do our own marketing. Her biggest advice: Continue reading
By Cheryl Bommarito Klein and Kara B. Wilson
Editor’s Note: Cheryl and Kara, who are in the same critique group, both won manuscript awards at this year’s Los Angeles Writers & Illustrators Day. I asked them to share their critique-group-secrets with us because they are definitely doing it right!
We all want the kind of support that keeps us motivated to create and improve our craft. For us, a well-organized critique group was exactly what we needed! Here are four tips we have learned over the last year that will help you to enhance or build the kind of group that fits you as illustrators/authors. Continue reading
By Jill Tuckman
If you missed the registration deadline for the Critiquenic, taking place Saturday at the Skirball center, fear not! We have other ways for you to find critique partners. Read on as Jill Tuckman, our webmaster, tells you all about our new and improved Critique Exchange.
Many authors and illustrators talk about how valuable their critique groups are to their careers, and I can (but won’t, fear not) go on about how helpful my critique groups have been to me. But finding a good critique group is not always easy. Continue reading
By Gwen Dandridge
I’m the manager of the listserv in the CenCal region.
For those of you unfamiliar with a listserv, let me explain: a listserv is a program that automatically redistributes e-mail to names on a mailing list. This allows the quick flow of information to like-minded people. On an SCBWI listserv you get information about local children’s writers’/illustrators’ events, achievements, sorrows, and joys. Continue reading