Writers Day 2019: Tenacity, Writing with Respect, and Other Takeaways


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By Charlotte Offsay

On March 9, writers swarmed the Skirball Cultural Center for SCBWI’s annual L.A. Writers Day conference. The day was packed with wisdom, tips, and motivation. Here are some of my favorite takeaways from the event.

The publishing industry is subjective, do your research and don’t give up!

Doubleday Books Editor Frances Gilbert cited being bored, an overly complicated plot, or an over-published topic among her reasons for rejecting manuscripts. She shared her own journey as an author and highlighted the subjective nature of this business – one of her manuscripts was called too specific by one publisher and too vague by another. She encouraged authors to do their research before submitting to find the right home and champion for their manuscript.

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Achieve Book Nirvana with SCBWI-L.A. at the L.A. Times Festival of Books


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by Jerry Mahoney

If you’re like me, your main problem with books is that there are never enough of them. Libraries and bookstores are nice, but can’t there be more books? Lots, lots more? Well, prepare yourself, because there’s a place where squijillions of words will surround you in a warm, wonderful embrace that will satisfy all your literary cravings.

Yes, it’s just about time for every Southern California book lover’s favorite weekend: the L.A. Times Festival of Books! Meet some of your favorite authors, sit in on panels, and network with professionals from all over the publishing industry.

With tons of exhibitors, A-list authors in every genre, and over 150,000 visitors every year, the L.A. Times Festival of Books is the country’s largest literary festival, and it’s free!

As always, SCBWI will be there in force. Continue reading

Break In with Work-For-Hire Webinar


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By Ann Rousseau Smith, SCBWI CenCal News Liaison

Wouldn’t it be nice if editors approached you, asking if you’re available to write a book? That’s the reality of the work-for-hire market, for fiction, nonfiction, or illustration. If you’d like to learn the secret to breaking in through work-for-hire, what to send and how to be successful, SCBWI-CenCal and Capstone Senior Managing Editor, Curriculum Strategy Christine Peterson have a webinar made just for you!

Capstone is a publisher of K-8 children’s books and digital solutions for libraries, classrooms, and consumers headquartered in Mankato, Minnesota. Christine has been with Capstone for 16 years, and has specialized in nonfiction content for K-5 students, including supplemental nonfiction texts, guided reading and literacy support materials, and curriculum instruction. They need writers and illustrators for their projects, but what are the benefits to you? Continue reading

#KTWriteOn with Editorial Assistant Stephanie Guerdan: Mixed Media Storytelling


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Welcome to 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 Stephanie Guerdan of HarperCollins Children’s Books. Stephanie acquires and edits middle grade and teen books. Some of the books she has worked on include the acclaimed debut We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia and the Soldier Dogs series. She likes queer fiction, weird science, and Star Wars.

By Stephanie Guerdan

There are so many different ways to tell a story — even if you narrow that down to just the format of a book. From traditional prose novels to full-color graphic novels, from highly illustrated to photographic, and everything in between.

Stephanie Guerdan

One format that’s particularly close to my heart is mixed media. This kind of storytelling eschews traditional prose and instead tells a story through a collection of various kinds of media. In a way, it’s taking Marilyn Cram Donahue’s collaging prompt to the next level.  Instead of using your collage images as inspiration, you’re creating your own media and using them to tell the story itself.

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Ask an Editor: What’s the Best Way to Find an Agent?



“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’ve been working on my middle-grade book for years with my critique group and think it’s finally ready to send out into the world. What’s the best way to find an agent?

—Susan, Los Angeles

Dear Susan – Finishing your manuscript is quite an accomplishment. Kudos! Since you’re looking for an agent, that must mean you’re seeking traditional publication.

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#KTChat with Author/Illustrator Bethany Barton: In Defense Of Your Day Job


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By Bethany Barton

Editor’s Note: Award-winning author/illustrator Bethany Barton spends her days working in film and TV, currently in the prop department at ABC’s Black-ish. Her newest book, I’m Trying to Love Math, hits stores this July. And Bethany is not only making herself available to chat with you this Friday (3/22) for an hour beginning at 12PM, but she is ALSO SCBWI-LA’s mentor! So if you’re an illustrator or author/illustrator, you can apply to be her mentee! And no matter what you’re writing, today’s chat topic about day jobs will encourage you, make you laugh, and start a lively conversation! And now, take it away, Bethany…

I hear it all the time from authors and illustrators: “I wish I could make books full time… but for now I’m JUST (insert self-deprecating tone) a bartender/teacher/accountant/etc.” 

We’re all wonderfully complex human beings and that “day job” is a part of our story….so why do we feel the need to apologize for it? Maurice Sendak did toy-store window displays. JK Rowling worked as a secretary and translator. As long as there have been authors and artists, they have had day jobs and side hustles.

And I’m here to suggest we stop apologizing for them.

Consider this a call-to-arms to embrace our day jobs and, dare I say, even celebrate them?! Here are some quick reasons why:

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Author Michelle Markel on the Changing Nonfiction Picture Book Industry and Your Place In It


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MICHELLE MARKEL is a successful writer and a local SCBWI member! She’s the author of Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909, which won the Bank Street Flora Stieglitz Straus Award and the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for Younger Children, and was also chosen as an NCTE Orbis Picture Honor Book. Her recent titles are Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books and Out of This World: The Surreal Art of Leonora Carrington.

CHRISTINE VAN ZANDT: Welcome to Kite Tales! Your career has included a number of popular narrative nonfiction books as well as some fiction. How is the industry changing?

MICHELLE MARKEL: The field of narrative nonfiction has busted open. There are now books about little known historical events, unsung heroes, and underrepresented groups (women and people of color). Editors are interested in expressive language, innovative artwork, and uncommon formats. They’re looking for creative “hooks” to grab young readers. If you love telling stories, and love nonfiction, this is your moment.

CVZ: What’s your writing process for your biographies? Continue reading

Los Angeles SCBWI Writers Day 2019 Manuscript Contest: And The Winners Are…


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By Karol Ruth Silverstein, Contest Coordinator

It was another year of very strong entries in the SCBWI L.A. Writers Day Contest. As usual, manuscripts were submitted in four categories: Young Adult, Middle Grade, Picture Book, and Other (which includes poetry and non-fiction). First place winners in each category receive free tuition to next year’s Writer’s Day, as well as a manuscript critique from one of this year’s faculty members. If you’d like to contact any of the winners to request their manuscript or discuss publication, please let us know!

Our much-appreciated anonymous judges selected the following 10 honorees: Continue reading

Toot Your Horn!


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SCBWI members’ publishing news is something to celebrate here at Kite Tales! Check out whose book is coming to a platform near you or around the world. Horn-tooting and digital hi-fives welcome in the comments!



Butterflies in Room 6, by Caroline Arnold, photographs by Caroline Arnold, Charlesbridge Publishing, ages 5-9, nonfiction, ISBN: 978-1-58089-894-2, released 05/12/2019. 


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Interview with Frances Gilbert, Editor-in-Chief of Doubleday Books for Young Readers


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FRANCES GILBERT started her career with books in high school when she worked in the children’s department of her town library. After graduating from university with an M.A. in English, her first job in publishing was as a Book Club Editor at Scholastic Canada in Toronto. She moved to New York in 2000 to set up a children’s editorial division at Sterling Publishing. In 2012, Gilbert moved to Random House Children’s Books where she is Editor-in-Chief of Doubleday Books for Young Readers. She is also a successful author of several children’s books.

CHRISTINE VAN ZANDT: Welcome to Kite Tales! We’re excited to have you as a Keynote Speaker at SCBWI LA’s 2019 Writers Day event. You’ve been in the industry since a teen and, as an author yourself, understand publishing from both sides. As an editor, please share with us some reasons that picture book manuscripts are rejected. Continue reading