An Interview with Kirsten W. Larson, Nonfiction Author


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by Ann Rousseau Smith, SCBWI CenCal News Liaison

Kirsten W. LarsonKirsten W. Larson, former NASA employee, is the author of numerous nonfiction books and magazine articles for curious kids. Her most recent book is a nonfiction picture book biography. Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane (Calkins Creek, February 2020) explores the failures and successes of self-taught engineer Emma Lilian Todd as she tackles the challenges of designing an airplane in the early 1900s.

Kirsten agreed to take a few moments from her busy schedule promoting her book to answer a few questions on the origins of her riveting new book. Continue reading

Interview with Poet Renée LaTulippe


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Top poet, author, and teacher Renée LaTulippe shares what it’s like working from Italy during the pandemic and her advice for children’s writers.

CHRISTINE VAN ZANDT: Welcome to Kite Tales! I’m currently enrolled in your online ten-week Lyrical Language Lab. Your instruction (from Italy!) during the pandemic has been seamless. How has teaching this course been different?

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Keeping Creative During Quarantine


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Photo by Prateek Katyal on

Times are strange. Staying inside and shifting to work from home might be new for some, but for those of us used to camping out at our computers for long hours writing and editing on sunny weekends it can feel like an extension of the routine. Both of these realities can be jarring, and sometimes alienating. Especially when it seems like the world is falling apart. Here at Kite Tales we want to let you know: you’re not alone; we’ll get through this; and take some time for healing, whether it be writing or just watching your favorite movie.

In that spirit, we wanted to help provide you with some resources that you can access online. From webinars to virtual meetups, there is a great community of kidlit writers and illustrators sharing thoughts and inspiration.

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Though The Show Mustn’t Go On—The Contest Still Can: Announcing The 2020 Writer’s Day Contest Winners!


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

The SCBWI-L.A. is thrilled to be able to bring good news to some of our members at a time that’s been so difficult for all of us. 

Let us begin by expressing a hearty thank you to our anonymous judges for selecting the 2020 honorees. As usual, manuscripts were submitted in four categories: Young Adult, Middle Grade, Picture Book, and Other (which includes poetry and non-fiction). If you’d like to contact any of the winners to request their manuscript or discuss publication, please let us know in the comments below!

This year, the first-place winners in each category will receive a manuscript critique from one of our faculty members plus free tuition to either the rescheduled 2020 Writers Day event or to next year’s Writer’s Day.


Here are the 2020 honorees: Continue reading

Interview with Best-Selling Author-Illustrator, Grace Lin


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New York Times best-selling author-illustrator Grace Lin won the Newbery Honor for her middle-grade novel Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, the Theodor Geisel Honor for her early reader Ling and Ting, and a Caldecott Honor for picture book A Big Mooncake for Little Star. Her new middle-grade novel, Mulan: Before the Sword, is an original prequel to Disney’s live-action Mulan story.

CHRISTINE VAN ZANDT: Welcome to Kite Tales! On the West Coast, changes to our lives and livelihoods have been happening at an ever-increasing speed. What’s life like on the East Coast? Continue reading

#KTWriteOn with Picture Book Author Deborah Underwood: Get Creative with Limits


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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, creative energy, and get your work moving out into the world. If you don’t have the time or headspace right now for sustained or long-form writing, don’t worry or feel guilty! Instead, try these fun, QUICK exercises to lift your creative spirits and keep those writing muscles strong.

This #KTWriteOn was created by Deborah Underwood, author of numerous picture books, including the upcoming Outside In (illustrated by Cindy Derby), Ducks! (illustrated by T.L. McBeth), and the New York Times bestsellers The Quiet Book (illustrated by Renata Liwska) and Here Comes the Easter Cat (illustrated by Claudia Rueda). She lives in the Bay Area with her feline muse, Bella, and today we’re all talking about using limits to heighten your creativity. For real. No April fools here! Read on for Deborah’s excellent exercises!

Message from the author: I wrote the following post before Our Current Situation developed. As I sit here now, sheltered in place in San Francisco, a blog post about limits seems a little too on-the-nose—we’re limited in where we can go, what we can do, who we can see. Writing limits too?

But. Children’s authors and illustrators do tremendously important work, as you know. And I do hope that the exercise below, in some small way, will help you do that work.

So let’s plunge ahead. Know that I am sending my very best to you and yours during this strange and unnerving time. I’m hoping that these limitations on the way we live will help us find new and unexpected ways to connect with each other. Be well. – Deborah Underwood Continue reading

The Sue Alexander Grant Is Open For Submissions March 30-May 11, 2020


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by Jennifer Rawlings

I know applying for the Sue Alexander Grant is scary, but ignoring your dreams and goals is even scarier.

Not only did I not tell a single soul I was applying for the Sue Alexander Grant, I wrote an entire novel in secret. That’s right. Not even my husband knew I was writing a YA Novel—I just wanted to do the work then hope and pray someone liked it.

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

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Author Jessica Brody on Transformative Stories, Structure, & Character Voice in Retellings


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Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, as you may have heard, SCBWI L.A.’s 2020 Writers Day has been postponed due to the Coronavirus. Please check your emails for the announcement which provides more details. Despite this news, the below interview (edited lightly following the news of the event’s postponement) provides fantastic information – so, please, read on! 

WD2020_Jessica BrodyJessica Brody, author of the plotting guide Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, is slated to be a keynote speaker at this year’s Los Angeles SCBWI Writers Day! Along with several popular titles, including 52 Reasons to Hate My FatherA Week of MondaysThe Chaos of Standing StillBetter You Than Me, and the Unremembered trilogy, Jessica has also written Sky Without Stars (and the sequel Between Burning Worlds) a sci-fi reimagining of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, and books based on Disney franchises like Disney Princess Lego and the Descendants.

While Writers Day has been postponed (previously scheduled for March 28), here are some great tips and tricks from Jessica!

FARRHA KHAN: We’re excited to have you join us at Writers Day this year! Your keynote on The Transformative Power of Story sounds inspiring. Could you share a bit about what you will be exploring? – Without giving away too much, of course! 

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#KTChat With Author Margo Sorenson: How to ‘Write What You Know’ Without Oversharing


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by Margo Sorenson

Margo in colorEditor’s Note: Award-winning author Margo Sorenson, who has published more than 30 books for young readers and has been an SCBWI member for over 30 years, will be available to chat with you on Twitter this Friday (March 20) from 12 pm to 1 pm (Pacific Time). Keep on reading for her tips on how to write what you know without oversharing, and get your questions ready for this Friday’s live Twitter chat!

We’ve all heard the maxim, “write what you know,” but how can we leverage our true-life personal experiences in our writing without making our manuscripts shameless (blush!) tell-alls? In our upcoming live Twitter chat this Friday, March 20, we’ll explore some ways to use our past histories without incurring the possible wrath of family and friends or the excruciating embarrassment of having all our “deepest secrets” aired to (gasp!) young readers—but still keep our artistic integrity and creativity intact.

Acclaimed author Virginia Hamilton once wrote, “Writing is what you know, what you remember, and what you imagine.” Feelings and emotions are integral in writing, and when we stop and reflect, we really do know our emotions. Creating a main character that will resonate with young readers is often jump-started by tapping into these feelings. Those emotions we remember as kids—joy, fear, shame, love, and betrayal, among many others—will make our characters seem real and true to readers. However, it is key to separate “our real selves” from those strong, self-revelatory feelings that make us so vulnerable. That way, we can avoid turning our manuscripts into cringe-worthy “oversharing.”

How do we do that? Continue reading

Interview with HarperCollins Senior Editor, Maria Barbo


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EDITOR’S NOTE: Unfortunately, as you may have heard, SCBWI L.A.’s 2020 Writers Day has been postponed due to the Coronavirus. Please check your emails for the announcement which provides more details. Despite this news, the below interview (unedited from the original) provides fantastic information – so, please, read on! 

MARIA BARBO (Senior Editor at HarperCollins) acquires high-concept series and standalones for young readers of all ages—focusing mostly on middle grade and select picture books, chapter books, and graphic novels. She is particularly interested in projects with authentic voices, strong hooks, and fresh perspectives that use humor, magic, or illustrations to help young readers learn to navigate their world. She works with award-winning and bestselling authors such as Natalie Lloyd, Jim Benton, and Lisa Greenwald. Prior to joining Harper, Maria worked at Scholastic Inc, earned an MFA in painting, and lived in Spain via the Fulbright Program. When she’s not working, you can find her playing soccer or practicing her handstands.

CHRISTINE VAN ZANDT: Welcome to Kite Tales! We’re excited to have you as a Keynote Speaker at SCBWI L.A.’s 2020 Writers Day event. Your topic, “It’s TOTALLY Personal: Character Motivation is Everything” sounds amazing, as does the breakout session, “Master the Middle of Your Novel.” Does character motivation differ in picture book, middle grade, or YA?

MARIA BARBO: Thank you, Christine. I’m excited to meet everyone in L.A. I’d say the basic guiding principle across all age levels is that your main character’s motivations, their deepest desire, is what drives the plot forward. What do they want? Why do they want it? And which of their personality traits is going to get in their way? Continue reading