Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Interview: Author Christina Wilsdon on Nonfiction, Work-for-Hire, and Deadlines



Describe your most recent release in one sentence.

It’s Ultimate Predatorpedia, a photo-packed nonfiction book for 7-to-10-year-olds (and older!) about predators from Aardwolves to Zorillas. 

What made you want to become a writer?

I always loved to write and illustrate stories when I was little, but I never really thought about being A Writer until my sixth-grade teacher required everyone in the class to hand in creative writing every week. Her encouraging comments jogged me into more awareness of writing as something you worked on to improve your craft rather than just being a nice way to fill time (and notebooks!). 

What books helped form you as a reader?

Tons and tons of Little Golden Books. Everything by Beverly Cleary and Beatrix Potter. Animal books by Wilfrid Swancourt Bronson.The Golden Treasury of Poetry selected by Louis Untermeyer.The Chestry Oak by Kate Seredy, My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. 

What inspires you?

Strange animals and plants and ecosystems.


How do you approach a new topic?

First I read broad, general articles, such as encyclopedia entries. Then I borrow whatever the library has on the topic and buy books that the library lacks and that I know I simply must have. I find articles in online newspaper and magazine archives and check out museum websites. Any items of interest I pick up in there I pursue further to find out more details. I also read scientific papers and contact scientists if I have a question. 

I stick mainly to biology, zoology, and natural history because I’ve read widely in those subject areas, so I have a substrate in place for new information and know what to look for as I research and how to analyze it and fill in gaps.


How do you keep to a tight deadline for a work-for-hire project?

This’ll sound kind of obnoxious, I guess, but a deadline has never seemed like a dreadful thing to be loathed, detested, and feared. In fact, a deadline is sort of motivating in an odd way. (For example, I am often puzzled as to why I can easily meet deadlines imposed by others but am highly unlikely to meet self-imposed goals.) I just stick the due date in my day planner, and if it’s a project with stages I put mini-deadlines in the day planner before that, and then I just get it done. 

If you miss deadlines, you don’t get hired again, so it doesn’t pay to get a reputation for tardiness…perhaps fear creates a healthy respect for deadlines! Sometimes meeting deadlines has meant late nights, and in the early days of my career I had to take on jobs with unreasonable deadlines that resulted in pulling all-nighters, but that hasn’t been the case of most jobs. And the few times family emergencies caused me to ask for an extension, my editors were invariably kind, obliging, and helpful. 


What would you do differently, if you could have a do-over?

I would submit manuscripts like mad, because back in the day more publishing houses were open to writers without agents. And I would be brave and approach the actual real-live children’s book editors in the offices where I got my start in publishing as a lowly editorial assistant. 

(The only conversation I had with the children’s book editor at one house, over the course of three years, was when she rebuked me very coldly for throwing away the outer envelope of a package, even though the manuscript inside had a SASE with it.)


What do you do for fun when you’re not writing?

Reading, drawing, birding, walking, gardening, baking, needle-felting, taking photos, researching family history, impersonating a sloth, and if I can scare up a friend, go out for coffee or wine.


Who is your favorite children’s literature character?

If I have to pick just one, it would be Jill Crewe from Ruby Ferguson’s “Jill” pony books. This series isn’t well known in the U.S.—it’s a British series from the 1950s, which a relative brought home from Ireland for me when I was nine years old. I’d never read anything like it before. It contained horses AND humor, unlike the very earnest or action-filled horse books typically found at my local library (which also mostly starred boys).

Jill was irreverent and practical and down-to-earth, always noticing things like when you knock over a coffeepot, more coffee comes out of it then ever could’ve fit into the pot in the first place. I still have my set of paperbacks, though they’re so foxed and dry by now, the pages fall out as I turn them and drift to the floor like autumn leaves. 


What’s a work-for-hire project and how does it proceed?

Work-for-hire typically means that the publisher comes up with the idea for the book, hires an author to research and write it, and pays them a flat fee, which is usually broken into two or three parts (for example, 1/3 on signing, 1/3 upon completion of an outline, and 1/3 for delivery of the manuscript). There are no royalties, the publisher keeps the copyright, and once you’re paid, you’re usually done with the job. I have written many work-for-hire books, but I only earned royalties on one educational series (now out of print) and a small royalty on one trade book.

You can get work-for-hire jobs in many ways. For example, a publisher might put out a general call for writers, to which you can respond, or they might contact you directly. You can also research publishers (typically educational publishers) to see if they hire writers for projects and follow their directions for sending in samples and a resume. You’ll often get lots of direction and specs to follow, though some projects have lots of room for creativity, in which case you may be given little more than a topic, a page count, and a word count.   

What do you make of the revival of interest in nonfiction books for children?

I’m thrilled! What a treat to enjoy such a bounty of gorgeous, fascinating books on so many topics, and it’s great that creative nonfiction is in the spotlight. But I think that revival is only on the part of publishers and educators…kids themselves didn’t need a revival. They’ve always loved nonfiction that’s not presented in a dry or dull fashion; they want to read nonfiction books that relate to topics they love, and study the pictures and diagrams, and tell grown-ups reams of fascinating facts.

Today’s beautiful nonfiction books make me think of some of the creative nonfiction that existed long before this renaissance of the genre: I still have my childhood copy of the Giant Golden Book of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Reptiles, with its gripping text and fierce, beautiful paintings, and Marguerite Henry’s Album of Horses, with full-page paintings of horses and narrative text telling their history by way of stories. And Rain Drop Splash by Alvin Tressalt, a picture book published in 1946, is still being used to introduce kids to the water cycle.

Thanks, Christina!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

New book? Apply now for Inside Story






Do you have a new book out? If so, you may be eligible to present at Inside Story, our SCBWI region's biannual celebration of new books. We invite our membership, area booksellers, teachers, and librarians to hear two or three minute presentations from eligible PAL (Published and Listed) members.

The deadline to apply for this season’s Inside Story is Friday, October 19th, at 5 p.m. Pacific.

Event details are as follows:
Sunday, December 2nd, 2018 from 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Seattle Central Library
1000 4th Ave
Seattle, WA 98104


If you're not planning to present this time around, do mark this event on your calendar. You won’t want to miss it!


In order to present at our Spring Inside Story, you must be able to say "Yes!" to all of the following:

• You are a CURRENT SCBWI member at the PAL (published and listed) level and your profile at SCBWI.org is updated to reflect this.

• You live in the official Western Washington region.

• Your publisher is on SCBWI’s list of recognized (traditional) PAL publishers.*

• Your book is brand new (released between June and December 2018) and has never before been published. (Reprints and new editions do not qualify for Inside Story)

• Your book is readily available through normal trade channels (e.g., Baker & Taylor).

*There is one exception to this requirement. If your self-published book is a continuation of a PAL published series and/or a Spark Award winner, you are still eligible to participate in Inside Story.


The application is here. Please fill in all areas. We will email you further information by the end of October. We look forward to hearing from you and learning your inside stories!

Sincerely,
Michele Bacon and Dana Sullivan, Inside Story Co-Chairs

Monday, September 17, 2018

Local Classes, Meet Ups, and Opportunities for Writers and Illustrators

September 19

The next nonfiction writers' coffee klatch will be this Wednesday, September 19th, and Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. Questions? Contact coordinator Lisa Owens at lisa@llowens.com. 

And mark your calendars for the full schedule: 


Nonfiction Writers’ Coffee Klatch
Wednesday, September 19, 2018, 10:00 AM
Third Place Commons, Lake Forest Park

The Writing of Unpresidented: A Biography of Donald Trump
Webinar with Martha Brockenbrough
Wednesday, October 24, 2018, 7:00 PM (RESCHEDULED from 10/17)

Just the Facts: On Researching Your Nonfiction Children's Book
Webinar with Lisa L. Owens
Wednesday, November 14, 2018, 7:00 PM

Nonfiction Writers’ Coffee Klatch
Wednesday, December 12, 2018, 7:00 PM
Crossroads Bellevue

Nonfiction Writers’ Coffee Klatch
Saturday, February 9, 2019, 1:00 PM
Tacoma location TBD

Nonfiction Craft Talk with Laurie Ann Thompson
Saturday, March 23, 2019, 10:00 AM
Island Books, Mercer Island

Nonfiction Writers’ Coffee Klatch
Wednesday, April 24, 2019, 10:00 AM
The Loft Coffee Bar, Everett

Nonfiction Writers’ Coffee Klatch
Wednesday, May 22, 2019, 10:00 AM

Third Place Commons, Lake Forest Park

September 23
Aspiring authors and author-illustrators can win a consultation with literary agent Anna Olswanger to benefit Born Free's Celebration of Wildlife. The winner may submit up to 10 double-spaced pages of a manuscript, which Anna will review and discuss in a half-hour phone consultation. Deadline September 23rd, details on the bottom of the page here

October 6
The Seattle chapter of the Authors Guild welcomes Luke Frye of Timber Tax to explain Taxes for Authors 101, at the Queen Anne branch of the Seattle Public Library at 2 pm on October 6th. Luke will unravel tax mysteries for authors, including what records to keep, the ins and outs of schedule C, why it's probably unwise to form an S corporation, and how to handle state tax liabilities. RSVP to seattlechapter@authorsguild.org.



October 9
Jolie Stekly's next Writing for Children class series kicks off October 9th! Weekly classes available in both Seattle and Chimacum. More information can be found on Jolie's site, and early bird registration ends September 21st!




















October 25
UW Children's Literature Open House with Kathleen Collins, Sociology and Children's Literature Librarian, UW, Sandra Kroupa, Book Arts and Rare Book Curator, UW, and Caitlan Maxwell, Education and (temporary) Business Librarian, UW Bothell. Explore the UW Libraries Children's Literature collections-- from recently published picture books to one-of-a-kind pop-up books and first editions of classic tales. Librarians and curators will be available to answer questions and tell stories about the collections. October 25th, 3:30 p.m., Suzzalo Library, The Smith Room. RSVP here.








Thursday, September 13, 2018

Congratulations, 2018-2019 SCBWI WWWA Mentees!



We are pleased to announce our mentees for the 2018-2019 Mentorship Program. In the program's second year, twenty one writers will work one-on-one with a published author to analyze every aspect of their manuscript for a six-month period.

This year, we also have two winners of our Inclusivity Scholarship. They are Dolores Andral and Ruth Tajon.

Thanks to all the entrants! It was difficult for the mentors to choose from so many excellent applicants. We look forward to reading more fabulous work by local writers next year and foster talent by establishing relationships with great mentors.

 
Sl. NoMenteeMentorCategory
1Tamara HergertErik BrooksIllustration Portfolio
2Carolina PedrazaAmy HevronIllustration Portfolio
3Cecilia AragonSuzanne SelforsMiddle Grade
4Dolores AndralSundee FrazierMiddle Grade
5Jason StrayerAilynn CollinsMiddle Grade
6Susan McCormickSuzanne SelforsMiddle Grade
7Christopher CrewAilynn CollinsMiddle Grade
8Patricia OppenheimClare MeekerNonfiction
9Jennifer PhillipsMarin YounkerNonfiction
10Ruth TajonLaurie ThompsonNonfiction
11Daphne QuinnKevan AtteberryPB Text and Illustration
12Theresa FordLaura KvasnoskyPB Text and Illustration
13Josie Liming GawlowskiLois BrandtPicture Book Text
14Miri StoneLois BrandtPicture Book Text
15Brooke FisherPeggy King AndersonPicture Book Text
16Zamzam Mohamed  Lois BrandtPicture Book Text
17Shuchi MehtaPeggy King AndersonPicture Book Text
18Kristin BurchellKevin EmersonYoung Adult
19Gillian AllenKelly JonesYoung Adult
20Victor EvansJillian Anderson CoatesYoung Adult
21Jenny Scott TynesKelly JonesYoung Adult


Meet the mentors

Middle-Grade Mentors

Ailynn Knox-Collins started working life as a lawyer, then moved on to be a teacher, and is now a writer of children’s books. She has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. She mentors young writers through the Society of Young Inklings and has been a member of SCBWIWWA since 2008. She has published a series of 6 MG science fiction books called Redworld, and is working on 2 more for another series, coming out next year. She has a graphic novel, and a nonfiction picture book out in the world, seeking a home.



Sundee T. Frazier is the Coretta Scott King Award-winning author of Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in ItThe Other Half of My Heart, and the Cleo Edison Oliver booksHer heartfelt, entertaining stories address subjects close to her heart: biracial/bicultural identity, growing up in interracial families, and multi-generational dynamics. Her books have been nominated for twelve state children’s choice awards, appeared in Seattle Public Library’s Global Reading Challenge, and been nominated for the WA State Book Award. Frazier, a graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, lives in Renton, WA. Learn more about her and her work at www.sundeefrazier.com.




Suzanne Selfors is a national best-selling author who writes for kids of all ages. She’s received six Junior Library Guild awards, earned starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, Library Media Connection and Publisher’s Weekly. The Sasquatch Escape won the WA State Book Award, was an Amazon Best Children’s Book. She’s won a Cybils award and been on numerous state lists including the Texas Bluebonnet list. Though her books can be found all over the world, she lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest where she hopes it is her destiny to write stories forever after.


Young Adult Mentors

Jillian Anderson Coats is the author of The Wicked and the Just, one of Kirkus’s Best Teen Books of 2012, a 2013 YALSA Best for Young Adults (BFYA) winner, and a School Library Journal Best Books of 2012 selection. It also won the 2013 Washington State Book Award for Young Adults. Her newest book is R is for Rebel, a middle-grade novel about coercion and resistance in a reform school in a fictional occupied country. She is also the author of The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming, a 2017 Junior Library Guild selection and one of Kirkus’s Best Historical Middle-Grade Books of 2017.




Kelly Jones worked as a librarian and a bookseller before becoming an author. Her first book, the middle grade contemporary fantasy Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, was an Indies Introduce Pick, an ALA Notable Book, an SLJ Best Book, and a Kirkus Reviews Best Book. Her second book, the YA Regency fantasy Murder, Magic, and What We Wore, made the 2018 Amelia Bloomer List of the best feminist books for young readers and received a starred review from School Library Journal. You can find her at her website: curiosityjones.net, or on Twitter and Instagram: @curiosityjones.


Version 2
Kevin Emerson is the author of numerous middle grade and YA novels, including the Chronicle of the Dark Star series, and the forthcoming ANY SECOND. His recent release, LAST DAY ON MARS received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, and was selected for ALA’s LITA List for science fiction and the TLA Lone Star List. Kevin is a former K-8 science teacher and teaching artist with Writers in the Schools and Richard Hugo House. He has won a spelling bee, lost a beauty pageant, and once appeared in a Swedish TV commercial. Learn more at http://www.kevinemerson.net/.




Nonfiction Mentors

Clare Hodgson Meeker is an award-winning author of 11 published books for children including the Spring 2016 Junior Library Guild Selection Rhino Rescue! And More True Stories of Savings Animals, the Smithsonian Notable Book Lootas, Little Wave Eater and Soccer Dreams: Playing the Seattle Sounders FC Way. Her next book, Growing Up Gorilla, published by Millbrook Press, is scheduled for release in the fall of 2019.
Clare teaches writing in schools throughout the Northwest. She is a frequent speaker at conferences and will be presenting at the 2018 Southwest Washington Writers Conference in September. She is also a member of the literary nonprofit organization the Seattle7Writers.


Laurie Thompson_hs2A former software engineer, Laurie Ann Thompson writes for young people to help them better understand the world we live in and make it a better place for all. She strives to write nonfiction that encourages imagination and fiction that reflects universal truths, as seen in Be a Changemaker, an inspiring how-to guide for teens; Emmanuel’s Dream, a picture book biography of a man who changed perceptions of disability; My Dog Is The Best; and the upcoming Two Truths And A Lie series for middle-grade readers (co-authored with Ammi-Joan Paquette). Learn more at lauriethompson.com and on Twitter at @lauriethompson.


A self-described research junkie, J. Marin Younker worked as a public librarian for thirteen years, spending most of that time working with teens. Earning a degree in History from Western Washington University, Marin went on to graduate school for an MLIS at the University of Washington. Marin now lives in the Seattle area with her family and animal menagerie. Her first book, Bleed, Blister, Puke, and Purge exposes the dirty secrets behind early american medicine.
For more information, visit odddelights.com or follow her on twitter at @odddelights.


Picture Book Text Mentors

Lois Brandt, Writer, SeattleYears ago, Lois Brandt peeked into her best friend’s refrigerator and found empty shelves and one small carton of milk; her friend’s family didn’t have enough money to buy food. Maddi’s Fridge, Lois’ first picture book, is the result of that moment. Maddi’s Fridge has been universally praised by teachers, librarians, parents, and –most significantly — young readers. It is the recipient of a 2014 Christopher Award and the International Literacy Association’s 2015 Book Award for Primary Fiction, among other honors. When she is not working on her own projects, Lois teaches writers of all ages, helping her students tell the stories they hold close to their hearts. Learn more at https://www.loisbrandt.com/.


For 35 years, Peggy King Anderson has taught writers of all ages. She loves it!  She was awarded the SCBWI (W. WA) Lifetime Achievement award in 2012. She’s taught creative writing both in colleges, and in conferences ranging from SCBWI, to the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop in Chautauqua, New York. She has four published books, including THE FALL OF THE RED STAR (co-author, Helen Szablya), featured on Children’s Book TV. Her MG historical fiction novel, TWO MOON JOURNEY, is due for publication in fall of 2018. She writes a monthly fiction series, TREE FROG TRAIL, for Pockets Magazine. Check out Peggy’s website at www.peggyking.com


Picture Book Text and Illustration Mentors

Kevan Atteberry is a writer and illustrator of award-winning children’s books. Before breaking into picture books —a lifetime goal of his—he spent decades running a graphic design studio, owning a greeting card company, and toying with fine art. . His books include, Bunnies!!!Puddles!!!, and the recently released I Love You More than the Smell of Swamp Gas. Among books he has illustrated for others are Halloween Hustle by Charlotte Gunnufson, Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett, and Frankie Stein by Lola Schaefer.
But Kevan’s biggest claim to fame may be creating Clippy the Paperclip, the Microsoft Word helper. At one point it was annoying hundreds of millions of people a day. He finds an odd kind of pride in this…


Laura McGee Kvasnosky is an award-winning author/illustrator of 18 picture books, best known for her series about fox sisters Zelda and Ivy. The eponymous original won dual SCBWI Golden Kite honors and Zelda and Ivy the Runaways won the ALA’s Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. Laura’s newest book, Little Wolf’s First Howling, illustrated with Kate McGee, debuted to three starred reviews, followed by numerous “best books of 2017” listings and the Margaret Wise Brown Honor. Laura was a founding instructor of the UW’s certificate in children’s writing program and taught nine semesters at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She co-founded the SCBWI’s “Inside Story” salon for new books.




Illustration Portfolio Mentors

Amy Hevron is an illustrator, designer, and children’s book author living in Seattle, Washington. She is a two-time winner of the Portfolio Honor Award from the SCBWI. She illustrated Trevor written by Jim Averbeck coming in 2018. And her author/illustrator debut Dust Bunny Wants a Friend arrives in 2019. Prior to focusing on children’s books, Amy worked as an art director at design firms and game companies. She is represented by Kirsten Hall of Catbird Agency. Amy’s portfolio can be viewed at www.amyhevron.com.





Erik Brooks is the author and/or illustrator of many books, including the Washington State Book Award winner, POLAR OPPOSITES, and the CBC/IRA Children’s Choices award winner, THE PRACTICALLY PERFECT PAJAMAS. His most recently illustrated board book, IF I WERE A WHALE, will soon be joined by two additional titles. From his home in Winthrop, WA, Erik also writes and draws a weekly comic strip for his local paper, visits schools and libraries around the country, and plays in the woods like a wolverine! View Erik’s portfolio at www.erikbrooks.com