Wednesday, June 23, 2010

SCBWI LA conference faculty interview: Greg Pincus

Greg Pincus, a member of the 2010 SCBWI summer conference faculty, is a man of many talents. He's a poet, novelist, screenwriter, volunteer elementary school librarian, and social media consultant. (Here's his really useful site.)

He's also a poster-boy for what social media can do for a writer. After the mathematically inspired form of poetry he invented went viral and hit The New York Times, Greg found himself with a two-book deal with Arthur A. Levine Books.

But he's not just about self promotion. On the contrary, he's as humble and generous a person as you can find, and in an industry as fantastic as ours, that's saying something.

Fans of poetry will  remember the collection of writers he brought together for National Poetry Month in April. Then there are the kidlit chats he hosts with Bonnie Adamson on Twitter every week (you can find the transcripts here). 

He's someone you want to know, and to start the conversation, I conducted this Twitter interview with Greg. Here's the (slightly edited) transcript:

@gregpincus, how much time a day do you spend on social networking?

@mbrockenbrough A lot of days under an hour, the rest between one and two (plus #kidlitchat on Tuesdays and frequent weekend silence). And you?

@gregpincus Twitter and Facebook are my quick work breaks, so maybe 30 minutes a day. OK, maybe more.

@mbrockenbrough The key, I think, is to know your time limitations and accept them. No one can do it all. No one has the time. And it's okay!

@gregpincus, should every aspiring writer and illustrator be on Facebook and/or Twitter?

@mbrockenbrough "Should"? Nah. Only if they want to. They are free, useful ways to be visible and make connections, though.

@gregpincus How’s a person supposed to say anything in 140 characters or fewer? I mean, that’s insane. Even harder than picture books. Blerg!

@mbrockenbrough Where's Papa going with that ax? That's 32 characters and says a lot. Congrats on your good news! That's 28 and powerful, too.

@gregpincus Nice! How would your career be different w/o social media? Also, if I ask nicely, will Twitter write my novel for me?

@mbrockenbrough I got my book deal and have sold poetry from my blog. I've made friends & connections and gotten gigs and press via social networks.

@mbrockenbrough They have accelerated my career. However, it's key to remember that they SUPPORT the career and are NOT the career.

@mbrockenbrough And sadly, Twitter won't write for you. Your twitter pals might kick your butt, tho. And, well, for a price I'll write your novel. Let's talk!

@gregpincus Ha ha! Is there any antisocial networking for people like me...better when left alone in a dark room?

@mbrockenbrough Only the idea that you don't HAVE to do any social networking. It can help, don't get me wrong, but we all have our limits.

@gregpincus It does make networking easier for us shy folk. OK, so what jargon does a social networking newbie need to know?

@mbrockenbrough Plafoogary, spreekfel, and retwefacemarak.

@gregpincus Believed you for a nanosecond! (A real term, even if it sounds like playground slang of future physicists. Nanonanonanosecond!)

@mbrockenbrough Each network has its own language, with Twitter's being richest, I think. Try to find a tutorial or list of terms online. And ask questions!

@gregpincus Like this handy-dandy tutorial?

@gregpincus OK, so besides you, which #kidlit folks are worth following? Who gives the best links, news, tips, and industry dish?

@mbrockenbrough Too many to list! @inkyelbows @mitaliperkins @pwkidsbookshelf @alicepope come to mind. On another day, I'd prolly say others.

@gregpincus How does this Twitter chat stuff work, and how can a nearsighted slow reader keep up? #notautobiographicalreally

@mbrockenbrough Read by @inkyelbows to get started. And be zen—it's hard to keep up... and that's okay! They still rock.

@gregpincus Um, what are you wearing to the Heart and Soul Celebration on Saturday? Do you think Arthur Levine (@aalbooks) will dance with us?

@mbrockenbrough I've got an off the shoulder number that I think looks great. Depends on the weather, though. And the same with Arthur....

@gregpincus Thanks for talking with me! See you at #scbwila10 (P.S. Stick around for a second.)

@mbrockenbrough Great! I'll see you there! (twiddles thumbs....)

@gregpincus Now that it’s just us talking, can you tell me about the worst social networking gaffes authors have committed?

@mbrockenbrough Awww... I thought we were gonna gossip about the time that, let's call him/her Editor X, absconded with Author Y's ma (oh, darn the 140 limi

@mbrockenbrough Tweeting/posting in anger seem to be the root of the worst gaffes - insulting others, tweeting home phone numbers, looking petty.

@mbrockenbrough I believe that everything you say and do online will probably become public at the worst possible time. So be you... smartly!

@mbrockenbrough (Oh, and NEVER tell the story of Editor X in public. I'm just saying)

@gregpincus Is that because you're planning to put it in a book? Kidding! Thank you again. See you in LA!

@mbrockenbrough And thank you! See you at the end of July at #scbwi

To see Greg there with me, register here for the conference. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Twitter interview of Greg Pincus

I'm interviewing our favorite social media expert as part of the faculty preview for the #scbwi LA conference.

To follow along, you might check out Type scbwi as the hashtag you're following.

(You'll need a Twitter account to log in. Surely you have one of those by now!)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thank you from Whatcom Middle School

After our conference in April, our Northern Network Coordinator, Angelina Hansen, personally delivered many of your donated books to Whatcom Middle School. We've received a thank-you note from the Wildcats that we wanted to share:

Ms. Hansen and SCBWI members:

Although tardy, our appreciation is sincere! Thank you for the generous gift of books to Whatcom Middle School.
Our library, located on the top floor, and our classrooms sustained major damage [in the fire]. A major part of restoring some normalcy was getting books into the classrooms. This was one of the teachers' first requests.

We're moving into the rebuilding phase -- hopefully completed by fall 2012 -- and these books will be so important. Currently, they are placed in the three host schools.

Finally, the outpouring of concern and encouragement is amazing -- reaching far outside Bellingham's borders. Thank you so much for extending your hand.

Whatcom Middle School PTSA

SCBWI LA conference faculty interview: Rubin Pfeffer

Rubin Pfeffer, people. THE Rubin Pfeffer.

He's one of the keynote speakers at this summer's SCBWI conference in L.A., and given his incredible career in children's literature, he'll no doubt give a sensational talk.

Rubin started as a designer for Macmillan in 1974 and then spent 27 years at Harcourt, where he rose to become president of their trade book division over the era the company won Newbery, Caldecott, and National Book awards, as well as Nobel prizes for work on the adult side.

In 2008, as a senior vice president at Simon & Schuster, he launched Beach Lane Books, whose first list included a Caldecott Honor and NYT Bestseller (the amazing ALL THE WORLD, whose illustrator, Marla Frazee, wowed us at last year's LA conference).

He also has serious experience with online publishing, having worked as a senior vice president and chief creative officer with Pearson Education, which blended material from Pearson, Penguin, and Dorling Kindersley for print and online works.
In December of 2009, Rubin took his career in a bold new direction, joining East West Literary Agency as a partner. He represents luminaries such as David Diaz, Patricia MacLachlan, Richard Jesse Watson, Jesse Joshua Watson, Jeff Mack, and Timothy J. Bradley. (And his clients absolutely rave about him.)

I asked him a few questions to get people ready for his keynote:

What’s it like being on the agent side of the fence? Are there any big differences that particularly excite you?

I love being at the beginning when ideas are just forming and there is a chance to help build upon concepts and notions. And to help shape ideas into possibilities. And I’ve always enjoyed being the “what if” guy, provoking thoughts and helping build visions. The difference is the intimacy and trust. Certainly there between a publisher/editor and an author. But not nearly to the degree and complexity of how an agent and writer work together where advice and counsel span a broad range of topics beyond literary.

Over your long career in publishing, you’ve seen a lot of changes. What were some of the biggest, and how do all the digital developments we’re seeing lately compare?

What matters most are the changes we’re seeing now. And we hear of them every day in blogs and sound bites and headlines in the Trade press. Two points:
  1. The economics of bookselling and publishing have been an increasingly challenging proposition for decades on end. It came to a fevered pitch with the onset of the recession.
  2. Coupled with that, innovations in technology that could address significant aspects of the challenge landed faster and harder--“kaboom!” coincidentally with the shrinking profit margins. The solutions to the fiscal issues of publishing profitability conceivably can be largely found in the technologies of digital creation and delivery of content. The conflict is that the solutions are revolutionary and traditional trade publishing tends to move at an evolutionary pace. And the solutions invite other business models and entities to the trade publishing business that heretofore had had a tight circle of wagons drawn around it.
What do you look for in clients? What tends to impress you most?

OOPS. (I just made this up) Originality, Open-mindedness, Passion, Stamina.

How do you like to work with your clients? Are you hands-on? Or do their new projects come to you ready to be launched?

It absolutely varies by person. I work the way it is best for each writer and illustrator and the projects at hand. At least I hope I do. I can too often see myself getting way too involved in solutions. I like to suggest and will remind the client that it is only a suggestion and hopefully it helps the client see possibilities.

It must feel really great to be part of Jesse Watson’s HOPE FOR HAITI book deal. How did that come together?

I’ve known Jesse and his family (Richard Jesse Watson, Benjamin Watson, and Faith Pray) for many years.

He asked me to listen to him one day. I did. I paid close attention to what he had to say about his work, his feelings, and his views on personal and global issues. I recalled an impressive story that he’d shown me a few years back that for various reasons never got off the ground. I asked him to revisit that story, but this time connect and apply his passions to it. It became HOPE FOR HAITI.

(Sales of this book will generate donations to Save the Children's Haiti Emergency Relief Fund.)

Thank you, Rubin! 

Register here for the summer conference so you can hear more from Rubin Pfeffer in person.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Twitter-iffic Stuff!

I don't mean to keep honking the Twitter horn, but if you aren't on Twitter, you're missing out! So many interesting people, articles, and chats! I was following #askagent chat last night, because Elizabeth Law of Egmont Press (who was at our April SCBWI conference in Redmond) was chiming in.

Here's a question from a writer during the chat, "If the novel you want to sell has a lot of competition in the market, how would you make it stand out in submitting to editors?"

Elizabeth's answer, "That's easy. Want your manuscript to stand out in competitive market? Write a great book. I'm not kidding!"

Another Twitter find is this article, entitled "When Books Could Change Your Life. Why What We Pore Over At 12 May Be The Most Important Reading We Ever Do." .

Good stuff! You can find the SCBWI Western Washington here.

Holly Cupala Interview

Our own Michele Torrey has recently interviewed Holly Cupala on her blog. Holly's novel, TELL ME A SECRET, debuts June 22, 2010 (just one week away).

You can find the interview on Michele's blog. While you're there, read more about Michele. She's a well-traveled writer, and has a non-profit called Orphans Africa. Just one fun fact about Michele; she's had to scrub the flagstones of a castle courtyard all by herself!

First Annual Imagination Celebration

The first annual Imagination Celebration, a new free community event, will be held on Saturday, June 19 from 1 to 5 p.m. The celebration is being launched as a block party in and around the Olympia Timberland Library by the South Sound Reading Foundation (SSRF) and Capital Playhouse’s Page to Stage Theatre-Literacy Program, in cooperation with the Timberland Regional Library District (TRL).

Some of our local favorites, Kirby Larson, Bonny Becker, and Patrick Jennings, among others, will be there to help kick off the event.

The full schedule and more information can be found here.

Summer Writing Workshops with Margaret Nevinski

Margaret Nevinski is teaching three summer writing workshops for kids and teens through Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District. Word Art (for 8-12 year olds), Creative Writing Workshop (for 8-11 year olds), and Teen Creative Writing Workshop (for 12-14 year olds). You can find out more about Margaret on her website.

For more information on Margaret's workshops, including how to register, click here to go to Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District's cultural arts section (on their Programs and Classes page).

SCBWI LA conference faculty interview: Gennifer Choldenko

Here's another interview with one of the SCBWI LA conference keynote speakers, the amazingly talented Gennifer Choldenko.

I first heard of Gennifer when after the publication of her Newbery Honor-winning novel, AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS. At the time, it seemed like she was an overnight success: a New York Times bestselling author, winner of the Sid Fleischman award, a BBYA pick...the list of accolades is longer than a gangster's rap sheet. I read AL CAPONE and  was hugely jealous, wondering how she'd managed to get so good so quickly. Shows what I knew.

As with most seeming overnight successes, Gennifer put in many years of hard work before the rest of the world noticed how good she is. (So now I am hugely jealous of her boots. Look at them! Swoon!)

Gennifer came to her first SCBWI national conference sixteen years ago and made some endearing rookie mistakes (which you can read about below). By then, she'd sold her picture book MOONSTRUCK, even though it took another few years before it was in 1997 by Hyperion.

But it wasn't until she started writing middle grade novels that she found her storyteller's sweet spot--the age she best identifies with. In 2001, her novel called NOTES FROM A LIAR AND HER DOG, picked up several awards. In 2005, she published the first of two Al Capone novels (a third is in the works, and despite Betsy Bird's excellent suggestion, will not be called AL CAPONE DOES MY NAILS).

Next year, you can read what she considers her best work: NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT—due out in February 2011 from Dial. To further whet your appetite for her keynote, here are answers to a few questions I asked her:

You’ve done middle grade and picture books. How do you manage to write both well?
I’m a sucker for flattery, but alas I have to say I’m not sure how well I do write both.  My natural age is eleven, maybe twelve, I can sometimes be thirteen, but four is a stretch.  Still, I really enjoy writing both middle grade novels and picture books because the energy is so different.  Novels are like a long distance run across three states.  Picture books are sprints across the neighborhood requiring short bursts of energy.   After I finish a novel, I love to work on a picture book.

What do you mean by “slow down, let the mess be all around you”? Is this about the process of writing? Of thinking about the story? Of understanding the characters?

 It is my theory that creative people are all about order.  Not order in the sense of a neat desk or a neat closet or a finely wrought to do list – but order in the sense of making meaning out of the chaos of experience, of ideas, of the wild whoosh of life all around us.  I think good creative people have a yearning to make sense out of inchoate elements.  But for me it feels great to get order and it is really uncomfortable to be steeped in the unfinished mess of a novel, the assault of ideas, the confusion of possibilities.  The temptation, then, is to impose an order on ideas prematurely instead of letting the work find the order it needs.  This is, by the way, the opposite end of the spectrum from procrastination.  If you are a procrastinator, turn off your internet connection, get your butt in the chair and write two pages a day, no matter what.   

You wrote, “My head specializes in telling me I have stupid ideas. It stays up until all hours of the night planning strategies for my demise. What are some of those strategies, and can I borrow them for a plot? I’ll change your name and stuff.”
Very funny.  But I’m not sure my nemesises (nemesi?) would make for good reading.

Oh, I disagree and plan to ask you again at the conference. I'll be as persuasive as Al Capone. Trust me. (Insert villainous laughter.) And tell us about your next book, NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT.

Some 16 years ago I came to this very conference.  I wasn’t a member.  I had never attended an SCBWI meeting or conference before.  I don’t even think there was an SCBWI website.  Anyway, here I was at SCBWI in LA the big time and my concern was whether or not my idea would be stolen if I submitted it for critiquing.  I actually spent the money to get the manuscript copyrighted with the library of congress before showing up.  Then I submitted the entire manuscript bound and illustrated.  It was 250 pages.  In short I did everything wrong short of printing out on purple perfumed paper. (Interviewer's note: Not true. She didn't put glitter or confetti in the mix.)

Though I didn’t walk away from my first conference with a contract . . . I got a great critique from a wise, kind and patient author.  She said a lot of smart things I think about to this day, but one of them was I hope you continue to write fantasy, but I think you have a lot of realistic novels inside too.

Since writing a fantasy novel was so incredibly challenging, I liked her advice.  I liked it a lot.  And I went on to write five more novels – four of which were published.  Then one day last year NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT hit me like a rabid dream, a bizarre feverish delusion.  I don’t know where it came from or why these characters chose me to tell their story, but I believe it’s the best novel I’ve written yet.

Can you provide a sneak preview of what you’ll be talking about at the L.A. Conference? Just a wee taste, for those of us who have trouble waiting for our favorite authors?
This probably won’t be a surprise to you, but to be a successful writer you need three things: skill, talent and perseverance.  The talent part you can foster, the skill part you can learn and the perseverance you can be inspired to maintain.  That’s why I came to SCBWI sixteen years ago and that’s what I hope to give back.

Thank you, Gennifer!

Learn more about her books on her website and an additional site for the Al Capone novels. Read how she felt when she got the call from the Newbery committee.

Read a great interview on BookBrowse.

Sign up for the conference here.

Here's a cute video one of her readers made for Al Capone.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Great Opportunity

If you love writing, and love teaching writing to young people, you should check out this opportunity. Writers in the Schools (WITS) is accepting applications for writers-in-residence, interns, and volunteers for the 2010-11 school year.

To find out more information about WITs, go to their website here. Click on the Get Involved tab, and scroll down to the section For Writers to find out specific guidelines.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Good News for Ann Teplick

Good news for Ann Teplick! Ann has an essay in Hunger Mountain's spring issue, entitled "THe QUIETER WE BECOME, THE MORE WE ARE ABLE TO HEAR," Ann shares her experience writing with teens at the Washington State psychiatric hospital.

Check out her essay on Hunger Mountain here. Click on the Young Adult and Children's Literature section.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Good News for Holly Cupala

Congratulations to Holly Cupala, who is in Hunger Mountain's spring issue. Holly's book, TELL ME A SECRET, debuts June 22, 2010. You can find more about Holly and her book, on her website.

Hunger Mountain is both a print and online journal of the arts. They publish fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, visual art, young adult and children’s writing, writing for stage and screen, interviews, reviews, and craft essays. Check it out here.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Join Page Ahead for Award Ceremony

2010 is Page Ahead’s 20th anniversary. To celebrate, they have created the Page Ahead Best Books for Kids Awards. The award ceremony is Tuesday June 15, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Library Bistro in downtown Seattle. There is no charge for local SCBWI members to attend.

For more information about Page Ahead, including a list of award nominees, visit their website

COLUMBIAKids Wins 2010 MUSE Award

A big congratulations to COLUMBIAKids! The Media and Technology Committee of the American Association of Museums recently honored COLUMBIAKids with a SILVER award in the category of Community. This category recognizes “Web sites, moderated and hosted by a museum, that offer a virtual space for people to gather around a common experience, exhibit or interest, the way a bricks and mortar museum does.” The MUSE Award competition, now in its 21st year, recognizes excellence in media produced by or for museums.

COLUMBIAKids Editor Stephanie Lile says, "We’ve been fortunate to have numerous SCBWI and Whidbey Writers Workshop contributors over the e-zine’s first two years of publication. It’s largely due to their fantastic work that COLUMBIAKids won this prestigious award from the Association of American Museums."

Check them out here

John Abbott Nez at Secret Garden's Ultimate Tuesday

Author / Illustrator John Abbott Nez shares his new book: CROMWELL DIXON'S SKY-CYCLE , June 29 from 7 – 7:30 p.m., at the Secret Garden Bookshop in Ballard.

Fun fact about John; He's done book projects with Mercer Mayer and Rosemary Wells, as a ghost illustrator. Check out more information on his website

Should You Copyright Your Submissions?

Great post to check out on about copywriting submissions and agent plagiarism.

I found this through Twitter, where you can find many of our local authors, SCBWI fellow members, and several speakers from our April conference. You can find the SCBWI Western Washington here:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lois V. Harris June Events

Lois V. Harris reads her new book, CHARLIE RUSSELL: TALE-TELLING COWBOY ARTIST, on June 13, 2010, 2-3 PM, at Darvill’s Bookstore, Eastsound, on beautiful Orcas Island. On June 19, 2010, she will read her Charlie Russell biography during “Meet the Author and Storytime” from 1-3 PM at Barnes & Noble, 4099 Meridian, Bellingham, WA.

On June 28, 2010 from 6:30-8 PM, Lois reads her MARY CASSATT: IMPRESSIONIST PAINTER book accompanied by an Impressionism art slideshow at the Mount Vernon City Library, 315 Snoqualmie St., Mount Vernon.

Craig Orback Event This Saturday

Children's book illustrator Craig Orback will be reading and signing
copies of his new picture book "The CAN MAN", his 16th book, at Barnes
& Noble in Bellingham, Saturday June 12, 11:00am to 1:00pm.

The story is about a young boy who to earn money decides to collect and
redeem empty soft drink cans, but ends up giving away his money to
help a local homeless man.

Craig will also be showing some of the original art from the book. Should be lots of fun! Craig teaches classes on children's book illustration at Bellevue and Whatcom Community Colleges.
To learn more about his work visit Craig's website

Monday, June 7, 2010

New Blog and Book Giveaway

From the Mixed-Up Files is a new blog that focuses on middle grade fiction.

Their mission statement; "From the Mixed-Up Files is the group blog of middle-grade authors celebrating books for middle-grade readers. For anyone with a passion for children’s literature—teachers, librarians, parents, kids, writers, industry professionals— we offer regularly updated book lists organized by unique categories, author interviews, market news, and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a children's book from writing to publishing to promoting".

Check out their blog, and enter to win nine middle-grade titles (because who doesn't love a chance to win free books?).

SCBWI LA faculty interview: Gail Carson Levine

There's something so magical about Gail Carson Levine's stories. Her first, Ella Enchanted, reimagined Cinderella; in it, Ella is cursed to be obedient--an absolutely genius touch. That book won a Newbery Honor Book in 1998, and eventually became a movie starring Anne Hathaway.

You could call Gail Carson Levine the queen of fairy and princess stories. Later works include Fairest, a beautiful twist on Snow White, as well as several works in the Disney Fairies series. 

But she often ventures beyond the world of fairies and princesses. Her seventeen books for children (see her full list at LibraryThing) include the historical Dave at Night, set in an orphanage for Jewish boys in Harlem. The Wish is a contemporary story about popularity in the eighth grade. She's  written a picture book, Betsy Who Cried Wolf. And then there's one of my favorite writing guides: Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly.

She's prolific, too. Last week, her third novel from the Disney Fairies series came out. It's called Fairies and the Quest for Never Land, and was illustrated by David Christiana. And this fall, Betsy Red Hoodie will be published by HarperCollins.

Gail is one of the rare writers who can do it all, which is why we're especially lucky she'll be keynote speaker at the conference. In an interview on, she gave some great advice to aspiring writers: 
Save everything you write.

I think kids abandon stories all the time. They start stories and get frustrated or get a different, better idea. I think that it is more worthwhile to stick with a story and revise it and try to finish it than abandon ship. Revisions, for any writer, are the name of the game.

I want to write a book. In fact, that's kind of getting high on my list of things I want to do-- I want to write a writing book for kids.
I asked Gail a few questions to further whet our appetite for her keynote:

It took you nine years to get published and you faced rejection along the way. I read that you sometimes share a bit of your worst rejection letter with kids you visit. Could you share a bit with us?

Paraphrasing, the letter said that the manuscripts I’d submitted to this editor – all picture books at that point – lacked strong plots, developed characters, emotional resonance, and that a child wouldn’t be engaged enough to sit through a reading! Those are the highlights. The editor misspelled the title of my submission in the final paragraph.

It hurt, but now the letter is one of my most prized possessions.

What are some of the best writing lessons you’ve learned over the years?

When something is wrong I can’t paper over it. I have to fix, even if that means rewriting 300 pages. That every book is a new problem. I learn as I go along, but the mastery I thought I’d gained on the last book may do me no good at all on the next one.

Do you have a favorite character you’ve created? How did you create him or her?

Solly in Dave at Night, who is based on my friend Nedda, who’s since died. I wanted a salt-of-the-earth character, a mensch, and she provided the model.

Your stories have a timeless quality to them—even when you’re writing in a contemporary setting. How do you achieve that? Are there pitfalls to avoid?

Alas, there are telephone conversations in The Wish that probably wouldn’t happen in that way today. In general I stick to standard English and hope my word choices will take a while to get dated.

You have so much good advice on your blog. Does it help you to write it? Or are you just an insanely generous soul?

Depending on the question I’m answering, writing the blog can be very helpful. I also like reading the comments, and some of the questions have been great, and I’ve heard from people outside the states, which is fun. And I like to write about writing. And my publisher wanted me to do some social networking. And I’m insanely generous.

You’ve written one book with great advice in it for writers. Are you planning to turn your blog into another?

Yes. There will be a Writing Magic 2 based on the blog, and who knows, maybe there will be a 3.

For more from Gail Carson Levine, stop by her outstanding writing blog. Here are a couple of entries I particularly enjoyed:

Everything mattering
Getting funny
Dialogue and plot

You can also read another interview with Gail on the HarperCollins site.

Register here for the summer conference in Los Angeles.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Farewell from Martha, hello to Rebekah

After three years of working on the Chinook Update, I'm moving on to a new position on the advisory committee. I'll manage the Inside Story, and Rebekah Jensen will take over as editor of this blog and the calendar.

To send information about your news, classes, events, and to share helpful bits you find on the Internet, please  e-mail

Thank you for reading the Chinook Update, and good luck with your writing and illustrating!

- Martha

SCBWI LA conference faculty interview: Mac Barnett!

Here's the first in a series of posts designed to make you want to go to the SCBWI conference in L.A., where you'll meet and mingle with lots of industry stars. One of my favorites is Mac Barnett—and not just because he knows how to rock a five o'clock shadow better than that guy from Wham.

It's been said (just now, by me) that Mac is a picture book psychic, anticipating Twitter and its "fail whale" with his debut, BILLY TWITTERS AND HIS BLUE WHALE PROBLEM.

*** Spoiler alert ***

The problem is NOT that Billy Twitters has no business model. Nor is it that he didn't invest in a large enough server farm. Also, it's not the inexplicable popularity of Justin Bieber.  Actually, maybe it is.

*** End spoiler alert ***

In GUESS AGAIN, Mac realized that my own children have a Grandpa Ned and needed to give him a really good present for his birthday. It's un-freaking-canny.

Finally, there's there's OH NO! I say this every day! (Learn more about the book from illustrator Dan Santat's blog.)

But Mac is not only a picture book author/psychic. He's also written the first books in the middle grade Brixton Brothers mystery series, and he's just released the bizarre and entertaining THE CLOCK WITHOUT A FACE, in which real gems have been hidden in mysterious locations around the country for readers much smarter than I to find them. (I read the book and it made me hungry for frosted pink donuts, which I did manage to track down. Hooray!)

Finally, Mac is a professional foot model. Or he has a pulchritizing fungus. Watch:

I was lucky enough to interview Mac, and I even embedded the clues to the location of a priceless gem in my questions. Will Mac figure it out? Read on!

Mac, I’ve hidden a priceless gem somewhere in this interview. 

Oh, one of these treasure-hunt gimmicks. I hear everyone is doing one of those.

Your website says you’re a writer and strongman for hire. How much can you lift and what are your rates?

Back in high school I owned a weight bench but I never really used it. I can tell you from recent experience that I can lift an almost-new weight bench to the curb for a bulky trash pickup. That was for free, but only because my mom has been hounding me for years about coming and getting the thing out from behind her house. Normally my rates are outrageous.

You were No. 2 on the Time Magazine list for best children’s books in 2009. Do you have anything to say to Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the author of the book that beat yours? Oddly, Jon Scieszka and ROBOT ZOT didn't even make the list. Does that make you feel sort of guilty?

Just a couple weeks ago Jon picked up the Irma Black Award for ROBOT ZOT. BILLY TWITTERS AND HIS BLUE WHALE PROBLEM was an Irma Black Honor. So he flashes around his gold certificate whenever we hang out, and I can tell he feels just fine. As for TIME Magazine, well, second place can be all right: The other night I won second place in a beauty contest, and I collected ten dollars! This concludes the "Monopoly Joke" segment of this interview.

Wow! $10! And they say there's no money in children's books. You founded a store called Echo Park Time Travel Mart. What is your refund policy?

Refunds are made up 90 days before the date of purchase.

So, uh, Adam Rex. Do you guys have slumber parties or what?

I had a slumber party with Adam Rex a few days ago at a Double Tree in New Jersey! We were touring together and we were booked in a two-room suite, except one room just had a microwave and tiny couch, and the other room had both beds, which I don't think was really the intention. But we popped some popcorn and rented Grease and both of us stayed way past our bedtimes!

OK, where did I hide the priceless gem?

Martha, you're a priceless gem for interviewing me on this blog! That "you're" was supposed to be italicized for extra mawkishness but my email program hasn't been italicizing anything lately.

Nope! GUESS AGAIN! Thanks for playing. Sorry about your italics, and see you in L.A! (You can register here for the conference.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A bit of book-signing comedy

Thanks to Judy Enderle for the video.

Book party for Oregon author

Christy Raedeke, one of our SCBWI colleagues from Ashland, Oregon, will be in town on Saturday to promote her new book, Prophecy of Days, Book One: The Daykeeper’s Grimoire.

You can catch her event at 5 p.m. at the U. Village Barnes and Noble. Learn more about the series at the official website. It looks really cool!