Sunday, October 14, 2018

Oct. 20: Southerly Network Meeting & Creative Salon

Come play! Join the South-Sound and emerging Tacoma network teams and creativity coordinator Joni Sensel for a joint meeting on Saturday, Oct. 20, from 11 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. 

We'll gather at the Parkland/Spanaway Branch of the Pierce County Library to meet fellow south-enders, talk about creativity, and enjoy a fun project that’s equal parts grade-school game, imagination booster, and armchair Rorschach test. (Bring a pencil, pen, or other writing instrument!)

When: 11:00 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 20
Where: 13718 Pacific Ave. S., Tacoma, WA 98444

Please RSVP to Joni at to make sure she brings enough supplies. (But come regardless.) Thanks!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Washington State Book Awards Ceremony on Saturday, October 13th!

Here's our plan for Saturday. It's all free, and it's all amazing!

9:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m: KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly) Art Show 

10:00 a.m.-noon: Savvy and smart Holt editor Tiffany Liao's talk on Mirrors, Windows & Doors: Writing & Thinking Cross-Culturally

Noon-7 p.m.: Lunch, a little writing, some sketching, Saturday errands, and then back to the Seattle Central Library for the...

7:00-9:00 p.m.: Washington State Book Awards!

Come to the Washington State Book Awards THIS SATURDAY NIGHT and support another year of great books. We've got more than a few members that are finalists (see the whole list here), so come cheer them on! It's inspiring, fun, and free. More details on Facebook.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Weekend on the Water Interview: Kirby Larson

Why did you become a children's book writer?

Because (1) books saved this odd-duck, lonely kid and (2) because when I read Arnold Lobel’s Ming Lo Moves the Mountain to my children, I finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life: write books that hopefully might save other odd-duck lonely kids!

Was the journey difficult? How did you learn to master your craft?

The perky FB version answer to the first part of your question? Oh yes, it was so easy! The true story: it took me 20 years to become an overnight success. I wrote for three years before anything was published and then, after five books under my belt, I experienced seven years without one word getting published. That dark time was a true test of my writer’s heart and soul. To answer the second part of the question: I have yet to master my craft. There’s always something new to learn, which is what draws me to the computer each day. And I learned to write by reading as much as I could and writing as much as I could (and showing my work to kind but honest colleagues); no other way around it.

How have you, personally, benefited from the SCBWI?

There is not enough space to share all the ways in which I’ve benefited from the SCBWI. Early in my career, the courses, workshops, and conferences not only informed and sustained this prospective writer, they kept me from committing many horrible and embarrassing newbie mistakes. I am grateful, too, that through this organization I’ve met treasured mentors and caring friends; I would not/could not still be writing without their wisdom, advice, love, and support.

What are you going to talk about in your Keynote, why is this important to writers and illustrators of children's books?

I have no idea if what I’m going to share is important to fellow book creators— I’d say that’s for the participants to decide for themselves! But because I feel so grateful to be part of a creative community that makes books for kids, I have been working to give back in my talk by gathering ideas and suggestions for how we can nurture and grow our creative lives; how we can not only survive but thrive in times that seem determined to quash our tender artistic spirits, and how we can make the art we were put here to make.There will also be pictures of my grandkids and Winston the Wonder Dog and a few bad jokes.

Can you mention your thoughts on the value of children's literature?

As I said above, books saved me as a child so I know their power firsthand. A book can change a life; an example that comes to mind is the story Trent Reedy tells of being a young soldier in Afghanistan and, instead of getting a promised steak dinner, he and his comrades were given a delivery of books. In that delivery, he found The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. Reading that novel turned that young soldier into a renowned writer of young adult fiction. Honestly, children’s literature is so potent and explosive, that certain folks in power would be shaking in their boots - if they themselves even read. Books are icy glasses of lemonade for the emotionally parched. They are hopscotch tokens, taking us skips and jumps beyond our own small, narrow worlds. They break hearts. Heal hearts. I cannot think of an art form that is more valuable and more essential to the future of humanity.

What words do you have for someone who wishes to create a children's book?

Start! Dive in! Take a chance. Be weird. Make mistakes. Have fun. Put your heart into it. Surround yourself with other creatives. And remember: experts built the Titanic; an amateur built the Ark.

What are your favorite kids' books? How have they influenced you?

Encyclopedia Brown made me want to be a detective; a goal I’ve reached because writing historical fiction requires a good deal of detective work. Pippi Longstocking inspired my not-so-subtle passion for shining the spotlight on girls’ stories. As I mentioned above, Ming Lo Moves the Mountain (Arnold Lobel) opened my eyes and heart to a possible career path. I re-read The Secret Garden nearly every year; that book is a reminder that magic is a critical component of any work of art. Catherine Called Birdie by Karen Cushman gave me permission to break a few rules. And A Crooked Kind of Perfect, by Linda Urban, and How to Steal A Dog, by Barbara O’Connor inspire me to weave white space/room for the reader into my work.

Can you describe a wonderful moment when a reader of your books has reached out to you?

There have been so many wonderful moments but I will share this one. About ten years ago, I received an email from someone who wanted advice on writing books. The email was written in such a way that I had no idea the age etc of the sender. However, the email was essentially illiterate. Snobby Kirby read it, thinking, “How could the person who wrote this email even hope to write a book?” Thankfully, nice Kirby smacked snobby Kirby upside the head and my reply was gentle and positive. It turned out the writer was a twelve-year-old girl I’ll call Anna. Though Anna wrestled with severe learning disabilities, she possessed a huge passion for children’s books, especially picture books (this was information I later learned from Anna’s mother). Anna and I became  pen pals and, when I was invited to an author festival in her state, I let her know, even though it was far from where she lived. Undaunted, she and her mother made the trek. Over lunch, Anna shared her art work — her stunning, unbelievable and beautiful artwork. And she gifted me a painting which recreated the cover of Hattie Big Sky, a painting I treasure. Anna continued to work on her art, keeping me posted of her accomplishments, including her admission to art school. She graduated last spring and has already made her first foray into picture book illustration. I feel so fortunate that readers like Anna take a chance on reaching out to me and feel completely blessed when those moments blossom into something beyond my imagination.

Learn more about Kirby at her website.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Weekend on the Water Interview: Author Illustrator Jennifer Mann

Why did you become a children's book writer and illustrator?

I was working as an architect, and struggling
with a bit of malaise regarding my career, when I rediscovered children’s books—one of the many perks of becoming a parent. So much amazing beauty and incredible writing—and artistic freedom! All of a sudden I realized that being a children’s book author and illustrator would be a much better outlet for my creative interests. That idea lodged itself in my noggin, and I set my sights on becoming a published author and illustrator.

Was the journey difficult? How did you learn to master your craft?

Yes, the journey was difficult. Once I decided that I absolutely wanted to become a children’s book author and illustrator, I had to teach myself how to do it. Most of that process involved reading gazillions of picture books and carefully studying and deconstructing how my favorites are written and how the illustrator made the art. It took me many years of trial and error, and many false starts and rejections before I finally got some actual positive interest from within the publishing industry. And then it was several years after that before I actually had something publishable, found my agent, and sold my first book. Fortunately I have a pretty thick skin from my years as an architect, and fairly single minded focus once I set my sights on something I want. I had only one moment when I almost threw in the towel—about two weeks before I got an offer of representation from Holly McGhee at Pippin Properties, which I accepted with so much relief and joy.

How have you, personally, benefitted from the SCBWI?

I absolutely would not be published were it not for SCBWI, and I would not be a part of this amazing community of people who love children’s books as much as I do. Most of what I know about becoming published has come directly from SCBWI events and publications. Many of my dearest friends are the people I have met through SCBWI. Now I am so grateful to be able to give back, by sharing my knowledge with SCBWI members who are eager to experience the wonderful joy of publishing books for children.

What are you going to talk about in your Keynote, why is this important to writers and illustrators of children's books?  

Well, I don’t want to give it all away here, but it’s fair to say that I will share a few details of my journey to publication, and how I battle the inner critic who assures me that I will never have another good idea once I am done with whatever project I am currently working on. Based on all I have learned from others in this field, I am sure that what I have learned along the way about writing and illustrating for children will be helpnothers who are on this same journey.

Can you mention your thoughts on the value of children's literature?

It is no wonder that most of us will cite a children’s book when asked to list our favorite books—the books we read as children are our first exciting glimpse into the amazing world beyond our own experience, a world that is wondrous, confusing, sometimes painful, and always mysterious. Books allow children to build their inner worlds and expand their imaginations, develop empathy and gain understanding of experiences other than their own. Picture books help children to recognize beauty, develop visual literacy, and to feel the power that words and images have to relate experiences both familiar and brand new.

What words do you have for someone who wishes to create a children's book?

Work hard and be patient. Read read read, and then read a whole lot more, especially in the genre in which you hope to be published. Your best education will be those books that you read and look at carefully. The masters have so much to teach us, and you can access their wisdom with only your library card! Be prepared to spend a lot of time and energy birthing your idea, honing your craft, and learning what it takes to get published. Enjoy the process, and have faith!

What are your favorite kids' books? How have they influenced you?

I was born in the era of the golden age of picture books, but my parents, after raising my four older siblings, were probably too tired to notice--I honestly don’t remember a lot of picture books from my childhood except The Cat in the Hat, and all Richard Scarry books. The books I do remember from my childhood are the ones I could read to myself--all E.B. White books, Harriet the Spy, the Velveteen Rabbit, and The Chronicles of Narnia. That feeling of being someone else, somewhere else, is a feeling I cherish from those reading days. I strive to recreate that feeling for my readers in everything I create.

Can you describe a wonderful moment when a reader of your books has reached out to you?

I have experienced wonderful moments of connection numerous times. One of the best was when a fifth grade girl, shy and awkward, approached me after I read I’ll Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard. While her teachers tried to lead and back to class, telling her not to bother me, she told me that she felt that she was just like my character, Rose, who is a misunderstood, messy, creative dreamer. It meant so much to her that I had written a book that she felt was about her. The effort the she made to tell me how she felt meant to so much to me. This makes all the struggle worthwhile!

Learn more about Jennifer at her website.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

October Editor Extravaganza with Tiffany Liao!

Oct 2018 Monthly Mtg Reminder Banner

Please join us for our season kick-off, Saturday, October 13, 2018 from 10:00 a.m. - noon in the Microsoft Auditorium at Seattle Public Library Central BranchTiffany Liao, editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, will join us to speak about writing and thinking cross-culturally.

To make the October meeting even more exciting, we’ll present the KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly) Art Show from 9:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Come see wonderful art by our chapter’s illustrators. We will also introduce this year’s mentors and mentees. And don't forget to stick around town for the Washington State Book Awards Ceremony: 7:00 p.m - Seattle Central Library, Microsoft Auditorium (Free and open to all!).

What: Mirrors, Windows & Doors: Writing & Thinking Cross-Culturally.If you’re supposed to “write what you know,” how can you create convincingly and respectfully from a perspective outside of your own? I'll offer insights and craft-based advice from my experience editing and reading cross-culturally.

When: Saturday, October 13, 10:00 a.m. - noon; 9:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. for KISS Art Show, doors open at 9:30.
Please enter through the garage or 4th Ave entrance.
Where: Seattle Public Library Central in Downtown Seattle. Paid parking is available at the library and nearby. Information at the library's website

Also Coming Soon!

November 2-4 - Weekend on the Water Creatives Retreat, IslandWood (Bainbridge Island)Balancing creativity with our other responsibilities is a challenge every writer and illustrator faces—and it’s the theme of this year’s Weekend on the Water retreat in November. We invite you to join us for a weekend of craft, creativity, and nature. The insights you gain just might be propel your craft to where you’ve always wanted it to go. Our keynote guests Jennifer K. Mann and Newbery honoree Kirby Larson are offering workshops and talks to hone your craft. The IslandWood setting and locally-sourced food will inspire your muse. To register, visit the “retreats” link on the SCBWI-WWA website

Oct. 27th, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. - Tacoma Network Meeting at Wheelock Library, Tacoma Mining Childhood Memories for Stories with Wendy WahmanTom Robbins said, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” Let’s see if he’s right. Wendy will lead us through a series of writing and drawing exercises to loosen memories and get our stories flowing. She can’t promise a happy childhood, but one would be hard pressed to leave the meeting without at least one new story idea.Bring paper and pencils for writing and illustrating exercises.

Looking forward to seeing you at Tiffany Liao’s presentation on October 13th!