Monday, June 19, 2017

No Such Thing as Vacation....

When you're a writer, 'vacation' doesn't mean the same thing to us as it does to everyone else. Kind of like when someone suggests a 'vacation' at a house instead of a hotel- you have to do laundry, cooking, dishes, straightening up, and at some rentals, bring your own sheets, towels and blankets. Besides having to make beds, you have to pack all the stuff for them. You call that a vacation??

Same thing with writing. Although the kids are out of school, for me it just means that I don't have to run the youngster around to fencing, SAT tutoring, school activities, etc. But this is what I will be doing on my 'vacation:'

1. Revising a number of novels because I still love them and hope a new agent/editor will too.

2. Continue the agent search/query.

3.  Outline new novel for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) because I still haven't suffered enough doing it four times already.

4. Redesigning a new website. I hate tech work, so this is probably a two year project. Unless someone feels sorry for me and offers to help (not that my boys would....).

5. Work on my marketing. I need more attention for my middle grade series, Evolution Revolution. There very little love out there for Indies (even if well written and illustrated).

Yep, this is what I have to look forward to...
All those tasks are in addition to non-writing projects:

1. Finish painting and maintenance of church parsonage for new pastor to move in.

2.  Paint the pool bar (been a few years, looking dingy).

3.  Scrape and paint the concrete area where the pool filter is (got too burned out when I had to do the rest of the deck, but this spot sticks out and this bothers me. A lot.).

4.  Paint ceiling and walls in my bedroom (water leak).

5.  Continue the de-clutter. Slowly. Inch by inch. Step by step....

How I dream of this....
So, I don't even want to hear the word vacation- until September when everyone's at work and school and the house is quiet... I may actually get a day of quiet to just write for pleasure.

What's on your to do list for 'vacation?'

Char

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Story DOES Matter!

At the NJ SCBWI annual conference last weekend, I took a workshop titled, "Writing Marginalized Voices in Children's Books," which was presented by Andrea Loney and Emma Otheguy. It's one thing to believe in writing diverse characters- and another in getting it right.

Recently, a publishing professional told me that if I wasn't the same ethnicity as my characters, "That's a problem," and getting my work published would be very difficult, if not impossible. If I were to follow that dictate, then all I could write are stories with characters that are German and Swedish- and I would then be accused of only writing from the white perspective. It's a Catch 22 with no win for me. I might as well just give up writing because that's NOT what I want: a strictly 'white only' point of view. (To read that post, scroll down).

I shared a dinner table with Emma, who is of Cuban descent, and I met Andrea, a woman of color, at the workshop. They discussed how unrepresented these voices, stories, and people are. And besides being underrepresented, sometimes they are represented incorrectly. There are books out there rife with stereotypes which need to be discarded. Also, she and Emma talked about how polarizing books and writing around ethnicity can be.

Andrea gave us opportunities to talk about these things. I mentioned that in my middle grade book series, Evolution Revolution (Simple Machines, Simple Plans, Simple Lessons), the main characters are animals, and the main secondary character is a boy of color. When I showed the cover of the book, which features Jack the squirrel, to white children, they bought the book. When I showed children of color the picture of the boy who looked like them, they bought the book but white children mostly didn't. Same book, different responses. It's such a conundrum to me on how to present the book. I don't want to use two different approaches to discuss/sell my book depending on the ethnicity of the audience. It's an animal book, a science book, an adventure book. (There are other humans characters of other ethnicities and genders). Should I just give in and make all my characters white like me, even if it doesn't fit the story? (The character is also physically challenged and is homeschooled.)

Andrea's response was for us to write the story. BUT- make sure to do the research. Is my character accurately representing this ethnicity without stereotype? If I feel confident it is technically correct, a 'sensitivity reader' - person of color who can point out any stereotypical flaws in dialogue, appearance, customs, etc. that I may not realize I've employed, will help further ensure that I am presenting a marginalized voice/character will all fairness.

This is what writers across the spectrum need to hear, understand, and embrace. We all hate the stereotypes that we're faced with (I get really tired of 'dumb blonde' jokes, Nazi references, misogynistic remarks). I'm sure that's only an inkling of what marginalized people face.

But I took away that the story matters. I can write marginalized voices and characters, and so can you. If we write precisely, no one should question that even though we don't have the credentials of being born a specific ethnicity, we can still write that story. The only way to bring marginalized voices and people to wide acceptance is to keep writing that story the way it should be written.

I've gotten much more from this workshop from both Andrea and Emma, who related her experiences of her Cuban heritage and the journey of writing her book than I can do justice in this short post. Check out Andrea's picture book, Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee! and her other books here. For Emma's book, Marti's Song for Freedom, debuting Spring 2017, check here to pre-order or check for launch date.

Char


Monday, June 5, 2017

Love Lift Us Up...

I'm not going to get mushy on you, talking about love thy neighbor (though we need it), or love yourself (have you, lately?).

I'm sharing my 'love' of the children's book writing community. I'm an author, so I try to support writers- published and waiting to be. But today, I want to focus on the other half- the illustrators.

You all know I LOVE my illustrator, Cathy Daniels.


You've seen the Evolution Revolution series covers (I hope)- book 1, Simple Machines, book 2, Simple Plans,  and book 3, Simple Lessons. Here's a sneak peek at an interior illustration for Simple Lessons:


The picture tells a piece of the story (but read the whole book to see the other great pictures and get the whole story). Many people have been attracted to the book (kids and adults) because of the illustrations. When they're done this well, you know the illustrator put the best effort (and then some) into their work. If you're going Indie, don't be cheap and have your child scribble something. Hire a professional artist. You get what you pay for, and if your book is that important, doesn't it deserve wonderful illustrations? Check out Cathy's other works here.

My next gush is Mike Ciccotello. He's sort of newcomer to the New Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I 'discovered' him last year, walking through the juried art show at our annual conference. This was his piece:


When I told him how much it 'spoke' to me, he gave me the print! It hangs in my office so I can always remember the joy and spark of imagination of being a child. This year, Mike won the People's Choice Award! Here's the pic:


And it's sitting in my office! I'm having huge fangirl moments here! After his family, I think I'm his biggest groupie! So I have the Mike wall. Check out Mike's work here. (I think he should make his own coffee cups- these are fab, but make sure to stroll around his site and see all his work.) And notice that he'd make a good book illustrator too....

But there is so much love to go around. My friend, Colleen Rowan Kosinski, gave me her signed print! Check it out:


 Notice the character in the background to the left... Her picture book, Lila's Sunflowers, debuted a few months ago, and is a wonderful story about- well, I won't ruin the surprise. It's touching and moving (tissue alert for sentimental slobs like me.) Check out her book and her work here.  More books are forthcoming, so I don't have to tell you what a talented illustrator she is.

There are soooo many wonderful artists at the conference, and I wish I could showcase them all. My friend, Kathy Temean, is working on displaying as many of the artwork as she can, so check out her blog over the next week or so and see the other outstanding, incredible, I'm-so-damn-jealous-of-their-talent artists. Visit their websites/blogs, praise them for their work. Spread the love. In a frightening world, art soothes the soul, calms the nerves, and lightens the heart.

Now I'm going to doodle some stick figures....

Char