Be the Hero of Your Writing Process with Kendra Levin

by Leah Heilman Schanke

Kendra Levin, Executive Editor at Viking Children’s Books, author of The Hero Is You, and the September speaker in the SCBWI-Metro NY Professional lecture series, shared how writers can use the hero’s journey model to create a “holistic, healthy, creative writing process.” Many writers struggle with process and experience dark moments where they wonder, “Why am I writing this?” Levin said. “Writers need to find ways to work organically and be their best selves.”

A Practical Guide To World-Building

by Adria Quiñones

FullSizeRenderHenry Neff, author/illustrator of The Tapestry series of contemporary MG fantasy novels and our guide to world-building, began the October Professional Series lecture with an intriguing fact: J.R.R. Tolkien created the languages of Middle Earth before he imagined the world. “The invention of languages is the foundation,” Tolkien wrote. “The ‘stories’ were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse. To me a name comes first and the story follows.”


Diversity Panel 2015

by Adria Quiñones

diversity panelThe last year has seen heightened awareness and active discussion about the importance of providing diverse books for children. Inspired by the recent Children’s Book Center report on the lack of diversity among writers of children’s books and the rise of the We Need Diverse Books campaign, in February SCBWI offered a panel discussion about diversity with six professionals: authors Matt De La Peña and Rebecca Alexander, illustrator Eric Velasquez, publisher Stacy Whitman (Tu Books, a middle grade and YA genre fiction imprint at Lee & Low) and editor T.S. Ferguson (Harlequin Teen), moderated by Metro-NY Co-Regional Adviser Bridget Casey.


Top 5 Tips for a Good Portfolio

by Lori Richmond

SCBWI6Erica Finkel, Assistant Editor at Abrams Books, and Maria Middleton, Associate Art Director at Abrams Books, stopped by to give NY Metro SCBWI-ers the inside scoop on what makes a good portfolio. Illustrators, take note! Here are Erica and Maria’s top tips for marketing yourself:

  1. Presentation is everything

Illustrators don’t need to spend a ton on a portfolio, but the work should be bound in a book. Maria and Erica recommend showing no more than 10-15 pieces of artwork. Binders with sleeves, photo books with mounted prints, and screw post books are all good choices that will make a portfolio look put-together and professional.

  1. Mix it up…

The work in a successful portfolio demonstrates a range of emotion, body positions, perspective, settings, seasons, and characters of different ages. Mix it up even further by including samples that show characters in background environments, and some that show characters on plain backgrounds.

  1. …but not with styles

While showing a range in subject and setting will get an art director’s attention, showing too many styles will not. “It can be really confusing,” says Maria. “Books that show a single, consistent style are stronger.” Illustrators with two (very) strong styles should group them in their book accordingly.

  1. Postcards can get you hired

One important thing an illustrator can do is to mail out promotional postcards every 2-3 months. Art directors keep files of the cards they receive, and those files are the first place they’ll look to find an artist to pair with a manuscript.

  1. Don’t lose your line

We’re in the age of all things digital, and artists are creating amazing things in Photoshop. Sometimes the line between traditional media and digital media is blurred, but it can also be quite noticeable. Maria recommends that illustrators try to rid their work of a digital mark. “Make it look like you,” she says. “Don’t lose your line.”


Lori Richmond is the Brooklyn-based illustrator of A HOP IS UP (by Kristy Dempsey, Bloomsbury, 2016.) She has more than 15 years experience as a graphic designer, and is an editorial contributor to pregnancy and parenting website, The Bump. You can check out her web site:

The Anatomy Of A Picture Book

Originally Published: May 2014

by Ellen Raskin

THE ANATOMY OF A PICTURE BOOK was the title of Julia Sooy’s talk given on May 17, 2014, in Tarrytown. Her presentation was part of the traveling SCWBI Roadshow. Sooy, an Assistant to Laura Godwin, Acquiring Editor and Publisher at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, explained details of the craft of the picture book.

She also shared her experience and knowledge of the practicalities of publishing picture books from the editorial stance, offering the theme “Picture Books by the Numbers”.

Following are important points she made. (more…)

2013 Character Boot Camp: Voice Lessons With Heather Alexander

Originally Published: April 2013

by Gina Carey

photo by Jenna Ward

Writers who struggle with the concept of voice are frequently told, “You know it when you see it.” As Heather Alexander, assistant editor at Dial Books for Young Readers, pointed out, editors and agents also note when they don’t see it. Creating a strong, fresh voice is essential, she said, for making a book stand out.

In five “voice lessons,” Alexander discussed how writers can use voice to reveal character effectively. Here are the five components of voice that she recommended mastering, along with book recommendations where those elements of voice shine. (more…)

A Story In A 1000 Words Or Less

Originally Published: Nov. 30, 2010

by Lauren Shapiro

“It’s hard to write 1000 words or less, preferably a lot less, that has character development, conflict, rising action,” said Deirdre Jones editorial assistant at Little, Brown Brooks for Young Readers. But, she says, it can be done, and at the SCBWI meeting on November 12th, she presented her theory as to how.

“What I’ve learned is that the narrative arc is the bones of the story. You have to hit the problem the character has to overcome, and only after that can you develop your character,” and her observations of how successful writers accomplish this has led her to conclude that “What’s really going to make the book work is a 9 points formula.” (more…)

Diane Muldrow On Golden Books, Storytelling, & Craft

Originally Posted: Fri,  May 8, 2009

by Newsletter staff

Diane Muldrow, Editorial Director of Golden Books, was the speaker at the November SCBWI Metro New York Tuesday Professionals Series. In a wry, casual and wide-ranging hour, she described the publishing program at Golden and offered the writers in the audience a wealth of advice about sharpening their work. Muldrow began her career at Golden in 1987 and returned to it in 1999 after turns at Scholastic and working as a full-time as a writer herself. She is an enthusiast for Golden Books and its rich history.

Launched in 1942, Little Golden Books quickly found success as an innovator both in the format and content of its books and in its business model. The titles of its books – The Poky Little Puppy, The Happy Man and His Dump Truck, Scuffy the Tugboat and countless others – are as comforting and familiar to generations of readers as their trademark shape and construction. The company’s authors and illustrators helped define American children’s books in the 20th Century: Margaret Wise Brown, Garth Williams, Richard Scarry, Tibor Gergely… the list goes on and on. (more…)