illustrators

Truffles, Tardigrades, Meteorites and Museums: Nonfiction with Jessie Hartland

by Annie Ruygt

Author and illustrator Jessie Hartland, the October speaker in the Metro NY Professional Lecture Series, often writes about icons: Steve Jobs: A Graphic Biography and Bon Appétít: The Delicious Life of Julia Child are two of her recent titles. Her bright, playful illustrations have a following that transcends the normal age bracket for picture books. What people don’t see is the months, sometimes years, of research Hartland pours into each book.

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What Makes a Good Portfolio

By Sabina Hahn

The SCBWI Tuesday Night Professional Series wrapped up 2016 with Nicole de las Heras and Maria Mondugno speaking to an enthusiastic audience about what makes a good portfolio.

Nicole de las Heras loves pairing the right artist with the right manuscript and collaborating with artist and editor. She has lots of opportunities to do this as an Art Director at Random House Children’s Books, where she oversees board books, picture books, leveled readers, and early chapter books. Emily Winfield Martin, LeUyen Pham, Brigette Barrager, Josie Portillo, Ruth Sanderson, and Mike Boldt are among the artists she has worked with. Another thing she loves about her job is finding new talent.

As soon as she could write her name, Maria Modugno got her first library card. A lifelong reader, she worked at a number of publishers before joining Random House in 2012 to specialize in picture books. The books she has edited include The Napping House and stories about Toot and Puddle, Pinkalicious, and Splat the Cat. She avoids acquiring too-long picture books and tests potential acquisitions with an egg timer.

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SCBWI Metro NY and The New School Agents Panel 2016

By Leah Heilman Schanke

For the third consecutive year, SCBWI Metro NY and The New School’s Writing for Children MFA program co-hosted an agents panel held at The New School. Linda Camacho of Prospect Agency, LLC, Susan Hawk of The Bent Agency and Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger Inc. were the featured agents. Adria Quiñones, a 2015 winner of SCBWI’s Emerging Voices Award, was the moderator.

The panel discussion began with what each agent is looking for. Linda Camacho said she doesn’t want to rule out any category but picture book representation is limited. Andrea Somberg also expressed a preference for MG and YA and emphasized that “diversity is a key word.” Susan Hawk is very open, joking that “you never know when you’ll read that amazing sports book.” She represents all categories of books for children and is “drawn to writing that is emotional.”

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SCBWI & The New School Agents Panel 2015

by Ellen Raskin

Agent Panel 2015Heather Flaherty of the Bent Agency, Alexandra Penfold of Upstart Crow Literary, and Alec Shane from Writers House were the featured agents at this year’s Agents Panel, co-hosted with the New School’s MFA writing program and held in November at the New School. The event was introduced by Caron Levis from the New School’s creative writing program and moderated by Gina Carey, a steering committee member of Metro-NY SCBWI, and Co-Regional Advisor Bridget Casey. Questions came from both the audience and the moderators. Here are some highlights:

Is an agent necessary?

All three agents: Yes! It’s a tough business and the complex contracts are usually familiar only to those in the industry. Agents also have unique relationships with publishers and editors. Agents protect writers’ rights so that writers may concentrate on writing.

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Picture Books: The Nitty, the Gritty, and the Oh-So-Fun

by Adria Quiñones

sept 2015We all love a good picture book. But how does it get to be good? The first Professional Series presentation of the 2015-2016 season featured two thirds of the staff of Paula Wiseman Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Division): Editor Sylvie Frank and Editorial Assistant Sarah Jane Abbott offered us a window into what happens after a publisher acquires a picture book.

Frank brought two books, Tammi Sauer and Liz Starin’s Roar! (to be published on October 6th), and Curtis Manley and Kate Berube’s The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read, to illustrate the editorial process. Over the course of six revisions, from the first manuscript edits to first sketches to the page breakdown to the final version, attendees saw how an editor and art director help the writer and illustrator refine their ideas.
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The A to Z of Picture Books

by Lauren Shapiro

Kat and Rotem“Picture books are my heart; the key to creating a true picture book all starts with the heart,” began Ms. Yeh, setting the intimate tone for The A to Z of Picture Books. “A picture book is more than just a book. Integrated into the very being of it is that closeness. A child is on your lap – there’s a hug in it.”

Ms. Yeh recounted the process of writing her first book, You’re Lovable to Me. “I knew I wanted to write about love, intergenerational love and the love of a father for a daughter. The first draft was two thousand words, and I cut it to a couple of hundred words.” As an aid in editing herself, she belongs to a group of friends who critique each other informally. She advised writers to “join SCBWI, and read, read, read – not only to see what’s out there and what people are publishing, but to get the page turns and to find what sort of emotional things touch you. The most successful picture books tap into something that we all recognize immediately even though we can’t define it.”

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The Ins And Outs Of The Graphic Novel: Calista Brill, Judy Hansen and Andrew Arnold in Conversation About Graphic Novels, From Concept to Published Book

by K. Marcus

Judy Hansen of the Hansen Literary Management, LLC, a literary agent specializing in graphic novels, strongly recommends that “if you want to learn how to create graphic novels and comics, both known as ‘sequential art’, the best resources to begin with are:”

Understanding Comics by Scott Mcloud

Making Comics by Scott Mcloud

Comics and Sequential Art by Wil Eisner

Then move on to “cutting edge” graphic novels and focus on their lettering and ballooning:

Amelia Rules! (series) and The Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmy Gownley to look at paneling, ballooning & lettering and Hereville (series) by Barry Deutsch to see paneling & ballooning. And continue to read, read, read. Calista Brill, senior editor at First Second Books, added, “Sometimes people think of comics as ‘books light’ but they are very sophisticated and kids who read comics learn to pick up on these flourishes.”

Andrew Arnold, designer at Roaring Brook Press/FSG and a comics/graphic novel author/illustrator has “learned to never underestimate how smart kids are.”

Judy Hansen went on to say that “kids comics have commercial viability and have a great possibility for ancillary rights development.”

But graphic novels aren’t only for children. There is a market for adults as well. In both age groups, Calista Brill said, “the text and art should combine to make something greater than itself.” “A panel in a comic book doesn’t want to be perfect, something should be missing so it then directs you to the next panel.” The author/illustrator needs to think about text placement and how that leads the reader through the story.

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Crafting a Dynamic Character

by Gae Polisner

Kelsey MurphyEditorial Assistant Kelsey Murphy of Balzer & Bray led a wonderful workshop at the SCBWILI on Saturday April 13, at the Huntington Public Library on Long Island. The workshop was on “Crafting a Dynamic Character.”

Ms. Murphy provided a four-pronged outline on how to craft dynamic characters, explaining that, to draw in readers – and prospective agents and editors! – realistic characters (1) must have a want, (2) must change, (3) must be emotional and reactive, and (4) must be specific (not stereotypical or clichéd).

Using examples from both participants’ own two-minute writing exercises prepared on the spot, as well as from well-loved picture books and works of young adult and middle grade fiction, Ms. Murphy walked the audience through each prong of character building, helping us to see how it is done, and why each prong matters.

“A character will change, while still being that character at the core.”

Always coming back to prong one, that a character must have wants in order for the reader to connect—and to build plot—at the outset of a story, Ms. Murphy explained that a writer should even know the wants of her secondary characters: “A character that wants for nothing is dull.” She explained physical wants versus emotional wants, active and overarching wants to build characters from the ground up—and to view their personal history through these statements of want.

Elaborating that showing, not telling, the history leading to those wants is key to a well-told story, Ms. Murphy stated: “A character with a want has power and will encounter conflict either in pursuit or in lack of pursuit of the desire itself . . . and the backgrounds to those wants give the book momentum and energize the story.”

Carrying these precepts over to picture book writing, Ms. Murphy shared that simplicity of focus in picture books matters. At the core of a picture book, there should be one central idea “blown out” via repetition or exploration or upending of classic tropes—bringing them to a funny or unusual setting, while the simple want of the story remains clear. “She wants a frog!” Ms. Murphy exclaimed, alluding to one of her favorite picture books her house has recently acquired.

Following the workshop, Ms. Murphy generously fielded an audience Q&A session and took writers’ individual questions.

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Gae Polisner is the award-winning author of THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO and THE PULL OF GRAVITY (fsg/Frances Foster Books). She lives on Long Island with her husband, two sons, and a suspiciously-fictional looking dog she swore she’d never own. When she’s not writing, she can be found in her wetsuit in the open waters off the Long Island Sound.