Hot Topic
Diversity: What Can We Do About It?
By Lin Oliver, SCBWI Executive Director

The movement to increase diversity in children's books is on. As a community, it's taken us too long to get here, but today, our industry is at last engaged in an ongoing conversation to ensure that the lives of all young people are reflected and honored in their literature. Such diversity, which includes people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA, and ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, serves not just to mirror our readers' lives, but to offer all young people a window into the many experiences that make us human. What could be more important?


That we have recognized the urgent need for more diversity is a crucial first step. But it's just a first step. We can't sit back and congratulate ourselves when there is so much to be done to implement our goal. We need to expand the universe of diverse authors, illustrators and editors, and create more opportunities for them. We need to assess what each of us can do to help the effort. For some of us, that will be primarily a support role, helping to change and elevate the diversity conversation. Others may choose to study how to write cross-culturally with responsibility and authenticity. We need to learn how to make diverse books successful in the marketplace. Author Andrea Pinkney, who founded the Jump at the Sun Imprint at Disney, says, "Right now, the publishing industry has an auspicious opportunity to redefine the success model for diverse books. Let's consider success as more than just sales figures, but include how well a book impacts a community or addresses a timely issue. Let's look at a book's entire life and achievement, not just immediate sales figures."    


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SCBWI Exclusive with . . .
Jordan Hamessley  

Jordan Hamessley is editorial director at Adaptive Books; A Division of Adaptive Studios. Founded in 2013, Adaptive secures orphaned content from feature film studios, award-winning playwrights and bestselling authors, then works to create new value in these revitalized projects while allowing its studio partners to significantly participate in its success and reformat for a more traditional, film/TV version.


How does Adaptive Studios work?


Adaptive Studios is a production studio that develops industry-vetted abandoned intellectual property to create products for multi-media distribution in areas such as film, television, apps, social media storytelling, and digital & traditional publishing.  Upcoming projects include the re-launch of Project Greenlight on HBO.


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On the Shelves  

On the Shelves profiles an independent bookstore or library on what books readers "can't put down," what booksellers want, and how authors and illustrators can get involved in the community.


Meghan Goel, Children's and Young Adult Book Buyer of BookPeople in Austin, Texas, tells us what's on the shelves.    


What trends do you notice in children's book sales? What are the current hot reads?


I would say that the most interesting trend we've seen recently is the re-invigoration of the picture book category. Sales have certainly been driven by some key bestsellers over the last few years like I Want My Hat BackDragons Love Tacos, The Day the Crayons Quit, and The Book with No Pictures, but the trend reaches beyond those key titles leading to very healthy sales across the board. Current hot reads in our store would include What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig and Last Stop on Market Street in picture books, Echo and Circus Mirandus in middle grade, and Ember in the Ashes and Challenger Deep in YA.


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Illustrator Info 
4 Questions for . . .
Barney Saltzberg

The Illustrator Info column is intended to give concrete help to working illustrators. You'll find informative, brief interviews full of practical information and advice.

Barney Saltzberg is the author and illustrator of close to fifty books for children, including Beautiful Oops!, Arlo Needs Glasses, Andrew Drew and Drew, and the best-selling Touch and Feel Kisses series with over one million copies in print. Additionally, he's recorded four albums of music for children.  

When an illustrator has an idea for a book with a non-traditional format, what is the first thing they should do? 

Check the marketplace to make sure this idea hasn't already been done. Build a book that reflects what you are thinking so people can see what you have in mind. Or, if you don't have the paper engineering skills, draw a detailed vision of what you are thinking.

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Best Advice Ever. . .  
Richard Peck   

Richard Peck was the first young people's author to receive the National Humanities Medal in 2002.  He is a Newberry medalist for A Long Way From Chicago, (the Newberry Silver Medalist in 1999) and A Year Down Yonder (the Newberry Gold Medalist in 2001). His latest book is The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail.


I have been offered precious little advice in a long life.  The best, though, came from a tiny, shiny-pated, high-collared man named Mr. LaMar.  He taught typing down at the high school. His natural constituency were girls in Secretarial Science.  But to expand his empire, he made lightning raids on the halls, buttonholing the college bound.  Apparently the great technological innovation of the 1950's college scene was the paper flawlessly typed on a manual typewriter.  And so we signed up and learned speed touch typing on blacked-out keys. Mr. LaMar was completely capable of giving you a C.

I typed my college papers.  Though I couldn't afford a typewriter, three or four of them were drifting around the fraternity house.  As a result, I could type like the wind when I got to the army. And typing is a survival skill in the army, a largely illiterate bureaucracy that runs on paperwork. The accurate typist who can innovate in mid-sentence and has mastered self-protective prose gets a sitting-down job beside a warm stove.  Money is nothing in the army; dry boots everything.

Long after, when I was a writer, I could type my own manuscripts, revising relentlessly to the final revision.  And so here at the far end of life when the landing card requires me to declare my occupation, I always put typist.


Pat Cummings

 Pat Cummings is the author/illustrator of over thirty-five books for young readers including Beauty and the Beast.  She also edited the award-winning series, Talking With Artists, which profiles prominent children's book illustrators.  Pat serves on the SCBWI Board of Advisors as well as on the boards of the Authors Guild, the Authors League Fund, The Authors Guild Foundation, and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.   

I signed up my first picture book without having a clue about exactly how to do it.  But I knew someone, who knew someone, who had once dated Tom Feelings...and that seemed to me a wholly reasonable connection.  Tom opened his studio, shared his process, gave me technical tips and walked me through his work-in-progress: The Middle Passage. When I thanked him, he simply said, 'Help someone else when they need it.'  

Try it.  Because, years later, I can confirm: you get back so much more than you can ever give. It was stellar advice. 

Draw This! . . .
Draw This! is our monthly prompt word for illustrators.
August's word is . . . DIVERSE
To view all the DIVERSE submissions, 
See our online gallery.

August's Featured Images:

Jeanette Lukens                                                               Bryan Langdo

And the prompt for the September SCBWI INSIGHT is . . . Muse

 Click here for submission guidelines.
Info Links 

A collection of blogs, news articles, and other must see links
click here flat icon
for authors and illustrators.


10 Billion Images!  Scam Company out of China Amassed Trove of Art Link  

24 Things No One Tells You About Book Publishing  Link  

Top Writing Tips for New Children's Authors  Link 

A Good Beta Reader Can be a Game Changer   Link 
Write This! . . .  


Write This! is our monthly writing prompt. We will choose the best 20 entries submitted to us by the 15th of each month.  These winning entries will be published in the INSIGHT gallery for all to see.  So write well and be noticed!   


The August prompt was: In 50 words or less, create a narrative description of the weather which sets a mood for suspense, mystery and intrigue.  


Here are two outstanding entries that we've chosen.

From jock to freak in one flash. I'm the first student at Wetherfield High zapped by lightening and the first lightening survivor in the world to end up like this. Kids distance themselves from me now except for cell phone charging. Scientists call it Electrofield Syndrome. I call it annoying.

---Linda Hofke

Clouds made the morning sky black, squid ink black. The Wind whistled through the trees and down the chimneys, chilling even the coziest cottages. Distant thunder send both men and beasts hurrying home. It was, thought the witch, going to be a lovely day.

---Brynn Barineau


To view the  top twenty August submissions see our  online gallery. 


THE NEW PROMPT: It's September, and that means BACK TO SCHOOL!  In 50 words or less, give us a first impression of your character's new teacher.


The prompt for September due August 15:  


See the guidelines. 


Tina Wexler (@tina_wexler)
Honored to be interviewed in the new Insight. Thanks, #SCBWI