Hot Topic
Anything For Content
By Stephen Mooser, SCBWI President 

Over the last few years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of online writing contests and so-called professional writing and internet gallery showcases. 

Why? Because with more than a billion websites out there many creatively challenged webmasters are scrambling for content in order to maximize and monetize their likes and eyeballs.  And that is, unfortunately, where the creative work of children's book writers and illustrators comes into the picture.  Those trolling the Internet for content range from mom and pop start-ups hosting questionable "Let's Learn to Read!" sites to mega giants like Google, assembling searchable databases of everything ever written, drawn or photographed from cave paintings to yesterday's viral videos.

Of course, posting anything online opens you up to outright theft, but in general these occurrences are rare, and that just may be the price of having an active online presence. Standard copyright is a form of protection for any piece of work in a fixed form, such as a manuscript, recording or piece of art and does provide some recourse if you discover someone has stolen your work. 
SCBWI Exclusive with . . .
Balzer + Bray, An imprint of HarperCollins

Alessandra Balzer
Alessandra Balzer and Donna Bray formed their imprint in 2008 after working together for twelve years at Hyperion Books for Children. During that time, they found that they really relied on each other as sounding boards for everything from manuscripts to marketing materials. When the time came for them to make a change, they figured, why not make their partnership official and create an imprint? B+B is a continuation of their collaborative way of working that has been going on for...well, a pretty long time, if you do the math! (Fun fact: It's their second round at HarperCollins---they both worked there before Hyperion.)

Donna Bray

How has
the publishing industry changed since you formed B+B?
The children's industry has definitely become more frontlist-focused, more like the adult industry. Children's books also have a higher profile than they did years ago, which means a lot more money all around---more revenue, higher advances, bigger stakes. But with that come more pressure on authors and publishers---and sometimes less patience for a book to build an audience over time.  Read More 
On the Shelves   
Bank Street Books 

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.
Ann Levine and Andy Laties of Bank Street Books in New York tell us what's on the shelves.    
What trends do you notice in children's book sales? What are the current hot reads?
Graphic novels are a growing segment of book publishing, and many are designed specifically for young readers. A good example is Cece Bell's El Deafo, a 2015 Newbery Honor book that appeals to a range of ages because it tells the author's own childhood story in words and pictures. 
How do you choose what books to order? Do you use a publishing rep?

New books are promoted by publishers and often ordered through reps who know the children's market as well as talented authors and illustrators. We attend trade shows that keep us apprised of upcoming titles, and we read trade magazines, blogs, reviews, and newsletters.
Illustrator Info 
4 Questions for . . .
Lauren Rille

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.

Lauren Rille is an Associate Art Director at Simon & Schuster, where she works with the Beach Lane, Atheneum, and McElderry imprints. Before joining S&S, Lauren was a designer at Sterling and Harcourt Children's Books. Some books she's designed include Are You There God, it's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume; Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff; Scraps by Lois Ehlert; One Big Pair of Underwear by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld; and the New York Times best-selling Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman. Lauren loves the collaborative process of working with editors and illustrators, and she's always on the lookout for new talent.
What do you look for in a portfolio?

In a broad sense, I look for a consistent level of quality throughout. Are all the pieces at the same level of finish? Does the style carry through from beginning to end? I look at technical things, too: Are the drawing and the perspective sound? Is there a good sense of composition and good use of value structures? Sometimes I scan for hands; hands can be tricky to draw, and if I see none, or if I see them hidden throughout, I worry it's a red flag! But within those technical parts, and just as much as those technical parts, I'm looking for a point of view, a sense of humor. I want to see your personality! We hire you for your technical skill, of course, but also for your interpretation of the world and the way you bring words to life.

Read More 
Best Advice Ever   
Ellen Hopkins    
Ellen Hopkins is a poet and the award-winning author of eleven New York Times best-selling young adult novels-in-verse and three adult novels. Her twelfth YA is Traffik (McElderry Books, November, 2015) and her third adult novel, Tangled, was released spring 2015. She is a current SCBWI Board member.      

  A few years ago I was writing my first novel for adults, after publishing six very successful young adult novels. I was worried about my audience and how to be clear that this book wasn't written for teens. I was at the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles and asked Judy Blume to have lunch with me, knowing she'd moved from YA into adult and back again. When I asked how she approached this dilemma, she told me it wasn't a dilemma at all. "Don't worry about it," she said. "Trust your readers. And don't write for an audience. Write the story you need to tell."

I've shared this advice many times. Write the story you need to tell, in the way it demands to be told. Don't write for money. Don't write for awards. Don't write for reviews. (And, quite seriously, other than big trade reviews, DO NOT BE OBSESSIVE about reviews! I never go looking for them.) Don't even write with publication in mind because then you'll follow trends, and those are temporary. Write the stories you can't NOT write. The ones that keep you awake at night, or rouse you very early in the morning. Write courageously, and your audience will find you.
Tomie dePaola 

Tomie dePaola is celebrating his 60th year as a working artist, 50 of which have been filled with illustrating books for children, as well as his other projects including many one-man shows of paintings and drawings. He is the recipient of the 2011 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award honoring an author or illustrator whose books have made a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.
I studied Illustration at Pratt Institute in the early 1950's.  It was the best thing I ever did.  It turned me from an art student into an Artist (not a children's book illustrator yet----that would come later).
In 1955, I spent the summer at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture where I met Ben Shahn, a visiting faculty member. He noticed my work and for two weeks, he personally "mentored" me daily.  I learned so much from him, but there was one thing he told me that I would like to pass on.  Ben said, "Being an artist is not only what you do, but how you live your life." 
There is something else I'd like to share with you, too. This is a quote from Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet. It's applicable to anyone who is trying to create.  "As you unfold as an artist, just keep on, quietly and earnestly growing through all that happens to you. You cannot disrupt the process more violently than by looking outside yourself for answers that may only be found by attending to your innermost feeling."
And a final word from me. COURAGE!

** The SCBWI Tomie dePaola Award is now open for submissions. To view the guidelines and Tomie's prompt for 2016
click here.

Draw This!  
Draw This! is our monthly prompt word for illustrators.
September's word is . . . MUSE 
To view all the MUSE submissions, 
see our online gallery.

September's Featured Images:



Nancy Lemon Carney                                         Charlene Chau


And the prompt for the October SCBWI INSIGHT is . . .Enchanted

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.
A Conversation Not to be Missed... Link
If a Word is Not Indispensable, Dispense with It Link 

Ways to Make Your Editor Stop Yelling at You  Link 

The Bonus Read in our previous issue, "The Bologna Book Fair," was incorrectly attributed.  The actual author was Susan Eaddy. Our apologies. This is her bio: Susan Eaddy works in her Nashville attic studio writing picture books and playing with clay. She is the author of Poppy's Best Paper (illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet) and the illustrator of My Love for You is the Sun by Julie Hedlund. She loves to travel and has used the opportunity to do school visits anywhere in the world from Taiwan to Brazil to Alabama to Hong Kong!

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 September prompt was 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.

Here are two outstanding entries that we've chosen.

She wore standard teacher attire, coral cardigan, white blouse, capris and Keds. She clapped her hands in a rhythmic pattern and the class silenced. She seems nice, Dylan thought, but something was missing. What was it? Oh, yes, her head.
January Ornellas

Ms. T. paused, peering over her glasses to take a closer look.  Her brown eyes missed nothing, but held an expression of enduring some terrible wound that would not heal.  As she spoke, the droll repetition of a job done for too many years dripped off of her every word.
Julianna McDowell 
To view the top twenty September submissions see our  online gallery.

THE NEW PROMPT: In 50 words or less, portray an inopportune time to get a case of hiccups.
The prompt for October is due September 15