April 2016
Hot Topic
SCBWI Publishes First-Ever Summer Reading List
 By Bonnie Bader, SCBWI PAL Coordinator

Summer is a carefree time for kids, but not necessarily for educators, parents and caregivers.  They have to be wary of a very well documented phenomenon-the summer slide in reading achievement. Enter the summer reading list. Today, over 95% of libraries have summer reading programs to help prevent the summer reading slide. Research has shown that kids who enroll in library-run summer reading programs return to school not having lost any reading skills, and as more interested and engaged readers.
            Taking a cue from librarians, SCBWI is developing its first ever Summer Reading List. In order to be included, you need only be an SCBWI member and submit one PAL-published book. Our list will be organized into fifteen regions (the same regions as used for the Crystal Kites), and organized by grade level - K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 and genre.  Not only will the SCBWI Summer Reading List offer lots of choice, but the kids will be able to select books by local authors-all books will denote the author and/or illustrator's place of residence. The first SCBWI Summer Reading List will be available mid-May, both in hard copy and in downloadable form.
           The SCBWI is undertaking a major campaign to publicize our list, including marketing to national associations, such as ALA and ILA, local libraries,independent bookstores, teachers, parents, and more!  All SCBWI members will receive a notice when the list is available.  We hope that you will promote it among your associates and colleagues.  The ultimate goal of this program is to give our PAL members more exposure, and to instill the love of books and reading in children, so they become life-long readers. 
            Going forward, we plan to issue two SCBWI Reading Lists per year, one in Summer and one in Winter.  All PAL members will be invited to include one book for each list.  If you'd like one of your books to be included in the Summer list, please send the following information to [email protected], no later than April 6.  Include Title, Author/Illustrator, 25-word description, genre, grade level, your state of residence and publisher. 


 In 1974, the Council on Interracial Books sponsored a writing contest seeking out diverse voices. Mildred D. Taylor was the winner of the African-American segment for the manuscript that became Song of the Trees (Dial, 1975), her first book. It was followed by Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976), which won the Newbery Medal.

Forty years later, in partnership with We Need Diverse Books™, Penguin Young Readers celebrates this momentous publication by launching a debut children's fiction contest to find talented, ethnically diverse authors writing for readers ages 8-14.

SCBWI Exclusive with . . .
Kate Testerman, kt literary 
After a dozen years working in publishing in New York City, Kate moved to Colorado and formed kt literary in early 2008, where she concentrates on middle grade and young adult fiction.
Bringing to bear the experience of being part of a large agency, she enjoys all aspects of working with her authors, offering hands-on experience, personal service, and a surfeit of optimism. Her clients include Maureen Johnson, Ellen Booraem, Stephanie Perkins, Carrie Harris, Trish Doller, and Matthew Cody, among other exciting and acclaimed authors. Kate is a graduate of the University of Delaware's Honors Program, a former cast member of the New York Renaissance Faire, and an avid collector of shoes, bags, children, and dogs. Her interests cover a broad range including contemporary drama, urban fantasy and magical realism, adventure stories, and romantic comedies. She is an active member of the SCBWI and AAR.
There's so much talk about the best way to query an agent. What gets your attention when a query pops up in your inbox? What makes one query stand out more than another? In that vein, what does it take for you to request a partial or full manuscript?
For the most part, I'm looking for something ineffable. I want a strong hook, or a story that I haven't seen before, or a character concept that catches my attention, or a voice that screams "read me!" And despite the fact that there is so much information about how to hook an agent, you'd be surprised the number of queries that reach me that get it wrong---wrong genre, wrong pitch, wrong material---at least for me. So when you get that right, when an author has done their research and can show me that they're querying me for a reason, that stands out. As my awesome stepdaughter's math teacher would say, "Show your work." You can get points for it.
On the Shelves   
Blue Willow Bookshop
Valerie Koehler of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Texas, tells us what's on the shelves.

What trends do you notice in children's book sales? What are the current hot reads?
We are seeing more realistic fiction in both the middle grade and teen sections.  After the success of Fault In Our Stars, there looks like there is more desire for stories that the readers can relate to instead of the big world building fantasies that we saw after Twilight.  For picture books, it has never been better.  It seems that all the major publishers have heard the booksellers' call for more unique picture books with excellent illustrations. 

How do you choose what books to order? Do you use a publishing rep?
I order all the front list books for the shop.  We are half kids and half adults.  Our two biggest categories are adult fiction and children's picture books.  With the help of Cathy Berner, our event coordinator and children's literature specialist, we decide what to buy based on publisher recommendations, early reads from our staff, and recently the Indies Introduce program from the ABA.  We are always looking for quality debut work for our curated collection.  When you have a small shop like ours, you must be very picky.
Illustrator Info 
Postcards in Action

You've all heard about how important postcards are for illustrators. They open doors and are the best and easiest way for you to catch the attention of art directors and designers. Here are three examples of postcards in action, from designers and art directors at HarperCollins. 

Katie Fitch  
Senior Designer
Twintuition by Tia and Tamera Mowry

I got an e-post card from Heflin Reps Illustration Agency while I was searching for an artist for a  new series called Twintution written by the actors Tia and Tamera Mowry. I was looking for something graphic and colorful that fit in the tween market. The artist Annabelle Métayer was a perfect fit for the four book series. 

Best Advice Ever
Stephen Mooser 

Stephen Mooser is President of the SCBWI and the author of nearly sixty books for children. He began as the author of a number of reading programs including those for SWRL/Ginn, ABC and Harcourt, but most readers know Stephen for his trade books, which began with the publication of 101 Black Cats (Scholastic) in 1975, and continues through his most recent series, Goofball Malone, Ace Detective. He has written in every genre: picture books (The Ghost with the Halloween Hiccups), to series books (The Creepy Creature Club; It's a Weird, Weird School), to nonfiction (Lights! Camera! Scream!), to novels (Elvis Is Back and He's in the Sixth Grade).

This advice came to me from Sid Fleischman. I had given him my manuscript for 101 Black Cats, which became my first book sale, to Scholastic. "This is well done," he said, "but I can see you have not sweated over it."  I wasn't sure what he meant, but I went back and started rewriting, rewriting, and rewriting some more.  What he was telling me is that great writing is not easy. Anything you want to do well, you must work at. Spending an hour looking for the right word might seem tedious, but it's what mathematicians, inventors and creators do so that at the end, the finished product looks like it came effortlessly.  
Draw This!  
Draw This! is our monthly prompt word for illustrators. Click HERE for the gallery depicting all the month's entries. March's word was Lucky. Congratulations to March's winners:
Fred Stesney 
Greta Songe 

April's prompt is . . .  Arrival  
Submissions for April will be up in our May gallery. 

Click here for submission guidelines.
Write This!    
This month, you have 100 words to portray a scene where your character hears a suspicious noise coming from the closet. Create a mood. Surprise us!
All entries due April 20. Send entries to [email protected] 
The March prompt was: "You have 100 words to show us a child's love of an animal in action. Feel free to draw from your own life or to create a fictional moment. In either case, make us feel the love.
Winner: Theresa Malone
The weaker Quincy got, the more Marcus traded places. Each night, he'd settle the old dog to sleep in the twin bed and stretch out on blankets beside him on the floor.  A small water bowl and a single dog treat replaced books and comics on the night stand. When the walks around the yard turned into carries, it became enough just to be together.  Mornings, I'd find them, lying side by side in the sunniest spot on the porch, watching cars drive by.
Runner-Up:  Elizabeth Hall 
My New Year's Resolutions:
Gracie, January 1, 2016    

1. Let Zoey sleep later than 5AM (except when I really have to go).
2. Do not jump on Zoey's lap when she's doing her homework.
3. Do not stare at Zoey when she's baking cookies.
4. Look loving and adorable all the time.
5. Sit and stay when Zoey reaches for doggie treats.
6. Do not sleep on Zoey's gym bag
7. Lick Zoey's face when she smells sad.       

Runner-Up:  Bev Daniel

Toby sits quietly at my side and I slowly begin to read. His brown eyes gaze up helping me get brave. The warmth of his body gives me confidence as I turn the pages, still whispering the words, not brave enough to be loud just yet, someone else might hear! I close the book with a smile and Toby woofs his approval. Stroking his silky head I look up as Mrs. Woods comes over. 
"How was that, Alice?" She asks.
"It was great! Toby is brilliant!" I exclaim and take a deep breath. "Maybe next time, you can listen too."  
Info Links 

What follows is a selection of blogs, news articles, and other must-see links
click here flat icon
for authors and illustrators.

2016 Bologna Book Fair Agents Talk Trends: Link
Biggest Mistakes Writers Can Make : Link

Picture Book Writing Tips: Link