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Children's Literature Breakfast

With Mark Teague, author and keynote speaker
On Saturday I attended the Children’s Literature Breakfast in Glen Ellyn, IL presented by Anderson’s Book Shops. Besides schmoozing with other children’s authors, teachers and librarians, I got to hear from authors Mark Teague, Tim Green, Kathryn Lasky, Trent Reedy and “Weird Al” Yankovic. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get an autographed copy of FIREHOUSE! by Mark Teague (my 4-year old grandsons love fire engines) and FOOTBALL HERO by Tim Green (to share with the football fans in our family).

The morning began with a hot breakfast, then continued with words of wisdom from the Keynote speakers.

Trent Reedy, author of WORDS IN THE DUST, gave a moving talk about ‘writing what you know,’ and how he came to write about an Afghani girl with a disfiguring cleft lip. His book is based on a girl named Zulaikha that he met while serving in Afghanistan.

Mark Teague, whose latest picture book is FIREHOUSE!, talked about how the illustrations for his book evolved, about how he layers the colors, and how curved lines in the pictures show more energy than straight lines.

Tim Green, former pro football player, lawyer and author of suspense novels for adults as well as middle grade students, spoke about wanting to be a football player and a writer, and the importance of education. He talked about how his children helped him to add humor, and keep his books on track for today’s young readers.

Kathryn Lasky, originally from Indiana, is the author of the GUARDIANS OF GA’HOOLE series and many other award-winning books for children. She said that although her recent books feature animals she is not comfortable around them, and gave a humorous account of dealing with her children’s pets, and some other animals.

Al Yankovic, singer, songwriter and architect, also known as “Weird Al,” answered questions submitted by the audience and talked about writing his first picture book, WHEN I GROW UP.

In addition to the great line-up of authors, Jan Dundon and Kathleen March from Anderson’s Bookshop gave us an overview of some favorite new children’s books. Throughout the morning, local authors visited different tables for author chats with those seated there. I was delighted to be one of the guest authors this year, and enjoyed meeting the teachers and librarians, writers and a couple of young readers, who I met as I moved between tables.

Anderson’s is an independent bookstore with locations in Naperville, Downers Grove and Aurora, Illinois. They feature many authors and programs at their bookstores, and this was their 9th annual Children’s Literature Breakfast. You can check out their programs and schedule of author visits at their website, www.andersonsbookshop.com.  Read More 
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Blog Spots for Children's Writers & Illustrators



One of my goals this year is to read more blogs by others in the field of children’s writing and children’s books. Here’s just a small start with links to some blog sites that I especially like.

Kidlitosphere Central
http://www.kidlitosphere.org/
A community of reviewers, librarians, teachers, authors, illustrators, publishers, parents, and other book enthusiasts who blog about children’s and young adult literature. Links to blog sites by category.

Team Blog: SCBWI’s Children’s Market Blog
http://scbwi.blogspot.com/
Join Alice Pope, former editor of the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market Book, and read interviews with agents, editors and authors. You’ll find lots of good information about writing and children’s publishing here.

Guide to Literary Agents Blog
http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/
Everything you wanted to know about finding an agent. Find agent interviews, and who’s looking for what, as well as practical advice on searching for an agent. Written by the editor of the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market Book 2011.

TeachingAuthors
http://www.teachingauthors.com/
An award-winning blog by six children’s authors who also teach writing. Join them at their blog site and find writing exercises, teaching tips, author interviews, book reviews and answers to readers’ questions.

Wild About Nature
http://wildaboutnaturewriters.blogspot.com/
A Place to go wild about books and their creators, Wild About Nature is written by three authors and teachers of non-fiction for children. Features book reviews and interviews of authors of children’s books about nature.

Publisher’s Weekly
http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/index.html
Keep up with books and what‘s going on in the world of publishing at the Publisher’s Weekly website. Sign up for newsletters of your choice, including those related to children’s books and publishing, and have them delivered to your e-mailbox.

Verla Kay’s Message Board for Children’s Writers & Illustrators
http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php
Register to become a member of the message board community. Browse through the site to find comments and information on topics related to writing, illustrating, publishers, contests, and much more.

I hope you enjoy these sites as much as I do.  Read More 
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Contest & Grants: Tips and Rewards

One way to get yourself pumped up about writing, as well as opening up some opportunities, is to enter contests or to apply for a grant. Besides the possibility of having the award-winning entry and receiving some financial award, there are some other rewards and opportunities as well.

For everyone there is the discipline of writing something well, and meeting a deadline. Some contests consider non-winning entries for publication. Some give exposure to runners-up as well as the top winner. I received a Letter of Merit from SCBWI for a non-winning manuscript. It validated my writing ability and gave me a vote of confidence. I included a reference to that letter in my cover letter when I submitted my manuscript, and FROM DAWN TO DREAMS was later published by Candlewick.

Then you never know who the judges might be. I submitted a manuscript for an SCBWI Work-in-Progress grant, and one of the judges was an editor for a major publishing company. She took an interest in my story and asked to see the complete manuscript. She rejected it, but then I submitted it to Dial, and TURKEY SURPRISE was published.

A few tips:

Submit your best work. Never send a manuscript that isn’t ready to be seen by an editor. Be professional—proof read your manuscript for correct spelling and grammar.

Read the rules carefully, and pay attention to details. Follow the rules to the letter. Stay within the guidelines regarding word count. One word too many can automatically disqualify your submission. Make sure your manuscript is written for the correct genre and age level, and follows the theme of the contest.

Read winning entries from past contests, or back issues of magazines sponsoring the contest, to get a feel for what they are looking for.

Be careful of contests that charge a fee. Read the fine print. Are you required to make a purchase if you win to see your work in print? Do research to find out if the contest is legitimate.

Here are a few opportunities for children’s writers with deadlines coming up soon.

Children’s Writer—Kindergarten Story Writing Contest
http://www.thechildrenswriter.com/af627/
A fictional story or nonfiction about family life or school for ages 5-6, up to 150 words. Deadline February 28, 2011. This contest charges a $15 fee to non-subscribers, but includes an 8-month subscription, which is worth the fee.

Indiana Arts Commission, Individual Artists Program
http://www.in.gov/arts/individualartistprogram.htm
Accepting applications for grants in literature and others. Deadline is February 14, 2011. For residents of Indiana. Check for similar available grants offered by the state in which you live.

SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant and others
http://www.scbwi.org/Pages.aspx/Introduction
Open to members only. Deadline is March 15, 2011.
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