New York in Four Words

Grand Central

I arrived into New York just as the city emerged from its day-long shroud of fog.  After a lengthy journey comprised of flight delays, refueling, and diversions, landing at La Guardia finally became a reality as did a malfunction on the subway, resulting in an even later arrival into Times Square. But weather and airline issues aside, it was a wonderful weekend at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Winter Conference.

If I had to describe the SCBWI Winter Conference in four words, they would be:  Faculty, Friends, Failure (I promise I will explain this one!), and Future.

Faculty:  Electrifying keynotes encompassed a vast array of topics, from the locales at which well-known authors choose to work (quite often, the public library) to how they craft their award-winning books.  The distinguished faculty enlightened us on a variety of topics from the rising role of self-publishing (and how traditional publishers are interacting with successful self-published authors) to the challenges illustrators face when presented with a new manuscript.

Friends: It was a truly a weekend of networking, learning, and inspiration.  I reconnected with many wonderful old friends and made more new friends than I could have imagined. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the openness and willingness of SCBWI authors and illustrators to share their knowledge and help others on their journey to publication.  I met many new colleagues who listened eagerly to the challenges I face in my current manuscript and offered options to help me soar over its last few obstinate hurdles.

Failure:  One of the most memorable keynotes explained “failure” in the most positive light I’ve ever experienced, helping the attendees to understand that it takes practice and persistence to get that manuscript to the place where it can leap successfully into the market. I left with a new mantra:  Don’t be afraid to fail, for failure is the seed of success.

Future:  The weekend also provided an in-depth analysis of our responsibilities as authors to our future readers as well as an update on the challenges many writers are beginning to face with trends in the banning of books.

Before leaving the city that never sleeps (much like the participants of an SCBWI conference), we meandered through the stunning architecture of Grand Central Station.  The hustle and bustle provides a people-watcher’s paradise, but what I enjoy most about this phenomenal building is peering into the entrances to the train tracks.  Where are the steel beasts traveling?  Who will descend the Track 110 corridor to join the journey?  What new friends will they encounter?  What will their future hold?

I wish for those travelers the same inspiration and motivation with which I am leaving the city, as well as a few new friends to inspire and enlighten them along the way.

The Self-Publishing Journey Begins

Storyboarding with Illustrator Cindy Rodella-Purdy

Storyboarding with Illustrator Cindy Rodella-Purdy

Self-publishing a children’s book requires quite a bit more time and effort from the author than publishing with a traditional publisher. However, it also can allow for a fun, creative collaboration between author, illustrator and programmer. I met my wonderful illustrator and friend, Cindy, through the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, commonly known as SCBWI. After submitting to several traditional publishing houses and experiencing first-hand the agony of waiting, and yes, the ever-present stream of rejection letters, I began to see apps and e-books as viable options for getting my work out there for kids to enjoy. Most children’s book apps are well-known classic books by the likes of Dr. Seuss (one of my all-time favorites!) But a void exists in the availability of new, quality storybook apps for kids – stories that are well-written and beautifully illustrated, not just thrown together in order to have something in the App Store. Cindy and I agree that our books must be of the highest quality – the quality that a traditional publisher would accept if they had room in their limited list. Cindy and I have been collaborating for several months now on our first book, and we are very pleased with the quality that is being placed in each word and every illustration. People constantly say “Oh, it’s easy to write a children’s book. There are so few words.” Well, Lesson 101 in writing children’s books: It’s not easy!  It takes an incredible amount of time to revise, revise, and yes, revise again, and to work with each word making sure it earns the right to appear on the page. It takes time to create and discuss storyboards such as our first one shown in the photo above, and to modify subsequent versions. It takes time to create preliminary and final illustrations in media such as watercolor and Photoshop, and it takes time for the programmer (in this case, my talented husband Eric,) to write the code necessary to bring the story to life in app form so that the many moving parts flow seamlessly together for the reader’s enjoyment. Yes, it takes time, but it is worth every minute to create a quality story that will entertain and thrill children for years to come. Over the next few months, I will continue to share the creation and journey of this self-published children’s book app and e-book and hopefully shed a little light on the process along the way!