Category Archives: artists

What’s Your HeartSong?

Have you ever thought about how music defines us as humans? If music bubbles up from the very core of us, what tunes would you create: happy, sad, angry, discordant?

This weekend, I watched a History Channel special: “Beatles Go On Record.” As I listened to the progression of music the Beatles made together over the years, I experienced emotional flash-backs to my youth.

Beatles in iTunes

Beatles NOW on iTunes!

My first Beatles’ memory begins with the song “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” when I was in second grade. On one occasion when my relatives came to town for a visit, my cousin and I hid ourselves in my bedroom listening to records. We put on the Beatles and started dancing — think Twist.

The Twist (Dance)Note: To put this story in context, you should know that Baptists aren’t terribly fond of dancing. My grandpa and uncle were Baptist preachers, and my Daddy was a Baptist Minister for Music and Youth. (My youngest uncle Phil, only eight years older than me, is now a Baptist missionary in Zambia.)

Back to the story: While my cousin and I danced and sang in my room, the door burst open. My uncle looked apoplectic as he surveyed the scene before him: my cousin shimmering and shaking to “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Where was I, you may wonder? BeHIND the door…unseen. Needless to say, things didn’t go well for my cousin that night.

Yes, the Beatles framed my experiences growing up. But they aren’t my only musical influences. Home itself was a musical experience. As kids, we wrote and performed musicals for the adults at family gatherings. I always wanted to grow up and become the Von Trapp Family singers. Between all the cousins, we had just enough bodies to perform.

Sound of Music: Von Trapp Family Singers

Sound of Music: Von Trapp Family Singers

When I was in junior high, Daddy created a musical group called Sound 70.  We performed across the state of Texas in churches, festivals, and even on a flatbed trailer-turned-stage with vocal singers, a Jesus Rock Band called Liberation Suite, drama, and bell ringers.

Sound 70: Liberation Suite

Sound 70: Liberation Suite

Rock music defines my generation. Classic Vinyl on XM radio lets me sing along with the Doors, Eric Clapton, The Who, Led Zepplin, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. You name it, they play it. Great for driving in traffic. But Christian Rock/Alternative music is still my preference — SwitchfootSanctus RealRelient K, Hawk Nelson, TobyMac, Remedy Drive, Jars of Clay,  Skillet, Barlow GirlNeedToBreathe, The AftersLifehouse, and more.

Music comes from deep down within the heart and soul.

Bowen's Heart

Sometimes the music flows from pain. I was deeply moved this weekend by the story of Sanctus Real lead singer Matt Hammit and his little son Bowen, who was born with a broken heart — literally.  ABC World News ran the story. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Tiny Bowen was born with a congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome 0n September 9.

Matt wrote the song, All of Me, based on his family’s experience.

Little Bowen’s ordeal transformed into an incredibly beautiful song that touches so many lives beyond Matt’s family and friends. Matt tweets and blogs about the experience.

Music flows out of joy and pain, faith and frustration. I’m thankful for artists who share themselves through music, so that I can find myself inside what they create.

When you drill down really deep, what flows out of you?

What is YOUR heartsong?


Filed under artists, culture

Vote: Etsy Space Craft Contest

We do really cool things at NASA. One of them is a creative Space Craft Contest with Etsy, the place for homemade coolness. You can take part by voting for your favorite 3D and 2D entries.NASA/Etsy Space Craft Contest
The public voting period opened on Friday, November 12 and will run through Friday, November 19. You will have to register to vote, but the registration is painless.

To encourage you to go look for yourself, here are a few interesting selections you can vote for. The assortment and creativity is astounding (and quite amusing…see Shuttle hat at the bottom).

Moon Rocket

Barn Rocket Sunbeam

Beadwork Sculpture Rocket Ship

Planet/Wheelthrown Stoneware Textured Sphere

Mars Odyssey inspired pendant in sterling and 18k gold plate

Space Shuttle Dress

Shuttle Beaded Necklace

Original International ROBOT drawing illustration pen and ink Robots From Outer Space With UFO Robot invation

Zeggee's Pops Spacesuit - Awesome Metal Space Framed Print by A.Bamber

Titan Trout 1 Alternative SpaceCraft

Dive Up for NASA by Tiffany Michelle Bohrer

Take Me To Your Leader Robot

Space Shuttle Fleece Hat

Etsy received over a thousand entries. Each is made by hand with tender loving care. Take time to review the entries and send the winner to one of the last Space Shuttle missions.

Time’s running out. You have until Friday to vote for your favorite Space Craft!

Crosspost on OpenNASA.

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Filed under artists, Earth, federal government, leadership, NASA, space

Eating Earth Dust (for NASA)

After two days on the National Mall with the NASA exhibit to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, I can literally say I’ve become a dust-of-the-Earth kinda’ gal. The saying “ashes to ashes” (volcano ash), “dust to dust” (dust tornados to be precise) holds new meaning for me this week. I feel Mother Earth trying to claim me as her own this week. Fitting, I guess, for Earth Day week.

Cold, sand-blasted, wind-whipped  — but great space conversations.

Planet Earth art sculpture on National Mall

Planet Earth art sculpture on National Mall

"Plant It" Earth art sculpture on National Mall

"Plant It" Earth art sculpture on National Mall

Capitol behind Earth sculpture.

Capitol behind Earth sculpture.

NASA participated in the Earth Day Network celebration with tents and activities on the Mall. We brought a flown Space Shuttle tire for visitors to sign and decorate. We’re recycling the tire to let folks touch something that’s actually flown in space, and leave their “mark on space” by signing/doodling on the tire.

Flown Shuttle tire on Saturday.

Flown Shuttle tire on Saturday.

Graffiti Tire AND Display on Sunday

Graffiti Tire AND Display on Sunday

Yep, we love to leave our mark on history — as you can see.

We also took our Spacesuit Photo Op display out to the Mall for visitors to step inside for a spacesuit portrait. Always fun for Earthlings of all ages.

(We can even show proof of space cooperation with the Chinese…Panda bears, that is.)

Even Panda Bears love space!

Even Panda Bears love space!

Space boy

Maybe he'll walk on Mars one day.

NASA's Vickie Walton staffs Photo Op Spacesuit.

NASA's Vickie Walton staffs Photo Op Spacesuit.

Hannah (in stripes) LOVES all things space! Girl power!

Hannah (in stripes) LOVES all things space! Girl power!

We held our first-ever Earth tweet-up yesterday. I don’t work in the Earth science program at NASA, but cool that I was working the Mall exhibit and had the chance to chat with Space Tweeps all day. Serendipity for me. Except that while I talked to Tweeps, people signed the Shuttle Tire DISPLAY holder, rather than the tire itself.

NASA's first Earth Day Tweet-up

NASA's first Earth Day Tweet-up

Space Tweep @astroIvy

Space Tweep @astroIvy

My space tweep buddy Glenn @zippyG2

My space tweep buddy Glenn @zippyG2

Space laughs with @cmaaarrr + @moonrangerlaura

Space laughs with @cmaaarrr + @moonrangerlaura

@oceanChick99 interviewing Maria-Jose @theAGU for

Tina @oceanChick99 interviewing Maria-Jose @theAGU for

Manoel Belem

Manoel Belem

I really enjoyed meeting Manoel Belem, astronaut-candidate in Brazil — back when they were partnering with us on the International Space Station. Manoel flew here from São Paulo JUST for the NASA Tweet-up. Manoel shared with us about Brazil’s first astronaut Marcos Pontes who trained with the astronauts in Houston, before his country made the decision to fly him to space through the Russian space tourist program. Marcos launch with the Expedition-13 crew from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 29, 2006 and spent eight days in space. Brazil shut down the astronaut program, leaving Manoel without a flight to space. He’s still dreaming of the day he fulfills his zero-g dream. In the meantime, he’s active in social media as @mlbelem.

Great conversations with all of you! But, I have to say, the highlight for me was holding @astroIvy’s iPad in my very own hands. I so SO want one!

Browse the Earth Day pics the Science Mission Directorate posted on Flickr. (The Earth dome in the Flickr pictures blew over. We’re hoping Mother Earth calms down during the week so we can pitch the tent again.)

We’ll be on the Mall all week through next weekend. Come learn more about NASA and space, if you’re in town. (And dress for winter!)

Hill staffer @KenMonroe shows off green NASA bag.

Hill staffer @KenMonroe shows off green NASA bag.

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Filed under artists, Earth, environment, federal government, NASA, social media, space, tweet-up

Dot-Connecting Snippets: SCBWI Bologna 2010

With spotty wireless access at our Bologna hotel — four WiFi providers in four days — blogging became a contact sport. Now that I’m back home, I can share a few snippets about the personal connections I made in Bologna without fear of losing internet connection.

Bologna Book Fair Logo

My sister Aimee, of Aimee Louise Photography, flew up from Dallas, Texas to travel with me to Bologna. She offered her services to the SCBWI Bologna organizers for the conference. They graciously accepted. YAY! How fun for us to attend together! While Aimee documented events at the symposium and Bologna Children’s Book Fair, I attended the writers’ sessions and manuscript critiques. Aimee shared a few of her pics with me — like this one of Illustrator John Shelley’s tie. Her blog has more pics.

Illustrator John Shelley's tie

Illustrator John Shelley's tie. Photo credit: Aimee Woolverton

John, one of the organizers of the SCBWI Bologna 2010 event, wowed us with his wardrobe choices and colors. Red seems to be a theme for him. I’m not sure yet what it reveals about him, but he’s hard to miss in a crowd. Delightful. Unique. Engaging. The tie says it all!

I enjoyed chatting with Leonard Marcus, Children’s book historian, author and critic. Aimee used his book reviews in Parenting magazine to pick books for her boys. Leonard is interested in putting together an art exhibition of childrens’ books on space. What a great idea. We have a NASA Art Program. Might be a good fit.

"Do" of Tara Books. BolognaRagazzi Award winner

"Do" of Tara Books. BolognaRagazzi Award winner

What a privilege to speak with Gita Wolf of Tara Books in India. They search for local artisans to translate their art into book form. “Do!” — text by Gita and illustrations by Ramesh Hengadi and Shantaram DhadpeGita — won a BolognaRagazzi Award in the New Horizons category. I love how a magnificent book like this can bring rich traditions of India to children around the world.

Funny story about Neal Porter of Roaring Brook Press. We could only get wireless down in the lobby at our hotel — when we could get it to work. Aimee was processing her conference images, selecting the top dozen to submit to the SCBWI organizers, but couldn’t get her internet access to work. She put the images on a thumb drive for me to email her selections. I was waiting for the images to upload into email. Took forEVER.

While I waited impatiently, Neal Porter walked into the lobby with colleagues. His image stared at me from my computer screen while he settled on a couch nearby. So bazaar. I walked over and showed him Aimee’s picture. He loved it and asked us to email it to him. I did. Of all the hotel lobbies in all the city….

Neal Porter. Photo credit: Aimee Woolverton

Neal Porter. Photo credit: Aimee Woolverton

I met new friends and reconnected with writers I’d met in Bologna two years ago. The amazing Candy Gourlay typed furiously in front of me during the conference, trying to capture notes from our presenters. Her blog, Notes from the Slush Pile, is delightful. I was blown away by Candy’s writing in during the 2008 symposium — lyrical, musical language. She’s a gifted writer. Her post about Richard Peck captures his “call to action” for us as writers.

Sarah Towle , founder and creator of Time Traveler Tours, gave us great advice on best places to eat near our hotel. She’s writing a wonderful historical novel about the French revolution. Based on the excerpt she read to us during one of the sessions, I can’t wait for a publisher to snap up her manuscript.

Author Sandra Nickel. photo credit: Aimee Woolverton

Sandra Nickel. Credit: Aimee

I met a kindred spirit: Sandra Nickel from Switzerland. She’s writing a story about a haunted French chalet. Sounds intriguing. She signed with an agent in the last few weeks, so things should get moving for her. She’s so much fun. I wish we lived closer!

Marjorie Van Heerden is a children’s book writer and illustrator from South Africa. My daughter is moving down to South Africa in July to work with Bethany House Trust as a counselor, so I was thrilled to spend time with Marjorie and soak up her stories about my daughter’s new home.  Marjorie illustrated over 100 children’s books which have been published in 33 languages. In her spare time, she serves as the co-regional advisor of the new South African chapter of SCBWI. She invited us to visit her in Cape Town. We just may take her up on her offer.

Space Cat by Doug Cushman

I met Doug Cushman, author/illustrator of over 100 books, during lunch at the conference, then kept running into him at the Bologna Book Fair, the shops in Bologna, and on our flight from Bologna to Paris (his home base). He’s warm and unassuming — though he thought we were stalking him. 😉 Nice, nice guy. Bonus points for a guy who writes about a Space Cat!

The manuscript critiques, as much as I hate them, really gave me great insights into how to make the stories better.

Ellen Hopkins, author of multiple New York Times bestsellers in teen fiction, as well as numerous non-fiction books, critiqued “Purrgus, A Cat of Olden Times.” She suggested the story should be about a boy, rather than a cat; and challenged me to consider nonfiction. So many possibilities. Thanks Ellen. Her newest in the “Crank” series, “Fallout,” comes out this fall.

Literary Agent John Cusick of Scott Treimel NY critiqued “The Ultra Secret Lives of Xandri and Jam.” He liked the concept but thought little Jam should be older — 5 or 6, possibly 7. Makes sense. He offered great insight on how readers relate to characters. I look forward to my next rewrite with his comments in mind. John’s young adult novel, Girl Parts, will debut this fall. How cool is that?

Purely by happenstance, I was given the opportunity to pitch “Xandri and Jam” to Ginger Clark, Literary Agent for Curtis Brown in New York. I’d actually met Ginger briefly at a 2007 writers’ conference in Texas. Ok, we didn’t actually meet. She stood beside a group of us at the reception and I offered for her to join us. Ginger doesn’t carry fond memories of the conference or Texans, for that matter; but is willing to overlook my Texan heritage. Good thing.

At the Bologna airport, we befriended Erika Pedrick, Subsidiary Rights Supervisor for APA Books/Magination Press of the American Psychological Association. She stood in line in front of us at the Air France baggage counter for over an hour, only to get turned away and told to return in 30 minutes for the next flight. We became traveling buddies. What a nice surprise out of a frustrating experience.

SCBWI Bologna Fair Booth. Photo credit: Aimee Woolverton

SCBWI Bologna Fair Booth. Photo credit: Aimee Woolverton

A big THANK YOU to Team Bologna:


Filed under Africa, artists, NASA, space, writers

Bits of Wisdom: SCBWI Bologna 2010

Bologna International Children's Book Fair 2010

Bologna International Children's Book Fair 2010

Wifi access hampers my ability to share tidbits from our SCBWI Bologna conference in a timely manner. With the expectation of instant access to information these days, a 48 hour delay from spotty service feels frustrating.

Hard to imagine the days of old when written word travelled by foot, horseback or boat.

Here are my hastily-typed notes from Monday’s conference.

Fiona Kenshole: Taking the Mystery out of the Movie Deals

Fiona Kenshole: Taking the Mystery out of Movie Deals

Fiona Kenshole: Taking the Mystery out of Movie Deals

Fiona heads up the Acquisitions Department of Laika Entertainment, the Oregon- based feature animation studio. They recently produced the Academy Award-nominated animated film, Coraline.

“I am a personal shopper for filmmakers.”

What are movie studios looking for?

  • Ancillaries — merchandising, and more;
  • Spirit and theme of story that translates well on screen;
  • Best selling book not necessary to make good movie; and
  • Interested in a “brand.”

The Holy Grail = a story that appeals to boys and girls and is contemporary and relatable.

We often option book of Genesis, but make the story of Moses.

Small independent producers still make lovely films from non-brand books.

Each film takes for years to make. I’m looking for options in 2020.

Option process:

  • Option deal – give film producer the right to work on story to film – one year-18 months.
  • Sometimes authors get money up front. Sometimes not.
  • You, the author, give the studio ALL rights to your book.
  • Even though your book is optioned for a film, doesn’t mean a film will EVER be made.

The studio investment in a film is so huge, movie studios need merchandising to make their investment profitable.

Fox is the most book-friendly studio.

Warner – 180 options each year, make 10% of them each year.

Development process — from book to script and beyond.

When reading a book, the magic of the journey is the interpretation inside your head. Film is about what people say and people do in on the screen as you watch.

  • No one will sit in the theater long enough to have the entire book unfold.
  • Film translates the “spirit” of the book.
  • Screenwriters may need to add or delete character.
  • Screenwriters shift the point of view of the book from inside to the outside view of film-makers.
  • Writers lose control of what happens in book. Decisions by film-making crews.
  • Control: writers have none.
  • Best thing you can have is a great relationship with film-makers and trust the process.

Book to film: 1 page = 1 minute = $1M!

Sometimes we work for three years to sift for the nugget of the story to craft a good screen-play adaption.

Dressidea Cowell – “How to Train your Dragon” – “superficially, the film is not like the book, but the theme is still there…!” Book optioned in 2003 for 2010 debut.

Making Coraline:

  • Coraline’s sweaters knitted by hand with knitting needles the size of human hair!
  • Every vowel sound has a different face – over 12000 faces!
  • 6 seconds a week for animation!

Holly Black of Spiderwick Chronicles managed her expectations about her movie option. At the end of filming she asked, “Can I be excited now?”

Fiona’s Advice:

“Take the money and run!”


“Be careful what you wish for.”

Ellen Hopkins: The YA Renaissance

Ellen is the award-winning author of twenty children’s nonfiction books, and six New York Times bestselling young adult novels-in-verse. She also critiqued one of my manuscripts — giving me thought-provoking ideas on a change of characters…and perhaps a non-fiction book, as well.

Her thoughts on the Young Adult (YA) market and how it’s changing:

  • YA pushed into 14 and older.
  • Edgier.
  • 9-12 = Tween fiction.
  • Newer grey areas in categories.
  • New middle ground above the YA market.
  • Tween fiction – stories with positive family interaction.
  • Notable exception in Tween Lit – Lemony Snickett and JK Rowlings – adult characters aren’t good guys.
  • Tween for girls – Lizzy Maguire, Hanna Montana.
  • Tween for boys – graphic novels, Harry Potter.

YA authors should write for readers aged 11 to 70, but aim at the older teen.

Why write YA ?

  1. It’s a hungry market.
  2. YA readers buy their own books.
  3. Buy independently from their parents.
  4. Write for your audience, not parents and librarians

YA writers – we feel responsibility to our readers, we write better literature.

  1. To shed new light on old problems
  2. To make a positive difference in a young person’s life

It helps if you’ve never quite graduated.

Where will your journey start? Don’t underestimate your readers.

Start with a premise:

Has it happened to you? Your family? Kids? Someone you know? Or maybe it happened to someone you read about. Or hear about.

“Tricks” about teen prostitutes – I spent a week in Vegas with Vice Squad, talking to teens on the street.

Build characters: 2 month process before ever putting words on paper.


  • Antagonist
  • Friends
  • Foils
  • Adults

Hugely important to have characters relate to readers.

  • Characters should have flaws, Let us see them and let us know how each character feels about having flaws.
  • Bad guy could be a werewolf, a blizzard, addiction, a computer – what if a chat room took on a life of its own?
  • Understand not only the victims, but also the perpetrators.
  • Break stereotypes. Challenge yourselves so you can challenge your readers to break stereotypes.
  • How can friends propel your story forward?
  • Foils are human obstacles that stand in the way of your protagonist getting what he or she needs of wants….
  • Create realistic, musti-layered characters.
  • No flat characters.
  • What is their background, motivation, philosophy on war, drug use, college, future on this planet.
  • If they’re hopeful, why? If not, why not?


  • How will you tell this story to make it uniquely your own?
  • Think visually. Unsusual formatting – including verse, journals, letters, etc.
  • YA novels are often told 1st person, to put the reader solidly into the characters’ heads.
  • Beware of didacticism and slang – date your book.
  • Don’t stomp on your characters’ voices with your voice as a storyteller.
  • What is the most impactful way to tell story.

Recommended authors:

Richard Peck

The adorable Richard Peck received the National Humanities Medal in 2002, the first Children’s book writer to receive the award. His remarks at SCBWI conference had us laughing and cheering. I’m thrilled to share his advice to writers of children’s books.

“Stories for the young must move in a straight line to where they should go.”

Our opening lines – our minefield.
Are we writing with invitation simplicity?

EB white uses simple language: “Where’s papa going with that ax.”

As authors, we can doom ourselves with our own words.

“You are writing for a generation of youth whose facebook pages grow hot into the night, long after parents go to sleep.”


  • Adverbs destroy the rhythm of our speech.
  • Boys don’t use adverbs. Why write with them?
  • If you see an adverb, shoot it.


In the lonely front of the classroom, I was handed another career – writing. When you’re a teacher you have no time for your own problems. As a writer, you have no time for yourself either because your characters are clamoring for attention.

  • Third person = distance.
  • Speak as they speak.
  • I learned how to talk in no other voice than the young character I’m writing about.
  • Story is about the reader, not the writer.
  • No one in this world wants to read your writing, except your own mother.

“My students kicked the living autobiography out of me.”

The Story:

  • Story is an alternative reality. Not what wasn’t but what should’ve been.
  • Story must entertain above all else.
  • The hook upon which all stories hang – universal truth that all actions have consequences.
  • If actions have no consequences, the book falls apart.
  • Consequences: Least attractive proposition for young readers.
  • Sermon is not entertainment.
  • But if you can’t preach, add paranormal science fiction to grab their attention.
  • Use anything to lure readers into our story.

Children’s book writers: “We have a higher calling, a deeper craft.”

  • Live on our reader’s turf without invading it.
  • Because of Mark Twain, the Mississippi River flows through all our stories.
  • We never write about anyone who can walk away.
  • Our stories must end with more hope than that of “moving home after college.”
  • We must go on the road to act out the book to our readers – to readers who don’t read reviews.
  • Every book is a survival manual.
  • We always throw our characters into the deep end.
  • We turn up the heat!
  • A book, like a school, should provide what is no longer available in life.
  • A book should be a tighter community than in real life.
  • Scenes strung together by an invisible wire….

Character development:

  • Characters take on life based on luck – Characters become another human being on the page when we get outside ourselves.
  • A story is always about something that did NOT happen to the writer,

“If Earnest Hemingway had really caught all those fish, or climbed all those mountains, or loved all those women, he would never have had time to write…nor the need to.”

While the text message is always fiction, it is never literature.

Social networking: A book unites, what the computer divides.

Nobody but a reader ever became a writer…

Twice as many college graduates get degrees in social work than in literature or foreign language combined.

“If you can’t find yourself on the page, you’ll go looking for yourself… in all the wrong places.”

First pages Agent Panel

Kristen Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency, Stephen Chutney of The Chutney Agency, Francis Plumpton of Richards Literary Agency, Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary Agency, Rosemary Stimola of Stimola Literary Studio, Marcia Wernick of Sheldon Fogleman Agency, Kendra Marcus of BookStop Literary Agency.

SCBWI agent panel

SCBWI agent panel

Kristen Nelson – What grabs our attention? The turn of a phrase, character resonance…not action for action’s sake.

Rosemary Stimola – Don’t wax nostalgic, that’s an adult thing. Kids don’t look back.

Sarah Davies – Titles sell books. Invoke an intriguing spirit of the story through the title.

Kristen Nelson – Interested in simple writing. Need to write complex concepts with simple language.

Marcia Wernick – Rhyme needs to work really well. Otherwise, no point. Need brilliant writing to pull off rhyme.

Rosemary – Rhyme: what’s the driving force? Story should be in the driver’s seat. Rhyme shouldn’t drive the story.

Sara – Don’t force words into the rhyming line to tell story.

Kristen – Read your own words aloud. Smooth out dialogue.

Stephen– A decent middle grade = 40-45k words. You can always tell a novel in fewer words.

Kristen – I see tons of manuscripts about “waking up…in a dream…etc.”

Marcia – First few lines need to draw reader in – grab reader, throttle them.

Kendra – What is your book about? Why should I care? We also read tons of: “First day of summer vacation…”

Rosemary – If your character is starting summer vacation, start it!

Rosemary – A times, language gets in the way of the story. I’m not against imagery, but my attention is pulled away from the story.

Sarah – Agents see lots of overwriting, easy to overload a pieces with adverbs and adjectives. Keep it simple!

Rosemary – Take care with “regionality” – words, descriptions unique to a certain place. May not be understood across areas.

Rosemary – Spiraling: story moves forward then slips backward. Not good.

Sarah – I see “travel” stories each week. Not too interested in stories to teach children about “places.”

Rosemary – Photographic novel in fiction (unless you’re the photographer) is harder to sell, but nonfiction might work.

Agent summary:

Kendra Marcus

  • We’re looking for young, middle, YA.
  • We work hard for good stories.
  • Not interested in trends.
  • Want stories that sound like a child and relates to children.
  • Love non-fiction. Send me some!

Marcia Wernick

  • 3 agents: Sheldon, Linda Pratt, Marcia.
  • Love to find new talent, but don’t take new clients.
  • Looking for prolific authors.
  • Mean-spirited stories don’t appeal to me.
  • Love voice.
  • Character-driven story + voice compels and attracts me.

Rosemary Stimola

  • Eclectic tastes.
  • Dystopian realm – Suzanne Collins of Hunger Games.
  • Don’t follow trends but like setting them.
  • Love new talent.

Sarah Davies

  • Sarah + Julia Churchhill in UK.
  • All about new talent.
  • Business only 2 years old.
  • Very editorial.
  • Complete rewrites.
  • Fiction rather than non-fiction.
  • Heartland: middle grade, tween, YA.
  • Doing quite well with middle grade – beautifully voiced middle grade.
  • Would love to find more Kate DiCamillo-type girl stories.
  • Like great commercial ideas.
  • YA – looking for fresh voice, different.

Frances Plumpton

  • New Zealand clients only.
  • Picture books.
  • Like whole gamet of stories.

Stephen Chutney

  • Great book = wonderful characters, great voice, great settings.
  • Historical fiction – looking to fill hole in marketplace — Templar Trilogy, etc.
  • What’s really selling now? Realistic contemporary fiction with characters and voices and situations that leap off the page.

Kristen Nelson

Nelson agency — learn more at:

  • Fiction: YA + adult + middle grade.
  • Glad to make NY Times list without blood and guts.
  • Query letter – all electronic.
  • Email us.

Kendra – publishing is a pendulum. It will swing back.

Marcia — picture books: market is quite fierce

Publishing Today: from Idea to Marketplace.

Dierdre McDermott of UK WalkerBook Publishing, Stephen Roxburgh of Namelos US electronic publishing, Gita Wolf of Tara Books in India, Sara Grant of Working Partners UK, Tessa Strickland of Barefoot Books UK, Sarah Foster of WalkerBook in Australia & New Zealand, and Neal Porter of Roaring Brook Press.

SCBWI Bologna Panel: Editors and Publishers

Stephen Roxburgh

  • No longer tied to ink on paper.
  • Hard cover and paperback – print only on demand.
  • Electronic version – immediate download.
  • Publishing for young people who don’t care about medium of delivery.
  • Surface you read on shouldn’t determine what you read.

Gita Wolf

  • Make books entirely by hand.
  • Tactile experience.
  • Collective of writers and artists making books we want to see out in the marketplace.
  • Use the strengths we have – people who paint walls and floors – and nudge tradition along to a more contemporary field.
  • “Do” – award-winning book – 2010 BolognaRagazzi award.
  • Brings back the craft of bookmaking.
  • Bookmaking artisans.

Sara Grant

  • We are writers.
  • Work with Sarah Davies Greenhouse literary agency.
  • Work out story line to fill gaps.
  • Look for writers to write the samples from storywriters based on sample outline.
  • Sample chapters shopped around to publisher.
  • New story coming out: David Beckham meets James Bond.

Neal Porter

  • Started as small independent house, now owned by McMillian.
  • 60% picture books.
  • “A Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring.”
  • Took five years to bring into being.

Tess Strickland

  • Where language is image other than words.
  • 12-16 new projects per year.
  • Young fiction program – bringing into the English language wonderful stories that haven’t made their way into English.
  • “The Gift” – Carol Ann Duffy and Rob Ryan Peters.
  • Looking for books that will stay around for sometime.
  • The title is very important – title WAS “The Plot” but was changed to “The Gift”

Sarah Foster

  • Walker Books in Australia & New Zealand.
  • Sister company: Candlewick press.
  • “Simpson and His Donkey.”
  • “Pearl Verses: The World,” by Sally Murphy Illustrators by Heather Potter.
  • Picturebook making is very slow.

Question/Answer Session:

Question: Digital revolution – is this hopeful news? How is the revolution affecting your editorial/publishing process?

Sarah Foster – We make it up as we go. Agents don’t think through what they’re asking editors for.

Stephen Roxburgh – Publishers don’t know what to do with e-books. They don’t know how to re-gear. Business model has to be dealt with. In the meantime, books are being withheld.  Model – it’s a partnership. We split 50-50. But we don’t know what we’re splitting. It may be 50% of nothing.

Dierdre – A good story is good story. No matter the medium.

Question: Is the picture book is the last book standing?

Tessa – Books not going away. Just like TV didn’t do away with books. Making our books available e-books. YouTube videos from picture books. Internet plays an absolutely central role in what we do.

Gita – Marketing question. We use internet/youtube We have oral storytellers. We put the bards (who sing) on YouTube. Book is the intermediate step.

Neal Potter – Penguin did iPad models of books. Spot: DK Guide to Rome (GPS map). Vampire Academy series. Changed my feelings about digital books. GPS applications of DK is revolutionary app. Allows us to go beyond the 32 page format. 32-page format is a great economical model – works to constrain authors/editors.

Question: Print on Demand model. Do authors and illustrators still need publishers?

Tessa – Illustrators enjoy online media. Blogging is a great medium for writers. Marketing directions really exciting.

Stephen – Traditional publishers brought set of capabilities to the table. Access to distribution from publishers. Traditional set of functions on the table will change. Publishers need to give authors what we need.

Neal – Editorial process. It’s what we do. It depends on how authors value what we do. As publishers have gone more corporate. Editorial process diminishing with how fast market process moving.

Sara Grant – Glad I never took to market some of my apprentice novels – aka – garbage.

Stephen – Brilliant editors let go. You can find editorial help outside the publishing houses.

Question: How is this changing editorial process?

Sara Grant – New generation of editors – proactive about the type of fiction they want to create.

Tessa – 25% new authors.

Neal – 25% new

Dierdre – 2 new – finding new picture book writing hard.

Stephen – 80% new.

Sara – 1 new writer – great training writers to work with editors.

Sarah – majority new.

Question: How do you find voices?

Sara – Online forum, speak at conferences, form online with sample writing. Collaborative effort, not original stories

Gita – We travel a lot to find best artists, community art. We find only one or two people each place who are willing to work in a new art form or format.

Question: Global market – which countries are the fastest growing?

Gita – Is India really as hot a market as hype would have it? Not convinced.

Neal – Americans are great navel gazers. We’ve avoided selling our books across the world. Americans are more culturally insular.  To turn it around, I come here to Bologna to see what I don’t see in U.S. – new and fresh.

Dierdre – If your book can make it to America, you can make it everywhere. Millions of people with money to spend. Good books will go anywhere.

Sara – Find an agent with an international base.

Stephen – Distribution. In cyberspace, everything is around the corner. Not today, but talk to me tomorrow.

Question: How important the BUZZ is to make the book survive?

Neal – Issue of maintaining or starting the buzz. Authors must take proactive role in selling book. Editors and marketers cut from budgets. What money is left is concentrated on big names.  Blogging, networking, facebooking helps authors. How do you separate the quality sounds from the rest of the noise?

Bologna Fair 2011

Bologna Fair 2011


Filed under artists, writers

Brain Food and Writer’s Cramp

Of all the amazing people I met at the Southampton Writers’ Conference, the highlight for me, BY FAR, was seeing:

Julie Andrews!

Yep. Sound of Music. Mary Poppins. Princess Diaries. That Julie Andrews! In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit the Sound of Music is my favorite movie OF ALL TIME. I come from a musical family and grew up with a bucket-load of cousins. We wrote plays and adapted musicals to perform at family gatherings at Grandma’s house in Austin, Texas. We often pretended to be the Von Trapp family singers.

Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton read from their new poetry anthology: Julie Andrews’ Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies. Made me fall in love with poetry again. I kept thinking of  the poetry book from my childhood sitting on my bookshelf STILL after all these years, A Treasure Chest of Poetry. Mother gave it to me WAY back forever ago when I was in 3rd grade. The pages are dog-eared. Listening to Emma and her mother on stage brought back so many memories of times my mother read aloud to me. She cherished books, and so do I.

Maybe that’s why I write.

This was my first experience at the Stony Brook Southampton conference. The program offered MUCH more than writer’s cramp — though I have the aching wrist to prove they’ve put us to work. (I finally located all the outlets to plug in my computer. Ahhhh.)

This conference exposed us to the art and creators of fiction in its many delightful forms: books, illustrations, TV shows, drama, poetry, music.

Allow me to name drop:

Cindy Kane:

My instructor for the conference. Cindy edited childrens’ trade book for over 20 years at Bantam Books for Young Readers, Four Winds Press, and Dial Books for Young Readers. She edited the 2001 Newbery Medal winner, A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck; and wrote a middle-grade fantasy novel, The Genie in the Book, under her married name, Cindy Trumbore.

Mitchell Kriegman of Wainscott Studios:

Emmy award winning writer, director and creator who worked with legendary Jim Henson, and created a number of successful kid’s shows, including Clarissa, Rugrats, Ren and Stimpy, Doug, and more. Currently he’s working on PBSKids series It’s a Big Big World.

We visited Mitchell Kriegman’s studio, met with his team of magicians, and watched filming for the Purple Berry episode. I sang the Purple Berry song the rest of the day. Yes, it’s still stuck in my head, painting it berry-colored purple from the inside out.

Marsha Norman:

Playwright, Pulitzer Prize winner, The Secret Garden Stage Adaptation, Broadway’s The Color PurplePublished work: Four Plays, novel The Fortune Teller.

Tim McDonald:

Playwright, director: Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, Ant and the Elephant, Musical Adventures of Flat StanleyPhantom Tollbooth.

Emma Walton Hamilton:

Best-selling children’s book author, freelance editor, speaker, arts educator, and daughter of Julie Andrews! She’s the Co-Founder of the Bay Street Theatre. She co-authored 16 books for children and young adults, making it to the NY Times Bestseller list four times. Her latest book is Raising Bookworms.

Margaret McMullen

Award-winning author of In My Mother’s House, How I Found the Strong, Cashay, and When I Crossed No-Bob. We can look forward to new work coming out in 2010 for Houghton Mifflin.

Tor Seidler

Author of The Dulcimer Boy, A Rat’s TaleThe Wainscott Weasel, an ALA Notable Book, Terpin, and 1997 National Book Award finalist, Mean Margaret.

Gahan Wilson

Author, cartoonist, and illustrator. You’ve seen his work in the The New Yorker and National Lampoon. His books: Harry, the Fat Bear SpyHarry and the Sea Serpent, Harry and the Snow Melting Ray, and Spooky Stories for a Dark and Stormy Night.

Along with the many panel discussions and artist presenations, we enjoyed a wonderful theater reading  by most of the original cast of The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley.

Here are a few iPhone pics of our adventures in Southampton.

Inspired by the Julie Andrews’ Collection of Poems, Songs and Lullabies, I leave you with a poem I loved as a child:

A Name in the Sand by Hannah Flagg Gould

Alone I walked the ocean strand;

A pearly shell was is my hand;

I stooped and wrote upon the sand

My name — the year — the day.

As onward from the spot I passed,

One lingering look behind I cast;

A wave came rolling high and fast,

And washed my lines away.

And so, methought, ’twill shortly be

With every mark on earth from me:

A wave of dark oblivion’s sea

Will sweep across the place

Where I have trod the sandy shore

Of time, and been, to be no more,

Of me — my day — the name I bore,

To leave nor track nor trace.

And yet, with Him who counts the sands

And hold the waters in His hands,

I know a lasting record stands

Inscribed against my name,

Of all this mortal part has wrought,

Of all this thinking soul has thought,

And from these fleeting moments caught

For glory or for shame.


Filed under artists, NASA, space, writers