I recently interviewed Dutch author Ruth Erica about her young adult novel set in Rwanda, which tells the story of a teen girl growing up in a country in the aftermath of genocide. We talked about what motivated her to tell this story, and how she went about researching and writing about an experience and culture that was not her own. You can find out more about Ruth Erica and her book. De boom met de bittere bladeren (The Tree with the Bitter Leaves), over on Cynsations.
As a reporter for the website Cynsations, I recently interviewed Hollis Kurman about her beautiful picture book, Counting Kindness: Ten Ways to Welcome Refugee Children (Charlesbridge, U.S. / published as Hello! A Counting Book of Kindnesses in the UK by Otter-Barry Books).
This simple counting book makes the refugee situation understandable and relatable to even the youngest readers. You can find out more about this important book, which was recently nominated for the UK 2021 Kate Greenaway Medal, over on Cynsations.
My interview with Andrew Rushton, Associate Editor with NordSüd Verlag (Switzerland) and Beth Terrill, Editor, NorthSouth Books (US) is live over at Cynsations today.
It's always a pleasure to talk with the folks at NSV/NSB. They are passionate about the books they publish. I hope you'll stop by Cynsations today to read what Andrew and Beth had to say about the unique considerations of publishing books in more than one language market, and to find out more about some of their most recent critically acclaimed books.
I'm excited to be part of the reporting team over at the renowned blog that covers all things related to books for young readers, Cynsations.
The first post is a brief interview with me. If you're curious what two books I would recommend to just about anyone, hop over to read about that, and to see a picture of me with my fabulous critique partners.
What a roller coaster ride this year has been (and continues to be!).
Even though I was landing in one of only five US airports still allowing international arrivals, life still felt more normal than not as I headed to New York in February for the SCBWI MidWinter Conference. I enjoyed a wonderful weekend of workshops focused on the craft and business of writing for young readers. Then I and another friend who was also in town for the conference stayed with our friend for a few more days. It turned into a mini writing retreat, with each of us finding time to be productive each day before we headed out to explore the city (and shop for yarn!).
But within weeks of my return home, the world was struggling to cope with the Corona Virus and its disruption of normal life. When you add to that the struggles for equality and social justice, and the economic repercussions of the ongoing pandemic, I would say life in 2020 has felt a lot like riding a roller coaster in the dark. You never know when the twists and turns and drops are coming, so you can't prepare yourself. In a word, unpredictable.
In the first part of the year I was able to work once again with the South Korean Publisher, Kyowon, this time writing scripts to adapt some classic fairy tales for video. I always enjoy writing for educational publishers. When I find a way to fulfill the educational criteria, while also creating an engaging and entertaining story, it always feels like I've solved a puzzle. It's work I'm proud of, and happy to have done. Yet there is a strange cognitive dissonance to celebrating success in a year which has held such incredible stress and conflict.
"May you live in interesting times."
More than once this year, this saying has crossed my mind. Like many, I had thought it entered common usage as a retelling of a curse, however the origins are actually more interesting than that.
According to Wikipedia:
"Research by philologist Garson O'Toole shows a probable origin in the mind of Austen Chamberlain's father Joseph Chamberlain [a British statesman] dating around the late-19th and early 20th centuries. Specifically, O'Toole cites the following statement Joseph made during a speech in 1898:
I think that you will all agree that we are living in most interesting times. (Hear, hear.) I never remember myself a time in which our history was so full, in which day by day brought us new objects of interest, and, let me say also, new objects for anxiety. (Hear, hear.)"
Hear, hear, indeed.
For more than two years, I was the lead planner, along with SCBWI Switzerland Illustrator Coordinator, Monika Baum, and SCBWI BeNeLux Regional Advisor, Melanie Rook Welfing, for the 2019 SCBWI Europolitan conference. The conference is a joint initiative between four SCBWI European Regions (France, Germany/Austria, BeNeLux and Switzerland), and the location rotates between the regions, with the Regional Advisor for the host region serving as the lead conference planner. The inaugural conference was held in Paris in 2013, with the following conferences being hosted in Amsterdam (2015) and Brussels(2017). The 2019 conference was hosted at the wonderful Youth Hostel in Zürich (Wollishofen).
We hosted an outstanding faculty of publishing professionals from the US, UK and Swiss children's publishing markets, including editors, literary agents, authors and illustrators (you can check out the entire program here). We were particularly excited to feature participation by local publishing professionals including the Swiss children's book publisher NordSüd (NorthSouth Books/USA), and the world-renowned author/illustrator Marcus Pfister, best known for the internationally best-selling Rainbow Fish books.
If you'd like to read more about the conference, you can check out some of these blog posts by participating faculty, and SCBWI regions:
Author/Illustrator (and faculty member) Elizabeth Dulemba's blog posts with photos about the conference and the open house at NordSüd
SCBWI Switzerland conference round-up blog posts with lots of photos (Day 1, Day 2)
SCBWI German/Austria blogpost with photos
Photo above: The Zürich airport was in a New York state of mind as I was leaving for the 2019 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City.
It's always rewarding to spend time learning about the craft of writing and the publishing industry at the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City,, but spending time with my fellow creators tops even that for me. This year I didn't leave on Sunday evening (the day the conference ended). Instead, I spent another day in the city exploring with one of my good friends (who is also an amazing writer and critique partner) who is a native New Yorker. Next time I go to the winter conference, I'm hoping to stay even longer and spend more time in one of my favorite cities.
Usually, when I post an update about an interview, it's because I have been the interviewer. I love asking people about their creative processes and their involvement in the world of writing and illustrating for young readers. But this time, the tables have been turned!
Colleen Jones, Regional Advisor for SCBWI Ireland (and my roommate and fellow volunteer at the SCBWI Booth in Bologna) interviewed me and two of the other volunteers about our experiences at the fair. The interview is up over at Cynsations. Hop on over to see photos from the fair and to hear our thoughts about working at, and visiting, the fair..
This was my second visit to the Bologna Children's Book Fair. It was wonderful to be back in Italy to help staff the SCBWI booth. We had a variety of activities at the booth, including a celebration of our Bologna Illustration Gallery winners, portfolio reviews, illustrator showcases, and six different iterations of the every-popular Dueling Illustrators.
This year we added a new twist: the manuscripts that were read out were the top 6 of those entered in the inaugeral SCBWI Dueling Illustrators Manuscript contest, which was judged by editor Emma Ledbetter. It's always a delight to see how two illustrators interpret the same text, and under time pressure! They have only two minutes to illustrate each passage of text that is read out.
Here are a few photos from the week (click on the photos to see bigger versions). It was a delight to speak with so many illustrators, writers, editors and publishers at the fair. I've come back inspired by the number of people who believe in creating and publishing stories for the children around the world.
How quickly the time flies! Seems like not long ago that I was visiting the beautiful Italian city of Bologna. I wasn't just there to drink coffee and eat gelato. Bologna hosts the world's only fair dedicted solely to publishing for the children's and young adult markets.
Every other year the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators has a booth at the fair to promote the work of their PAL members. Once again I'll be visiting the fair to help staff the booth, and to do some networking on behalf of our SCBWI Switzerland region with publishers who have a presence in the Swiss market.
So watch this space for news from the fair and photos from beautiful, historic Bologna!