Tag Archives: author advice

Book Marketing 101: Five Things to Do Before Your Book is Released

This post is the first in an ongoing series we’ll run answering questions about book marketing and publicity.

So, here you are: you’ve gone through the long, grueling process of writing draft after draft of your book. You’ve gotten an agent, who then sold it to an editor. You’ve revised and revised, until finally it’s ready to go to print. And now…you wait.

Authors often ask me: What can I do while I’m waiting for my book to come out? Here are five of my top suggestions: Continue reading

Awards and Grants for Authors of Color

Getting your book published is difficult, and unfortunately it tends to be much harder when you’re a Person of Color. While there are more diverse books being published, there’s still a lot of work to do!

Fortunately there are awards and grants out there help writers of color achieve their publication dreams.

We’ve created a list of awards and grants to help you get started!

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Writing for a Diverse Audience: SCBWI NY 2015 breakout recap

Over the weekend (Feb. 7), I taught a breakout session at the Annual Winter Conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators here in New York, NY. We were discussing how to write for a diverse audience. My main focus was on helping the audience to remember that no matter what you’re writing, your audience will always be diverse. Too often, writers think that there’s a dichotomy–that there are “multicultural books” that are read by kids of color, and that “everyone else” (meaning, white kids) read “mainstream” (meaning, white) books.

This just isn’t the case. Readers tend to read widely, and kids of color are just like their white peers, reading the most popular books, the books assigned to them in schools, and whatever else they happen to come across that sounds interesting to them. Continue reading

Is My Character “Black Enough”? Advice on Writing Cross-Culturally

Stacy Whitman photoStacy Whitman is Editorial Director and Publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS that publishes diverse science fiction and fantasy for middle grade and young adult readers. This blog post was originally posted at her blog, Stacy Whitman’s Grimoire

I recently got this question from a writer, who agreed that answering it on the blog would be useful:

My hero is a fifteen-year-old African American boy [in a science fiction story]. A few of my alpha readers (not all) have said that he doesn’t sound “black enough.” I purposely made him an Air Force brat who has lived in several different countries to avoid having to use cliche hood-terminology. I want him to be universal.

Do you have thoughts on this either way?

Is there a possibility that my potential readers could really be offended that a) I am “a white girl writing a book about black people” and b) that my character doesn’t sound black enough? I’ve looked through your blog and website and haven’t found anything specific to my needs on this particular question. Perhaps I missed it?

…should I use Ebonics or not use Ebonics?

First of all, black people—just as white people or Latino people—are a very diverse group of people. There are people who speak in Ebonics (which I believe would be more accurately referred to as BVE–Black Vernacular English) and people who speak plain old suburban English, people who speak with any of a variety of Southern accents and people who have Chicago accents, people who speak with French or Spanish accents (or who speak French or Spanish or an African language). So the question of whether a particular character in a particular situation sounds “black enough” is a complicated question, one that even the African American community can’t necessarily agree on. Within the community (and I say this because I asked a coworker who is African American, who can speak with more authority on the subject than I can) it’s often a question that draws on complicated factors, such as money, privilege, “selling out,” skin tone (relative darkness or lightness—literally, being “black enough”), and hair texture, which all relate to how much a part of which community a person might be.

The question, then, is fraught with loaded meaning not only to do with stereotypes, but also socioeconomic meanings. The question can also tend to be offensive because of that diversity and the loaded meaning the question carries.

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Lulu Delacre on Transitioning from Illustrator to Author

Author/Illustrator Lulu Delacre

Lulu Delacre is the author and illustrator of many award-winning children’s books, including Hguest blogger iconow Far Do You Love Me? and Arrorró, mi niñoIn this guest blog post Lulu shares the valuable lessons she’s learned in her journey from illustrator to author.

“Me? Write a Story? In a language not my own? I can’t! I graduated from art school!”

That was my reaction to the suggestion of editors and art directors from children’s publishers in New York who saw my sketches back in 1984. From the doodles of my boredom a character had been born, complete with a name and attributes, and I shopped him around in the hopes of illustration assignments.

art from Arrorró, mi niño
art from Arrorró, mi niño

The scheduled interviews led to a meeting with Barbara Lucas, former assistant editor to the legendary Ursula Nordstrom at Harper & Row. Barbara was the first of several great editors throughout my career who have provided me with enlightening advice. “Your character needs a friend,” Barbara said. At that suggestion my self-imposed handicap began to erode. I thought, what if Nathan is asleep one night and a mouse comes into his room and sets up house in his toy chest? That question, the many sketches that followed, the clumsy first manuscript, and my editor’s guidance, led to the first book I ever wrote and illustrated: Nathan and Nicholas Alexander.

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Advice for New Writers from our New Voices Award Winners

New Voices Award sealLast month we brought together past New Voices Award winners to see how they got their start writing picture books. Today, in our next installment in the series, we ask these talented authors to share their advice for new writers.

This year marks our 14th annual New Voices Award writing contest. Every year, LEE & LOW BOOKS gives the New Voices Award to a debut author of color for a picture book manuscript.

Q: What advice would you give to a writer who is just starting out?

Linda BoydenLinda Boyden, The Blue Roses
(our first New Voices Award Winner)

I would ask a question: Why do you write? And if the answer isn’t “Because I must,” then I’d point out that perhaps you aren’t ready yet. Rainer Maria Rilke gave this same advice, though much more eloquently, in “Letters to a Young Poet.” The desire to write should stem from your core. Writers write every day, 365 days a year; some days you might produce 5,000 words and others, only a paragraph, but the habit of daily writing will develop and refine your style.

Being a realist, I would also caution them to not quit their day jobs. Most writers won’t become a J. K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer with the sale of a first (or second, or third) book. It takes persistence and courage. Talent is common, but persistence is the key to a career in writing and courage will buoy your spirits when facing the bane of rejection.

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How to Write Humor for Young Readers

Kimberly Pauley In this guest post, Cat Girl’s Day Off and Sucks to Be Me author Kimberly Pauley offers some advice for authors who want to write Guest Blogger humor. Her books have been called “entertaining, hilarious, and exceptionally creative,” (School Library Journal) and been praised for their “pitch-perfect humor” (Booklist).

My son is five and he’s (obviously) a boy. That means he finds slapstick humor absolutely jaw-droppingly hilarious. Tom and Jerry make him laugh so hard that he will literally fall out of his chair. My husband has (mostly) outgrown that style of humor, however, and tends to laugh at more intellectual Eddie Izzard-style jokes. That’s the great thing about humor-it’s not all one-size-fits all. Different things make different people laugh. So how do you write a funny story to appeal to more than just yourself?

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8 Helpful Links for Aspiring Picture Book Authors

National Picture Book Writing Week

Happy Friday, friends! Perhaps some of you have seen that this week (May 1-7) began NaPiBoWriWee, or National Picture Book Writing Week. Author Paula Yoo started NaPiBoWriWee back in 2009 to celebrate the release of her picture book Shining Star:

I thought it would be fun to challenge myself to write 7 picture books in 7 days. I had been procrastinating writing another new picture book draft for the longest time. So I thought, “What if I force myself to try and write 7 different picture book manuscripts in one week?” Sure, the drafts would be sloppy rough drafts. But at least I’d have 7 FINISHED drafts to choose from when it came to serious revisions and possible submission to my book agent.

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Growing Up without Books: Discovering DeShawn

Tony MedinaIn light of our grant from First Book we asked our authors to reflect on why diverse books are guest bloggerimportant. Guest blogger, author/poet Tony Medina talks about growing up in the projects without books and later as an author witnessing the true power of connecting multicultural books with children of color.

As a child in the Throgs Neck Housing Projects in the Bronx, I did not grow up with books. The only person I saw reading was my grandmother, who occasionally read mass-market paperback fiction and her Bible that was as big as a phone book. If the Bible fell from the top of the dresser where she kept it, it could take your kneecap off and crush your foot in the process! The only time I recall being exposed to children’s books was at school when the teacher took us to the school library and the librarian allowed us to take out Curious George books.

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Tu Books Announces Winner of First Annual New Visions Contest for Writers of Color

[from the press release]

New Visions Award sealNew York, NY—April 11, 2013—Tu Books, the science fiction, fantasy, and mystery imprint of respected multicultural children’s publisher LEE & LOW BOOKS, is thrilled to announce that author Valynne Maetani has won its first annual New Visions Award for her young adult mystery novel, Remnants of the Rising Sun.

The New Visions writing contest was established to encourage new talent and to offer authors of color a chance to break into a tough and predominantly white market. The award honors a fantasy, science fiction, or mystery novel for young readers by an author of color who has not previously published a novel for that age group.

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