September is here and with the close of summer comes the close of our New Voices Award submissions window on September 30, 2017. It’s also a time when those who have submitted manuscripts—and those still in the process of doing so—may be grappling with some personal questions:
Should I submit my story if I’ve never written for children before?
I’ve always been an artist, but can I be a writer?
What happens to the winner and honor after the award?
Where can I find good advice from someone with experience?
These questions and others like them are not easily addressed in a FAQ page. So to provide this year’s participants with some insight to the contest and creative process, we reached out to former New Voices Award winners, honors, and artists who faced some of these same questions not too long ago. These three accomplished storytellers have forged successful careers as children’s book authors, illustrators, and even author/illustrators. In the following interview, author Paula Yoo (Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds), illustrator Shadra Strickland (Bird and Sunday Shopping) and author/illustrator Don Tate (It Jes’ Happened) share how participating in the New Voices Award helped shape their success.
Released last month, Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad is a picture book biography of José Martí, a renowned political figure and revolutionary who dedicated his life to the promotion of liberty. Known for his leadership in the fight for Cuban independence, Martí is celebrated throughout Latin America. To many Latinos, particularly Cuban Americans, he represents the bridge between the cultures of Latin America and the United States. Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad received five starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Shelf Awareness, Booklist, and Kirkus Reviews.
For this post, we asked author Emma Otheguy, editor Jessica Echeverria, and translator Adriana Dominguez to take us through the translation process for Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad:
You’re a writer working on a manuscript and you’ve finally got your two most important characters in the same room. There’s tension between them. One character has a question and the other has the answer. The conflict your plot has been riding on has finally come to a head—these characters need to say what’s been on their minds for pages!
But how do you make sure that your characters say what they need to in a way that’s believable to the reader? Nothing ruins a moment like this more than when the dialogue doesn’t flow or sound believable. If this is a problem you’re grappling with, don’t worry. We asked two previous New Voices Award-winning authors, Pamela M. Tuck (As Fast As Words Can Fly) and Glenda Armand (Love Twelve Miles Long) for their tips and tricks on writing successful, realistic dialogue.
Released this month from LEE & LOW BOOKS, Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee! is a picture book biograpy of James VanDerZee, a groundbreaking photographer who chronicled an important era in Harlem and showed the beauty and pride of its people. He took photographs of legendary figures of the Harlem Renaissance—politicians such as Marcus Garvey, performers including Florence Mills, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, and Mamie Smith—and ordinary folks in the neighborhood too.
We asked illustrator Keith Mallett to take us behind the scenes of his art process bringing Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee to life: Continue reading
At Lee & Low Books we are always interested in biographies of unsung heroes. Stories of lesser-known individuals who used their talents and overcame obstacles to achieve their dreams and serve their society fill our shelves of published titles. Each year our New Voices Award judges consider dozens of biographical submissions on the lookout for a winning combination of compelling characters and well-researched storytelling. But how do these components come together to create a manuscript? How does a writer condense someone’s entire life into a picture book? Does the writer or editor decide what information goes in the story and back matter? What is back matter, anyway? To answer these questions, and for an inside look at the editorial process, we interviewed Andrea Loney, author of the 2014 New Voices Award-winning biography Take A Picture of Me, James VanDerZee! and Jessica Echeverria, our Senior Editor who helped turn Andrea’s manuscript into an absorbing debut!
Today is the release day for Arrow of Lightning, the exhilarating final book in the Killer of Enemies trilogy, and we couldn’t be more excited!
Today is the release day of Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh, a middle grade historical novel about nine-year-old Maria Singh who longs to play softball. To celebrate, we interviewed author Uma Krishnaswami to find out more about her writing process and her inspiration behind Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh.
Released last fall from LEE & LOW BOOKS, Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del arcoíris is a beautiful story of recycling, conservation, and family tradition. Ixchel wants to follow in the long tradition of weaving on backstrap looms, just as her mother, grandmother, and most Mayan women have done for more than two thousand years. But Ixchel’s mother is too busy preparing her weavings for the market. Ixchel first tries weaving with a variety of materials, but then she notices the colorful plastic bags littering her neighborhood and suddenly has an idea that ends up benefitting everyone.
We asked illustrator Elisa Chavarri to take us behind the scenes of her art process bringing Rainbow Weaver to life: Continue reading
The Crane Girl, released last month, is an adaptation of a popular Japanese folktale about the power of friendship and kindness to transform lives. Told in both haiku and prose, The Crane Girl follows young Yasuhiro who rescues an injured crane in the woods one night. The next day, a mysterious girl appears at his door. She offers to weave silk for Yasuhiro and his father to help them with money, but eventually the father’s greed has a life-changing effect on them all.
To celebrate National Poetry Month, we asked author Curtis Manley to take us through his writing process when it comes to haiku, poetry, and The Crane Girl. Continue reading
With Susan L. Roth’s signature collage illustrations and Cindy Trumbore and Roth’s detailed narrative, it’s clear that Roth and Trumbore’s styles are a perfect match. Their award-winning books, The Mangrove Tree, Parrots Over Puerto Rico, and Prairie Dog Song are a testament to their effortless collaboration style and their shared passion for conservation. In this interview, Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore discuss their writing process, their stylistic differences, and working together to create the perfect story.