Two Reflections on SCBWI Japan KidLit Create Day
by Cam M. Sato and Mari Boyle
1. The Exciting Challenge of Crafting KidLit for the World
Guest Post by Cam M. Sato, Tokyo, Japan
On February 25, 2018 a group of us writers, editors and translators took on the exciting challenge of Crafting KidLit for the World at the Yokohama International School.
The day started with a pre-recorded presentation by Agent Erica Rand Silverman of Stimola Literary Studio entitled: Oh, The Anticipation (in Picture Books)!
She maintained anticipation is created with text, illustrations, or a blend of the two. Often the illustrations hold unwritten subplots creating interest in what happens next.
Next, we listened to Editor Liz Kossnar of Simon & Schuster give a talk on The Importance of Knowing Your Market. Kossnar stressed the importance of finding comp (comparison) books. She told us every book has a comp, though they might not be immediately obvious. Sometimes we have to look deeper to find similar themes.
The session before lunch had many of us sweating with nervous anticipation as we reviewed the distance critiques we had paid for in advance. First, we filled out a handout, entitled Critique Notes & Talking Points, to evaluate our own work’s strengths and weaknesses. Then we received our critiques. We circled helpful points, and underlined confusing points or part of the critiques we disagreed with. Then we shared with our neighbors. We all received valuable input with suggestions of what our next steps should be.
After a delicious lunch catered by Dragon Dining, we listened to another pre-recorded talk on Creating Voice and a Compelling First Page given by Editor Kat Brzozowski of Swoon Reads/Feiwel & Friends. The bottom line is that voice is crucial from the very first page to hook a reader. The words we choose, as well as the sentence structure we use, all go towards building a voice. A spunky teen from New York is going to sound very different than a stuffy old grandmother from Little Rock.
Ready for a change in pace, I was delighted to learn it was play time. Illustrator Aya Watanabe didn’t disappoint. She helped even the least artistic of us have a good time Playing with Shapes and Crafting Hole Books. It was fun to see the different ideas everyone came up with when we presented our hole pages.
The final pre-recorded talk of the day was The Art of Nonfiction Picture Books given by Emily Feinberg of Roaring Brook Press. There are four different types of nonfiction picture books: biography, lesson oriented, event/historical, and concept. The idea is to treat nonfiction as you might fiction. You can even use poetry. Just remember to check your facts!
All in all, the event was a huge success and we left ready to revise our works in progress and excited about trying our hands at something different. I may even get my scissors out and try a hole (whole) new kind of book!
Cam M. Sato is a poet, author, and editor. You can learn more about her at camsato.com.
2. SCBWI Japan KidLit Create Day… Oh, The Anticipation!
Guest post by Mari Boyle, Tokyo, Japan
It’s not easy for me to attend SCBWI conferences in the US or the UK (my home country), but luckily SCBWI Japan held their own KidLit Create Day, February 25th, 2018 at Yokohama International School.
After registration and coffee, the one-day conference started with a fabulous recorded talk by Erica Rand Silverman, an agent with Stimola Literary Studio. Erica discussed the importance of … anticipation in picture books. Using picture book examples Erica showed how anticipation is heightened through text and illustrations. Erica additionally noted that anticipation is present throughout the process of writing and publishing a manuscript. It can take a long time before your creation finds a home on someone’s bookshelf, and even then, the anticipation continues with a shift in focus to sales and reviews. “Keep creating while you’re waiting,” was Erica’s sage advice on this topic.
For those of us writing for younger audiences, Naomi Kojima, SCBWI Japan’s Regional Illustrator Co-ordinator, asked us to look through a collection of picture books to see how authors and illustrators create anticipation. By sharing our findings in small groups, it became clear that anticipation can present itself in both obvious and subtle ways.
Heading into the next session the anticipation was certainly obvious – the distance critiques response group! Many attendees had reserved distance critiques and our SCBWI advisors had assembled an amazing range of agents, editors, and art directors to look at our work. Holly Thompson, Japan SCBWI Co-Regional Advisor, led the session, guiding us through the process of interpreting the comprehensive critiques we received. Having some time to digest our critiques we discussed the feedback in groups. It was a great chance to get perspective on our own work and share in fellow attendees’ work.
After a delicious lunch, courtesy of Dragon Dining, I joined illustrators for further discussion on the feedback of their art portfolios. They were generous with their support and advice to each other, swapping tips and sharing specific editing knowledge.
This led nicely into Aya Watanabe’s workshop on moveable picture books – pop-up books, lift the flap, hole books etc. Aya Watanabe is a commercial freelance illustrator, whilst her alter ego, Chiiko Watanabe, is a Bologna Showcase illustrator with a long list of picture book publications. After showing examples of her work and the basics of moveable picture books, it was our turn to get involved. We started with a semi-circle, and before long everyone was engrossed with color pencils and scissors. After a lot of fun and encouragement, even those of us will limited illustration skills produced something to be proud of.
Our final recorded talk by Emily Feinberg, editor of Roaring Brook Press, focussed on the world of non-fiction books. Gone are the encyclopaedia fact-driven styles of non-fiction. Emily explained that in this growing market editors and publishers are looking for creative ways, “To trick kids into learning,” by combining art and text to make “big concepts digestible to young readers.” The examples she showed had creative story arcs fused with a strong author’s expert voice.
The one-day conference was packed with great talks, great handouts, and a great opportunity to spend the day with talented writers and illustrators. I’m certainly looking forward to the next one . . . Oh, the anticipation!