Meet April Powers, SCBWI’s Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, by Laura Parnum

April Powers headshot

I couldn’t be happier. Really, this is my dream job. And I’ve said it in some of the meetings, but I’m totally not joking. My sons have chores, they’re eight and ten, and my eight-year-old looked at me and said, “We have to do chores. Meanwhile, you have your dream job.”

—April Powers

 

This past winter, SCBWI’s leadership team set out to hire a full-time Equity and Inclusion Officer for the organization. After a months-long hiring process encompassing a large pool of highly qualified candidates, we are thrilled to have April Powers join SCBWI as Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer.

April brings over 15 years of experience in diversity, equity, and inclusion training, recruiting, community outreach, and leadership to the position. Recently, some SCBWI volunteers from various regions had a virtual chat with April to get to know her a little more and to find out about her background, her goals for SCBWI, and why this is her dream job. Here are some of the things we found out.

Background

April has made it her life’s work to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and civility. She is a bilingual multihyphenate person: multicultural/religious, mixed race, cisgender straight woman with an LGBTQI+ and multi-ethnic family that also includes neurodiversity and family members with disabilities. Her latest role has been running her own global inclusion consulting and training firm, First Impression Rx, which serves Fortune 50 government and nonprofit organizations. She previously held diversity roles at Nestlé USA and Amgen, in addition to nonprofit organizations, all of which helps her bring a depth of knowledge to SCBWI from a global perspective with a nonprofit lens.

Goals

April told us that her first order of business as SCBWI’s Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer is to provide diversity, equity, and inclusion training for all SCBWI staff and regional team members. Within weeks of joining SCBWI, these training sessions have already gotten underway. She also hopes to offer training in the future for anyone who volunteers at events, with the objective of making sure that everyone who is representing SCBWI in some way is clued in to how we present ourselves in the world. She uses an expression from author and educator Cornelius Minor when she says that, “We as an organization are ‘radically pro kid.’ We’re here for all children and their families in whatever capacity. That means we need to support writers, illustrators, and translators who create for all of those children, and make sure that we provide safe spaces for all of our members.”

Another one of April’s goals is recruitment. Not only do we strive for diversity and inclusion among SCBWI members, but in our regional team volunteers and leadership as well. She explains, “We’re looking at scholarships, we’re looking at ways to reach out, and we’re looking at how to incorporate people more in leadership and ambassadorship roles within the volunteer corps.” She urges anyone who wants to be included in leadership in this organization to reach out to her. She has a recruiting background, and she wants to know who you are. In terms of underrepresented members, April hopes to be able to help SCBWI reach out to those members so that we can make sure their stories are told. Similarly to the Own Voices initiative in publishing, April has suggested implementing an option on members’ profile pages to be able to indicate whether they are from an underrepresented group, if they choose to do that, so that SCBWI will be able to reach out to those members with opportunities.

Another objective that April has put forth for SCBWI is in regards to inclusivity. What she would like to see for any underrepresented creatives is to have their work highlighted during their recognized month (for example, Pride Month or Hispanic Heritage Month). It is very important to April to make sure that everyone feels welcome, included, and counted. This includes those from indigenous populations from other parts of the world. April is very open to hearing from all underrepresented members so that SCBWI can help their work be seen.

It is also very important to April to ensure that SCBWI is accessible to those with disabilities. Our online summer workshops now include an American Sign Language translator, and we are also looking into ways to make sure that we include proper formatting on our websites and social media platforms for people to be able to receive the information and hear it accurately on their translators. April mentioned that one of the struggles with inclusivity is that “we don’t know what we don’t know.” She says, “If there are ways that we can better accommodate members in our events, let us know. We’ll do our best, the best that we can with our ability. I know that we’re a global organization, but this team here is small, mighty, and fierce.”

Why This Is Her Dream Job

We know that April has an extensive background in diversity, equity, and inclusion roles, but in addition to that she is also an aspiring children’s book writer. April explained that she had just finished writing a children’s book when she got the e-mail asking if she would like to be considered for this role with SCBWI, a role that was, as she puts it, “my life’s work . . . my passion.”

But it wasn’t just the converging of two passions that sealed the deal for her. As an example to her children and to her value system, April felt that, in order to make a move to another organization, she would have to believe in her heart that they were serious about being committed to the work. She had been in other organizations in the past where they “needed the title” but weren’t willing to put in the effort needed to make real change. She could see that SCBWI, and in particular with Lin at the top, was determined put in the work. It was evident to her that, as an organization, SCBWI is working toward something greater than ourselves. She said, “Whether you have children or not, we are all the ancestors of future generations on this planet. Let’s leave something great for them!”

April does believe there is much work to be done. Part of SCBWI’s mission is to support all children’s book writers, illustrators, and translators, but she says, “What we really need to do is to reach out to those who are not traditionally in this space, because our society is failing at that.” She sees the truth of it because she has children who read books. And when asked about getting pushback, she says, “Trust me, we’re going to hear everything from everybody. It’s going down because we’re taking a stance. We said, yes, Black lives matter. We are putting our stake in the ground and saying, yes, we are an antiracist organization. We have to be. We’re for kids. Why would we be anything else?”

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Eastern PA SCBWI Webinar: Power Tips for Receiving Critiques, with the Critique MD

Webinar: Power Tips for Receiving Critiques

webinar

One of the most common tips when receiving critiques is, Don’t take it personally. What does that mean exactly? Are there practical actions we can take that will help us receive a critique with greater grace and aplomb? And what about that extra spike of anxiety that rears up when our work is getting critiqued by an agent or an editor instead of a peer? What the heck can we do about that? In this webinar, which is all about the art and science of receiving critiques, Christine Carron, the Critique MD, will answer these questions and more. So whether you have a manuscript consultation coming up during the SCBWI Summer Spectacular, or you’re taking part in our Eastern PA PAL critiques, or even just want tips on how to make the most of your critique group feedback, you’ll learn how to keep your cool, exude confidence, and supercharge your critique-receiving powers.

This webinar will take place on Tuesday, July 21 at 4:00 p.m. The cost is $15 for members and $25 for nonmenbers. To register, click here.

Can’t make the live session? The recording will be available for two weeks following the event.


About the instructor:

Christine Carron headshotProcess improvement maven and novelist Christine Carron has helped individuals and teams function more effectively for over twenty-five years. Described as The Wolf meets Mary Poppins by her clients, Christine blended her love of writing with her expertise in personal and interpersonal productivity to create The Critique MD, www.thecritiquemd.com, where she helps writers navigate the critique process with more confidence, compassion, and fun. Christine is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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Member News — June 2020

Member News is a monthly feature on the EasternPennPoints blog. We want to celebrate our members’ good news and help spread the word far and wide. Send us your children’s book–related news—book deals, releases, awards, author or illustrator events (signings, launch parties, appearances), etc. If you’d like your news to be included in next month’s column, please e-mail Laura Parnum at epa-ara@scbwi.org before July 20.

Here’s some exciting news from members in our region this month:

 

My Heart Sings a Sad Song cover

All of us experience loss and grief. Children are no exception and often lack the life skills needed to process their grief in a healthy way. When someone they love has died they need the space to express their grief and the love of family and friends to care for them! Author-illustrator Gary Alan Shockley’s newest self-published picture book, My Heart Sings a Sad Song, proved itself a much-needed resource when it sold over 500 copies several weeks after release. The main character of the book is a young bunny named JoJo who grieves the death of someone he loves. The other characters of the story walk with JoJo as he expresses his feelings and honest questions leading to the hope and promise that “Someday my heart will sing a new song. A happy song. It is true. A song of remembrance. A song full of love. A song that will celebrate YOU.” The book contains a helpful guide for adults working with children and several activity pages for drawing and writing letters. My Heart Sings a Sad Song is available for purchase at the author’s website, www.hopespring.biz and at all major booksellers. A percentage of each book purchased at Gary’s website is donated to Chameleon’s Journey in South Carolina, which is an annual camp for grieving children and youth.


 

Pearl Goes to Preschool

Author-illustrator Julie Fortenberry’s new book, Pearl Goes to Preschool (Candlewick, July 2020), will be released on July 21. Pearl loves attending dance classes at her mother’s ballet school. Even though Pearl is the youngest and smallest ballerina, she knows how to count her poses and follow along. When her mom suggests that Pearl try going to preschool, Pearl has a lot of questions: What will she learn? Will there be dancing? A sweet and reassuring story about trying something new that’s perfect for young children with separation anxiety—or who just love to dance! In addition, Julie will be reading on Indie Bookstore Day, Saturday, August 29, at 11:30 a.m.

Main Point Books
116 North Wayne Ave.
Wayne, PA 19087

More information about the event can be found here: https://www.mainpointbooks.com/event/rescheduled-independent-bookstore-day. And please check out Candlewick for a video ballet lesson! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R28W7sPo9Ws.


 

Body Positivity Book Cover

Author MariaLisa Itzoe has written a research-based children’s book, Tiny or Tall, Mighty or Small—Music for All! (illustrated by Julia Burns), to promote body positivity. The story uses musical instruments to represent different body types. There is also an interactive component to further engage children by allowing them to click instruments to hear sound. MariaLisa is a fourth-year dual degree Medical student/Master of Public Health student, and the book was her capstone project for the MPH portion of her degree at Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Currently, the book is available to be downloaded as a PDF for free at this link: https://tinyurl.com/ycbbzxcx. (Please note, in order to be able to play the sound component, readers will need to download the file in Adobe Acrobat Reader, which can be downloaded for free.) In addition, Thomas Jefferson University public relations created a YouTube video recording of MariaLisa reading the book, paired with images of the pages turning. The video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxWHhNisHdg.


If you have good news to share, please send it to epa-ara@scbwi.org to be included in next month’s Member News column.

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A Cafe Chat with Author-Illustrator Lee Harper, by Berrie Torgan-Randall

IDA

Welcome to our first Illustrator Day 2020 café chat faculty interview with author-illustrator Lee Harper, our keynote speaker. This year, Illustrator Day will be a virtual event held on Saturday, September 12, 2020. For more information about the event and to register, click here.

Berrie: Hi Lee! It’s a hot, sticky, day in Eastern PA and I have a glass of iced tea making water rings on my studio table. What are you drinking today to keep yourself cool?

Lee: Hi, Berrie! Mostly spring water for me.

sticky bunsBerrie: Would you like a sticky bun to go with that or maybe a fresh egg from your herd of chickens?

Lee: They both sound good, but I think I’ll go with the sticky bun since my spring water’s been filtered through coffee grounds.

Berrie: When I visited your barn during your studio tour a couple of years ago it was the first day for your lambs. How many more animals have you adopted since your studio tour?

Lee: We recently added two Suffolk sheep, bringing the sheep count to five. It feels like a nice-sized herd now. This spring we also adopted ten chickens: four Orpingtons, two Phoenix, two Red Game, one Sicilian Buttercup, and a mystery chicken. The mystery chicken was part of a mail order deal where if you by six you get one free. (Yes, you can order chickens by mail. They put air holes in the box.)

Also new to the farm since you visited is our Great Pryrenees, Maggie. Ostensibly, her job is to protect the chickens and sheep from fox. In a sense she’s been successful. The fox aren’t the ones eating the chickens anymore.

Berrie: How did you get your portfolio in front of the right people to illustrate the first Turkey Trouble book?

Turkey TroubleLee: I met Robin Benjamin, an editor at Marshall Cavendish, while participating in a portfolio showcase at an Eastern PA SCBWI Pocono Retreat. She liked what she saw and a few weeks later called with an offer to illustrate a story she’d recently acquired: Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano. This was shortly after I signed my first contract with HarperCollins, which was also a result of a connection made at an SCBWI event. I tell you about the Woolbur contract because I think the fact that I was currently working on a book with HarperCollins helped me get the contract with Marshall Cavendish for Turkey Trouble. With Woolbur it was a one-on-one portfolio review at a Fall Philly event with HarperCollins art director Stephanie Bart-Horvath. During the review she invited me up to the main office in New York to meet with the rest of her group, and a few months later they asked me to paint a sample for a baseball-themed picture book they thought suited my style. I painted half a dozen samples! They loved them, but there was still one problem. The author hated them. I didn’t get the job. By this point I was thinking I may never get the opportunity to illustrate a picture book, but the following week HarperCollins called again, this time to offer me my first contract, no samples required.

Berrie: Woolbur is such a sweet story about self-assurance and self-confidence. What did you learn from the story while illustrating the first ​Woolbur​ book and from the second book, ​Ready or Not, Woolbur Goes to School?

Lee: Woolbur changed my life both personally and professionally. On a personal level, Woolbur taught me to be more relaxed in my parenting. In the story, Woolbur, Maa, and Paa are always worrying because Woolbur is a little different from the other sheep. I could totally relate. At the time I was illustrating Woolbur, my youngest son, Dan, was in first grade, and his unusual antics were worrying his mother and me. But in the story Woolbur, Grandpaa wasn’t worried and advised Maa and Paa not to worry. Woolbur would be fine. As I continued working on the illustrations and Maa and Paa’s worrying became sillier and sillier, I began to realize Grandpaa was right. The experience of illustrating Woolbur helped me learn to celebrate Dan’s individuality a little more instead of worrying so much, and Dan did turn out just fine. I also learned a lot about the technical aspects of illustrating from Woolbur. I was incredibly lucky to have an art director who was willing to hold my hand and lead me through the entire process. And of course, I learned a lot about all things sheep related. I visited a lot of sheep farms while gathering inspiration for Woolbur, and some of the people I met at that time became close friends. It also led to me become a sheep farmer myself! The second Woolbur book didn’t come out until ten years and eight books after the first. In the gap between books, my palette, the paper, and the brushes I used had all changed. But HarperCollins wanted the second Woolbur book to stylistically match the first, so I kind of learned how to time travel with the second Woolbur. I returned to sable brushes and cold-pressed watercolor paper when I painted Ready or Not Woolbur Goes to School.

Berrie: What does your creative routine look like in the morning, or are you a night owl?

When my children were young I did the bulk of my creating while they were at school. Now that I’m an empty nester, for the first time in my life I have the freedom to follow my own natural work rhythms. Now I typically wake up at four or five in the morning and work until sunrise. Those quiet hours before dawn are my most creative, and I find it to be the best time to lay out the work for the rest of the day. It’s also a good time to do light box work. At sunrise I let all the animals out, feed and water them, then have breakfast. After breakfast I work until lunchtime. After lunch I take a half-hour nap, work until about three, and then call it a day. That’s usually when I go on a walk or bike ride. After that comes the evening farm routine . . . putting the animals away . . . mending fences . . . there’s always something. Needless to say, I go to bed pretty early.

Berrie: You attended The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and studied painting. How did you get your start in illustrating children’s books?

Lee: I’ve always liked narrative art forms such as cartooning and filmmaking, so it was kind of a no-brainer for me to go into picture books. But it wasn’t until I had kids of my own and read them a zillion picture books that I really began to seriously think about giving picture books a try. The first attempts I made were illustrations for stories my kids and I made up during our many long canoe trips. None of that work was ever published, but it was a start. It helped me learn how to illustrate in a way that was appealing to children. It was helpful to have young children around the house to use as a focus group. Some of my firsts attempts at picture book illustrations were actually very beautiful, but uninteresting to my young critics. I quickly learned I needed to punch up the action and expressiveness.​

Berrie: Were there any children’s books that you read to your children growing up that your kids demanded you read over and over?

Lee: I kind of feel like my children demanded every book I read to them be read over and over again, so I decided to let them answer this question.

Naomi: Bedtime For Francis.

Nathan: The Stinky Cheese Man.

Will: The Hungry Caterpillar.

Dan: Dan, The Flying Man.

Berrie: This is the first time Illustrator Day will be held virtually. What do you think will be the pros and cons of having an event in this new format? I’m personally looking forward to staying in my cozy pants all day. 

Lee: I much prefer interacting with people in real life. But doing virtual presentations does have some benefits. One of the things I think is cool is that in a virtual presentation you can get a closer view of my working environment than would be possible in a real-life presentation. The cozy pants aspect is also a big plus.

Berrie: Any more Turkey Trouble books in the works?

Turkey's Eggcellent EassterLee: Yes. The most recent book in the series, Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter, made Amazon Charts top twenty, which resulted in Wendi and I being signed-up to create two more. I finished the illustrations for the fifth book in the series, Turkey Goes to School, in June, and by the time of the conference I will have begun working on the sixth, A Turkey Valentine. I’m very excited about them both. Wendi has once again come up with some really fun and super silly adventures for Turkey.

Berrie: Thank you for joining me for this virtual café chat. It’s been a joy and a pleasure talking to you. BTW—if Stella (Lee’s adorable German Shepard who was the model for ​Ready or Not, Woolbur Goes to School) ​has puppies, can you save one for me?

Lee: It’s been nice talking to you, too. Unfortunately, Stella won’t be having puppies, but Maggie still might. Great Pyrenees are great dogs, as long as you aren’t looking for a chicken guardian.


LeeHarper headshotLee Harper is a picture book author-illustrator best known for his whimsical illustrations for the Turkey Trouble and Woolbur series. His publishers include Two Lions, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Scholastic. Currently, Lee is illustrating the fifth and sixth books in the Turkey Trouble series. You can visit his website at www.leeharperart.com.

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An Interview with Author Pamela Tuck and a Book Giveaway, by Virginia Law Manning

2017 Author Photo 1

Hello, Eastern PA members! Im thrilled to introduce Pamela Tuck. Pamela is a writer, mother, and SCBWI PAL member who grew up in Greenville, North Carolina, but now lives in Eastern Pennsylvania. She is the author of Mother of Many, the 2007 Lee & Low Books New Voices Award winner As Fast As Words Could FlyColor Struck, and The Adventure of Sheldon, the Mushroom. Pamela credits her writing to her upbringing surrounded by southern storytellers. Pamela is critiquing picture book manuscripts as part of the Eastern PA SCBWI Eight & Under revision program. For more information about this program and to register for a critique with Pamela, please visit the event page at https://epa.scbwi.org/events/manuscript-critiques-by-scbwi-pal-members/

Virginia: Pamela, can you tell us about your path to writing?

Pamela: I began my writing journey in second grade after winning a school poetry contest. I came from a family of storytellers, so I acquired a love of storytelling at an early age. My teachers and family encouraged me to continue writing, and I eventually branched off into short stories and plays. When I decided to become a children’s book author, SCBWI was my first professional experience with the children’s book market. I gleaned so much about the industry and how to become successful from other writers and manuscript critiques from the conferences.

Virginia: What is the best writing advice youve ever received?

Pamela: I think the best writing advice I ever received was from an author who stressed that stories should come full circle. The beginning should give a hint of the ending and the ending should circle back to the beginning. That tactic has helped me in understanding my story arcs and how to progress my plot and character development, knowing my endings will help me write stronger beginnings and plant plot clues/hints along the way.

Virginia: I love this advice! Do you have a favorite book on the craft of writing? 

Dash of Style coverPamela: My very favorite book that helped me in writing was Noah Lukeman’s A Dash of Style. It may not deal directly with how to develop characters or plots, but I gained so much from this book concerning the principle of using words as artful expressions through punctuation. This book gave me so much understanding of how powerful the written word can be based on how it’s written. 

Virginia: Are you in a critique group?

Pamela: I am not currently in a critique group, but they have been very beneficial for me as a writer. When paired with other writers, you’re exposed to different styles, techniques, and perspectives. I learn so much from each member, whether I’m giving or receiving critiques. My last critique group was a rhyming picture book critique group and the inspiration, support, and constructive criticism are what helped me develop my latest book, Mother of Many.

Virginia: Can you tell us about your journey to publication of Mother of Many?

Pamela: I got the idea for Mother of Many after participating in a 30-day picture book idea challenge. I had to write down ideas for picture books for 30 days. At the end of the challenge, I had 30 ideas, but no stories written. A few months later, I joined a rhyming picture book challenge and had to actually write a story. In going through my list of ideas, my tentative title, The Young Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, stood out because it was based on a nursery rhyme, “The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.” However, I never really mentioned the nursery rhyme, I just simply wrote a story explaining the woman’s actions through my daily life as a mother of many. The problem was that my story was about a perfect little family and I assumed that readers already knew the nursery rhyme. It was brought to my attention during the critiques that my story wasn’t realistic. It hurt, but then I said, “If you want reality, I’ll give you reality.  My revised version told the “real-life events that became the birth of Mother of Many.

Months after the challenge, I sent my story to an author friend, who wrote rhyming picture books, for a professional critique and she told me I did a wonderful job of showing how the children messed up everything, but I didn’t show how they cleaned up. Her advice took me back to the idea of bringing the story full circle. I added more to the original story, to include the resolution of “teamwork and made Mother of Many complete. I pitched the story to several publishing houses, only to receive very positive rejection letters. I was told that the rhyming was wonderful and the story was funny and well written, but it wasn’t a fit for any of the publishing houses I submitted the story to. I was determined to see this book in print because it was also a memorial keepsake of my family of 13 prior to losing my husband, Joel, in 2014.

MotherOfMany_cover Hi Res with awardI researched independent publishing options and discovered a hybrid publisher, Mascot Books, who gave me the freedom of independently publishing, mixed with some of the same benefits of traditional publishing. My experience with traditional publishing helped me focus my marketing channels and, thankfully, Mother of Many received the Mom’s Choice Award before it was officially released in June 2019. So far, it has received three awards and has garnered raving reviews from teachers and students. My mixed experience with traditional and independent publishing helped in the successfulness of my publication journey, but I owe so much to my writing peers and partners who helped me develop a story worthy of publication.

Virginia: I certainly agree! Im so grateful to the many writers who have helped me along the way. Thank you so much, Pamela, for sharing your inspiring story and words of wisdom. I know Mother of Many is a very special book to you! Im going to give away one copy to an Eastern PA SCBWI member who comments on this post or anyone who registers for a critique with Pamela.

Thank you again for supporting our writers!


And now for the giveaway details! There are two ways to enter to win a copy of the award-winning book Mother of Many:

  1. Sign up for a critique with Pamela as part of our Eight & Under revision program (https://epa.scbwi.org/events/manuscript-critiques-by-scbwi-pal-members/). You will be automatically entered to win when you register.
  2. Eastern PA SCBWI members may leave a comment on this post by July 19, 2020, to be entered

One winner will be drawn at random on July 20, 2020. We’ll announce our winner in the comments.

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Write! Now! by Anthony D. Fredericks

Write Angles

A Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks

Write! Now!

This month’s column is different. There are no photographs. There are no illustrations. It’s just the basics: Black letters, white background.

If you’ve been following the news the past few weeks you know this country is in crisis . . . a very deep and commanding crisis. Voices are calling, crying for justice in an unjust world—a world in which eight minutes and forty-six seconds have forced us to look at who we are and what we believe. A world in which eight minutes and forty-six seconds ended one man’s life and catapulted the American consciousness into a familiar, yet uncomfortable, fact of life: Racism is this country’s ultimate pandemic.

Vice President Joe Biden put it succinctly when he said, “I thought we had made enormous progress when we finally elected an African-American president. I thought you could defeat hate, you could kill hate. But the point is, you can’t.”

The shadows of Jim Crow–like conditions continue their seep through the American landscape and the American conscience. Like unseen microbes, they lurk in politics, skulk in commerce, loiter in neighborhoods, prowl through school systems, and stalk the unknowing. They are a miasma that both corrupts and depletes.

However, we have the power (and the morality) to address this infection. We are writers! Our words carry power; they carry influence; and most importantly, they carry the winds of change. What we write has the promise to transform minds, alter perception, and effect a more positive attitude about a community we affectionately know as “humankind.”

A children’s book has enormous potential to address both a social injustice and personal decision. Innosanto Nagara’s A is for Activist opens kids’ eyes to the values of community, equality, and justice. This is a book that inspires hope for the future in concert with a call to action. Commanding illustrations combine with a dynamic text to show young readers that there are things worth standing up for, irrespective of age, ethnicity, geography, or station. It is a message of promise.

Read Jacqueline Woodson’s Each Kindness and, no matter your age, your education, or your political perspective, you are changed! In a mere 32 pages, Woodson offers us insight into who we can become as human beings . . . who we can become as neighbors to each other. The lesson is subtle, yet commanding; it is personal, yet universal. This is not a book with a moral; it is a book with a conscience. Your conscience. My conscience.

And so, a generation awaits our words. What will we say and what will we share? The time is ready. The audience is waiting. Write! Now!

______________

Tony is a writer of children’s books.

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Registration Is Open for Virtual Illustrator Day!

Eastern PA SCBWI  Proudly Presents

Virtual Illustrator Day 2020

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Every year Illustrator Day is a special day dedicated to our illustration members, and 2020 is extra special because it is being brought to your own homes via Zoom! Hear presentations by author-illustrator Lee Harper, senior designer Andrea Miller, editor Katie Heit, and highly sought after agent Christy Ewers. Whether you’re published or have just joined SCBWI, you don’t want to miss our annual event for illustrators.

Pick your level of commitment when you register. Join us for the faculty presentations, or go a step further and register for the Art Director Assignment to receive feedback on your work from Andrea Miller or Katie Heit!

Need more? Register for a Zoom one-on-one portfolio, dummy, or manuscript critique with a publishing professional. Author-illustrator Lee Harper, senior designer Andrea Miller, editor Katie Heit, and agent Christy Ewers are excited to meet our illustrators and help you take your art, stories, and career to the next level!

Read about our faculty here.


Scholarship Information

This year Eastern PA SCBWI will offer two scholarships that will cover the cost of event registration. Additional expenses, including registration for the Art Director Assignment and one-on-one critiques are not included. Any current EPA SCBWI member may apply. 

Thanks to an anonymous donor we will also offer one additional scholarship to an under-represented illustrator, either an Eastern PA SCBWI member or someone outside of our region who is a member of SCBWI.

Scholarship applications are due June 30, 2020. For more information and instructions on how to apply, visit our registration page at https://epa.scbwi.org/events/illustrator-day/.


Registration Details

To register, visit our registration page at https://epa.scbwi.org/events/illustrator-day/.

The cost is $90 for SCBWI members, $100 for nonmembers, and $72 for student members.

Optional Extras

Art Director Assignment: Please read the instructions for the Art Director Assignment by following this link. Register online. Cost is $10. Complete your illustration at home and upload a medium resolution JPG to a shared Dropbox folder* by September 5. Receive feedback from senior designer Andrea Miller or editor Katie Heit in an open format at the meeting. (Feedback provided orally in front of all attendees.)  *Link to the Dropbox folder will be provided by August 1.

One-on-One Critiques: (Please only register for one critique; either one portfolio critique or one manuscript/dummy critique.) Critique materials are due by August 14.

Portfolio Review via Zoom link: Register online. Members $45, nonmembers $55. Please see our registration page for submission guidelines. Portfolio critiques are 15 minutes long. Feedback will be provided orally. Your portfolio should include six or fewer portfolio-ready illustrations/sketches.

Manuscript Critique or Dummy Critique: Register online. Members $45, nonmembers $55. Please see our registration page for submission guidelines. Manuscript critiques are 15 minutes long with written comments provided.

 

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A Cafe Chat with Author Susan Russell, by Laura Parnum

IDA

Greetings from the EasternPennPoints Café. Our virtual café is open, as always, and I’ve just filled my mug with some jasmine green tea. Today I am joined by author Susan Russell, who is the cofounder of Archimedes’ Printing Shoppe in Philadelphia. Archimedes has just launched their inaugural children’s book series, Gata Unbound, and I’m excited to learn all about the book and that process.

Laura: Welcome, Susan! Although we are social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m so happy you’re joining me in a virtual café chat. I hope you’re enjoying a tasty beverage or snack.

Susan: Thank you so much, Laura! I’m so happy to be here. I’ve just filled my glass with iced black tea with a little lemon and stevia. Been drinking a lot of that lately with this warm Philly spring. I’m feeling very antioxidated, if that can be considered a thing!

Laura: Sounds great. First off, I’m interested in learning more about Archimedes’ Printing Shoppe. The company is relatively new, founded in 2019 by a group of animal lovers and activists. Can you tell us a little about your company and its mission?

Susan: We like to style ourselves as a feel-goode (with an “e”) company, because we combine old-fashioned fun (books, stickers, shirts, posters) with purpose, and try as much as possible at these early stages to pay attention to the triple bottom line of environmental, social, and fiscal responsibility. My partners, journalist Lucy Noland (who was the main evening anchor at a Philadelphia television station) and humane educator and artist Kaity Lacy, have been active in the Philadelphia animal welfare community for years. I’m newer to the scene, but was quite active in Chicago. In addition to other living beings, we all have a lot of respect for the good Mother Earth, so when making “goodes,” we try to be as conscious as we can of our footprint.

Gata unboundLaura: The Gata Unbound series, which you co-authored, is your inaugural children’s book series. Tell us a little about it and how our readers can get a copy.

Susan: Readers can head to our website www.archimedesprintingshoppe.com and order books and sundry goodes.

Gata Unbound, as the name suggests, is a children’s book series for ailurophiles of all ages. Its colorful cast of characters includes a rare male calico cat, an old inventor, a psycatherapist and cathropologist, a baker of Greek descent, and many, many more. The theme that wends its way through the series is a critical life-saving innovation for community cats, called trap-neuter-return or “TNR” for short. Many cities, including Philadelphia, have ardent TNR advocates who understand that the best way not to euthanize thousands of beautiful cats in overcrowded municipal shelters is to reduce the populations in the communities by trapping, spay/neutering, and vaccinating them and then, if feasible, returning them to their communities or finding them homes, especially the very young kittens. It’s a complicated topic, and no doubt everyone has an opinion, but as a former animal shelter director in two big cities I can attest first-hand that TNR is a critical life-saving tool in the proverbial toolbox.

Laura: What challenges have you faced in launching this series?

Susan: Well, COVID-19 has indeed been a challenge for the world, not just for the launch of a book. We had book launches planned, you know, the old-fashioned meet and talk to people kind at books stores, and in partnership with organizations like HSUS, and in bookstores in Philadelphia and New York, but that got a little trickier after COVID hit. So, part of our challenge is getting the word out far and wide in a time of COVID! And to that effect, we are taking the advice of wise ol’ Heraclitus, and taking the unknown way because the known way is an impasse. So we will virtually launch our books following social distancing guidelines, and we’ll continue to engage folks in the conversation via less conventional channels and innovative means. We all work, and we’re all involved in the development of these books, so paying close attention to this aspect of things is indeed challenging, but critical.

Laura: Are there more Gata Unbound books to come?

Susan: There are many! On Monday, June 15, 2020, we will virtually launch Gata Unbound Volume 1 in the deep woods of Philly, which was the closest thing to approximating our cat character’s “territory” in the books. Volume 1 contains two books, Klein’s Weird Evening and Archimedes’ Ear. Volume 2 is in the process of being illustrated by Kaity, and contains books three and four. Book five is written. And book six is in the works. We envision many adventures for our fun, comical characters, which get introduced as the series unfolds, and we can’t wait to travel to all of those places with them, and have the world join us.

Laura: And what else is in the works for Archimedes?

Susan: Archimedes has a number of books in the hopper. In addition to children’s books, we also have an adult parody book, which we released on June 7 on a farm in New Jersey with my coauthor Erica Brown and illustrator Maggie McMahon. Its title is probably not appropriate for young readers and it is aimed at older readers, age 14 and up. It’s based on real-life events—we couldn’t make this stuff up—and it’s also about animals, a common theme in our oeuvre. These animals just happen to be a pig, a rooster, and a dog—rescued animals all.

Laura: I love cats, but unfortunately, I’m allergic to them. Right now I’m watching my pet turtle, Hamlet, climb up and down on his aquarium float. I’d love to hear about your cats—their names, personalities, and what they’re currently up to.

Susan: You know, my partner Lucy has a sweet turtle. I love those little creatures. I only have five cats at the moment, but they are all characters. Larry is a fitness enthusiast (please see photos), but like many of us, no matter how hard he works out, those last ten pounds just keep on keepin’ on. Then there is Bob Jr., an orange tabby cat who is named after my dad, and who is the embodiment of peace and love, brothers and sisters. Every cat likes to sleep with him. They might not like each other, but they all like him. There’s Ms. Margaret. She’s a little prickly, but beautiful and practical, and a very good editor. And then there are my kitties with the missing bits: sweet tailless Paulie (or as he likes to say “tail-free”), and my three-legged Gorgeous George, who is truly the best wrestler of the pride, despite his missing forelimb. Over the past year, I lost my fierce nasty, eccentric calico Kate (she used to write the best Christmas letters) and my enigmatic Abyssinian mix, Isis, to ripe old ages, which I suppose if one must go, it’s not a bad way. We are hoping to bring in a new foster, William Shatner, a kitty from Philly’s streets, within the next week or so, as our last foster, three-legged Ned Divine was adopted by a wonderful family roughly a month ago. My five cats are very busy helping me edit the Gata series, and we are going broke on Temptations, as they will not, and nor should they, work for free.

Gorgeous George cat

Larry (top left), Bob Jr. (top right), Margaret (center left), Paulie (center right), and Gorgeous George (bottom).

Laura: Thanks so much for chatting with me, and I wish you the best of luck with Gata Unbound and all of your upcoming projects!

Susan: Thank you so much, Laura, for this wonderful opportunity!

The authors and illustrator will be holding a virtual book launch for Gata Unbound on June 15, 2020 at 6:00 p.m. EST on Facebook (@Archimedesprintingshoppe or @LucyNoland), Twitter (@ArchimedesPrint), and Instagram (@ArchimedesPrint). To find out more about Gata Unbound and Philadelphia-based Archimedes’ Printing Shoppe, visit www.archimedesprintingshoppe.com.

Susan RussellA founding member of Archimedes’ Printing Shoppe & Sundry Goodes, Susan Russell has a love for animals that runs deep. She is especially inspired by the ill-mannered and ill-tempered. And it is that inspiration that fueled her leadership of the municipal shelters in Chicago and Philadelphia in their life-saving efforts. A writer, attorney, animal advocate, and volunteer, Russell has also authored the award-winning coffee table book titled, A Ruff Road Home: The Court Case Dogs of Chicago, and has self-published three children’s books: Shelter Dog KissesWe Can’t Go There, We’re Bears, and Mr. Bird and Mr. Cat: How ’Bout That! They are all available on Amazon.

Susan and her incredibly patient spouse are the parents of a houseful of wildly intellectual and book-loving cats. When these felines aren’t lounging in various boxes, they’re editing the Gata Unbound series and serve as consultants on the project.

 

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Eastern PA Hosts Upcoming Webinar With Literary Agent Adria Goetz

webinar

Webinar: Writing that Crosses Over Christian and Secular Markets with Adria Goetz

Writing successfully for one market can be daunting. But what about crafting stories that fit into two markets? Stories that fit in both the Christian and secular world? Is this type of crossover writing career achievable in the times we live? In this webinar, literary agent Adria Goetz will discuss her experience helping clients build careers across both marketplaces.

The live webinar will be held this Thursday, June 11, at 8:00 p.m. EST. For those who register, the recording will be available for two weeks following the event. A limited number of optional written critiques are still available, which can be added on at registration for an additional fee.

Get to know your instructor: Adria Goetz is a Literary Agent with Seattle-based Martin Literary Media Management. She represents picture books, middle grade, young adult, adult fiction, and quirky gift books and devotionals. She represents books for both the general market and the Christian market. She graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor’s degree in English with a creative writing emphasis, as well as the Columbia Publishing Course. In 2019, she was selected as a Publishers Weekly Star Watch Honoree. She was recently proud to represent Taste Your Words by Bonnie Clark, Nothing by Natalee Creech, My Breakfast with Jesus by Tina Cho, Gritty and Graceful: 15 Inspiring Women of the Bible by Caryn Rivadeneira, and Knit, Pray, Share by Lisa Hennessy. Adria lives in an old Victorian farmhouse with her husband Alex and their two darling cats, Maple and Mulberry. To learn more about Adria and what she is (and isn’t) looking for, check out her wish list at adriagoetz.com. She tweets at @adriamgoetz.

To register for the webinar, please visit our registration page at https://epa.scbwi.org/events/writing-that-crosses-over-christian-and-secular-markets/

The cost is $15 for SCBWI members and $25 for nonmembers.

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