I just got back from the 2018 SCBWI Carolinas Conference, where I gave a talk on lyrical writing. It was my first time speaking at an SCBWI event. Yea! Of course, I over-prepared. For the past two months, I have immersed myself in dazzling picture books that filled my heart with rich loveliness. And since my heart is still bursting, I want to share a bit of what I learned with you.
From PW: Carol Hinz at Lerner/Millbrook has bought Thanku: Poems of Gratitude, edited by Miranda Paul (l.) and illustrated by Marlena Myles in her picture book debut. The anthology explores themes of thankfulness and gratitude through poems written by contributors including Joseph Bruchac, Margarita Engle, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Naomi Shihab Nye, Charles Waters, and Jane Yolen. Publication is planned for fall 2019; Karen Grencik at Red Fox Literary represented the author, and the illustrator represented herself in the deal for world rights.
And I forgot to blog about it! In my excitement over getting another manuscript on submission, writing picture book biographies, attending a Highlights workshop on narrative nonfiction (it was spectacular!) and heading to The Writing Barn for a middle grade weekend (also lovely), I was a little busy! Add in a trip to Michigan and a flurry of other exciting things I can't talk about yet -- so many wonderful opportunities are opening up! And did I mention I WENT TO ITALY? WHEEEEEEE!!!! Can I just move to Firenze now? Or Arezzo? Or Lucca? Italy is such a sweet place. I felt like I had finally come home -- not that I don't love my own beautiful city.
And I'm so excited about speaking at SCBWI-Carolinas. I can't wait to share what I've learned about writing lyrically. Meanwhile, here are ten book recommendations (in no particular order) that I think will be especially helpful for anyone planning on attending my session the conference:
The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas and Erin Stead
Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten by Laura Veirs and Tatyana Fazlalizadeh
Carmela, Full of Wishes by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson
A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano and Lane Smith
Whale in a Fishbowl by Troy Howell and Richard Jones
Ocean Meets Sky by brothers Terry Fan and Eric Fan
If I Had a Little Dream by Nina Laden and Melissa Castrillon
You Belong Here by M. H. Clark and Isabelle Arsenault
What Color is the Wind by Anne Herbauts
The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito and Julia Kuo
BONUS: I couldn't find this book in our city library system, maybe because it's French? But it's charming and sweet and wonderful.
This is a Poem That Heals Fish by Jean-Pierre Siméon and Olivier Sorman
And then, of course, my book Hildegard's Gift is written in lyrical prose.
More later on the thing I can't talk about. Stay tuned!
I'm so excited about this -- I have struggled for years to write lyrically. I studied craft books; I went on long nature walks pondering the meaning of life; I read and reread lyrical picture books until beauty oozed out of every pore of my being like rainbows!
Now I am leading a breakout session on writing lyrically, and I could not be more thrilled about this opportunity. Let me show you what works (and what absolutely DOESN'T!) as we journey together down glitter-glowing magical trails. Come to the SCBWI-Carolinas 2018 Regional Conference!
To register, click here.
Oothar the Blue by Brandon Reese
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read this lush, beautifully-illustrated picture book last week and was blown away. Not only is it gorgeous, as a piece of art, it addresses the very real, serious issue of depression in a way that children can readily relate to and understand. It's also FUN! It's witty, charming, and delightful. A must read, especially for boys.
View all my reviews
Brandon Reese is one of my favorite critique partners. He always has a kind word to say and an insightful comment to leave on our manuscripts. So without further ado, let me introduce you to Oothar the Blue by Brandon Reese! Oothar was born a fully-fledged barbarian, and he's available here. Go buy Oothar the Blue for the discerning child reader in your household, girl or boy (but especially boy!) and find out how Oothar beat the blues!
Hooray! Hooray! It's Dr. Seuss's birthday!
That means it's also time for Vivian Kirkfield's #50preciouswords contest. Yea!
Here's my official entry -- although I could tweak and revise and smoosh words around all day if I had the time!
The Peasant and the Peacock
A Prince arrayed in finest silk,
His robe the color of buttermilk,
Travels the kingdom puffed with pride,
A thorny heart nestled inside.
“My kingdom is yours if ever you see
Anyone quite so handsome as me!”
A peasant girl in a dirty frock
Quietly points to a dazzling peacock.
The news about the gender pay gap in Hollywood is out. It began in 2014 when a hacker caused a security breach at Sony and the salaries of highly paid women were laid bare -- I'm talking serious movie stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams, who were both paid far less than their male co-stars in American Hustle.
It was hideous.
It was also a golden opportunity. The kind that comes along once in a lifetime.
Jennifer Lawrence stood up for every woman in every field across America with her no holds barred letter (linked above). Here are the highlights:
" ... I would be lying if I didn't say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn't want to seem 'difficult' or 'spoiled.' At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realized every man I was working with definitely didn't worry about being 'difficult' or 'spoiled.' ... If anything, I'm sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share."
If you are a woman, you know this was not news. We have been experiencing this type of treatment for generations. And now, four years later in 2018, these issues are being exposed within the children's publishing industry. Did we think we were immune to the pains that plague society as a whole? If we did, we were naive.
Now that women have found their voices and inequality has been exposed, we are seeing some tiny bursts of momentum, which is wonderful! But there is still much work to be done. And with each new revelation, stomachs churn and spirits are crushed. We need one another now more than ever before. It's never been more important to walk in solidarity and community as women.
Exposure is good. Uncovering sexual harassment and preferential treatment is important. But it hurts to hear that our beloved community needs this course correction. I want to thank Christine Taylor Butler for her extensive research on Caldecott winners. Other authors and illustrators will be shining a spotlight on gender disparities this month, too, which I think is brave considering our careers are at stake whenever we speak out, even if it's out of a love for our industry and a desire to see it healthy, stable, and strong. Stay tuned to #kidlitwomen every day in March for more posts from these extraordinary women.
I am also grateful for the support of male authors like Josh Funk who consistently retweets our efforts (he doesn't believe men should get pats on the back for supporting feminism, however):
Other men are asking what they can do. What do we tell them? I have no ready answer. I'm still dealing with the sting of the yanked off bandaid. My wound is fresh. It's red and inflamed. Maybe others who are not quite so raw will recommend solutions, but right now all I see are obstacles. Obstacles men don't have to face.
These are the hypotheticals I'm thinking about right now:
A man negotiates a pay raise and is lauded by his peers for being honest and straightforward. He is rewarded monetarily and applauded for being persistent. He's called a tough nut to crack (pun intended), a straight-shooter, a hard ass (in that way you know it's a compliment), and a strong negotiator. If he's an author, he is given all the marketing tools he needs to be successful. It's a strong sales partnership. His fame skyrockets.
A woman asks for a raise, and one of two scenarios invariably plays out.
The first scenario:
"It's not like her husband isn't already making great money."
"What a hard ass!" (not in that way you know it's a compliment).
"I don't know if I can work with someone that inflexible."
"She looks like trouble."
"She's such a diva. I just don't know..."
The second scenario (after a woman settles for less than she deserves):
"What a sweetie!"
"Oh, I LOVE her, and she's just a joy to work with!"
"She's like, I dunno, my ideal human being, like Mother Teresa."
"I just love being around her. She's so nurturing. She's full of grace, even in the way she walks and how she shares such profound wisdom with everyone."
"She's such a cutie!"
"Oh, she's just adorable!"
"She lights up the room whenever she walks in."
"Wow, she's so pretty! And photogenic! And look! She loves dogs! Awwww."
This isn't a blog post about money. We all know we're paid less than men in almost every profession, and I'm sure someone else with stats and figures to share will write THAT blog post. This post is about the importance of societal perceptions, unspoken rules, and expectations. The sorts of expectations that allow for women to be paid less in the first place. If we change THESE, we may well see gender disparity in salaries and book sales and book tours and marketing opportunities change for the better.
But first, we need to stop telling women they have to be gentle, sweet, kind, polite, and passive in the workplace, that they must be amiable or they will be blacklisted. We need to stop telling OURSELVES that. Take a lesson from Jennifer Lawrence. Go read her letter again. Memorize it. We don't have to be weak and frail and submissive. It's feminine to be powerful, strong, intelligent, direct, resilient, and firm.
If only companies across America agreed with me.
What can be done?
Here's a short video that outlines a few ways we can "design" gender equality.
And here are a few of my ideas.
1) Check yourselves.
Even if you have to do it ten or fifteen times a day, check constantly to make sure you are not allowing gender bias to come into play in your daily work as an author, agent, editor, publicist, art director, illustrator, or publisher.
2) Remain open to change.
Sometimes change is painful. We humans dislike discovering ugly things about ourselves, and this may be one of those times of adjustment that turn society as a whole in a positive direction. You may need to take a long, hard look at yourself and come to terms with the sins of the past. Have you behaved in ways that supported gender bias within this industry? Have you provided stronger marketing support for books written by men? By young authors as opposed to more seasoned ones? Have you ignored the work of marginalized groups? Of people of color or people of other sexual persuasions than your own? Ouch. It hurts to see your bad side reflected. Look anyway. Change.
3) Talk about it.
The more we discuss gender issues within children's publishing, the stronger the chance we will have of correcting the problems we find. Be willing to sit down and talk it out with a fellow author, author to agent, agent to editor, author to editor. Especially when there is a power disparity (author to editor). Like Amy Adams, we sometimes walk a fine line, waiting for that offer to come, only to discover we were paid far less than the man next to us who is at a similar place in his career. A frank conversation with an editor who is not in a power position over you can help, too. Especially when it's a public conversation on Twitter.
If you are an Amy Adams or Jennifer Lawrence within the children's publishing industry, you represent us all. If you are a Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, or Bradley Cooper, it's even more important that you speak up on behalf of women authors.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of talking and listening and walking this out in community. If you are guilty, don't stand your ground, calling out those who are trying to help you "see" and telling them they're just being reactionary, overly sensitive, unyielding. I've seen people do that. It's ugly and it perpetuates the inequality from generation to generation. That's enabling behavior.
Women have had enough "Bless your heart's" and "Aren't you adorable's" to last a lifetime. We have had enough judgment, criticism, gossip, back-biting, and lackluster success. It's time for us ALL to scrutinize our own scarred hearts and uproot the gender bias that's grown there for so long unfettered.
We can do this.
For further information on the Science behind cognitive dissonance and how the brain adapts to societal change, read this enlightening post by children's book author Angie Isaacs.
We're celebrating Women's History month with 31 days of posts focused on improving the climate for social and gender equality in the children’s and teens' literature community.
Join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.
We have our final three winners in the Hallelujah! A Journey Through Advent with Handel's Messiah giveaway!
Congratulations Rachel Donnelly Tracy Hudgins Blom, and Maggie Alvarez!
You have each won an autographed copy of Cindy Rollins' Advent Devotional, "Hallelujah! A Journey Through Advent with Handel's Messiah."
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address, and I will forward it to Cindy.
Hooray! We have selected three winners in the Holiday Weekend ALL CREATION WAITS Giveaway! Congratulations to . . .
Gordon Edward Ferrell
Don't forget to email me at email@example.com with your mailing address so I can get this beautiful book out to you right away!
To purchase ALL CREATION WAITS for your family's holiday celebration, click on the cover below. Happy Advent to all!
We have chosen our first three winners!
All three of you will receive an autographed copy of Hildegard's Gift. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address, and I will pop them in the mail this weekend. Congratulations!
(You didn't include your last name, but I don't think we had two Roberta's.)
Don't forget to email me with your snail mail address!
I had a wonderful time chatting with Cindy Rollins and Gayle Boss about our books. If you haven't read All Creation Waits and Hallelujah! you are in for a treat.
About the Author
When Megan Hoyt first stepped into a tiny library in East Dallas and checked out The Fairy Doll, time stood still for one brief moment. A book! A lovely, magical book about a little girl, overshadowed and overlooked, the youngest of four, just like me! she thought. Rumer Godden gave way to Madeleine L’Engle and Frances Hodson Burnett. Soon, a sturdy, low-hanging backyard branch became a thoughtful spot where some rather large ideas began to take shape. If reading James Barrie can make a girl flap her arms and jump off a garden wall fully expecting to fly, books truly do pulse with life.