SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

SCBWI Moves to Protect Threatened Library Funding

By Lin OliverLin

SCBWI Executive Director

 

When the new organization, The Corporate Committee for Library Investment (CCLI), was launched on May 17, SCBWI was among the first to sign on.  CCLI is comprised of business and trade organizations who have united specifically to support federal library funding, which is in grave danger of being eliminated in the proposed federal budget for FY 2018.  Specifically, the new budget seeks to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and along with it, the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program.

 

The goal of CCLI is to support Congressional appropriations for programs that fall under both the Library Services and Technology Act ($186.6 million) and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy program ($27 million).  The LSTA funding goes primarily to support matching grant programs that allow states to be in charge of how federal library funds are spent.  The IAL funds allow school librarians and non-profit groups to buy books and educational materials for the country’s neediest children.

 

What I would like to say to all of our beloved SCBWI members is this:  We cannot afford to put these programs in jeopardy, either as an industry or as citizens of a democracy that depends upon a literate and educated populace.  Libraries and librarians are at the heart of the children’s book world.  Each year, America’s 120,000 libraries are visited 1.4 billion times, averaging 4 million visits per day or 2,663 visits per minute.  Many of these visitors are children and young people, who come to seek out OUR books, often purchased with the help of federal funds.

 

You might be wondering why SCBWI is taking this stand in such a forthright manner, and why you should support it.  We are, after all, an organization of independent thinkers, who represent all parts of the political spectrum.  Libraries, though, are not on the political spectrum.  The proposed cuts to our libraries would have a profound effect on our industry, on SBCWI’s mission to put good books in the hands of today’s young people, and on our members’ opportunity to succeed in our vital and creative work. Clearly, the children’s book community unanimously agrees with this position.  Witness that the founding members of CCLI include such key members of the children’s book field as the American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association, Baker & Taylor, Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, Lerner Publishing Group, Publisher’s Weekly and many more.

 

CCLI’s first step was to support Congressional appropriations for libraries by delivering an electronic letter to every member of Congress and other federal policy makers, stressing the irreplaceable value of libraries, not only as vital educational institutions but as workforce creating engines, as centers of lifelong learning, and as beacons of cultural and civic engagement.   The ongoing work of CCLI will be to try to secure robust funding that will keep our library system alive and yes, flourishing.

 

In a recent conversation with Beth Yoke, Executive Director of the ALA Young Adult Library Services Association, I was moved by her plea for libraries.  She said, “The elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and with it federal funds for libraries, will not just have a financial toll on libraries and the communities they serve.  It is also a blow to democracy because libraries promote life-long learning and provide unfettered access to information of all kinds and from all viewpoints.  Without funds for libraries to purchase books and other materials, we may lose access to the many voices and viewpoints of authors—especially those from traditionally under-represented groups.” I agree.  And I hope you do too, regardless of your politics.  Surely, we can all come together to make certain that libraries remain relevant and vital. Remember, if SCBWI is a tribe, libraries are the sacred place that house our tribal artifacts.

 

What can you do?  If you are moved by this article, let your social media contacts know about the financial threat to libraries.  (fundlibraries.com or use the hashtag #SaveIMLS).  Grass roots opinions matter.  Pass the word about joining CCLI to any businesses you know or work with. It’s a solid organization.  And of course, let your representatives know that you support funding for libraries. (bit.ly/fight-for-libararies, #SaveIMLS).

 

And now, I’m off to take my granddaughter to her favorite place. You guessed it. The library.

 

 

 

On the Shelves Brazos Bookstore

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Author, bookseller, and #LA17SCBWI Faculty alum, Joy Preble, tells us what's on the shelves at Houston's oldest independent bookstore.
 
What sets this store apart from other bookstores?
Brazos Bookstore is Houston's oldest indie, established in 1974 by a man named Karl Killian, who was at the cutting edge of what was then Houston's emerging literary scene. And when Karl retired in 2006, 27 Houstonians banded together to purchase the store and act as a board of directors. You can read the full history of the store here: www.brazosbookstore.com/about Our history is part of what sets us apart, because we have such a large and passionate community buy-in to our existence! Like all good indies, another factor that sets us apart is that we as a staff are the captains of our own ship, so to speak and every one of my colleagues is incredibly knowledgable about books and media and culture. That collective hive mind helps us work as a team to suggest titles for all interests. If a book is face-out, it's because we decided to feature it, not because there is a corporate giant requiring it because of co-op money. Our shelf-talkers are written by us. At Brazos in particular, we delight in highlighting books from smaller presses along with the featured titles from the big houses. Hidden gems, books that don't quite fall into one specific genre, quieter books…if we love a book, we want to talk to our customers about it and get them to read it. Our store events — and we host over 250 a year– are equally as diverse, from Nobel Laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners and celebrity authors to local authors and wonderfully quirky times, like an evening of coloring and cocktails poured by a local bar, featuring a store-created Cormac McCarthy coloring book. As Children's Specialist, I follow that same pattern, looking for the best of the best for my customers and feeling no particular compunction to push only the most commercial or buzzed about titles. We make our own buzz, which is highly gratifying and incredibly exciting!
 
What has been a successful author visit and why do you believe it was more successful than others?
I'm assuming here that you mean a signing or store event not a school visit. In terms of our local YA and MG authors, particularly our debut authors, I think the author her or himself has a huge role to play, but it is definitely a partnership with the store. Houston debut YA author Caroline Leech's launch party for WAIT FOR ME this past February is an example of an event that worked very well, and for a variety of reasons. Caroline planned her event well in advance. We began initial discussion the previous fall, even before we confirmed and booked the event. And Caroline touched base periodically as she fleshed out what she wanted to do, making sure the store was on board. She mined her contacts along with us and on her own, assuring that the house would be filled that night, getting a sense of the space and what she wanted to do to present her debut novel. She provided lovely Scottish and book- themed refreshments (although certainly that's not necessary, but for a launch party it adds a nice touch). Because of all of these things, and Caroline's involvement in the Houston arts community in general, this resulted in not only an exciting, well-attended event, but also lots of print and social media and even public radio promotion, which not only helped for attendance but also continued the buzz long after the event. Of all of this, I would emphasize here that particularly for debut authors, being a part of the larger literary community–and certainly the indie bookstore community– long before your book comes out is a good thing. Of course one of the best places to start is SCBWI! And I'd also remind new authors that, as Mark Twain said, "The world owes you nothing." You need to work hard for a good event! And let me also add that while it's a separate set of needs, a successful author school visit, even if accompanied by a bookseller, requires an equal level of diligent and enthusiastic preparation. 

What in your opinion makes a bestselling book?
Many factors, and many of those are out of an author's control, but the one that is not is word of mouth. One thing that I have learned even more firmly working at an indie bookstore is how very far in advance publishing decisions are made about what books will be featured and in what ways and to what extent. It is, to some extent, mind-boggling, and as an author myself, occasionally overwhelming– knowing that the majority of books are more or less left to fend for themselves. (Yes, it's true.) That said, reader and bookseller love go a long way. I have, as mentioned above, seen booksellers 'make' a smaller book they feel passionate about. Still, I like to think less in terms of 'bestseller' than I do 'sustained writing career.' Even that is an unpredictable little beast! But as with the event question above, for most authors it's crucial to be part of the writing and arts community, to be supportive of bookstores and other writers, to be part of the conversation. Because even bestselling status can be a fickle, short-lived thing and you are in this for the long haul, right? As is widely said, it's a marathon, not a sprint.

How is the store involved in the community? 
The better question would be how are we not? As you can see in the answer to #1 above, Brazos Bookstore is a uniquely integral part of Houston's literary community. We are event partners with Inprint, Houston's premier literary arts non-profit, bringing in a series of award-winning authors every year. We work with University of Houston's Creative Writing Program, the Academy of American Poets, Rice University, Houston Public Library, the Asia Society, and many more. We have recently begun a new and wonderful partnership with Houston ISD, called Literacy in the Middle, bringing renowned and favorite kid lit authors, including Kwame Alexander and Matt de la Pena and many more, to city schools. Our customers can buy their books anywhere, but they choose to come to the store for our knowledge and creative quirk and we are thus a great fit for Houston, one of America's most diverse cities and one that city aggressively and proudly defies easy categorization.
 
 
Personal Book recommendation?  
You mean besides my own books, right? 
Seriously, it's always hard to limit myself to just one choice! I'm in love with Lauren Wolk's new middle grade, BEYOND THE BRIGHT SEA. It is so nuanced and lovely. I swooned over RAISIN THE LITTLEST COW, a new picture book by Miriam Busch, illustrated by Larry Day. It's such a great book to give to an older sibling adjusting to a new baby in the house. And there are so many remarkable YA titles that I hate to pick just one, but in the spirit of answering the question, let me say that both our gift buyer, Ulrika, and I are obsessed with E. Lockhart's forthcoming GENUINE FRAUD, which is so brilliant it blows my mind. It's a book that requires a careful read, perhaps two, and each time you will see more layers. 
 
Joy Preble is anauthor of young adult novels including the Dreaming Anastasia series, the Sweet Dead Life series, and Finding Paris. Her newest novel, It Wasn’t Always Like This, was called “epic and addictive” by Beautiful Creatures’ author Kami Garcia and “a suspenseful treat with a gooey romantic center” by the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.  She teaches writing at Writespace Houston and is also the Children’s Specialist at Houston’s Brazos Bookstore. Visit Joy at www.joypreble.com or follow her on Twitter @joypreble
 
 
 

SCBWI Exclusive with Samara Klein

 

Samara_cropped portraitSamara Klein is the Director of International Book Selection & Publishing Projects, PJ Library® part of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. PJ Library recently teamed up with SCBWI to establish the SCBWI PJ Library Jewish Stories Award.
 

Tell us about the PJ Library organization and its mission.

Like the authors and illustrators of SCBWI, we at PJ Library know the great value and importance of children’s books. We know that reading books to children has a positive impact on their development, and we know firsthand the power of the connection that occurs between an adult and a child when reading a book together. PJ Library is an international program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation that works in partnership with Jewish philanthropists, communities, and organizations to send the gift of free Jewish children’s books to families across the world.  

Each month, families with children ages six months through eight years who sign up for the program receive an age-appropriate book in their mailbox. These books exemplify the best in Jewish children’s literature with compelling stories, captivating illustrations, and diverse perspectives on Jewish customs, practices, and values.

There are more than 170,000 PJ Library subscribers in North America. PJ Library also has programs in the United Kingdom, Australia, and Singapore; a Spanish-language program in Central and Latin America; a Russian-language program; and a Hebrew-language literacy-based program in Israel that works in partnership with the Israeli Ministry of Education.

PJ Our Way is the newest chapter of PJ Library for kids ages 9 through 11. It is designed to meet the developmental needs of older children by offering them choice in selecting their books and by encouraging creativity and interactive connections with their peers. Each month, kids go to the PJ Our Way website to choose one book from a selection of four titles reviewed by a panel of PJ Our Way educators, parents, and kids. Subscribers can also read book summaries and author bios, watch kid-produced book trailers, take quizzes and polls, share their ideas with other kids, and post reviews.

 

What types of stories are you interested in publishing? Are there subjects PJ Library stays away from? If so, why?

PJ Library titles include a wide and varied range of topics: stories about Jewish holidays; Bible stories and retellings of Jewish folk tales; stories about Jewish history and biographies of Jewish figures (which are part of PJ Library’s Jewish Heroes series); stories about contemporary Jewish life and stories that exemplify Jewish values such as kindness to animals, the passing on of traditions, and hospitality, to name just a few. I recommend looking at the books PJ Library has distributed, listed on the website. You will likely recognize some of the titles as Caldecott and Sydney Taylor Award winners.

Due to the fact that PJ Library’s younger program has readers under the age of 9, reference books, books that contain war content (specifically, the Holocaust), and books that address the death of a close family member are not considered for the program’s book line-up. We feel that parents are the best determiners of when their children are ready for exposure to these difficult topics. However, because the PJ Our Way program is geared towards an older age cohort, it does include books that address these more difficult topics, and online parent book guides are available to help parents assist their children in making appropriate choices.

The PJ Library & PJ Our Way Book Selection Committees welcome manuscript submissions!

All manuscripts are read and considered. If the respective Book Selection Committee would like to carry the submission in their program, the chair of the committee will work with the author or agent to find a publisher for the manuscript. By and large, publishers cooperate with PJ Library on creating special editions for the program’s use: board books for the youngest subscribers and paperback books with French flaps (which include information and engagement ideas for parents) for the older subscribers. PJ Library also publishes a small selection of books in-house under the imprint name PJ Publishing.

Please visit www.pjlibrary.org/manuscripts for clear guidelines on how to submit board book, picture book, and chapter book manuscripts, with or without illustrations, to PJ Library.

Please visit https://pjourway.org/about/how-pj-our-way-chooses-books for clear guidelines on how to submit chapter book and middle grade novel manuscripts, with or without illustrations, for 9- to 11-year-olds to PJ Our Way.

 

Can you tell us about your Author Incentive Award and how you select the recipients?

For each new story submitted to PJ Library or PJ Our Way from July 22, 2016, through December 31, 2018 that is accepted by the Book Selection Committee for use in either program, we will present the author with $2,000 as our way of showing appreciation for contributing to the PJ mission. This award is truly an award – it is separate from and in addition to any monies received by the author from a publisher. Stories may be submitted by anyone, including authors, agents, and publishers. Multiple stories by one author are eligible. The only disqualifying factor is if the story is already available in the trade market, is an out-of-print title, or has previously been considered by the Book Selection Committee—that is to say, it must be new.

 

You’ve created a new award with SCBWI. What can you tell us about that?

We are thrilled to partner with SCBWI on the new Jewish Stories Award, established to encourage the creation of more high quality Jewish children’s literature. $2,500 will be awarded to the author of the manuscript deemed most promising for publication and for distribution by PJ Library. Submissions will be judged by Rita Auerbach, a retired school librarian and storyteller who chairs and sits on numerous prestigious children’s book committees and juries; David A. Adler, esteemed children’s book author of over 300 books, several of which have been distributed by PJ Library; and myself, Samara Klein, a member of the PJ Library Book Selection Committee and Director of Publishing Projects. PJ Library will make every effort to partner with a publisher to have the manuscript published and to carry the book in the PJ Library program. Submissions are accepted from September 1st 2017 through October 31st 2017. The winner will be announced at the SCBWI Annual Winter Conference in 2018 in New York City.