Friday, March 31, 2017

Illustration Notes: To Include or Not to Include...

Illustration_at_p._207_in_Just_So_Stories_(c1912)
Illustration notes—the bane of a writer’s existence. There are so many conflicting opinions about illustration notes, it’s hard to know where to begin. First off, an illustration note is a quick description of what the author envisions at a certain point in the story. The notes are intended to stand in place of an illustration that might be needed in order for the reader to understand what the author intended.
An illustration note is not a play-by-play of how the author sees the characters, settings, and scenery of the story.
Here’s an example using Where the Wild Things Are:
IMG_3759
“The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind …” [Art: Max is wearing a white wolf suit with buttons down the front and is nailing a line of tied-up clothes to his bedroom wall.]
That is a bad—scold it and send it to time out—illustration note. In fact, you DO NOT need an illustration note for that line at all. It’s perfectly fine just the way it is.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Interview with Agent Natascha Morris

Natascha is a new agent at Bookends Literary and a former editorial assistant for Simon & Schuster. She is open to submissions for picture books, middle grade, and young adult across multiple genres: contemporary, mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, historical fiction, and narrative non-fiction. She is looking for authors, illustrators, and author-illustrators. 
Thank you, Natascha, for your insightful answers.
What was your favorite role during your days as an editorial assistant at Simon & Schuster? 
There were two things I loved about working at Simon & Schuster: reading the submissions to find that standout project, and working with the design team to come up with great covers. As an agent, I can still find that diamond in the rough, but I will miss coming up with cover concepts. 
Were there any manuscripts you helped acquire that you’re particularly proud of? 
Kit Frick’s See All the Stars (Summer 2018) is one I’m particularly proud of. Read it on submission and fell in love with it. I also had the opportunity to offer editorial notes. Kit is an amazingly talented writer who changed the whole manuscript with a few smart line changes. I’d love to find an author like her.
Could you walk us through the acquisitions process—what stars had to align in order for S&S to select a manuscript for publication?
Every book is different and sometimes, editors don’t follow the process. But in general, once an editor has a project they want to pursue, they take it to the editorial meeting. If the other editors agree (and sometimes they don’t), the editor takes it to acquisitions. I worked at two literary imprints, so quality of writing was a big factor. After that it came down to a host of factors: editorial taste, vision for the project, and market saturation. Publishing is subjective, and sometimes timing plays a part of that. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Interview with Agent Wendi Gu


wendi
It’s a new year so let’s start it off with an interview from new-ish agent Wendi Gu of Greenburger Associates. She represents one of my critique partners, so I already know she has great taste (if I could insert the grinning emoticon here, I would). Wendi is looking for authors, author-illustrators and illustrators only. And, as you’ll see by her answers, she will be a champ of an advocate for any client she takes on. Wendi reps kidlit and some adult lit–read on for details. Thank you, Wendi, for your time!
You’re a new agent at Greenburger Associates and have been working with Brenda Bowen—wow. What led you to agenting and to Greenburger? 
Brenda Bowen indeed! She’s been a fabulous, encouraging mentor, and I’m very lucky to work with her. I came into agenting by accident–I knew I wanted to be in New York, and that I wanted to work in books. When I was still studying creative writing at Northwestern, I sent an internship application to every single publishing house and agency I could find. I wasn’t very picky then. At that point, I didn’t even know that there was a difference between agenting and editing! Or what an imprint was. Or what “delivery advance” meant. I never heard back from most places. But lo and behold, I received an internship offer from Greenburger, and worked there the summer before my final year of college. A few months before I was slated to graduate, I got a call that Greenburger was looking to fill an assistant position. I snapped up the position. Then, about a year ago, I was given the green light to agent my own titles. 
If you'd like to read the rest, please visit my site at: https://johnelldewitt.com/2017/01/19/interview-with-agent-wendi-gu/

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Interview with Tara Cattie Luebbe and Mentorship Contest Announcement

profile-picTara Cattie Luebbe will host her Writing With the Stars mentorship contest early next year where authors and illustrators can apply to be mentored by an established author or illustrator. Tara's debut picture book is set to release Spring of 2018, but she's been involved in picture books as a former bookstore owner and gained a retailer's eye for what sells. She kindly shared some of her experiences about her time as a bookstore owner that you can read about on my site (link below). Enjoy getting to know Tara a bit, then check out her awesome contest for un-agented picture book writers/illustrators. Good luck to all who apply!
Tara, you had a baptism by fire in searching out good children’s lit with your oldest son who’d finished all the Harry Potter books by first grade. It sounds like keeping up with his book appetite is what prompted you to open your toy and bookstore. 
I think I got into picture books like a lot of writers, I had kids. My first born was a voracious reader and so I spent a lot of time looking for new books to keep him satisfied. He did not like to read one book over and over, he always wanted a new one. He went on to read all the Harry Potters by the end of first grade. I was blessed to have two more sons after that, and they are all equally avid readers, which makes me so happy. 
Because my background was in retail buying, I followed a dream and opened a toy and book store. My store catered to children 0-6, so the only books I sold were picture books. My selection was very different than the chain store down the way. I spent hours at market buying new books and searching out the best picture books from smaller pubs, foreign pubs and the wonderful backlist. As an indie, I had no requirements to carry anything from a corporate office. If I didn’t like the book, I didn’t carry it, even if it was a huge seller elsewhere. It was a highly curated collection reflective of my taste.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Susanna Hill's Holiday Contest Entry

https://iamachild.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/anton-pieck-1895-1987-dutch/

If you're a fan of Susanna Hill's blog, you'll know that her holiday writing contest is open now! The rules for this year: 

"Write a children’s holiday story (children here defined as approximately age 12 and under) using the basic format/concept of The Twelve Days Of Christmas! Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 300 words..."


And coming in exactly at 300 words, my 2016 entry:



Griselda's Christmas Witch List 

by Johnell DeWitt


Dear Santy Claws,
You haven’t brought me anything for eleven Christmases. I’ve been a good witch, so I’m sure it’s a mistake.
Yours wickedly,
Griselda


Dear Griselda,
You have been a good witch. Please send your list.
Love,
SantA ClaUS 


Dear Santy Claws,
Here’s my list from each of the Christmases you missed (plus interest):
12 hungry children
11 tubs of frosting
10 walls of gingerbread
9 taffy curtains
8 giant gum drops
7 yards of licorice
6 pounds of peppermints
5 chocolate soldiers
4 cookie cobblestones
3 sugared steps
2 candied roof tops
And this year, an industrial-sized child proof oven.
All the Worst,
Griselda 


Dear Griselda,
I thought your list sounded familiar. Fortunately, I read to my elves every night. We will not bring you children for Christmas.
Santa Claus—no “y” and no claws.


Dear Santy Claws,
I only want the sweet kiddies to help me decorate my gingerbread house. It gets lonely for witches at Christmas. How could a nice guy like you think so ill of me?
Grumbly yours,
Griselda


Dear Griselda,
I’m sure then, that the recipe for ‘Kid Knee Pie’ was not meant to be on the back of your last letter? 
Santa—with an A and Claus—no WS!


Dear Santy Claws,
I recycle like all good witches. I reused that old paper to write you a letter. If you send it back, I’ll return it to the recycling bin.
Impatiently awaiting my presents,
Griselda


Dear Griselda,
Some kids and the other presents will arrive soon.
Merry Christmas,
Santy Claws


Dear Twerp,
Those baby goats ate everything! All they left was the oven, and I’m not setting one foot near there. I read too, you know. You just wait until October 31st. No treats for you!
Never yours,

Griselda



Monday, November 14, 2016

Interview with Agent Tracy Marchini

Tracy represents my friend and critique partner Tara Cattie Luebbe. Tracy is a relatively new agent at BookEnds literary, but is not new to the publishing world. As you'll see by her comments, Tracy is knowledgeable about the industry and is seeking to build her client list.
Thank you, Tracy, for taking time out of your busy day to answer these questions. 


You’ve had an impressive career. You worked at Curtis Brown, then took time off to finish an MFA in writing for children from Simmons College. You are an agent at BookEnds Literary and an author as well. What started you on the path to working in the publishing industry and in particular, becoming an agent? 
Like many of my colleagues, I was writing and reading from a young age. My mother joined SCBWI in 1996 and learned how to submit to publishers, and the next year I started submitting my first picture book. (In hindsight, it was not that good.) A few years later, I graduated college with a degree in English and attended the local SCBWI conference. 
I was sitting with Gail Carson Levine and mentioned that I’d just graduated from college and was hoping to work in publishing. She offered to pass along my resume to her agent, where it was hung on the kitchen bulletin board. Kirsten Manges was leaving Curtis Brown to start her own agency, and so she grabbed my resume and I was able to intern for her as she set up everything from the phone lines to the submissions system to the boilerplate files. After about six months, I had to leave and find full time work. But a few months later, Kirsten told me that Curtis Brown was looking for an agent’s assistant. I interviewed first with one of their romance agents and didn’t get the job. A month or so later though I had an interview in the children’s suite, and that’s how I ended up with my first full time job at an agency!
For the rest of the interview, please visit my site at: https://johnelldewitt.com/2016/11/14/interview-with-agent-tracy-marchini/

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Halloweensie Entry!


I love Susanna Hill's contests. Thank you, Susanna! This year, I tried something new. I do not write in rhyme. I can't tell if the lines are anapest, dactyl or Dr. Seussian, but if I follow a mentor text (Langston Hughes happens to be one of my favorites), I can pull it off (shameless plug for mentor texts).

This year, I used as a mentor text the "Water, water, everywhere," stanza from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. So here you have it folks, my 98-word Halloweensie entry using the words spider, moon and ghost

Spiders, Spiders, Everywhere
by Johnell DeWitt 

Spiders, spiders, everywhere,
On spindly legs they creep.
Spiders, spiders, everywhere,
A festival to keep.
Spiders, spiders, everywhere,
The Hallowball begins.
Spiders, spiders, everywhere,
With leaps and twirls and spins.
Spiders, spiders, everywhere,
They hang the moon with lace.
Spiders, spiders, everywhere,
And weave a ghostly face.
Spiders, spiders, everywhere,
They catch a tasty treat.
Spiders, spiders, everywhere,
And wrap it up to eat.
Spiders, spiders, everywhere,
They party through the night.
Spiders, spiders, everywhere,
And scatter at first light.
Spiders, spiders, everywhere,
You feel that on your cheek?
Spiders, spiders, everywhere,
Don’t look or you might … 
SHRIEK!

If you want to see more about using mentor texts and learn about an upcoming mentor contest, please visit my site: https://johnelldewitt.com/2016/10/27/mentor-texts-and-a-contest/