Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Lists

Congratulations to Steve Brezenoff and Ashley Hope Pérez.

Steve’s Brooklyn, Burning showed up Best Fiction for Young Adults and the Rainbow List Top Ten at ALA Midwinter.

Ashley’s What Can’t Wait also earned a spot on Best Fiction for Young Adults.

Carolrhoda Lab is a very proud imprint today.

A tradition we don’t need

Updated 1/30/2012, after original post

I don’t watch any of the morning shows, and I never have, so I don’t miss this tradition and maybe I’m not comprehending something crucial here (but I doubt it).

So, explain to me how writers and publishing professionals telling the Today Show that it must have the Newbery and Caldecott winners on the program doesn’t make us look like the most irritating newbie manuscript submitter. You know the kind, the one whose manuscript is not a good fit for the publisher and who won’t take no for an answer. Is this not slightly embarrassing?

I find this second year of post ALAYMA Today-Show indignation even more irritating than it was last year because it’s threatening to become a tradition.

One of the things I love about the ALA awards is that they  are so much a product of their committees’ hard and very serious work. We call them our Oscars, but they’re really nothing like the Oscars—and thank God for that. Can you imagine the rage in Hollywood if the best picture nominations went like the CSK for illustration this year or the Caldecott last year, with only one honor and one winner? Or better still, if best actor was like the Schneider, where the committee declined to pick a winner for children’s books? And even when I find it personally frustrating in the short term, I love that the Printz and the Newbery are nearly impossible to handicap these days. Meanwhile, the Oscars nominated nine movies for best picture this year, all usual suspects included, and if they could find a way to do more, they would.

The bottom line is the ALA awards have an integrity that is not well served by this sort of pleading.

Update (from my reply to a comment. Thanks to @LaurieThompson for helping me think more on this):
It's one thing for every person in publishing who also watches morning shows to call/email/whatever and say, you should cover this (it's probably pointless to do it immediately after the fact, but leave that aside for now). It's another thing for a significant part of the post-award discourse in our own forums to be dominated by this so-called snub. We're talking about a programming decision that would likely be made well in advance of the awards (like the infamous Snooki booking). A spasm of outrage after the awards is almost certain to be ineffective in its intended purpose and it certainly diminishes the awards in the same stroke. 

If morning show coverage is truly important to the YMAs, then wouldn't it be a better question to ask how is ALA pitching this event as something the Today Show's audience will care about? Maybe there is a great answer to this question (honestly, I hope there is), but so far all I've heard is "it's a tradition," and that is not a pitch. In this PW piece, we get a little insight, but what does the ALA do beyond reach out "to several morning news programs to secure an in-studio placement for the Newbery and Caldecott Medalists"? It would be fascinating to know. 

Of all people, book people should know that mainstream media coverage doesn't come out of a sense of entitlement or because it happened in the past. It also doesn't come without laying the groundwork (and please note, I actually assume that ALA's people are doing this to whatever degree they can). The question to me, then, is how can #todaysupportala people be part of that effort? 

So, lest I be accused of nonconstructive whining about nonconstructive whining, here's what I'd like to see: Macey Morales (@MaceyALA), manager of media relations for ALA, please tell us what you'd like us to do before this happens next year. You've got a social-media army of people who are genuinely irritated about this. Give us our marching orders.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

2008, the year of the image

Three significant things happened for me in 2008: My son was born; I began working at Carolrhoda; and I got serious about photography. All three are actually quite related.

I wanted this job for lots of reasons, but one of them was so that I could make books that my son would be interested in now. I wanted to learn about photography because the first photos I took of my son after he was born were frustrating to me (I can’t quite bring myself to write disappointing, because they are of my son). And as a texty person jumping into the world of visual story telling, I felt like photography would be a way to engage that part of my brain so that I could communicate with illustrators in some way the resembles how I communicate with writers.

Photography has paid more dividends than that, though. There’s a world of adult visual storytelling through photos that’s been at least as beneficial to how I approach text. A few photo books leap to mind as being just as inspiring for my inner prose artist as my inner visual artist:

When I’m stuck for something to say about a text, I now find myself turning to photography to reboot my imagination.

Prose people, tell me, what worldless things fuel your imaginations?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Problems Chip Hilton never had…

“If the sport of football ever dies, it will die from the outside in. It won't be undone by a labor lockout or a broken business model — football owners know how to make money. Instead, the death will start with those furthest from the paychecks, the unpaid high school athletes playing on Friday nights. It will begin with nervous parents reading about brain trauma, with doctors warning about the physics of soft tissue smashing into hard bone, with coaches forced to bench stars for an entire season because of a single concussion. The stadiums will still be full on Sunday, the professionals will still play, the profits will continue. But the sport will be sick.”

I remember when my father let me take all of his old Chip Hilton novels home to Michigan from his boyhood bedroom in Omaha, Nebraska. I remember reading them alongside Matt Christopher and various other sports novels of generations past (their datedness never struck me).

Pay Off Pitch 01.JPGSports fiction like this has been a part of kidlit for a very long time, of course, and franchises like Chip Hilton and Matt Christopher seem to be as immortal as Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Indeed, in looking for familiar covers to the chip Hilton books on the web, I discovered that Chip was still a three-sport varsity athlete in new editions of the stories. Hoop Crazy (Chip Hilton Sports Series #6)

There is clearly something eternal about sports stories for kids, but I also think there’s something very important going on in the world of youth sports, and I really hope that books keep pace. I’ve written about this before, but it really hit home when I read this Grantland article by Jonah Lehrer about football from which comes the quote above. If you’re interest in sports and writing for children, I urge you to read it.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Read this.

I have said before, and I now feel more confident in saying it again: electronic picture books prove just how high tech paper picture books actually are and the conversion from print to digital is way trickier for picture books than for just about any other form. I think Shatzkin’s excellent overview is just more evidence.

Removing the paper element from a novel (“immersive reading” in Shatzkin parlance) does nothing or next to nothing to the content. The same cannot be said of picture books, where the constraints of paper bookmaking are built into the tradition of picture book creation. No novelist drafts for a trim size. Picture book artists most definitely sketch for an aspect ratio, if not a specific trim size. Form and content are damned near inseparable.

I am not in any way saying that there is no place in the world for electronic picture books. I am, however, saying that the transition to digital for picture books is going to look different and it might not even be a transition.