Showing posts with label Publishing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Publishing. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Children's Book Genres: Concept Books


Last month, I was at a workshop where I heard children's author David Martin talk about concept books. Since then, I've been inspired to look more closely at these books. If you're curious about concept books, or thinking about writing or illustrating one, this blog is for you.

Above is a general definition of 'concept book' from the University of California Cooperative Extension's website that I really like. To be more specific, you can recognize a concept book by these signs:

1) The book helps children learn age-appropriate concepts (like colors, patterns, shapes, counting, time, the alphabet, opposites, seasons, butterfly life-cycle etc.) and usually does so in a clever or creative way. Concept books are typically the first informational books a child will read. Some people include picturebooks that convey abstract concepts, such as change or fairness, in this category, but scholars like Ann D. Carlson (1991) limit the genre to books that teach tangible, concrete concepts.

Need an example? Emily Gravett's Orange Pear Apple Bear is a classic concept book that addresses the concepts of colors, shapes, and fruits:




2)  The book may or may not have a plot. You will hear some people saying that concept books are nonfiction, purely informational books that do not have a plot, characters, or dialogue. This is actually a generalization and therefore false. It is true that many concept books don't have plots. These are your so-called "list books" books that read like a loosely structured catalog. Alphabears: An ABC Book by Kathleen Hague is a good example of a plot-less concept book. This book introduces a bear for each letter of the alphabet and describes its special qualities in rhyme.




Pomelo’s Opposites by Ramona Badescu is another plot-less concept book.



On the other hand, some concept books, like Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh (spoiler alert), do have a plot; they tell a story that has a beginning, middle, and end, while conveying the concept or concepts (some concept books address more than one concept).

In Mouse Paint, three white mice hide from a cat by camouflaging themselves against a white sheet of paper. Then the mice discover three jars of paint: red, blue, and yellow. Each mouse climbs into a jar of paint and as they emerge, they leave puddles of paint on the paper. As they crawl through the puddles, they accidentally discover that they can mix colors to produce new ones and have fun mixing the colors. Finally, they wash themselves clean (in the cat's water bowl) and paint the paper with all the available colors― except for a section of white where they can hide from the cat. This concept book tells a story about three mice while addressing the concept of primary and secondary colors.





3) The book relies on pictures. Concept books are a type of picturebook because they use illustrations to convey the concepts and to tell the story if there is one. Concepts books are illustrated in a range of media, including photography.


Last words on concept books

• Because concept books are useful for introducing basic ideas, patterns, object sets and words, they are marketed for preschool and kindergarten audiences.

• Concept books are not only greatly enjoyed by children, they have often been favorites with award committees; concept books like Donald Crews' Freight Train and Lois Ehlert's Color Zoo have snagged Caldecott medals in recent years. So don't be fooled, concept books aren't easy to write; a lot of thought goes into them and if done well, you can come up with something distinctive with a lot of cleverness packed into it. Lois Ehlert is one author-illustrator who has made a career out of creating concept books.

So if you see a publisher stating "no concept books" in their submission guidelines, you know what they're talking about. Please don't hesitate to leave a comment if you have any questions or thoughts about concept books.



  Also...

  Check out these rather brilliant concept books!

  • Press Here by Hervé Tullet

  • Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Fleming


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Types of Books for Children and Teens- Formats Explained

I recently had a client who was confused about the different children's book formats. This is not unusual. I remember when I first started out to learn about children's publishing, I was confused by all the jargon myself. Early readers? Chapter books? Picturebooks? Isn't a children's book just a children's book? Well, hopefully this post will clear up all the confusion.

If you want to succeed in this field, it's important to know the standard genres and formats associated with books for children and young people. This is crucial information both for the purposes of writing your story, and for submitting your manuscript to agents and publishers. When you query a literary agent for example, you need to include the book genre and format in your query letter. The last thing you want to do is come across as an amateur who doesn't know their stuff. Below is everything you need to know to use children's-book-format-speak with ease. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions.

Board books

Board books are the "baby" of the children's book family. Board books are often marketed as infant, toddler, or baby books. They are meant to be read (and played with) by infants ages 0 to 3 and are designed as such. Infants tend to chew, dribble on, and throw down objects, so the pages of board books are made of thick paperboard with a glossy finish to withstand the wear and tear.

Board books are also small in size and typically (although not always) square-shaped– the standard size being 6×6 inches – making them easy for the small hands of very young children to handle. The length varies, but 12 pages is typical and 300 words or less is usually what publishers require (in terms of your manuscript, think one-half to one page). Board books can have a single word on each page, or a few very simple sentences.

Since these books are for pre-emergent readers (babies and toddlers who are just beginning to grasp the basic concepts of books, letters, and print) and early emergent readers, they have very simple subject matter and basic plots. Many of them teach early learning concepts, like the alphabet, numbers, or colors. Lullabies, nursery rhymes, fingerplays, or wordless books are typical for this format. The illustrations in board books emphasize bright, colorful imagery to engage tots.

The pages of board books often have die-cut rounded corners, or may be shape trimmed with a special die cut. Board books can also have special/novelty features to engage very young children, e.g. lift-the flaps, "touch and feel", finger tabs, pop-ups, or books that make sounds. The vast majority of board books are printed and produced in China and Mexico.


Picturebooks

Picturebooks are written for children ages 4 to 8 (or 3 to 8). At this time, children typically enter the emergent reader and early reader stages. Also, their attention spans are longer and they can sit still for a longer time. They are now ready to leave board books behind and read longer books, i.e., picturebooks. Recommended word lengths vary slightly from publisher to publisher, but fall into the 400 to 900 word range. In terms of your manuscript, that means 2 to 3 pages.

The number of pages in a picturebook is always a multiple of 8. So 16, 24, 32, 40, or 48 pages; however the standard picturebook length is 32 pages. Why multiples of 8? Well, it has to do with a technical aspect of book bindery, namely, the fact that the pages of books are printed as signatures. This means the picturebook is actually printed on a single, large sheet of paper which is then folded and gathered to create the pages of the book. In terms of size, 8x10 inches (vertical book) is the most popular pictureook size. Other standard sizes used by traditional publishers include 8x8 inches (square book) and 10x8 inches (horizontal book).


Picturebooks are so called because the illustrations dominate the text or are as important. In fact, the hallmark of a good picturebook is that the illustrations and the text accompany and complement each other to the extent that the text would be incomplete without the illustrations, i.e. the pictures play an equally important role as the text in telling the story. It is not uncommon for every single page of a pictureook to be illustrated. Picturebooks are illustrated using a wide rage of media, from water color, acrylic, and color pencils to collage, photography, and digital illustration.


Picturebooks cover an almost endless array of topics and are written in different styles. They require simple, linear plots, i.e. no sub plots or complicated narrative twists. They also require one main character who embodies the child's feelings, concerns and point of view (usually a child or animal character; however, an adult protagonist that children can sympathize with can work as well. An example of a child-friendly adult protagonist is Amos McGee in the picturebook, A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead). There are many types of picturebooks such as rhyming, rebus, multicultural, wordless, concept, and post-modern picturebooks (the categories can overlap of course). Another type of picturebook is the picture storybook which I describe next.

Picture storybooks

A picture storybook (also called a "story picturebook") is a type of picturebook. The term "picture storybook" is used by some publishers to specify a longer picturebook for older children (more than 900 words is the ballpark). Picture storybooks have more plot development and higher vocabulary level compared to picturebooks. There will also be more text on the page; in fact, in picture storybooks, there may be long chunks of text that take up an entire page.

Another main difference between picturebooks and picture storybooks is the way they are illustrated. Above I explained that picturebooks rely heavily on the illustrations to tell the story. With picture storybooks, the illustrations aren't really integral to the story, but rather, serve the purpose of holding the child's attention. Often, with picture storybooks, the illustrations appear on every other page.


Some publishers use the term "picturebook" to refer to both picturebooks and picture storybooks. This is where people can get confused because they may have read on one publisher's website that picturebooks should be no more than 500, 600 or 900 words, while other publishers state that they accept picturebooks up to 1,000, 1,500 or even 2,000 words. Just remember that publishers who say they accept "picturebooks" longer than 900 words are using the term "picturebook" broadly or interchangeably to include both picturebooks and picture storybooks. Your picture storybook manuscript should be around 6 pages long, and certainly keep it under 9 pages. Shorter is better than longer.


Rebus books

Rebus books aren't usually included in the round-ups of children's book formats I've seen online which is why I'm including them here. Rebus books are a type of picturebook where pictures are used to represent certain phrases, words or parts of words (syllables). These word substitution books are great for getting children engaged in reading. Rebus books also allow children to "read" and understand a story that might have been beyond their reading level if text alone was used. Furthermore, rebus books are valuable for helping children understand a key reading principle, i.e., that words represent concepts.


If you are submitting a rebus story manuscript to a publisher, you can underline or highlight the words you think would make good pictures. Or you can simply send the full text of the story and the editor will pick which words to illustrate. Check to see what the publisher requires.

Easy readers



Easy readers, also called "beginning reader" and "easy-to-read" books, are books for children aged 6 to 8 who are just beginning to read on their own. They have 2 to 5 sentences per page and if they have chapters, the chapters are short (1 to 2 pages). Easy readers have very simple and somewhat predictable storylines, controlled vocabulary, and are grammatically simple. The story is told mainly through dialogue and action with very little description of characters or the setting. In terms of subject matter, easy readers cover themes and topics that children can easily relate to such as family, friends, pets, school, holidays, sports, being left out, first day of school etc.

Much in the same fashion as picture storybooks, easy readers have color illustrations on every page or double page that are included merely to hold the child's interest (i.e., the illustrations are not crucial to the story.) Easy readers are meant to be a stepping stone to longer chapter books; as such, they have a small trim size compared to picturebooks or picture storybooks making the format more "grown up", and they are usually soft cover.

Easy readers have different lengths depending on the publisher. They can be as short as 200 words or as long as 3,500 words (although most easy readers are in the 1,000 to 2,000 word range). That means anywhere from 32 to 64 book pages. Easy readers are commonly used in Kindergarten through 3rd grade classrooms for reading instruction. Many publishing houses have their own brand of easy readers with numbers or letters to indicate different reading levels.

Chapter books

Chapter books are for children aged 7 to 10 who are reading independently. Children can feel a great sense of pride when they begin reading chapter books because they see it as entering the privileged realm of "grown up" books. You'll often find that children who reach this stage start referring to the books they used to read before as "baby books" or "little kid books".

Compared to easy readers, chapter books are meatier, with more complex sentences and plot development, however paragraphs are still short (2 to 4 sentences). They also tend to be character-driven stories. Many chapter books use hooks at the end of the chapter that compel the reader to keep reading. In terms of length, again, this varies from publisher to publisher, however the average range is 4,000 to 12,000 words. Your chapter book manuscript should be 40 to 60 pages. Chapter books may or may not be illustrated; when they are illustrated the illustrations are black and white.

Early chapter books (sometimes called "transition books") have bigger print and slightly shorter chapters on average (2 to 3 pages) compared to more advanced chapter books which have chapters that are 3 to 4 pages long. They are also shorter- about 30 manuscript pages. Chapter books are sometimes written as a series, in fact, some of the most popular and commercially successful chapter books are series.

Middle Grade and YA Books

Novels for young people fall into two categories: middle grade novels and young adult (YA) novels. Both middle grade and young adult novels cover a wide range of genres from speculative fiction and fantasy, to historical fiction, science fiction and more.

Middle grade novels (also known as "children's novels") are novels for children's ages 8 to 12. These books are also sometimes marketed as "tween" or "pre-teen" books. They can be anywhere from 25,000 to 45,000 words long. The vast majority of published middle grade fiction novels have 35,000 to 45,000 words, however you'll see longer word counts for fantasy, sci-fi, and historical fiction middle grade novels (think Harry Potter). When writing a middle grade novel, aim for 100 to 150 manuscript pages. With non-fiction middle grade books on the other hand, word counts vary a lot (from as short as 5,000 words to as long as 100,000 words) depending on what different publishers are looking for.

Compared to chapter books, middle grade novels have longer chapters, more sophisticated themes, and more complex plots (i.e., sub plots, secondary characters etc.) Middle grade novels typically aren't illustrated; however, some stylistic middle grade novels have illustrations every few pages (These are known as "illustrated books", an example being The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman). Some of the most popular middle grade novels are published as a series with each book featuring the same cast of recurring characters.

Young adult novels are books for teens ages 12 and up. These novels can be anywhere from 40,000 to 70,000 words long, although YA novels in the paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi or historical genres can be longer, sometimes as long as 120,000 words. The safest bet is to stay below 100,000 words. That's 130 to 200 manuscript pages. By definition, in YA novels the main characters, and usually most of the secondary characters, have to be teenagers. The content and plots of young adult novels can be quite sophisticated, however these books always address themes and issues that are relevant to contemporary teens (self-discovery, dating and sexuality, coming-of-age, mental health issues, substance abuse, school violence, etc.)

Short story collection/Anthology

Generally speaking, publishers are not interested in short story collections or anthologies for children and teens unless they are written by already established authors. The short stories may be by one author (a collection) or by different authors (an anthology). All the stories in a collection or anthology are at roughly the same reading level and target a particular audience/age group. Often, the stories will share a common setting or theme, e.g. bullying.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Interview: Joanne Gail Johnson's Window Into Caribbean Children's Publishing


Two great interviews in a row, hooray! Today, it's Joanne Gail Johnson that I'm welcoming to the blog. If you know anything about Trinidadian children's literature, indeed about children's literature in the English-speaking Caribbean, then Joanne Gail Johnson is someone who needs no introducing. She is the author of such well-known children's books as Ibis Stew? Oh, no! and Pink Carnival! as well as Sally's Way, Digger's Diner, Go Barefoot, The Scottish-Island Girl and The Donkey and the Racehorse. The Editor of Macmillan Caribbean's Island Fiction fantasy series for tweens and the Regional Adviser of the Caribbean South Chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Joanne is no stranger to the world of Caribbean children's publishing. Joanne and I have been exchanging emails for some time, talking about the very issues she discusses below. At a certain point it just seemed like her insights and knowledge were way too valuable and relevant to keep all to myself. So here she is! By the way, how cool is it that I am finally interviewing an author from my own country? Joanne is the first author from Trinidad that I've interviewed! But I digress. To the interview.

***

Thanks for agreeing to do this interview Joanne, I really appreciate it.

You're more than welcome Summer. The work you have done in such a short space of time - especially in listing over 500 Caribbean children's titles on your blog from as early as a century ago - is of great service to us all and very inspiring. Thank you!

Although I could be interviewing you about your writing/books (and I would like to do that some time) today I actually want to spend some time talking about another aspect of your work, i.e., your role as Regional Adviser for the Caribbean South chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Please tell us a little bit about the SCBWI and the work of the Caribbean South chapter.

With over 19,000 members, the SCBWI is THE international information and networking not-for-profit society for writers and illustrators at any level of their careers in children's and Young Adult books. The benefits are far too many for me to list here so do investigate for yourself at www.scbwi.org.

What I can add is that I found the SCBWI online in 2003 when the internet started to become not only a professional, but a household tool. I already had a few books published with Macmillan and over the years had spent so much time and money on legal fees and buying 'how to' books to educate myself about the business of it all. I thought, "Ahh, now this is what I needed from the start!" and my next thought was, "I'd really like to share this with others in the Caribbean and especially Trinidad!" because people were always calling or stopping me to ask how to write/ illustrate or get published a children's book they had in mind. I then offered my volunteer services and was invited to become the founding Regional Advisor of our Caribbean South chapter. I encourage writers and illustrators to explore the SCBWI online. In this capacity, I may be contacted via our chapter's blog: http://scbwicaribbean-south.blogspot.com/

You and I spoke privately before about publishing issues in the Caribbean. You have some strong views about self-publishing as it pertains to Caribbean literature. Please share.

Self-publishing, once dubbed "vanity press" for obvious reasons, features more importantly than ever as an option and is a major part of an evolution that is changing publishing, media in general and how we communicate our ideas with others. I am in favor of it in essence and use it myself. Self-publishing is put to good use when it is relevant however, it may also circumvent the necessary growth and development not only of individuals but of our local and regional publishing industry.

Situations that I consider 'relevant' are
1. poets
2. personal stories/ self-help industry
3. tie-in media product around which a business is envisioned
4. guru/ expert in anything as a supplement to seminars and workshops
5. an idea in any field or genre so off the wall, that no one will invest in it at first, but yourself

If you self publish to impress a publisher with the finish and look of a book, this only shows one's lack of exposure to the business. The only person you're impressing is yourself. Editors and publishers work in books. There is an industry standard for manuscript submission - once this is met it is accepted as professionally 'impressive'. With self published books, in most cases a publisher may say, "If it's been published already, why should we publish it again?" The idea that a self-published book may work as an advantage in manuscript submission applies only if you have a second, completed manuscript, that may be deemed of of greater creative value, which you have not yet published.

I take issue with the wave of self-publishing in the Caribbean because for the most part these authors are doing themselves and their talent a disservice.The feeling I get is that many are working to circumvent the process of professional competition and know-how. This concerns me because it primarily means lowered standards in general for our children. And yes, of course there are exceptions. My opinions and observations are not absolute.

At one time I believed self publishing was the only way to address what was once a dearth in Caribbean children's books. I have changed my mind about this. Now I have a sense there is a preferred stance of hopeful writers/creatives that sounds sort of defeatist to me. Many talented writers don't even know about, understand or want to try the standard industry process of query letters for example, even if it means getting rejected. This may reveal that we are not thick-skinned enough for the world stage and want some kind of preferential treatment and protection - very unprofessional! There is even such a thing as a 'good' rejection letter i.e. getting professional notes from a working editor in an established publishing house. Getting rejected by a professional who takes the time to tell you why may offer clues about the direction of growth needed. This may be of greater service in building a long term career based on one's craft, than just going straight to press on the steam of your own guaranteed approval and authority. Really, I know you asked me to keep my answers short but this topic could be an entire seminar!

The SBWI does not refuse self-published members but makes a differentiation for reasons of safeguarding quality. The SCBWI does not promote or award self-published books. If the sales are particularly good, this may warrant a second look but this is very seldom the case. We have collectively agreed to remain open and keep an eye on the way technology is influencing this change for better and/ or for worse.

You and the Caribbean South chapter of the SCBWI have taken a strong stance against self-publishing in the Caribbean context yet you yourself have a self-published title. How do you explain this contradiction?

As I explained in your third question, it has its relevance. It is not simply a matter of being against self publishing, it is understanding the playing field and making the best choices for your career at each stage. I sincerely believe we have talent right here in Trinidad who would get properties signed with established publishing houses IF they knew how. Earning such a success puts one on equal footing with your peers anywhere in the world; self-publishing does not.

The main thing in my case is that I got my first book published with Macmillan by sending a query letter in 1998 and going through the industry standard. At that time there was no internet, no Google Search! How blessed we are now as writers to have these tools! I sent my query snail mail! and got back a reply a couple months later with an expression of interest. The person I submitted to had left the post and it wasn't until the next year that I actually met an actual person face to face.

I had had rejections and trial and errors before that success. Earning knowledge through experience gives one clarity about the business of books and debunks any illusions we have about how things work. We take rejection so personally some times. I hear many people lamenting and claiming "victim" when really, in a competitive market their offering is either ill-timed, poorly submitted, or just not as good as the next. Teaching the "know- how" and "how to" of it is part of the work of the SCBWI. I would rather see our writers get contracts from established publishers and enjoy the benefits and prestige than have to start up their own businesses - unless they really, really want to! Because then, we hear all the complaints about the reality of that situation too, when they have no distributor or marketing support for their self published book.

I actually had an editor's interest in publishing Pink Carnival! but declined in the end because after a number of books, readers and anthologized stories I wanted to give myself the freedom to produce the book as I envisioned it and under a new imprint Meaningful Books. I also already had ten years of experience working with a big name like Macmillan and it was interesting to see what I had learned and there were still mistakes made. We are always learning. Mistakes in publishing, especially picture books are very costly. My new imprint is a part of a wider vision and goal to publish a very specific kind of book that does not really exist in the book market and that is an adjunct to my workshops with children, parents and teachers - again, as a part of a business goal. As I see it, a true publisher will actually publish others, and one of the imprint's goals is to do just that. I already have a second title produced and have identified a book by another author that I'd like to put out; it is a matter of resources and timing.

What are your views regarding independent ("indie") versus established publishing houses, either in the Caribbean or internationally?

One of the main problems I take issue with is that book publishers, in Trinidad anyway, are often book sellers and interest groups with 'sure thing' Ministry / text book hook ups. It's not a matter of ethics only but of end results - my concern is that it significantly reduces creative quality for our children generation after generation. And not to mention it limits and suppresses fair play in the market and stunts competitive creativity which is exactly what we need. We would do well to encourage Indie presses yes of course, but not to call a self published book, nor a book seller's press "independent". If an entrepreneur loves books and values her audience then let her invest in her vision and take a risk and then there should be healthy market support for such a venture and government and private sector should be a part of ensuring that such a risk is at least potentially viable.

Locally and regionally, we seem unperturbed by the consequences of business monopolies and have not yet made the connections between this and so many of our problems. In this climate the cultural creatives and artists cannot truly serve society as in developed countries. Breaking into a global market we then re-import to the Caribbean our own culture, may not be right in essence, but in my opinion, it is the route along which an individual will get the best opportunities - and in most entertainment and art fields this applies I think. Even Walcott and Naipaul have suffered in this machine - who is the rest a we?! West Indian authors of poetry and adult fiction have been getting a fair shake with Peepal Tree Press and Egg Box Publishing for example - both based in the UK. Children's books may be deemed less important and 'easy' so we may not be expected perhaps to produce the relative genius of a Beatrix Potter, Shel Silverstein, Enid Blyton or Doctor Seuss for our times and culture. Truly independent publishers here would want to discover and publish unique talent, as a sincere and serious mandate.

What are some of the things that aspiring and self-published Caribbean children's authors need to know in order to successful navigate the often messy world of publishing and does the Caribbean South chapter of the SCBWI provide professional development to help with that?

Absolutely - the help of course is all self-help. Members must discover, investigate and USE the tools and information available. Our mission is to help each other take a 'next step' in our careers- whatever stage we're at. If you have never been published we want to see you published and we want you to have every chance to understand whether or not your work is in fact publishable before you send it out to for consideration; and how to move it in that direction if it isn't. In many instances, editors in a big house will say I will receive unsolicited, unagented manuscripts only from SCBWI members this month and the only place you'll see that published is in our Bulletin magazine which only members receive! Not to mention the opportunity to compete for awards and grants against your international peer group and to apply fro travel grants to one of our three annual conferences where you can attend workshops and seminars and create opportunities to meet with editors and publishers face to face. 

You once shared with me some very interesting information about book piracy and illegal book publishing cartels in the Caribbean. How serious is book piracy in the Caribbean, particularly as it pertains to Caribbean children's/YA books? What can I, as an individual, do to stop or prevent book piracy in the Caribbean?

Yes it's true. Anyone who is in book sales or publishing in the Caribbean knows it. I saw some counterfeit work out of Guyana at a CAPNET conference a few years ago. The quality was amazing! Side by side there was no way to tell. It's not a problem easily solved, I mean the musicians suffer this plight and look at the way bootleg DVDs are culturally accepted. Until we understand that someone's sister, cousin, neighbor, husband etc is earning a living off intellectual property and copyrights it remains an abstract issue from Joe Public's point of view. And we're not very good on making white collar crime a crime anyway so I think this is one of the ways internet purchasing from publisher endorsed sources may help and of course most publishers have a 'official' distributor - at some point it is always going to be a matter of trust in our book sellers to be honest and vigilant. Just be a savvy consumer I guess! 

In our opinion, what would it take for Caribbean children's books to become bestsellers globally?

Well we are already you know. A book that sells on the internet is being sold globally and a book that sells 5,000 copies in the publishing world is already a 'best seller'. I know of course what you mean is a block buster hit perhaps. The reality is, NOBODY knows this answer. JK Rowling and her editors and publishers were not expecting the success she's had. It was unprecedented. Media tie in in the largest growing aspect of children's books and of course our market is just not rigged for these kinds of media and retail avenues and intersections. Well, except as it involves the corporate giants and their agendas. We have so much work to do; it is not a matter of individual talent.

I do believe that striking a chord in the North American/ U.K. market is the best bet - and artists in the developed countries on both sides of the proverbial pond know it and play it that way too. In many cases we are not aware of how much has already been done - what we may think of as new is not necessarily so. I've seen this first hand as an editor looking for teen fiction. It is important to investigate your idea before you invest in it. So many of the stories are similar and yet each author believes his own to be unique and special. Even so, a good story well told is something that never gets old. Networking is crucial - to really break through an author will need a good agent who believes in her work and commits herself to its success. A good agent will wheel and deal aggressively because her commission depends on and goes up when she gets the best deal possible for you!

Perhaps someone reading this is interested in joining the Caribbean South (or the Caribbean North) chapter of the SCBWI. What steps do they need to take?

It's easy! Just go online www.scbwi.org; Everything is there. You can join and pay online and then request to be listed under the Caribbean South chapter if you are not living in our region. My work is as a volunteer and the organization is a non-profit one so you will see that the content you receive is far out weighs the value of your annual membership. 

Joanne, thank you so much for sharing your time and insights with us. As a new member of the Caribbean South chapter of the SCBWI myself, I look forward to working with you!

Thank you for the opportunity Summer, you have much energy and talent to offer. I trust that we can all work together to create events for our regional chapter that will in time attract international interest and opportunities for our Caribbean talent in children's books.

***

Born, bred and based in Trinidad, Joanne Gail Johnson is a published children's author of a number of contemporary Caribbean books, series readers and athologized stories with Macmillan Education. She is a dynamic storyteller, and facilitates “Relevant Reading” and “Core Creativity” workshops for students and teachers; including volunteer readers of GSK's Comforting Words Mobile library at the Mt. Hope Children’s Hospital in Trinindad.

Joanne has traveled the length and breadth of Trinidad reading to children of all ages, and recently visited St. Maarten and The Bahamas where she visited both primary and secondary schools. As a children's theatre facilitator, she has worked with UWI’s Creative Arts Centre, The Trinidad Theatre Workshop, and ran her own children's theatre company, The Hamelyn Players, for eight years. In the 90s, her company SUN TV LTD pioneered indigenous cable television in Trinidad producing over 700 hours of 100% Caribbean content; and in 2003 created www.caribbeanchildren.com: The First Ever Website for Caribbean Children. This year SUN TV launched its own imprint Meaningful Books with its inaugural title Pink Carnival!. Joanne’s work is generously supported by the Trinidadian NGO, Creative Parenting for the New Era. 

Related Links

CaribbeanChildren.com

Caribbean South Chapter of the SCBWI

Caribbean South Chapter of the SCBWI's Flickr photostream

Meaningful Books