publishing Tag

Inspiration board 27

Inspiration board! Here are some recent people, places, things, that inspire me. Top to bottom, left to right: Ymtk (musician)-Undivided, Cake walk illustration-Jose Luis Agreda, Motown book-history of Motown, Get Out-incredible film( horror/race), Roaring Softly-Tyler Feder print, Blasian Narratives-incredible docu-theater performance, Siaira Shawn(musician)-Lost, Hawk House-UK hip hop group, Demae Chioma Wodu- (musician) 1/3 of Hawk House, How to Find a Fox-Nilah Magruder, Bros N’ Books-Book club, Sharon Sordo-illustration, Pref ID-Graf, Art Street-art show in Sacramento by M5Arts, Spike Trotman- indy publisher of Iron Spike, and this book about the Chicago Defender.

Here is the previous board 26

ALA Conference in San Francisco 2015

The entrance where you need a badge
Ok, I’ve been meaning to write about the ALA (American
Library Association) since I went recently. I’ll try to keep this short. On a
sunny but brisk weekend in Frisco I went to the ALA and visited my TYS Crew and
friends painting a mural near by at the Ybca.

My crew mates and friends painting murals

 Awareness: Ok, first of all to even go to something like
this I had to be in the right state of mind. I mean it helps greatly that this
was near my city (Oakland) this year, because it travels to a different city
every year. But when I say awareness, I mean that it took me a while to even
see the value of going to any kind of conference. Especially one thrown by
librarians. But, now that I’m aware I want to share it with you in case
storytelling in books is of interest to you.

Getting IN: This is a barrier. Not as big of a wall as the
SCBWI, but its still a wall that some people cannot get through. I’m lucky that
I am doing well enough as a freelancer that I could afford to go. But more
importantly I understand the type of investment going is. So I paid. But, not
before trying to find a hook up. I mean, come on. Wouldn’t you try to get in
free if you could? No dice. But while asking about getting in from the women
selling tickets at the front kiosk, a brother from Georgia basically broke it
down to me. Pay for the minimum price. There are two types of attendance fees
that I knew of, probably more. 1- Get into the area where they sell shit-tons
of shit, mostly books, but a bunch of other shit. I’ll get to that. 2-Attend
the panels and discussions. This was important because some of the people you
want to meet are specifically at those.
Corporate central
Networking: This is important. I know, I know. Its not easy
to just go up to someone you don’t know and talk to them. But, if you want to
learn everything there is to know about any chosen field, or just know all the
tools in the box networking helps.
-And I honestly try to talk only to people who I actually
have a connection to. As it relates to children’s books, that could be an
author or illustrator who’s work I actually like. Not just a name, but someone
who I actively read, follow, or know something about. That way if I do talk to
them, I have something to actually talk about.
-Another important thing about networking. You never know
who you’ll meet, what you’ll learn, or who you’ll stumble upon. Case in point,
I was walking through what ALA calls “artist alley” a place where indie and
established illustrators/authors sell their book and talk to people face to
face. In the alley that day I met several people who I’d been following like
Gene Luen Yang, Nathan Hale, John Hendrix, Erika Alexander and her husband TonyPuryear, and many more.
-Homework. Because I am learning about the field still (3
books in) I am constantly studying artists and writers who are doing stuff that
I like visually or creatively with the writing. I can’t stress how important it
is to do the work, look for the work, and ultimately improve your work.
-Connection, homework, and stumble! Now combine all three of
those. I just happen to see John Hendrix. Didn’t know he’d be there at all.
Love his illustrations for “John Brown” and immediately walked up to him ask
him about his work. Guess what? He wasn’t a jerk, he was quite nice and because
I was familiar with his work it made the conversation free of creepy or
awkwardness. We talked about technique, I showed him my work (not because I
expected anything, just because I dig his work) and Howard Reeves  comes up to talk to me about my work. I
talk to him just like I was talking to John (natural). Turns out this guy is an
editor at a press I’m familiar with. Why? Because a fellow classmate from
college Duncan Tonatiuh is published his company. I ask him if he knows him. Of
course! He’s his editor. Wow, connection however small made.
It was a always a rush of people

The enormity of the big 5 companies
 Knowledge/Learning: Although I am now 3 books into the
children’s book game, it is a lifelong journey and I will forever be a student.
On the one hand I’m quick to say #$%& the industry! Do it yourself! Some
days I’m like I need to begetting that Scholastic money, I’m trying to own a
house, lol. But to be real with you as an artist, as an entrepreneur, and as a
human I am learning and pulling from many sources. I believe the big companies
have some things to teach. I believe that to really learn how to be a
children’s book creator I must investigate whoever is out there creating dope
shit. By that I mean beautiful artwork, good quality printing, and stories that
are from the heart that represent some of the cultures I come from. I believe
that there is no waiting for larger companies to “find you” or for a company or
person to validate you. It’s really about doing it.
panel on diversity

Don Tomas Moniz reading from a zine

Nia King reading from a zine
Future: In conclusion, if you are an illustrator or writer
interested in children’s books and the ALA is in your city. I’d say go. Check
it out, see what they’re talking about at least. The ALA did a way better job
at promoting diversity and bringing not only a wide array of speakers/companies
in-they had a much more diverse in attendance than I expected. I could have
dealt with out all the corporate companies selling sinks, book shelves, filing
systems, etc but hey I went and found what I was looking for.
Zines: They had an awesome zine pavilion where I got to see
artists like Breena Nuñez, Avy Jetter, Liz Mayorga, and of course my Rad Dadfamilia. Lots of lefties there and anarchy in the corner which is just what
they need in my opinion.
The zine pavillion
 Friends: Aww man, 10 years ago, shit maybe even 5 years ago
I probably would not have known anyone there. But I was happy to see Amy Sonnie(Oakland librarian/Co-author of HillBilly NationalistsUrban Race Rebels, and Black Power ), Innosanto Nagarra (author/illustrator of A is for
Activist),  Duncan Tonatiuh ( Diego
Rivera, Separate is never equal ). I met some people from Chronicle who
recognized me after doing a talk with one of their illustrators on Latin@s for
Kid Lit, I saw John Jennings (Black Comix, Black Kirby), Nia King (Queer artists of color), and I met Cory
. I’m sure I’m forgetting some body else but it was nice to see
familiar faces.

ALA: Please include an intentional artists alley for more
independent publishers of color who are from the cities you are being hosted
in. You missed Reflection Press, Blood Orange Press and Marcus Books! But good job on including folks from #WeNeedDiverseBooks , i caught the tail end of the talk, but was glad they were there.

Scbwi summer conference, The Good, The Ugly, Imix, & Amoeba

This summer I went to the 40th annual SCBWI Summer conference. This was a well organized event I was referred to while going back to school to finish my BFA. I don’t know many artists personally who specialize in Children’s Books and I am a new comer to the field, so I went as a student of the game. It was hella (very) interesting and well worth the trip from the Bay Area to L.A.

I was able to pay the conference entry fee through the “QUICK Grant” which is awarded by Creative Capacity Fund to obtain professional development. Originally a year ago an instructor suggested I go, but I was unable to pay the fee then. This year I decided to find a way. The entry fee was around $500. The grant paid for over 90% of that cost. But renting a car, food, etc was another expense.

The SCBWI stands for Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It’s an organization that provides a membership based community of writers and illustrators who are either published or starting out like me. It is an additional source of information, regional advise, special events (like this one), grants, and even special awards. They’ve been around for quite a long time. And to tell you the truth, I’m glad I became a member. Joining did not get me a book deal, and it didn’t give me “the answer”, it was another step forward that has made me more knowledgeable.

The information packet contained detailed information on each day of the 4 day conference which included key note speakers, critiques, workshops, networking sessions, portfolio reviews, a book sale, guides to the industry, and a lot of helpful tips. The hotel was luxurious and huge! The conference took up three floors of this massive place and every day we heard from key note speakers in a huge banquet hall equipped with sound system and video monitors.

The Good!
I met people in my field! I know a lot of artists, but not many children’s books illustrators/writers. It was paramount that I go expand my horizons by meeting some new people.

I learned many insider tips about the business. Things that the website does not come out and say, like for example. If you are a member of this organization, when submitting manuscripts or portfolios, some publishers will give Scbwi members first peek.

I met some elders. Its comforting to know that there are people who do this successfully and can earn a living doing what they love.

I got to see what my competition looked like. There were tons of portfolios out there, and tons of people both new and experienced to ask questions of. Most were open and helpful.

Most of the art I saw was phenomenal!

It affirmed my suspicion that there is a desperate need for someone, anyone with the guts to put bilingual and children of color focused books at the fore front. Both of these are barely a blip on their radar (in my opinion). It’s unfortunate for them because I felt like they’re blind to a lot of people by not being more inclusive of more diverse stories. But, it’s good for me because it showed me a wide-open opportunity.

 –I got encouragement from pro’s first hand. When I submitted my portfolio for the competition I didn’t win, but one of the judges came up to me and spoke to me about my work after wards. That was extremely helpful!

I gathered information and resources. Eventually I want to be able to share what I know about this business with others. I wouldn’t be able to share much if I didn’t go to learn from events like these.

The Ugly! 
-No People of color (POC)! There were about 2000 attendees including presenters. About 5% of them were people of color.
Specifically, No Men of color! Out of the people there, 70% of them were women. Brothers!! We need to be involved in this! When I go to the major book stores, even the black owned stores it is hard as hell to find a book that shows a positive, thoughtful, or even edgy image of a father of color taking care of his kids! That has got to change. Fail! 

-Bi-lingual books. Ok, beyond just welcoming POC and making them a constant presence at an event like this, it is important to acknowledge language. Spanish and Chinese (mandarin/Cantonese) are the most widely spoken languages around the world next to English. But, no mention of bi-lingual books! None! Wack! Unacceptable! 

-The cost. Most young artists, students, and aspiring illustrators or writers cannot afford $500, plus a plane ticket if they don’t live in LA, plus room and board. This event is grand, the hotel is grand, but they need to figure out how to cut costs somewhere so that more young people can attend. The majority of the women there were over 40, probably with regular 9-5 jobs. What about recent college grads? After the last day there were extra workshops that could have been useful to me, except for the fact that the cost $300 each

-Children! Here at a conference about children, there were NO children at the event. No young speakers, no classes invited, beyond the illustrated books, not one single image or mention by kids them selves. I feel like children although young have a lot to offer the discussion on how to make better children’s books. Also, I am a young parent. What if I wanted to go but needed childcare? That was not an option, and it should be. Especially for single parents.


I attended a workshop with Pat Cummings and Priscilla Burris. These two women (both women of color) gave some warm, stern, to the point insight on the business and their experiences. For example, most art instructors will tell you “make postcards of your work and send it out to publishers like crazy”. But what you don’t know is that an average art director (in charge of hiring illustrators) receives something like 100 postcards a day. That’s about 500 a week, or 2000 a month! It’s hard to get noticed in that race. An important note Pat and Priscilla made was to target your favorite books by finding out edited, art directed, illustrated, wrote them. Then send a specific collection of work and letter to that specific art director or team, because it shows that you are not just throwing work out aimlessly.

Steven Malk –I went to Stevens workshop about breaking into the business. Why? I did my homework before I got there and found out that he represented (he’s an agent) several of my favorite children’s book illustrators like Kadir Nelson and Adam Rex. What I found out is that illustrators work ten times harder than I thought they did. He gave a slide show about what kind of work he receives, what stands out and why. Now, some of you are saying “so what, what’s he know?”. Well, its an illustrators job to get paid well to do what they love. I mean, imagine working on a story you love for an entire year and being paid to do just that. And, I’ve seen the work of his clients. It’s tip top! I don’t want to be like his clients, but I wanted to know what information he would give. One of the jewels was that art directors get tired of receiving postcards. He showed personalized dummy’s (a mock up of a story in book format) and specially sewn together fabric/paper promotional pieces. It’s not all about money, but this definitely made me want to step my game up.

Sarah Stern – Sarah is one of the newest staff members to Scbwi and she made an impact on me because she remembered me. Months before I attended the event, I sent my work to various publishers, agents, etc in an effort to produce, work, and learn. One of the people I contacted and sent my work to when I first became an Scbwi member was Ms Stern. And when I checked in at the front desk, she remembered my work and my name before she saw me. That helped ease the anxiety of being one of maybe 10% of people there under the age of 50, and being probably the only man of color there, period! 

E.B. Lewis –This brother was very nice. I was sitting outside in between workshops eating lunch. A little frustrated at what I didn’t see there, but trying to appreciate what was in front of me. I offered my food to anyone around me as a way to just make conversation and network. Low and behold, one of the people I talk to was E.B. Lewis! If you’re not familiar with his work look up “I love my hair”. This brother not only gave me advice, but he acknowledged me, my concerns, and my questions. All without an ego or authoritative tone. To hear about his work and his life helped me focus and be present.

Imix/Mi Vida- What the conference lacked in books about people of color and bi-lingual childrens books I got from Mi Vida (Highland Park) book section managed by former book store owner Elisa Sol Garcia (Imix). The store was beautiful. I swear East La is one of the only places I’ve been where I see Chican@s playing electric guitars and singing rock or punk songs. Artist Oree Originol took me on a brief tour and when I told him I wanted to see books, this is where he took me. The store breathed life back into my heart because it showed me again what is possible. The collection of books was seriously like nothing I’ve ever seen and I’m thankful to know there are people out there who care about telling stories that are often ignored by whites and mainstream society.

While I was on my way down there I drove by myself and got a chance to work out a lot of things in my head. Although I hate driving in traffic, I love riding to music so I just enjoyed driving through La’s west and East side, seeing all the people, all the stores, the smells, sounds. I know some folks hate L.A., but I was comforted by it. Lots of beautiful people out there. Also, when I got there I got a chance to hook up with Oree. We rode to the Iron Lak (spray paint)store because they were having a store opening with some dope pieces on the wall. There we also ran into Graffiti veterans from the bay Estria and Vogue. A good night indeed. Lastly, I stayed with my cousin Tremaine who I hadn’t seen since my grandfather passed away. We hadn’t really kicked it for several years so it was wonderful to see him , go to Amoeba Records, and just catch up, offering advice and sharing stories with this young father to be…..