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Creating Books

Writing a book for young people? Look here for information, advice, and inspiration.

Emerson’s Diversity in Children’s and YA Publishing panel


Last week, Martha and I attended an excellent panel on Diversity in Children’s and Young Adult Publishing, hosted by Emerson College’s Writing, Literature, and Publishing program. Panelists were Lesléa Newman (author of Heather Has Two Mommies, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard, and many, many others); Vicky Smith, Kirkus‘s children’s and teen editor; and […]

How I Discovered Young Adult Poetry – The Zena Sutherland Lecture

Marilyn Nelson

A couple of weeks ago, at a dinner with several poets, one of them said, “You’re lucky, Marilyn: you know how to write poems for the young adult audience.” I laughed and told him he was entirely wrong. I have absolutely no idea how to write for the young adult audience. I just write what […]

Foreign Correspondence: Translator: Trafficking Between Cultures

El Gran Gigante Bonachon

Translation has often been compared to the building of a bridge. The text originates from within one culture and has to arrive safely in another. A translator acts as travel guide across that bridge, helping the book to find its audience and success in a new land. Yes, some luggage may get lost along the […]

Teamwork: Pictures in My Head

sidman_before morning

In the deep woolen dark, as we slumber unknowing, let the sky fill with flurry and flight. Let the air turn to feathers, the earth turn to sugar, and all that is heavy turn light… As an editor, when authors give me such powerful, precise words, I almost immediately begin to imagine them with pictures. […]

The Writer’s Page: What Is Narrative Nonfiction?


It’s been a topsy-turvy time in the education world recently: Common Core and high-stakes tests; then pushback; and now states are revising, revisiting, and renaming their standards. The recently passed ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) encourages this trend toward local choice. But if you look closely at the new standards across the board, one big […]

What Can Data Tell Us?: An Agent’s Thoughts on the 2015 Nielsen Children’s Book Summit


A few years ago, while on a trip to Paris, I met the great sports writer Simon Kuper for coffee. The author of the revolutionary book Soccernomics, a kind of Moneyball for soccer, Kuper and his co-author Stefan Szymanski had been using data analysis to skewer the decision-making of big soccer clubs in novel ways, […]

The Writer’s Page: On Writing the American Familia

medina_mango, abuela, and me

I’ve always been fascinated by how people become part of the American tapestry. Some had ancestors who were enslaved. Others fled persecution, poverty, or violence. Their stories are often a potent mix of hope and tragedy. My parents came to the United States during the mass political exodus of the Cuban upper and middle class […]

Shelf Lives: From Bookseller to Bestseller

The Books of Wonder mafia: George O'Connor, Julie Fogliano, Neal Porter (editor), Philip and Erin Stead, Nick Bruel with daughter Izzy, and store manager Jennifer Lavonier. Photo: Carina Vocisano.

When Brian Selznick first applied to work at Eeyore’s Books for Children on New York’s Upper West Side, he was given a children’s literature test by store manager Steve Geck. “I knew Where the Wild Things Are, the Remy Charlip book Fortunately, and some Dr. Seuss,” recalls Selznick. “One of the questions was, ‘What book […]

Parrotfish Needed an Update: The Rapidly Changing Language of Transgender Awareness

wittlinger_parrotfish update

A decade ago, I wrote Parrotfish, the first young adult novel with a transgender protagonist. At the time I wrote it, most of my (middle-aged) friends didn’t understand the meaning of the word transgender. They guessed that it meant cross-dresser or drag queen, but the topic was not one that straight, mainstream Americans thought about, […]

3 terrible truths about NaNoWriMo (that prove you should absolutely do it)


We’re a little over a week into National Novel Writing Month, and it seems an excellent time to let a few terrible secrets out of the box. For those curious outsiders, NaNoWriMo is a thirty-day writing challenge to produce a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 pm on November 30th. But when you’re writing, as those who […]