Choldenko discussed how she got a picture book published, but couldn't get anything else published for several years. She was about to give up on writing when she saw a news article about Alcatraz Island--a place not too far from her home. So she began her research and learned about the criminals and families that lived on the island. To bring more depth to Al Capone Does My Shirts, so she pulled from her own family background to by creating a character who has Austism, a disorder Choldenko's sister suffered from.
Alley discussed what you need to get you started on becoming a writer or illustrator, based on what happened to him. First, you have a story idea, so then care and feed the inspiration behind it. Second, look at what inspires you. For him it's his family, living in Rhode Island, and the books he loved as a kid. Third, add words (this is Zoe's part). Fourth, add pictures to the words by sketching out ideas. Fifth, create a mock up book by placing the words and pictures together.
Alley has been illustrating the Paddington Bear books for 20 years. Michael Bond, author of the Paddington Bear books, is still alive (he's 96 years old) and sending Alley stories for him to illustrate.
Next, we saw Phil Bilder, a new face to the festival. Bilder was a high profile lawyer but realized he hated his job. So he went back to school and became a middle-school teacher in New York City. He pulled his love of sports and middle-school experiences together to create his Rip and Red series.
But along with this middle-grade books, Bilder also writes pictures books. One of his most recent was called Marvelous Cornelius. During a New Orleans' trip to help in the clean-up after Hurricane Katrina, Bilder heard about Cornelius and his inspiring efforts to clean up the city. So he wrote a folk-tale style story based on Cornelius's life.
Onward we went to see E. B. Lewis, an author who will be attending Allen County Young Author's this year.
E. B. Lewis is the illustrator of countless picture books but he considers himself as an "artistrator". When Lewis was a kid, he realized he couldn't read because of his dyslexia. To hide his embarrassment, he acted out and became the worse kid in class. Unfortunately, his behavior led lots of people to not give him a chance. That is until his Uncle Bradley, who saw his potential, brought him to a weekly art class. Lewis found himself among the watercolors, brushes, and jazz music.
Lewis pursed a career in fine art. After one of his pieces was featured on the cover of an art magazine, an editor asked if Lewis would be interested in illustrating picture books. Lewis declined thinking it wasn't fine art. However, as he looked at the artwork in picture books, he changed his mind. His first picture book was Fire On The Mountain.
Next we saw Stephanie A. Bodeen. Bodeen is the author of several picture books and young adult novels.
Bodeen grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. She grew up to love reading and animals. In middle-school she was bitten by the writing bug after winning a writing contest. In college she wanted to pursue writing but the only major dealing with that was journalism. Later she got married and she and her husband joined the Peace Corps. From then on they lived all over the world. Their travels inspired her to write her first book Elizabeti's Doll.
For a while Bodeen couldn't get published. When she thought she was about to give up entirely on writing she remembered a story idea she had in elementary school. It was about living in a bomb shelter after a nuclear disaster, the inspired behind her Compound series. It was rejected several times, but those rejections helped her make it the best story it could be. Her writing advice is to treasure the no's because they make you a a better writer than the yes's.
The final author we saw was Meg Kearney. Meg is fairly new to the writing world. Her main style is poetry.
Kearney recently did a picture book with E. B. Lewis called Trouper. Trouper is based on her dog that she adopted. The reason why she adopted Trouper is because he only has three legs. Her story is about what she thinks Trouper's life was like before she adopted him.
With the kids in her presentation, Kearney helped them identify concrete sensory words that give off a solid image. After writing a poem together, she challenged kids to write their own poetry using their five senses.
I'll be talking about the final day of the conference in my next blog. Check out these authors and illustrators. They were fantastic!