14 Aug

Key steps on my journey with Don Tate (so far!)

Yesterday morning marked the debut of a new presentation with a longtime friend.

As you may know, Don Tate and I have created two picture books together: The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch and Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions.

John Roy Lynch and George Moses Horton and Lonnie Johnson

Yesterday, we got to present about our journey “From Critique Partners to Collaborators” at the monthly meeting of the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, after which Don received the SCBWI Crystal Kite award for his book Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton. (Congratulations, Don!)

Preparing for this presentation meant plunging into our electronic archives as well as the memories stored up in our heads, and the process was a lot of fun for us both.

The big takeaway of our presentation was a set of ten tips equally applicable to critique partners and collaborators alike, based on our own experiences with each other over these past 11 years. But we opened with this timeline, which we thought might be of interest to folks who weren’t able to attend yesterday’s meeting.

First (documented) contact!
First manuscript critique
First lunch together

First road trip together
Chris suggests Don write about George Moses Horton.

Don critiques unfinished first draft of Chris’ manuscript, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers acquires The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

Chris recommends Don to Eerdmans as candidate to illustrate The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

Charlesbridge Publishing agrees to publish biography of Lonnie Johnson written by Chris.

Don is announced as illustrator of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.
Chris recommends Don to Charlesbridge as illustrator of Lonnie Johnson book.

Peachtree Publishers acquires Don’s biography of George Moses Horton.
Don is announced as illustrator of Whoosh!

Chris and Don make first in-person appearances as author-illustrator team.
The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch is published.
Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton is published.

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions is published.

And that’s just the high-level version — the nitty-gritty could take up a month of blog posts. But if you’re involved with a conference or organization that would be interested in hearing more of the story, well, maybe we’ll just have to update our timeline to include you.

22 Jan

Bartography Express for January 2015, featuring Trent Reedy’s Burning Nation

This month, one subscriber to my Bartography Express newsletter will win a copy of Burning Nation (Scholastic), the second book in Trent Reedy’s Divided We Fall YA trilogy

If you’re not already receiving Bartography Express, click the image below for a look. If you like what you see, click “Join” in the bottom right corner, and you’ll be in the running for the giveaway at the end of this week.

20150122 Bartography Express

30 Nov

2015 Austin SCBWI Conference: You will win!

(What’s with the Shark Vs. Train reference in the post title? Well, read on…)

Registration opens one week from tomorrow for the annual conference of the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Regardless of whether you’re aspiring or accomplished, the March 7-8 conference has something for you:

    keynote addressess and panel discussions
    writing craft breakouts
    all-day illustrator track
    all-day professional development track
    critiques and reviews of manuscripts, portfolios, and picture book dummies

There’s all that, and more, and I haven’t even listed the editors, art director, agents, New York Times bestselling authors, and other artists and authors who will be on the faculty. You can see that list here, but I do want to point out that I’ll be among them, as will illustrator Tom Lichtenheld.

Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld

In the nearly five years since the publication of our book Shark Vs. Train, this will be the first time that Tom and I have appeared together at the same conference. I’m excited about that, and I hope you are, too.

So, get it on your calendar today, get ready to register next Monday, and we’ll see you in March!

06 Dec

Greg Pincus’ The 14 Fibs of Gregory K.

(Note: The following is from the most recent edition of my monthly email newsletter, Bartography Express, which you can sign up for from the big yellow box on my home page.)

The first thing you need to know about the titular Fibs in Greg Pincus’ The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. is that while they’ve got a little bit to do with misleading statements, they’ve got lots to do with mathematics and poetry and pie.

14 Fibs

You see, several years ago — after I’d already gotten to know Greg at the 2003 conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and through his blog, Gotta Book — he invented the Fib, a form of poetry based on the mathematical Fibonacci sequence. That’s all. No big deal (unless you consider getting written up in The New York Times a big deal). He just invented an entire form of poetry:

Spiraling mixture:
Math plus poetry yields the Fib.

One Fib led to another, and a few Fibs later, Greg’s creation has yielded a middle-grade novel published by Arthur A. Levine Books. One Bartography Express reader will win a copy of The 14 Fibs of Gregory K.if you’d like it to be you, just reply to this email, and I’ll enter you in the drawing. [Note: The drawing’s now closed, but there’ll be another one each month.] But first, let’s chat a little with Greg about his book.

CB: What made you want to write The 14 Fibs of Gregory K.?


GP: Tricky question, actually, as this book came about rather non-traditionally. In fact, there was no manuscript when I got a contract — just a title, the idea of a kid who writes Fibonacci poetry and tells fibs, and a tone. So, I guess you could say “a contract made me want to write it.” Still, the theme in The 14 Fibs — a kid in a family where what he loves isn’t, he thinks, appreciated or recognized as “valid” by everyone around him — is what I really wanted to explore when I finally sat down to write the book. Well, that and pie. I do love to explore pie.

CB: Tell me about the kind of kid you think 14 Fibs will appeal to the most.

GP: I suspect that any kid who’s felt pressure to do something they don’t love or understand or felt the need to pretend to be someone who they don’t think they are will find 14 Fibs quite appealing. At the same time, I think the book will appeal to any kid who has struggled with a subject in school — math or otherwise — because they just don’t “get” it. I guess, then, if there are kids out there who fit both those descriptions… that’s who I imagine 14 Fibs will likely appeal most to. That said, all I can really say for sure is that I wrote the book because it was the story I wanted to tell. I simply hope it finds an audience that appreciates it… and who that is, well, that’s up to the readers, not me!

18 Mar

A little teaching now, a lot of teaching later

In a guest post last week for the International Reading Association’s Engage/Teacher to Teacher blog, I wrote about a technique I use for getting to know my the characters in my nonfiction books.

(In the same post, YA novelist Jennifer Ziegler — Sass & Serendipity, How Not to Be Popular — wrote about how she gets inside the heads of her fictional characters, and vice versa. So, really, between the two of us, you’re all set.)

Check it out, and if what I had to say seems useful to you, I hope you’ll join me this June for “You Don’t Have to Choose: Balancing Playful Picture Books With Rigorous Research,” a one-day workshop I’ll be teaching through the Austin chapter of the Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.

Workshop Synopsis: Creatively and professionally alike, authors can enjoy big benefits from letting the silly stuff cross-pollinate with the seriously researched. In “You Don’t Have to Choose,” we’ll use the examples of picture book authors who have done both fiction and nonfiction as a springboard for discussing and honing skills and techniques applicable to both types of writing. We’ll examine the benefits — and potential drawbacks — of that sort of career cross-pollination with a goal of having each student leave the workshop inspired and equipped to create books in both realms, with some newly gained practical experience under their belts.

Details, including discount info, are available here.

20 Feb

Groucho glasses and curriculum guides

At the fantabulous Austin SCBWI conference this past weekend, various folks asked me what I was working on these days. I know they wanted to hear about new picture books or nonfiction projects or the like, but what most came to my mind was Groucho Marx glasses and curriculum guides.

Why’s that? Well, I’ve got a new book coming out in less than two months, Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities, and I’ve been taking the jittery, nervous excitement that comes with a book release and trying to channel that energy into plans and efforts to get the word out about it.

There are lots of things I could spend my time and/or money on in support of the launch of Can I See Your I.D.? A book trailer. A blog tour. A launch party. Paid advertising. Lesson plans. And so on, including — yes — novelty Groucho glasses in keeping with the “false identities” theme. And at least some of those, I will spend my time and/or money on.

But there’s a limit to it, and I can feel that limit approaching. The book is finished — it’s as good as it’s ever going to get — and there are other projects of mine that would also like me to finish them. (The feeling is mutual.) So much of what happens with Can I See Your I.D.? from here on out depends on work that’s already been done, and I need to keep that in mind and keep the importance of the promotional efforts in perspective.

Does that make me a little uneasy? Does it make me wonder whether I’ve considered everything I could and should do in order to give this book a happy launch out into the world? You bet your life. But a year from now, the launch will be long over, the book will still be the book, and I’ll hopefully have a new launch to start thinking about — if I get back to the work of writing, that is.

11 Nov

Shark, Train and me in San Antonio this Saturday!

Join me (and/or tell your S.A. friends), won’t you?

By the way, in between the two events announced in the link above, I’ll also be presenting to the Southwest Texas SCBWI:

November 13 – 1-3pm – Guest Author Event with author Chris Barton

You Better Believe It: How The Day-Glo Brothers Survived All the Things I Didn’t Know

Barnes & Noble at the San Pedro Crossing
321 NW Loop 410 #104, San Antonio, TX 78216

“I can tell you exactly where I got my idea from, how I knew that all those years of effort had been worthwhile, and what I learned about publishing, persistence, and fluorescence in the meantime.” – Chris Barton

Chris Barton is the author of the American Library Association Sibert Honor-winning THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS (Charlesbridge, 2009; illustrated by Tony Persiani), the biography of the inventors of those daylight-fluorescent oranges, yellows, and greens you see every day. It was named one of the best children’s books of 2009 by Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and The Washington Post.

His second book is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller SHARK VS. TRAIN (Little, Brown; 2010; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld). It has received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal and is a Junior Library Guild selection.

He will follow up these picture books with CAN I SEE YOUR I.D.? TRUE STORIES OF FALSE IDENTITIES, a young-adult collection of profiles of impostors and other masqueraders to be published by Dial Books for Young Readers in 2011.

For more information about Chris, his books, and his presentations to young readers and professional groups, visit him at http://www.chrisbarton.info.

30 Aug

From RIF to TBF and beyond…

Welcome, all you first-time Bartography readers who have found your way here from my guest post at Reading Is Fundamental’s blog. Bartography veterans, I hope you’ll pay a visit to Rasco From RIF and make a habit out of it.

Want to win a signed copy of The Day-Glo Brothers or Shark Vs. Train or an advance, uncorrected proof of my next book, Can I See Your I.D.? Soon — very soon — I’ll be sending out the new edition of my occasional Bartography Express newsletter, and as always, one subscriber will get a free book. How do you subscribe? See the box on my home page — but hurry…

The big literary event here in Austin every fall is the Texas Book Festival. This year’s lineup of authors was announced this past week, and I could not be more excited about being included. Seriously — take a look at who all’s coming to town, and then make sure you join them October 16 and 17.

Also speaking of big events — and of big events in which I’m delighted to play a part — registration is now open for the 2011 Regional Conference put on by the Austin Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Is this conference for you? Only if there’s some appeal in spending a weekend learning from a Caldecott medalist, a National Book Award winner, editors who have worked with Roald Dahl and J.K. Rowling, the agent who sold Newbery honoree The Underneath, etc.

Of course, an event doesn’t have to be big in order for it to be meaningful — especially when the audience is a group of young readers with the opportunity to connect with the author or illustrator of one of their favorite books. To help schools and libraries find Texas-based creators of books for children and young adults, SCBWI chapters from all over the state collaborate each year on a guide to available speakers. Here’s the PDF version of this year’s guide, and here’s a little information about getting included in next year’s guide.

Finally, if you’re interested in what Marilyn Carter, Lisa Lawrence, and I had to say during our recent Writers’ League of Texas panel on publicity, video from the event is available on YouTube. Bethany Hegedus (author of the upcoming Truth, With a Capital T) offered a recap on her blog, one of the many reasons to spend time getting to know Bethany and her writing.

15 Aug

More pre-panel thoughts on PR

While working on the usual stuff this past week — revising, researching, preparing a guest post for another blog, attending Austin SCBWI’s monthly meeting, reading Julius Lester’s terrific On Writing for Children & Other People, etc. — I’ve continued thinking about the panel discussion I’ll participate in this coming Thursday.

On August 19, the Writers’ League of Texas’ monthly panel on marketing topics will address the theme, “Building Your PR Team.” (The discussion starts at 7 p.m. at Austin’s BookPeople; pregame will be down the street at Shoal Creek Saloon.)

At least as much as the various PR tools available to us, we writers (illustrators, too) need to know what our objective is as professionals. Even before I joined Facebook and Twitter, I’d reminded myself occasionally that this blog is a secondary medium that serves to support my primary medium of books. For me, that’s still just as true, and the need for a reminder is still just as great — maybe even more so.

I have no interest in becoming known primarily as a blogger, or Tweeter, or especially prodigious Facebooker. I like researching and writing books, and I want to do more of that. I also understand the need to support my book-writing habit through school visits and conference appearances. (Luckily, I absolutely love doing those visits and appearances.) So, my virtual “PR team” is geared toward enabling those things.

There are also the (occasionally hazy, but nonetheless real) limits on how much of my time I can spend on anything related to my writing. Producing more words to go into those books has to come first, but figuring out which of those PR activities comes second, third, and so forth — and which just don’t get done at all — is a continuing struggle.

I’m eager to hear folks’ thoughts — both this Thursday evening and in comments and conversations in the meantime — about how they prioritize the marching orders for their PR team.


P.S. This doesn’t qualify as “usual stuff” by any means, but last weekend I did visit the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (a.k.a. “The Nickel”) in Abilene, Texas. The SCBWI Golden Kite, Golden Dreams exhibit is there through September. Go see it.

09 Aug

Building my notes for “Building Your PR Team”

A week from Thursday, on August 19, I’ll participate in the Writers’ League of Texas’ monthly panel on marketing topics. We’ll be discussing the theme, “Building Your PR Team,” so in preparation I figure it’s time I start asking myself:

“Uh, Chris — do you even have a PR team?”

Sure I do. For years, I’ve employed the firm of Mee, Mishelf, and Aye to help me get the word out about me and my books. I figure that’s the same team that most writers use, and so I expect that I’ll spend some time discussing which tools and approaches have worked out the best for us.

Thinking out loud here, those tools and approaches have included:

  • Networking through groups such as the Writers’ League of Texas (obviously) and the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
  • Posts and comments on this here blog and others
  • My website
  • My Bartography Express email newsletter, which I produce via Constant Contact
  • In-person appearances at conferences, in both official and unofficial capacities
  • Collaboration with my publishers’ marketing and publicity staffs
  • Business cards, post cards, and bookmarks
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Old-fashioned hard-copy correspondence with folks I think would be interested in knowing about me and my books
  • My books themselves, which it wouldn’t do me any good to publicize if I hadn’t put sufficient time and care into creating in the first place
  • I’ll be giving all of these a good ponder over the next week and a half. Which have had the biggest impact — and how do you even measure that? Which have not been a good use of time, effort, or money? Which might not be as effective as they seem, and which may have done more for me than I’ve realized?

    If you, dear Bartography reader, have any questions or insights into these PR tools and approaches or others I’ve failed to mention, I’d love to hear them. I’d be most grateful, in fact. And I bet attendees of this month’s panel will be especially glad that I got some help from beyond the good people at Mee, Mishelf, and Aye.