23 Apr

A great idea for local authors and indie booksellers

And it comes from Austin, Texas — home to me, a thriving chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and my favorite bookstore, BookPeople.

Just one sign — literally, and from 8 years ago this week — of BookPeople’s longtime support for me and my books.

Meghan Goel is the store’s children’s book buyer and programming director, and she also contributes to Publishers Weekly‘s ShelfTalker blog.

In her post last week, Meeting the Authors in Our Neighborhood, Meghan introduces what I think is a great idea — one that can benefit local authors and independent booksellers alike, not just in Austin but far beyond.

Here’s a little bit of Meghan’s ShelfTalker post:

[T]his July we’re going to test out a new bookseller intro and q&a for Austin’s SCBWI author class of 2018. If it works well, we’ll make it an annual thing. We’ll obviously emphasize that this is a great opportunity for new authors to tell us about their books, but authors new and old can come and ask us anything at all—general questions about bookselling, best practices for working with us on book launches, ideas for how to help promote their books between releases, or anything on their minds about working with a bookstore like ours.

Retailers and children’s authors/illustrators elsewhere, what do you think? Worth a try in your community?

01 Apr

Don, Tom, and me

Don Tate, Tom Lichtenheld, Chris Barton

I had the great pleasure of serving on a panel at last month’s Austin SCBWI conference with illustrators Don Tate (shown on the left) and Tom Lichtenheld (the guy in the middle). If those names sound familiar, it’s because I’ve created a book with each of them.

In fact…

Today (no fooling) is the publication date not only of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, which Don illustrated, but also of the board book version of the Tom-illustrated Shark Vs. Train. Both books give readers something to chew on — one figuratively, one literally — so if you know someone with a big appetite for something new to read, won’t you please keep these in mind?

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!

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.

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.

12 Sep

A bit much, even by Austin SCBWI standards

But who says there’s anything wrong with a bit much?

Registration opened this week for Destination Publication!, the January 30, 2010, conference of the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Now, Austin SCBWI tends to do conferences well. But this one’s so big you’ve got to take a step or two backwards in order to see the whole thing. It will have:

  • A Newbery Honor Author (Kirby Larson)
  • A Caldecott Honor Illustrator (Marla Frazee)
  • Three Agents (Andrea Cascardi, Mark McVeigh, Nathan Bransford)
  • Three Editors (Cheryl Klein, Lisa Graff, Stacy Cantor)
  • Eight Featured Authors (Liz Garton Scanlon, Shana Burg, P. J. Hoover, Jessica Lee Anderson, Jacqueline Kelly, Jennifer Ziegler, Philip Yates, and me)
  • One Special Guest Author (Sara Lewis Holmes)
  • One Featured Illustrator (Patrice Barton; no, we’re not)
  • Traditional Critiques
  • Advanced Critiques
  • Portfolio Reviews
  • Two Parties with the Faculty
  • Like I said — registration for the conference opened this week. I wouldn’t count on it staying open for long.

    30 Aug

    Upcoming Events: BookPeople, Sept. 12 & Sulphur Springs Public Library, Sept. 18

    After having such a great time at my book launch party in July, I’ve really been looking forward to my next chance to be center stage. Turns out, I’ll have two chances in one week in September.

    First, I’ll be the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Six days later, I’ll get to make a presentation at the public library in my hometown.

    Semi-official descriptions and details are below — I’d love to see you at either event, and I hope you’ll consider spreading the word about them.

    What: Who Did It First? Who Did It Best? Who Did It Differently?
    When: Saturday, September 12, 2009, 11:00 a.m. – 12 noon (Austin SCBWI monthly meeting)
    Where: BookPeople, 603 North Lamar, Austin, TX

    Whatever you’re passionate about, there’s somebody in that field whose life story would be best told by you — and as a picture book biography, no less. Chris will help you figure out who in the world that person is and what on earth you should do about it.

    Chris is the author of the new picture book biography The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors (Charlesbridge Publishing; illustrated by Tony Persiani), which has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal. His other upcoming books for children and young adults include Shark Vs. Train (June 2010; Little, Brown and Company; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld) and Just Who Do You Think You Are? (2011; Dial Books for Young Readers). You can visit him at http://www.chrisbarton.info.

    What: Local boy makes good with The Day-Glo Brothers
    When: Friday, September 18, 2009, 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
    Where: Sulphur Springs Public Library, 611 North Davis, Sulphur Springs, TX

    If you’ll be in Sulphur Springs the day before the World Championship Hopkins County Stew Cook-Off, join author Chris Barton for a “colorful” presentation at his hometown public library.

    With the assistance of the younger members of the audience, he’ll be discussing the story, the science, and the patience behind his first book for young readers, The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors.

    It’s an “enlightening story” (says WIRED magazine) … “of quintessentially American ingenuity” (Publishers Weekly) … that “makes a bright idea stand out even more” (The Washington Post).

    If you’d like to learn more about the book, please visit http://www.chrisbarton.info/books/dayglo.html.

    And if you’ll be in town on the 18th, dress in your Day-Glo best and come join Chris!