Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books


Photo diary from the 2016 Los Angeles National SCBWI Conference

I had a great time attending the annual Los Angeles convention of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (#LA16SCBWI). Met writing friends, made new friends, heard inspiring speakers, and learned a lot about writing (and that I need a better phone camera). Here’s a photo journal of some of the many KidLit folks in attendance.


Pura Belpre honor and Golden Kite winning author/illustrator John Parra. Check out the fancy lobby of the Biltmore Hotel.


Martha Brockenbrough, author of THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH. Anyone who can write Young Adult and Picture Books is hogging all the talent!


BLEED LIKE ME Young Adult author Christa Desir, one of the first authors I ever interviewed on my KidLit blog.


The kind and charming Simon & Schuster publisher, Justin Chanda.


Ezra Jack Keats Award-winning author/illustrator of HOPE’S GIFT, Don Tate. You will note that his hairline is the inverse of mine. You complete me, Don.


The multitalented author/illustrator/musician and creator of the TOUCH AND FEEEL KISSES series, with over a million copies in print! He’s not this blurry in real life.


The shy and retiring SUPER HERO GIRLS author, Lisa Yee. Flat Dan Santat wasn’t in attendance, but the real one showed up eventually.


The anything but abominable NO YETI YET picture book author/illustrator, Mary Ann Fraser.


New York Times bestselling novelist Neal Shusterman and SCBWI co-founder Lin Oliver.


Last in the alphabet, but not in our hearts, the dapper Caldecott Medalist illustrator of RAPUNZEL, Paul Zelinsky.


The animated Bruce Coville, master author of DIARY OF A MAD BROWNIE, gave an immensely useful presentation on writing.


The ebullient picture book author of BITTY BOT, Tim McCanna.


My literary agency sister, the kind and funny New York Times bestselling picture book author/illustrator, my frint, Antoinette Portis.


These look great. I’m thinking of adding some balconies to my living room.


The sweet but mischievous “ghost gossiper” author/illustrator Pat Cummings.


Editor panel with (l to r): Stacey Barney (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), Kat Brzozowski (Feiwel & Friends), Alvina Ling (Little, Brown), Melissa Manlove (Chronicle), Neal Porter, Matt Ringler (Scholastic), Sara Sargent (HarperCollins), Reka Simonsen (Atheneum) and Kate Sullivan (Delacorte).


The good-natured Caldecott-winning author/illustrator of THIS IS NOT MY HAT, Jon Klassen.


Founder of SCBWI Blueboard, Verla Kay, and effervescent literary agency sister, GOLDIE LOCKS HAS CHICKENPOX author, Erin Dealey.


Jon Klassen recommended the place, so a friend and I had a nutritious lunch at Bottega Louis.


Packing way too much writing talent and charisma in a small package was New York Times bestselling LEGEND series author, Marie Lu.


After a few years of Facebook interaction, it was a thrill to finally meet the author/illustrator of FREDDIE & GINGERSNAP, Vincent Kirsch, even though his dog Ogbert was not present.


Author panel with (l to r): Jessixa Bagley, John Parra, Susan Rich (editor), Barney Saltzberg & Don Tate, moderated by Laurent Linn (not shown).


Why, yes, that is CREEPY CARROTS Caldecott Honoree author/illustrator Peter Brown. Smooth pate? Check. Beard? Check. Write and draw like a boss? Still working on it.


Agent panel with (l to r): Victoria Wells Arms, Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown), Kirsten Hall (Catbird), Brooks Sherman (The Bent Agency), Erica Rand Silverman (Stimola Literary) and Tina Wexler (ICM Partners).


Caldecott Medalist, New York Times bestseller, funny, and unjustifiably humble picture book author/illustrator, Sophie Blackall.


Beach Lane Books publisher Allyn Johnston dishes about what she likes and dislikes in the picture book market. She’s NOT a big fan of art notes from authors.


My favorite photo of the conference because #TeamYeti. From l to r: Mary Ann Fraser, author/illustrator of NO YETI YET, me (hopefully future author of NEVER FEED A YETI SPAGHETTI), and adorably alliterative Ashlyn Anstee, author/illustrator of ARE WE THERE. YETI?


Chronicle editor Melissa Manlove talks about effective narrative non-fiction.


Freelance editor Deborah Halverson briefs us on the state of the KidLit marketplace.


A photo of what Newbery-winning author Richard Peck looks like from outer space. This is a terrible photo of the least terrible author I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. He is a maestro!


And yes, that is MR. TIGER GOES WILD author/illustrator Peter Brown photobombing fellow Caldecott honoree and THE BOSS BABY author/illustrator Marla Frazee.


How star-studded was the attendee list? New York Times author/illustrator of MISS MAPLE SEEDS, Eliza Wheeler, was there.


San Diego SCBWI chapter attended in force. These glamorous gals won the costume contest wearing red carpet dresses. The chapter also won the Chronicle scavenger hunt, and our Susie Ghahremani was selected as one of the illustrator mentees. Not manatees. Not Mentos.


As Ferris Bueller said, “You’re still here? It’s over. Go home. Go.” It was also great seeing San Diego Chapter members and my other talented friends who I failed to photograph: Drew Daywalt, David Diaz, Bruce Hale, Jenni Holm, Dan Santat, Kelly Sonnack, and Harold Underdown.

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Interview with NY Times bestselling ‘Legend’, ‘Prodigy’ & ‘Champion’ author Marie Lu

Marie Lue is the author of the Legend, Prodigy, and Champion trilogy. Prior to becoming an author, she worked as an artist in the video game industry. Now she spends her time writing, drawing, playing Assassin’s Creed, and sitting in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles, CA.


For what age audience do you write?

In general, I write for ages 12 and up–although I’ve received emails from readers between the ages of seven and seventy. My books are science fiction.

Tell us about your latest book.

‘Champion’ is the last book in my Legend trilogy, and it came out on November 5. It concludes the stories of Day and June, my teen criminal and teen detective pair who first met as enemies in ‘Legend’, and are now working as allies. I can’t say much without giving spoilers, but in short–it has war, explosions, and romance.

Henry: You had me at explosions.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

I hope, more than anything, that they feel a sense of closure and satisfaction when they finish ‘Champion’. I love that feeling when I finish a series, and I want my readers to feel the same.

Henry: Something tells me that the satisfaction from reading a trilogy is nowhere near the satisfaction you must have felt having completed that labor of love.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Can I say ‘everything’? I kid (sort of)! Writing the first draft of a new story is incredibly difficult for me. I will happily do revisions, because once I can see the words on the page, I can go about ripping them up and moving scenes around. A blank page, though? Terrifying. I’m always angsty when I’m working my way through a first draft.

Henry: Hey, did you just make up the word angsty?

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

Every time I think I have the process figured out, I’m proven wrong by the next thing I write. Writing is an extremely rewarding and humbling process, and I’ve learned to go with it, that even if it feels absolutely impossible, I will find a way to tell the next story.

Henry: You’re like Obi-won telling Luke to trust his feelings!

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

I receive emails from readers that both break my heart and give me a profound sense of connection. Several months ago, I received an email from a teacher who told me that ‘Legend’ was the first book one of her troubled young students had ever read to the end. He cried when he finished it. Stories like that stay with you forever. I think all writers yearn for those moments of heartfelt connection with their readers.

Henry: Beautiful.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Don’t be afraid to write something bad. Like everything else in life, mastery takes practice, and you can’t master writing if you don’t let yourself get the bad words out of your system first. Let yourself write bad chapters and meandering plots. Eventually, you’ll get to the point where your writing soars.

Henry: Well, then I’m well on my way! 🙂

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot

Henry: Nice. I also like “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I don’t have any bizarre ones. My main habit is to always write in the morning, because I have trouble concentrating in the afternoon, and to always have music playing. However, both of these habits haven’t been working for my current work-in-progress, so I guess that means I have no habits!

Henry: Perhaps you simply have not yet discovered the special ritual that fully unleashes your writing…

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

I’d love to stop time for everything else in the world and then just work on my stuff for as long as needed. Spoken like a true procrastinator, I’d say!

Henry: You are not the first writer I’ve interviewed to wish for that very handy superpower. The subtle downside would be that you’d age faster than your contemporaries, which could accumulate noticeably if you use the power frequently. With great power comes great responsibility!

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Brian Jacques, J.K. Rowling, and Jacqueline Carey. I can only imagine how fascinating the conversations would be.

Henry: All fantasy authors! Of course Ms. Rowling brought us ‘Harry Potter’, and Mr. Jacques brought us ‘Redwall’. Ms. Carey won a Locus Award for ‘Kushiel’s Dart’, which I must now read.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

My answer is kind of a cheat, but since Avatar the Last Airbender also exists as graphic novels, I count that as literature and am going to go with the sky bisons. How adorable is Appa (Aang’s sky bison). He’s loyal, sweet, fuzzy, and fun to ride.

Henry: A giant flying bison with six legs and a beaver tail is such a great choice that I feel compelled to share an image of Appa here.


What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to draw, and will usually resort to drawing whenever I have writer’s block. If I’m not drawing, I’ll be playing video games, practicing photography, or eating.

Henry: I’m having trouble reconciling the writing and drawing with video game playing. Luckily, you have no difficulty reconciling these activities.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

“Here lies Marie Lu, at home with her head in the clouds.”

Henry: Well said.

Where can readers find your work?

My books are available at all bookstores, Amazon, Kindle, Nook, other e-readers, and as audiobooks.

This interview is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.