Happy 2021! We’re kicking off the new year with another local book spotlight. Meet Cynthia Magriel Wetzler and learn about her road to self-publication below!
1.) What sparked the idea for your story?
SMW: One summer day on Nantucket I discovered a little cove, an isolated secret place. I sat on a big driftwood log facing the ocean waves and claimed this log as my own. I watched the sandpipers fluttering on the sand, listened to the crash of the waves and let the salty sea air tickle my nose. I took out my little sketchpad that I carry at all times and a little girl, around 9, sketching a horseshoe crab, popped into my imagination. There she was, Maggie. I could see her sitting next to me doing what I did at that age, draw and write, draw and write all the time. She became real and I put her in a story. My dream for this book is to help empower and encourage young middle-graders to find out who they are inside and to feel strong about it. Continue reading “Read Local Spotlight: WITCHY MAGIC AND ME, MAGGIE”
Next up in our Read Local series: Soulstruck by Westchester YA author Natasha Sinel.
Read more about her inspiration for this novel, how she’s been promoting her book during the pandemic, and more.
1.) What sparked the idea for your book?
Back in 1991 there was a lightning strike at a high school lacrosse game in Washington, DC (where I’m from)—more than ten people were struck, one was killed. A young EMT who happened to be there saved several people’s lives that day. The story always stuck with me. I kept thinking about the young man who saved those lives and what his life must have been like afterwards. An idea started to form in my head and, as I researched lightning and lightning strike survivors, I kept asking myself what if this happens, what if that happens. My characters came into focus and from there, my idea turned into something completely different. That’s how it usually goes for me. I start with a premise—an event or a situation. I start asking myself questions and then a story starts to take shape. Sometimes my original premise doesn’t even end up in the book.
We’ve set up Writer and Illustrator groups on a website called “Discord”. This is a great tool to share ideas and keep in touch more frequently. Discord can be easily accessed on your browser and is very user friendly. We hope you’ll all give it a try!
To make it as easy as possible we’ve recorded our screen to show you how to access the groups. Note that you’ll first be asked to create a username and enter your birthday before proceeding, but once you do that you can proceed just as shown in the video.
Here are links you’ll need (video shows where to enter links):
Use this link to get on the Westchester Illustrators server
We’ve also put together the image below which shows more about navigating Discord once you’re in.
For additional help once you’re signed in. Please take a look and if anyone needs more help beyond this, just get in touch and we’d be happy to set up a call to walk you through it. It’s entirely optional to use but we’re hoping it’s something everyone can feel comfortable with!
Next up in our Read Local series: Yonkers-based author Krystia Basil discusses her picture book A Sky Without Lines.
Check out our interview with Krystia below!
1.) Your background is in film development and production. What inspired you to start writing books for children?
KB: I took a hiatus from the long, grueling hours of production life to have my first child. During this time I was fully and happily immersed in children’s picture books as I read so much to my budding bookworm. I would also make up stories and songs to entertain him and lull him to sleep. When he was about a year old, I took on a project that filmed in NY, Texas and California. It was a bit insane supervising an intense production while being present for a toddler. I also found I was not as happy anymore having production life eclipse my personal life.I wanted more time with my family. Writing was something I could squeeze in between the minuscule gaps of raising a wee one. Writing was also a natural segue for me because I had my background in script development where I had learned to shape stories. The short answer is, I was inspired to write for children after having my kids.
2.) When did you come up with the concept for A SKY WITHOUT LINES?
KB: When my 2nd child was born in 2016 I was not yet an U.S citizen although I had lived here for 12 + years as a green card holder. The political climate at the time made me very anxious about being deported without reason and worse, separated from my children. By the following spring my citizenship had come through. But, later that year the news cycle was debating the separation of families at the US-Mexico border. It was my worst fear coming true in someone else’s life. I was heartbroken and felt helpless about the situation. I wrote the story for the same reason we all write, to express our fears, to channel hope and to record for posterity both the good and evil of the times we live through. The story is unfortunately still relevant with the recent tragic news headline about the 545 children who have yet to be rejoined with their parents.
3.) What were some unexpected lessons you learned on the road to publication?
KB: The whole process was fascinating to me. It was my first book, I didn’t have an agent, so every step was self-learned through deep dives into picture book publishing on the internet. Interestingly though, I found my publisher, Minedition, when I was at the local library in Yonkers. My daughter and I were in the children’s nook browsing after story time. I settled into a rocking chair with ‘Hazlenut Days’ by Emmanuel Bourdier (illustrated by André Langevin Zaü) about a child’s emotions as he visits his father in prison. I was blown away by the subject matter and the courageous choice of the publisher. I noted the publishing information from the book, found the company online and sent a query to the email listed on their site. A couple months later Michael Neugebauer, the founder and owner of Minedition wrote back offering to publish ASWL. It was my 3rd happiest day of the decade:) He chose the story because he empathized with the subject matter and he had it published within a year, which I have since learned is superfast!
4.) What ways have you been reaching readers during the pandemic?
KB: Twitter and Zoom readings!
5.) Who are some writers and artists in the children’s book world that you admire?
KB: I love the lyricism, both in words and visuals, in the works of Yuyi Morales and Eliza Wheeler. Mo Willems and Peter H. Reynolds I love for their awesome blend of humor and philosophy as well as their sparse yet emotionally rich illustrations. I also discovered Ame Dyckman on twitter and find her work super hilarious in a manner that brings out the happy, silly child in me. And I love the work of the amazing Laura Borràs Dalmau ASWL’s illustrator. The book was blessed when she decided to take on the project despite a packed workload. Her beautiful Marwan’s Journey is like a sister to ASWL.
More about Krystia:
KRYSTIA BASIL has been a producer in the film & TV industry since 2005. She has worked with PBS, BBC, Animal Planet, The History Channel, and other media organizations to create compelling and relevant media content. In 2015 she co-founded the production company Poplewaca Productions through which she develops scripts and show concepts. She was inspired to write for children after having two of her own. Her first children’s picture book – A Sky Without Lines, about a little boy separated from his family at the border – was published by Minediton and released Oct 1st, 2019. Originally from Chennai, India, she’s been trying to figure out being a ‘New Yorker’ for the last 15 odd years.
October’s local feature is the newest non-fiction picture book from member Gary Golio, Dark Was the Night. Gary tells the story of Blind Willie Johnson, a legendary Texas musician whose song “Dark Was the Night” was included on the Voyager I space probe’s Golden Record.
Learn more about Gary’s journey to publishing this book below!
1) You’ve written about many great musicians. When did you first learn about Willie Johnson, and how did his story end up becoming a manuscript?
Gary Golio (GG): As a devoted blues-lover, I’ve been hearing about Willie Johnson–and listening to his music–for many years. His song, “Dark Was the Night,” was featured in a West Wing episode (about outer space), and was integral to the soundtrack of the movie Paris, Texas (1984), by director Wim Wenders. When I read major articles by two Texas music journalists several years ago–about the search, by laymen and music historians alike, for the missing details of Willie’s life–I found myself caught up in his mystery. Here’s a man who was once celebrated in gospel churches and on popular 78 records during the 1930s, slipped into oblivion following his death, was rediscovered during the 60’s Folk Revival, and finally had his wordless song chosen for inclusion on Voyager I’s Golden Record. To me, that says something very powerful about the mysterious course of a human life, and how we never really know how and who we may influence one day. I think it’s a hopeful tale, especially for kids, and it shines a light on what Fame is or isn’t really about.
We are excited to kick off a new series to help boost local SCBWI members with books launching. First up, David Opie’s debut picture book, All the Birds in the World. Learn more about this fantastic story in the interview below!
Q: What inspired you to write and illustrate All the Birds in the World? Have you always enjoyed learning about birds?
DO: I’ve always been fascinated by birds, for sure. As I wrote in the “Author’s Note” in the back of the book, in my childhood I had my Peterson field guide and binoculars, and I would go birding. I kept a life list of all the birds I’d seen, and I collected feathers. I had a subscription to National Audubon magazine, and I drew pictures of the birds on its pages.
I thought that birds, with their beautiful, colorful plumage, would make a great subject for a picture book, but I needed an original way to present the material. One morning, as I was walking my dog and looking at the shorebirds we have here in coastal Connecticut, a phrase popped into my head: “Birds of many colors have feathers like all the others.” I liked that idea of using birds to represent diversity and inclusion, which became the theme of my book.