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I just got an invitation to speak at an international Children’s Media Conference overseas (yay!), and walking to my studio this morning was thinking about the subject, which involves working in and presenting children’s content in new media and multimedia. It occurred to me that many of my children’s author/illustrator colleagues who do print books work in much more media than we think….most of us disseminate content crossmedia whether we realize it or not.

For example, I belong to a group of about three dozen established nonfiction children’s books authors called InkThinkTank. Some of these authors are in a division of the group called Authors on Call – they do live videoconferencing, teaching in schools all over. That’s new media. Some also participate (including me) in The Nonfiction Minute – a neat and very timely idea: a fresh new post with lively engaging content is available on the web free every school day to any school, comprised of a 400-word text piece on a particularly interesting nonfiction subject, an audio recording of the text by the author, and several relevant visuals, available for downloading. Again, multimedia – taking content across several platforms.

Another cool new (less than a year old) project in which many authors, illustrators, librarians, publishers, and others in the children’s book industry talk about their work and distribute content is KidLitTV, which also has a YouTube channel and a robust social media presence. So the author or illustrator not only shows the physical print book, they may read from it, do a sketch or another activity, and talk about and expand upon the book’s subject. They are distributing information via media other than print.

I have some print books adapted to or converted to interactive apps – that’s crossmedia. And I work with a publisher doing giant child-size walk-in and desktop-size fold-out picture books (K.I.W.i. Storybooks), with custom-built apps (as well as curriculum) for each of nine subjects. Again – more than one media.

If you have a blog or a website, or do videos or Skype, in which you share content, ideas, or activities, you are working in multimedia. You are also when you do school visits or lectures using PowerPoint or Keynote. Some authors and illustrators put interesting content from their books on their social media sites…again, multimedia.

So, it’s not just making apps and other fancy electronic (or not) creations. Most of you are more involved in new media and cross-platform content distribution than you may think.

Links:

K.I.W.i. (Kids Walk-in Interactive) Storybooks: http://www.kiwistorybooks.com/
InkThinkTank: http://inkthinktank.com/
Authors on Call: http://inkthinktank.com/authors-on-call/
The Nonfiction Minute: http://www.nonfictionminute.com/
KidLitTV: http://kidlit.tv/
YouTube KidLitTV: https://www.youtube.com/user/KidLitTV

So, kind of like when a person finally gets a diagnosis – a name – for an illness, this is a great relief.

Sometimes I have had moments of doubt when trying to categorize my own books. Usually I call them nonfiction – they’re about real things. My nature/science (birds, bugs, snakes, and dinosaurs) and biography books fit snugly into the basic nonfiction category. But some others, for example the lift-the-flap paper-engineered books, like Go! Go! Go! (about transportation), Circus, Rodeo, and Doors (you learn about what’s in a doctor’s office, horse barn, boat, train, mechanic’s garage, space station, etc), are a little quirky and are occasionally even considered “novelty” books. They don’t fall neatly into the nonfiction category. And books like Market Maze and Ecomazes: 12 Earth Adventures use “gamification” and educational devices not typical of nonfiction books. Some are concept books (for instance, Mazeways: A to Z – an alphabet book that shows real-life things and their environs, like an airport, boatyard, highways, etc). Then there are nonfiction ideas that are wrapped around a finding/counting/naming format, like Desert Days, Desert Nights and Ranch.

Turns out there’s a name for these works… Informational books!

You could call informational books a subset of nonfiction. Nonfiction includes any content or text that is factual. However, not all nonfiction is considered informational. The main purpose of informational texts is to inform or instruct the reader in some way.

Informational text often teaches about the social and natural world (and frequently, in my case, the man-made world). A biography is a classic form of nonfiction; it teaches us about an individual’s life, and certain points in history, but it is not considered “informational.” A procedural or how-to text tells one how to do something; it doesn’t convey information about a particular topic. Other forms of nonfiction may be narrative (like a memoir). Informational text differs from other types of nonfiction in purpose, features, and, often, format.

There are many benefits, besides learning facts, to children when they are exposed to informational books. Understanding new words is one. From So Much More Than the ABCs: The Early Phases of Reading and Writing by Judith A. Schickedanz and Molly F. Collins:  “Because informational books contain many sophisticated technical words and explain them explicitly, reading this kind of book helps children learn higher-level vocabulary.” The illustrations, and sometimes charts and other imagery in informational picture books, enhance learning, thinking, and contribute to increased comprehension… they can be a form of visual cognition for some children.

Informational books often address children’s specific interests and questions about the world. Librarians tell me that these are the books most often asked for; their young patrons want to learn about and understand how things work, are built, what they look like, where they come from. The various ways in which writers and illustrators create these informational works make for some engaging books which enlighten and inform children, often in lively, accessible, and fun formats.

Here’s some more info:

http://www.naeyc.org/books/so_much_more_than_the_abcs/excerpt

http://www.teachersfirst.com/exclusives/moreless/librarian/fuss/q2.cfm

 

I’ve been wondering what this new 3-D printing thing is all about. Well, in keeping with its name, the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference, which just concluded in New Paltz at the State University of New York, had a cool demo of it. SUNY has state-of-the-art 3-D printers. Daniel Freedman, the Dean of the School of Science and Engineering, gave a brief luncheon talk about it. Sally Isaacs and Lionel Bender, conference co-chairs, wanted a faculty member for a demo, and after the Dean’s talk, asked me if I’d volunteer to model for it.

Sure, says me. I’ll try anything once. So a couple hours before the demo I wander over to the table in the registration area to observe the machine. It’s a glass-enclosed rectangular box about 15” high. Okaaaay, I thought. Gulp. I guess I stick my head in that box and get it scanned, kind of like a MRI. A little undignified, but anything for science. Or is that, anything for art? Either one.

Main concerns: (1.) Will it fry my brain right away, or will the damage show up in 20 years; (2.) Will the head come out looking like those little shrunken heads we were so repelled and fascinated by as kids.

1.nonfiction_74 copyAt the appointed time I show up, as does the professor, his nice assistant, and a bunch of conference attendees. Ah! Great relief. The box is where the “printing” occurs, not the scanning. I sit on a chair, super still, and they’ll use a hand-held scanner. Scanning goes on for about 1-1.5 minutes, with the lady scanning sides, top and front of my head in maybe 2-3 passes, with the scanner held about 30 inches away.

2.nonfiction_87 copy4.nonfiction_90 copy6.nonfiction_93 copySoon, the glass box starts to make some noise and comes alive, and slowly, over about 30 minutes, in thin layers, prints the “image.” I had a choice of red or white for it. Chose white –  red would be too creepy. The white material, a kind of light-weight poly substance, was wrapped around a spool behind the machine – it was like thick  thread (diameter maybe 1/8”). Lots of substances can be used, including gold (for jewelry!). Apparently, this technology is already being implemented to make crowns for teeth. And you CAN actually make a gun, but after a couple of shots the heat and action distorts it. But, hey, a couple bullets may be all that is needed. :-((

nonfiction_96 copy8..nonfiction_103 copyThe tiny Roxie “sculpture” has a flat back, where it was lying on the bed of the printer, and was built up from there – ending on the nose. (Although, you can see below that the nose was a little cut off…) The 3-D print can be made larger, but that takes longer. The larger it is, the better the quality, up to almost full head size; then as you make it even larger, quality decreases.

Roxie_Munro_3-D(Thought we should have two largish ones made and they could be used as Roxie bookends. Or a big one for a doorstop. Except they are really lightweight – there is a honey-comb interior.)

Roxie-Munro 3-D

So this was a bit of an adventure – no harm done (“…yet,” she says grimly), and we learned a lot. Very cool of the Nonfiction Conference folks to have arranged this.

I’ll have a more extensive report on the Conference, which was totally fabulous!, in another post.

(This post was written for The Book App Alliance, an organization of leading authors in the publishing industry who create interactive books for kids. See: http://www.bookappalliance.com/

 

To engage children and keep them interested, and to impart information in a fun way, many app creators use simple forms of “gamification”: lift-the-flap activities, mazes, guessing games, inside-outside concepts, search-n-find, ABCs and numbers, puzzles, matching games, Q&A, hidden objects, word/noun object recognition, and so forth. The games have to be logically associated and integrated with the subject – not just put in gratuitously.

I don’t do fantasy or digital video-type games. I make mainly nonfiction apps. However, many subjects lend themselves to these sorts of game-like interactive formats. It’s great for Common Core. For learning about concepts, people, animals, a historical period, science, a workplace, you can cast the content in an interactive way – children can look under flaps to discover things, answer Q&As (and earn points), play matching games, find and count items, look for hidden ABCs, solve a maze…often in collaboration with others.

Some of my apps with games, all built by OCG Studios:

Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure” (games: solving interconnected mazes, out to the goal and back to the starting place, through 16 screens; finding various items like a recurring penguin, other animals, designated vehicles, numbers, alphabet letters, more; score is kept; up to five players):

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Roxie’s Doors” (games: seek-n-find objects behind flaps, doors, in drawers, under/inside things, etc; naming/vocabulary [word highlighting]):

Roxies-doors04 copyRoxies-doors02 copy

Roxie’s Puzzle Adventure” (game: 16 interconnected jigsaw puzzles/screens – choose between 6 and 260 pieces per puzzle/screen; choose rotation, hints, music; up to five players):

Roxies-Puzzle-Adventure2 copyRoxies-Puzzle-Adventure3 copyRoxies-Puzzle-Adventure5 copy

Coming out in September 2014: a series of 11 AR (augmented reality) apps designed to work with KIWiStoryBooks (giant interactive walk-in picture books; themes: Rainforest, Dinosaurs, Space Station, Coral Reef, Farm, Maze, Castle, Fire Station, more):

34. Rainforest KIWiStoryBooks copy33a.KIWiApps copy35.Rainforest app copy37.Rainforest app copy36.Rainforest app copy

“Seek-n-Find.” Matching game; with iPad camera, match images found in backdrop (here, Maze and Farm):

Screen shot 2014-06-04 at 12.03.42 PM copyScreen shot 2014-06-04 at 12.04.05 PM copy

“Make Some Noise.” Click on images, hear the sounds, and record your own (here, Fire Station and Space Station):

Screen shot 2014-06-04 at 12.04.28 PM copyScreen shot 2014-06-04 at 12.04.35 PM copy

“Explore & Learn.” Q&A with information and fun multiple choice answers with rewards, games, hidden details/scratch off (here, Rainforest, TV Station, Castle, and Dinosaurs). Activated by scanning markers/stickers placed on KIWiStoryBook:

42.Rainforest app copyScreen shot 2014-06-04 at 12.34.39 PM copyScreen shot 2014-06-04 at 12.34.51 PM copy

“Movie-making.” Use iPad camera and supplied frames to make series of 1-minute videos. Combined/edited into 8-minute movie w/kids’ own voiceovers/narration (here, Coral Reef and Wild West/Native Americans):

Screen shot 2014-06-04 at 12.36.15 PM copy

“Puzzles.” Activated by scanning markers/stickers placed on KIWiStoryBook (here, Desert and Fire Station):

Screen shot 2014-06-04 at 12.36.52 PM copy

Engaging in games helps children with concentration, setting goals, problem-solving, working together and collaboration (many allow multiple players), perseverance, and celebrate achieving goals. Many games, and mazes in particular, also help children learn decision-making and critical thinking skills. They make them think ahead and plan steps in advance. Mazes teach alternative ways to solve problems and judge spatial relationships. For younger children, they help develop fine motor skills; for older children, maneuvering through mazes helps improve handwriting. Game formats are particularly suited to reluctant readers, special needs children, and boys (although girls are rapidly catching up).

So, using games in apps enhances learning, engagement, and collaboration. And, of course, they’re fun!!!

More info, see Gamification post below on interactivity in print books, and

Using games in the classroom: http://teacherswithapps.com/teachers-surveyed-on-using-games-in-the-classroom/

 

 

People don’t always think of print books as being interactive, or using games, but they are and they do. I write mainly nonfiction and concept books, as well as interactive apps.  To engage children and keep them interested, and to impart information in a fun way, much of my work uses a form of “gamification”: lift-the-flap, mazes, guessing games, inside-outside concepts, search-n-find, ABCs and numbers, puzzles, matching games, hidden objects, word/noun object recognition, and so forth.

EcoMazes: 12 Earth Adventures uses mazes to explore and understand ecosystems, to see the vegetation and geology, and a finding/counting game to learn about which animals live in the habitat. In Hatch! an egg or a clutch of eggs is shown. Children try to guess what kind of bird it is from hints (“The bird that lays these eggs is found on every continent except Antarctica.” “This one never drinks water” “…fastest running two-legged animal on Earth. But it can’t fly.”). In Busy Builders children see the giant bug, and then turn the page to check out the unusual kinds of structures certain bugs make, and why. In Slithery Snakes they are encouraged to try to figure out what kind of snake it is from the close-up scaly skin patterns shown, along with tantalizing facts about the critter: “Its common name comes from its skin pattern (like a precious stone) and its unique tail (which sounds like a child’s toy).” Turn the page and the answer appears, visually, with its name, and more fun facts – you see the snake in its home, with other creatures that live in the same habitat. In Mazeways: A to Z, the letter of the alphabet forms a maze … A is for Airport (ever been to Heathrow or JFK? They really ARE a maze!), H is for Highway, L is for Library, R is for Ranch, and so on –  you are playing, but also learning more about the places and how they work. In Market Maze (Holiday House, Spring 2015) children explore where food comes from and how it arrives at their town greenmarkets. All of these are nonfiction subjects, with a structure that encourages play, learning, and engagement.

Many subjects lend themselves to these sorts of game-like interactive formats. Authors and illustrators of children’s nonfiction materials should consider these devices. For learning about a person, an animal, a historical period, science, a place, or even a fictional character, you can start with a question, and note fun facts that may allow the child to guess who or what you are interested in, before they get to the satisfying answer. Or in a more interactive way, they can lift flaps, play matching games, find and count things, solve a maze…

Engaging in games helps children with concentration, setting goals, problem-solving, working together and collaboration (many allow multiple players), perseverance, and celebrate achieving goals. Many games, and mazes in particular, also help children learn decision-making and critical thinking skills. They make them think ahead and plan steps in advance. Mazes teach alternative ways to solve problems and judge spatial relationships. For younger children, they help develop fine motor skills; for older children, maneuvering through mazes helps improve handwriting. Game formats are particularly suited to reluctant readers, boys, and special needs children. And they’re fun!

(FYI, in June, I’ll be doing a workshop at the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference on “gamification” [primarily for interactive apps] with Kellian Adams Pletcher, founder and senior producer at Green Door Labs.)

In the educational community, and among parents, learning via games has gained credibility, respect, and lots of interest in the last couple of years.

If you want to learn more about the “gamification” of children’s materials, here are some great links:

Three Keys to Gamification for Education    http://www.informationweek.com/mobile/mobile-devices/3-keys-to-gamification-for-education/d/d-id/1109937?

The Gamification of Education    http://www.knewton.com/gamification-education/

Four Benefits of Gamifying Education in Your Classroom    http://www.esparklearning.com/gamification-of-education/

Vegetables or Candy? Digital Book World looks at the Gamification of Children’s Books    http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/55546-vegetables-or-candy-dbw-panel-looks-at-gamification-of-children-s-books.html

Games Based Learning Analysis and Planning Tool     http://www.games-ed.co.uk/resources/Games-Based-Learning-Analysis-and-Planning-Tool-0.9.pdf

Gamification and Education: The Core Principle   http://iridescentlearning.blogspot.com/2013/05/gamification-and-education-core.html

Game-based Learning: Analyzing a Rising Sector   http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/initiative/games-and-learning-publishing-council-analyzing-a-rising-sector/

Using Gaming Principles to Engage Students http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/using-gaming-principles-to-engage-students/

The importance of Play in raising inner-directed (“intrinsic”) children (rather than “extrinsic” more materialistic kids)

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201001/the-decline-play-and-rise-in-childrens-mental-disorders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently, on Facebook, I did a “small rant on a snowy day,” and thought I’d post it on this blog…

“I wish more of my children’s book illustrator friends would do apps. You are needed! The ‘art’ in most kids’ apps these days (particularly the ones purporting to be educational) looks so much alike – computer-generated, bright primary colors, cartoon-y… Children recognize good art, and deserve it. Children’s book artists have so much more style and variety.”

To expand a bit: Art makes content. Kids love and appreciate beauty. Why shouldn’t they have well-crafted and elegantly-made visuals, seamlessly integrated?

An anecdote: On a school visit once, after the program, we had a Q&A. Later, as I was packing up my materials (which included big spreads of the original art – this was before Powerpoint), a teacher came up with a 3rd grade girl, and said, “Ellen had a question – you didn’t call on her.”

“Oh,” I said, “What is your question?”

Ellen asked, “How do you make them so pretty?”

I almost teared up, and kept her question on a post-it in my studio for years. I have never forgotten that girl.

Do not underestimate the power of beauty.

Here is a quote from a great recent post by the app developer and author, Sarah Towle:

“…However, lacking in the above equation, I felt, was the time-honored lesson to be drawn from the world of children’s publishing: that the visual element serves a valuable role too, and one often neglected in today’s interactive media for kids.

As a children’s author and a connoisseur of picture book art, I was shocked by the low visual quality of some of the media products we studied at Dust or Magic. Many of them, I’m sorry to say, were just plain ugly, with illustrations that looked little better than clip art.

Anyone working on behalf of children must appreciate the role that great illustration plays in communicating with and teaching children. In illustrated books, the story and images weave seamlessly together to create something better than the sum of their parts. Indeed, great illustrations tell at least 50% of the story and can make an already great text shine even brighter.

Yet, this is not often the case in today’s digital products.

Not all children’s digital media will contain story. They don’t all have too. But digital media are nothing if not visual. It is imperative, therefore, that we developers make our products visually appealing. To make them works of art.”

You can read the rest of her post here:

http://sarahtowle.com/…/26/j07i91um0k19nt0aeuku4avd5xx3as

The 13th Annual Dust or Magic Institute: Magic-Making Factor #4

So lots of illustrators and authors responded to my FB mini-rant (we also need better and well-edited writing in apps! I’ve seen purported “educational” apps with spelling and grammatical mistakes.). They are very interested in doing apps but many don’t know where to start. Here’s a kind of “basics” post I did about a year ago for Digital Storytime…of course, things have changed in the last year, including the fact that you now get 100 free promo codes with each app publication and update, and I now have a new app out based upon the maze app, called “Roxie’s Puzzle Adventure.”

An a-MAZE-ing Transition: Roxie Munro Talks about Print, Digital & Lessons Learned

http://digitalmediadiet.com/?p=2266

But the main problem, of course and sadly, is money. There are various issues re ROI (return on investment) – a few, of many (also discussed in the Digital Storytime blog, above):  development costs are high/price point for apps is low; marketing is very difficult; discovery is an issue; there are too many kinds of devices out there which require different platforms, and so on …

And children’s book authors and illustrators, who have so much to offer the app world in creativity and originality, have to eat and support themselves, their families, and their art too.

But, I just wish more of these talented folks could make apps! The industry needs them.

One of the most exciting days in the life of a children’s book author (or illustrator) is when you learn that your book has been accepted for publication. But, receiving, years later, the often inevitable “We regret to say…” publisher’s letter announcing that your book is going OP (out-of-print) is rarely welcome.

This isn’t always bad news though…particularly these days, when there are so many options available for authors. But first, you have to make sure, when you sign the original contract, that you can ask for the rights back when the book goes out-of-print (OP). All mainstream publisher’s book contracts contain a clause referring to this. Not “out of stock,” but “out of print.” You need to clarify what OP means… I just signed a contract and had them add language that specifies that if the only edition available is an electronic one, there must be a minimum number of sales/income (usually spread over two royalty periods or one year) for the book to be considered in print. Whatever the number/amount is, it should be sensible in terms of the kind of book and likely sales, for print or ebooks. So make sure that a POD (print on demand) or electronic version does not constitute being “in print,” unless you also specify an amount (sales or income) for those options. (Because most publishers aren’t yet doing apps, in my latest contract, I retained the app rights only, among the electronic options.)

You don’t need a lawyer; just send a letter asking for the rights to be reverted to you. They usually have six months to respond to your request; if they don’t, the rights automatically revert to the author anyway. Some publishers send back the copyright papers; some don’t. Also, and this is important, ask for the electronic files/printer’s files (or printer’s film, if it is an old book). You may have to pay a fee for this, but it is worth it if you ever want to reprint or sell the rights. (In my case, a lot of original illustrations have been sold and are unavailable; it would be impossible to rescan them.)

The publisher usually allows you to buy a quantity of your books at a deep discount, when they notify you that your book is going OP. Always do this! The first few years I didn’t quite understand that OP meant (that, unless another publisher or opportunity comes along, that is IT for your book!), so I didn’t buy enough copies, and now only have a few left of some of my titles, which sell occasionally for a lot on Ebay!

So, now your book is OP, and you have had the rights reverted to you, and have acquired the electronic files. There are many opportunities available now to recycle, reprint, and reuse your content.

You may want to make (and will need to market) your own print book, ebook, or app. You may be able to find a publisher to reissue the whole book again (with perhaps an update, or a reworked cover). For this you get a new contract and new advance. The contract is similar to any original book contract, but the advance is usually less. (I’ve sold the rights for three of my OP books, which have been reprinted, with four more OP books in negotiation right now to be reissued, and have sold one book’s rights to make an app.)

And licensing is a great option… anywhere from a picture or paragraph, to whole chapter excerpts. If the book was still in print, you would usually get 50% of the fee (the publisher does the negotiation and gets the other 50%), but if you own all the rights, you get it all! There are various algorithms that will help you calculate what to charge (and, for a model, check the past rights deals done by your publisher; they usually send the details to you). Fees are mostly determined by the size of image or excerpt and quantity of print and e-rights requested (not necessarily the duration of the license). Usually they come to you, so marketing rights like this on your own is not easy. The way it works: the request is sent to your publisher the first time, and they forward it to you (because the rights have reverted). If you have already licensed to the company, from now on they will come directly to you, often to relicense the materials after the agreed upon time period for the first license has expired. They supply the forms and language in their letter/request; you just agree to it, give a price, a credit line, and sign. I’ve sold rights to excerpts from my books (most written with my husband, Bo Zaunders) for thousands of dollars to the IOWA State Reading Tests (used throughout the USA), as well as other school tests. With CCSS (Common Core) coming along (whether we like it or not), testing will continue to be a big part of education. You may also get reprint requests for visual images or covers, for various publications.

Besides reissuing or reprinting all or part of the book in a traditional print format, as mentioned, you can remake it, or parts of it, into a POD (print-on-demand) book, an ebook, an app, or other transmedia forms (website, blog series, etc).

Consider all of your hard work – creativity and ideas, research, crafting the book, your intellectual property – a tangible asset. Its value does not end when the print run is finished. Think of it as unique content, available to be “exploited” (by you!) in more and different ways. This is a wonderful time in publishing – great variety, a multitude of formats – and for authors, more control than ever over our work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I presented several programs last week at the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference at SUNY New Paltz (June 14, 15, and 16). Lionel Bender and Sally Isaacs did a terrific job. It was perfectly organized…from the programs, to the venue, to the timing of everything from intensives to workshops to critiques to the social time built in. Exceeded my (rather high!) expectations.

Okay. So what’s the overview?

Well, I felt that the beauty of the conference concept was that it appealed to midlist and mid-career authors and illustrators, unlike SCBWI which seems to target beginners. It gave nonfiction a long-overdue emphasis, and addressed current issues like the Common Core. And faced the digital revolution head-on with up-to-date info.

The faculty included, besides Lionel and me, Andy Boyles (Highlights), Mary Kay Carson (NF author, Bats! app), Robin T. Brown (Nat’l Geo kids), Kent Brown (Highlights Foundation), Vicki Cobb (iNK Think Tank, NF author), John Bemelmans Marciano (author), Laura P. Salas (NF author), Alyssa Pusey (Charlesbridge Sr Editor), Karen Robertson (app expert), Joy Butts (Time Home Entertainment), Melissa Stewart (NF author), Rebecca Graziano (Pearson), Patricia Stockland (Lerner, Editor-in-Chief), Peggy Thomas (NF author), Lou Waryncia (Cobblestone), others.

      Publishers Panel  Listening

And the attendees were writers, illustrators, librarians, and other kidlit folks. I asked a few where they were from, and they came from all over – PA, NY, WV, MA, GA, MD, FL, CA, DE, IL, OH, NC, TX, NJ…

I did a 3-hour Intensive with Lionel Bender on Transmedia (taking your story or idea across multiple media, like print, ebooks, TV, websites, interactive apps; showed KIWiStoryBooks and the new AR apps by OCG Studios). And three workshops: Reinventing Yourself: Using your skills in new markets (career paths, professional practices, dealing with rejection, using social media, fresh directions…); a panel with Karen Robertson (“Treasure Kai”) and Mary Kay Carson (“Bats!”) on Creating our apps; and The Business Side of Apps: Contracts and Costs (also how to make an app, the App Store, marketing, COPPA, profit/loss, iOS/Android). Plus did three critiques.

Because I was doing my own programs, or critiques,  almost the whole time, I got to sit in on only one workshop:  the excellent Mary Kay Carson on School Visits. Vicki Cobb’s Keynote was entertaining and witty, but she got serious when she talked about some of the absurdities of testing and the rigid way we are sometimes expected to write nonfiction. The Publishers Panel discussed The Future of Children’s Nonfiction, which needless to say is entering a robust time, what with Common Core and the coming digital age. For more extensive coverage, go to Rocco Staino’s piece in School Library Journal and Krystyna Poray Guddu’s article in Publishers Weekly. All in all, quite a busy, fun, and gratifying conference.

          Izumi Ashizawa & Roxie Munro     Roxie Munro Reinvent Talk    Roxie & Nancy Pi-Sunyer

Bo and I stayed in the dorm next door (here checking the iPhone on a bunk-type bed) – rather primitive, but cozy and just fine, particularly when I did a mental 180, and decided to view it like camping, in which case it was luxurious compared to a tent.

                                                        checking iphone in dorm room

The responses to the conference have been amazing – everyone has been raving about it, and feels like they are in on the beginning of something big. We’re almost afraid that it was TOO successful – that it will get too popular. Learned a lot, met new friends and reconnected with good buddies, and like the lady below, had a really good time!

                                      Fun Conf dinner

Authors all over are playing tag.

Someone came up with the idea to have a “blog hop”– a writer answers a few questions about his or her work, then tags two other authors in the post, and then they post and tag two other people and so on. Last week I was tagged by Mina Javaherbin, the award-winning author of Goal and The Secret Message. Her wonderful books are multicultural…she is interested in the “new global village way of life.” Mina and I met up in New York a couple years ago, and connected immediately – she is brilliant, vibrant, and involved. Please check out her websitehttp://minajavaherbin.com/ ) and her great books!

So on to The Next Big Thing questions for me:

1. What is the title of your work-in-progress? Slithery Snakes

Roxie Munro

2. Where did the idea come from? It evolved from a series of nature books I’ve created: Hatch! (about birds); Busy Builders (bugs); EcoMazes: 12 Earth Adventures (ecosystems); Desert Days, Desert Nights (desert habitats).

3. What genre does your book come under? Nonfiction, or informational, children’s picture books.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?  Sir Hiss from the animated “Robin Hood” movie, the viper in “Kung Fu Panda,” Nagini in “Harry Potter”?

5. One sentence synopsis for your book? Brilliantly painted snake skin patterns, and some fun facts – try to guess the snake species; turn the page to see the answer, with the snake in its habitat.

6. Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency? Out in August from Two Lions, Amazon Children’s Publishing.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Six months.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Hmmmm – maybe books by Lynne Cherry or Mia Posada.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? I think certain aspects of nature can be stranger than anything you can dream up!

10.What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? The vibrant colors and patterns, and some fun and wild information about snakes!

And now, I am tagging two wonderful children’s book folks:

Pat Cummings (website: http://www.patcummings.com/ ) has been an artist all her life. She speaks at conferences, teaches, cohosts “Cover to Cover” (a talk show about the children’s book industry), and works with CBBC (Children’s Book Boot Camp). She’s also involved with PEN and SCBWI. Pat’s fabulous books, many of which she both writes and illustrates, have a strong graphic look …powerful and compelling.

Joy Chu has worked with books most of her life, as a designer and art director for many major publishers. She now runs Joy Chu Designs, as a graphic designer and publishing consultant. Her work has been cited by AIGA, BookBuilders West, the Society of Illustrators, National Book Awards, Print, Step-by-Step, and Publishers Weekly. She’s active in SCBWI, teaches, and writes the popular Got Story Countdown blog. (http://gotstorycountdown.wordpress.com/ )

I attended Author (R)evolution Day (TOC) last week, and met a children’s book author sitting nearby. She said, “Soon, having an app will be as imperative as having a website.”

I’ve been thinking about that. Maybe, instead of creating an app to make money (good luck! marketing an app is not easy), you should think of it as an investment in branding, promotion, and showing your best work in a creative new format.

(Re: For fundamentals for children’s book writers/illustrators making apps, including creative, financial, marketing, go to An a-MAZE-ing Transition: Roxie Munro Talks about Print, Digital & Lessons Learned. )

Do it right. Don’t spend money, time, and your creative assets, and be disappointed. There are programs available (some with a steep time-consuming learning curve), and you may have a tech-y friend who volunteers to build your app. Some even “practice” making an app, using your money and creative content! But I recommend getting an experienced professional children’s app developer. It is worth the money, and may prevent a lot of stress and heartbreak. Do your homework: check out apps and figure out what you want (and need, to keep current); find out what functionality and issues are no-nos for parent/teacher/librarian reviewers, including privacy issues; what works with your concept, like animations, text/word highlighting, sounds, music; and get an idea of pricing – it varies a lot.

Some of my author/illustrator friends have had troubling problems: late delivery (4 to 6 or more months to make your app); expensive for what they got; developer used out-dated technology; a lack of follow-up with updates, bug fixes, and customer support; inadequate testing; no real creative collaboration or input.

Once a developer has made your app, you are stuck with them; if they don’t do updates or bug fixes in a timely manner (or at all!), there is not a lot you can do. Usually you can’t turn over the app to a new developer, because much of what goes into building it (coding for example) is proprietary, the intellectual property of the developer. Why would they hand it over to another, possibly rival, company? (You can change this in your contract, but most developers do not want to dive into someone else’s code.)

Am very happy with my developer, OCG Studios (my website home page has some awards and kudos). We’ve made two apps together with several more coming out in April. They have a cool new DYO (Develop Your Own) framework for making illustrated apps. Check out a free example (“The Artist Mortimer”). The program for making apps is explained…you do some work, they build it, and you save a lot of money. Scroll down the page to see pricing. If you’re interested, they send a menu and more info.

But you don’t have to use my guys. Get developer recommendations (check out the awards and reviews their apps have; look at customer comments on the App Store page). A good place to learn about developers and children’s apps is Moms With Apps. On the right side, they have links to more info, and scrolling down, a list of children’s app developers. I don’t know the developers’ commissioning guidelines, but they are experienced. And check out Digital Storytime, great for lots of information and reviews.