SCBWI Interview: Debbie Gonzales on Storytelling in the Digital Age: Embrace the Change

As Austin SCBWI regional advisor, you’re playing a pivotal role in launching Storytelling in the Digital Age: Embrace the Change, a symposium that will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 8 at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. How did the idea for this event develop?

A few months ago, our chapter’s Illustrator Chair, Mark G. Mitchell, and illustrators C.G. “Clint” Young and Erik Kuntz presented the idea of gathering a few of Austin’s local digital art specialists to meet together with the intention of sharing ideas, techniques, and talent. The four of us met at a local restaurant, along with ARA Carmen Oliver, and brainstormed aspects of an event that would highlight topics such as digital illustration, e-book creation, developing e-promotional platforms, and the like.

What began as a dinner-time brainstorming session has now become a symposium featuring 15 creative professionals, each of which are enthusiastic about sharing their expertise. Whether the attendee is an illustrator or an author, a techie or a technophobe, a newbie to the craft or an old hand, everyone will benefit from the information being presented.

Actually, the word symposium is defined as a social gathering where there is a free exchange of ideas. That is exactly what I anticipate will happen during this event.

What topics will be highlighted?

Oh, goodness, where to start? A central focus will be on the creation of, the development, and the legalities involved in publication, distribution, and promotion of digital books and those who craft them. We’re going to feature discussions about social media, the developing an effective web presence, blogging and vlogging, creating promotional trailers, using YouTube as a teaching tool, app creation, and more. We’ll talk about how the roles of independent bookseller and the SCBWI in the digital age. There also will be illustrators giving hands-on demonstrations.

What will the program offer to illustrators?

So very much! Illustrators will learn about the latest in animation and artistic techniques using a variety of software. They’ll learn how to compose elaborate promotional projects in practical, simplistic, understandable, hands-on ways. And they will have the time and space to gather together to share ideas.

To writers?

E-published in conjunction with
Andrea Brown Literary, 2011

Along with the plethora of presentations focusing on book promotions, two of our presenters will be talking about their e-book publishing experience. Author Lindsey Lane will discuss the process of transforming her out-of-print picture book into an app, and author P.J. Hoover will discuss the publication of her new YA novel – first as an e-book, then as a print publication.

We will have two new app publishers – Deanna Roy of Casey Shay Press and Meridith Blank Taylor of Great Hills Publishing – who will discuss submission strategies and the process by which a book becomes an app.

Should beginners consider signing up? Or is this more of an advanced publishing-oriented program?

Yes, yes…of course beginners should consider signing up, as well as the advanced professional. Because of the wide spectrum of topics offered, both the newbie and the pro will glean something of value from the symposium.

For instance, if someone is confused about the value of Twitter, there will be someone there who will touch on the topic. Or if someone is weighing the pros and cons of e-publishing, our presenters can shed an experienced light on their decision. Clever techniques for book trailer creation will be covered. Strategies to get one’s work noticed through utilization social media will be hot topics.

Is there a craft element?

Yes. Not only will attendees witness what can be done digitally, they will learn how to do it. This event is all about craft, though not in the typical way we’re used to thinking about it.

Instead of considering the development of plot, character, or premise, we’ll be dabbling in the unlimited potentiality of the pixel.

In new and/or rapidly developing areas, how did you identify qualified speakers?

We are so lucky to be surrounded by excellence here in Austin. First of all, Erik Kuntz, Clint Young, and Mark G. Mitchell capitalized on their creative relationships with the Inklings, a group of highly accomplished illustrators who share their time and talents monthly.

Through their connections we were able to enlist Amanda Williams, the creator of the wildly popular IPad app, Spider; illustrators Joel Hickerson and Bear James; Marsha Riti, Lalena Fisher, and Shelly Ann Jackson – also known as The Girllustrators; social media expert Nick Alter, and Ezra Weinstein founder of InteractBooks.

Being that the development of a strong web presence is critical to one’s book-selling success, it seemed natural to develop the business component of the event. Erik leads the way by demonstrating how to create and maintain one’s web persona. Marketing expert, Zack Gonzales, will teach us how to use new software called xtranormal to create digital promotional trailers. Author P.J. Hoover will demonstrate the nuts and bolts of creating professional digital projects.

Located at 6th & Lamar in Austin.

Finally, we want to know how folks at BookPeople, Austin’s flagship independent bookstore, and SCBWI view their roles in the digital publishing world. So, BookKids marketing director Mandy Brooks, BookKids buyer Meghan Goel and SCBWI national executive director Lin Oliver were invited to participate.

Lin will be speaking to us via Skype, which seems quite suiting, don’t you think?

The cost of the event ($75 for members/$100 for non-members) is a bargain. Why was it important to you to keep costs low?

Keeping the cost affordable makes it more inclusive. There will be such an outpouring of inspiration and sharing of ideas that anyone involved in the world children’s literature will benefit, and we will delight hosting them!

Cynsational Notes

Debbie Gonzales has enjoyed a long and fabulous career in education serving as a classroom teacher, a school administrator, an educational consultant, a curriculum designer, and a writing workshop instructor with Austin’s Badgerdog Literary Publishing.

She’s currently working as an adjunct faculty member at St. Edward’s University. Debbie earned an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults and has published a series of early-readers with New Zealand’s Gilt Edge Publishing.

She’s a contributor for ReaderKidZ, a website committed to fostering a love of reading for kids ages K-5, and hosts Simple Saturday, a website celebrating reading, writing and simplistic family fun.

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