Guest post by Maria Parrott-Ryan.
If you want to be published today, you have to know today’s market. Know what’s being published NOW.
Have you heard this as many times as I have? If you’re looking for ways to follow this advice, I want to make sure you know about the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (a.k.a. the CCBC), in Madison, WI.
The CCBC has given me a deeper and broader knowledge of today’s children’s book market. Here, I’m sharing my top five favorite CCBC resources. There’s a lot more, so poke around on their website. Also, you can visit the CCBC and use its collection at any time—but it’s a non-circulating research library, so you can’t check books out.
The annual Choices publication is a compilation of the year’s best children’s books, according to the CCBC librarians. It always turns me on to diverse books and excellent titles that didn’t get the attention they deserved elsewhere. Plus, Choices starts with the librarians’ observations on children’s literature trends from the past year. Get your hands on Choices 2018, and check out the choices from previous years, too.
Also: consider attending the annual Choices Day event in the spring. It’s great to read the CCBC librarians’ short reviews of selected books, but it’s excellent to listento them talk about those books. These people LOVE BOOKS, and they talk about their favorites with thoughtful (and infectious) enthusiasm. There’s a question that repeats in my head a lot after Choices Day: What if it were mybook they were talking about? Then I sit down to write with renewed energy so that maybe someday it will be.
- Book of the Week
Every week, the CCBC librarians feature one title on their blog and website. CCBC Director K.T. Horning told me they use the same criteria for these books as they do when compiling Choices: “literary and artistic merit.” (My two favorite criteria!) You can follow Book of the Week selections on the CCBC’s blog or on Twitter @CCBCwisc.
- Charlotte Zolotow Award
As a writer I can’t help loving this award, because it’s based on the quality of a picture book text. Every year the CCBC librarians choose a winner and several “Honor” and “Highly Commended” titles. This makes for a nice list of picture books to devour immediately or savor over time.
- Book sales
If you’re anywhere near Madison, don’t miss the Friends of the CCBC’s book sales. I coordinated these sales for four years, so take my word for it: they’re the best deal in the state. You can spend hours flipping through boxes and boxes (and boxes) of new children’s books. I’m talking picture books, board books, easy readers, MG and YA novels, nonfiction…everything. And every book is $4 or less—often less!
(Is this starting to sound like an ad? My apologies. I’m not getting paid to write this. If I were, I’d just spend all the money at the next book sale…)
- Charlotte Zolotow lecture
Every fall, the CCBC hosts a FREE author lecture in Madison. (Like the picture book award, it’s named in honor of the late Charlotte Zolotow). The past few lectures have featured Yuyi Morales, Jacqueline Woodson, and Jason Reynolds. This fall, it’ll be Benjamin Alire Sáenz.
Confession: When I first heard the CCBC announce those authors, the only name I recognized was Jacqueline Woodson. (Although two seconds after they announced Jason Reynolds I started hearing his name everywhere, including my sleep). So in addition to providing chances to hear award-winning authors speak, this lecture series will almost certainly turn you on to amazing authors you haven’t read before.
Bonus! Monthly book discussion
I asked K.T. what else she would recommend for aspiring writers and illustrators. She reminded me the CCBC’s monthly book discussions are open to the public. This is a resource I haven’t taken advantage of yet. (Maybe I’ll see you at the next one?)
One last thing: If you become a member of the Friends of the CCBC, you’ll be added to the e-mail list for events and announcements, and you’ll get a copy of Choices.
All photos courtesy of the CCBC and Friends of the CCBC.
Maria Parrott-Ryan is a writer, editor, and the recipient of SCBWI-WI’s middle-grade mentorship.