Friday, December 3, 2010

Chris Barton - Award Winning Author of "The Day-Glo Brothers" Speaks to SCBWI-SWTX

"You Better Believe It: How the Day-Glo Brothers Survived All The Things I Didn't Know."
Chris Barton Speaks to SCBWI-SWTX Nov.13, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas.

 "The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors" Written by Chris Barton, Illustrated by Tony Persiani, and published by Charlesbridge. A 2010 Sibert Honor Book. One of 2009's Best Children's Books By Publishers Weekly,School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews,The Washington Post, and the Bank Street College of Education. "Shark Vs. Train", written by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, and published by Little Brown Books For Young Readers. A New York Times and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller.One of 2010's Best Children's Books by Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and School Library Journal.

Chris Barton
"I started writing books almost exactly 10 years ago, when my son was almost 2 years old, I'll tell you how that got started ..."
"As my years of effort to get published accumulated, I began to suspect that it's at least as important to believe in what you're doing as it is to know what you are doing."

The Day-Glo Brothers was Chris Barton's first book, but winning a big award for a debut author is not the only thing that makes the Day-Glo Brothers unique. Chris Barton remembers the exact time and place he got the idea for The Day-Glo Brothers - from an obituary he read August 29, 1997 in the New York Times.
 "Robert Switzer, co-inventor of Day-Glo paint, dies at 83."

The idea stuck with him, and then in 2001, when he began thinking about writing children's books, "the Day-Glo story was one of the first that came to mind."

"At that time there were two things that I essentially knew nothing about - Day-Light Fluorescents and Children's Publishing. And those are the qualifications that I brought to the project that would essentially become The Day-Glo Brothers. But the important thing is I believed ..."

Chris wanted to make a picture book featuring Day-Glo colors.
"Before that could happen, I had to have a manuscript, so I set out to write those words and tell the Switzer brothers' story."

Around the summer of 2001, he looked up the names and the cities of relatives, including a surviving brother Fred, and began making phone calls.

"I said 'Hi. My name is Chris Barton, and I'd like to write a children's book about how Bob and Joe Switzer invented Day-Glo.' "
"I figured there were two likely reactions. Enthusiasm, because, you know, who wouldn't like their father or their brother or their husband to be immortalized in a book for young readers?
And caution, because 'Who is this Chris Barton and why can't I find any other books by him?"

Bob and Joe's younger brother Fred (who was at that time in his 70's), Bob's widow Pat, and Joe's first wife Elise (both in their 80's) consented to interview after interview. They sent family photos, newspaper clippings, and a homemade video documentary.

"Later, one of Bob's sons, sent me the original letters of correspondence, not copies, but the actual original materials that the brothers kept in the mid 1930's while they were conducting their first experiments ... These should have been in the Smithsonian, but instead they were with me at Kinkos ..."

By late summer 2001, he had written enough of a draft that he was ready to share it at a critique session with the Austin SCBWI - a 3 page double-spaced manuscript which didn't even get to the point of where the Switzer brothers had first conceived of their invention.

"I didn't know how long a picture book manuscript was supposed to be, and that explains how I wound up submitting to several editors a picture book manuscript that was 6,200 words long."

"There is nothing quite as bone-headed as trying to submit a 6,200 word picture book."

Chris Barton shows us his original "6,200 word picture book" manuscript.

"You have do more than just believe strongly in your own work or believe in the story that you're trying to tell ..... there are things that you have to know, and if you don't know them you owe it to yourself to learn what they are."

"You have to know the market, you have to know your audience, you have to know your technique, and you have to take seriously the feedback that you receive."
"And then based on knowing all those things, you have to have the ... ability to simply reach a different conclusion about your prospects and all those people who keep telling you no."

"I got 23 rejections for The Day-Glo Brothers before it got accepted."
Then he met Jeanette Larson, Youth Services Manager for the Austin Public Library in late 2003.

"Jeanette had industry connections and a sharp editorial eye." She critiqued the manuscript and suggested some publishers.

"I cannot overstate how important it is to sincerely cultivate genuine interpersonal connections with the people in this industry."

In January of 2004, at the American Library Association Conference, Jeanette Larson talked to Yolanda LeRoy, who was an editor at Charlesbridge Publishing. Nine months later Chris had a contract with Charlesbridge for The Day-Glo Brothers.

It took 3 years from the beginning of his research to the contract, and another 5 years before the book actually came out.

"You know, there's 23 other publishers that I submitted The Day-Glo Brothers to ... a couple of questions seem obvious."

"Number One: What took me so long to submit that manuscript to Charlesbridge since they were so obviously the right home for the Switzer story?"

"And Two: What did Charlesbridge see in The Day-Glo Brothers that all those other publishers didn't?"

"If there's someone in the audience who is interested in writing, that worries that they may not know everything they need to know in order to get published, or in order to write at all - I am ample proof that you can get by with a lot of ignorance and and still write and still succeed and do what you enjoy doing."

Chris Barton autographing a copy of"The day-Glo Brothers" with Day-Glo markers.


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