It’s Saturday. The alarm seems to go off earlier and by alarm I mean my roommate poking me with her finger. The Starbucks line seems longer and the excitement seems bigger. Maybe it’s the caffeine or maybe it’s because SCBWI Conferences are freaking awesome. Realistically–it could be both.
Starting off the morning with Karen Cushman and COURTING SURPRISE. She was fabulous so I must share some of my favorite bits of advice and wisdom…
*The function of freedom is to free someone else.
*Rules: Make your own rules, or better yet, don’t follow any.
*We find the unconscious gifts we give ourselves.
*There is a difference between and editor and a critic.
*Tell the truth–there are things we are morally certain of and that the kind of truth I’m talking about.
*Write with passion and heart.
*Lighthouses don’t run around looking for boats to save–they just stand there and shine. (My favorite)
I’m going to be honest–this year was the year of the Panels. The Editor, Picture Book and Agent Panels were among the best I’ve ever seen this time. I was truly impressed. This was the Editor Panel: HOW TO SUCCEED IN PUBLISHING–FINDING YOUR VOICE.
From left to right with some of their best tips…
(JB) Jordan Brown
(EH) Elise Howard
(NP) Neal Porter
(LO) Lin Oliver–Moderator
(FJ) Farrin Jacobs
(TB) Tamar Brazis
(LG) Laura Goodwin
How do you define voice?
LG–It’s what makes an author unique. Equated with style, not to be confused with being stylish. The more you know who you are the clearer your voice is.
EH–Read Dan Gutman’s faculty bio from the conference and 1,200 people knew who she was talking about. That’s voice.
FJ–Things can be “too voicey” and feel unnatural.
JB–Bad voice is when you are picturing an author in their house trying to write a scene instead of being swept into a scene.
What are the attributes of successful authors/illustrators?
EH–They are a contradiction. When you send an editorial letter, they do what you’ve asked but they likely do it in their own unique way, bringing something new and unexpected to the table.
TB–The ability to revise–separate your ego from the project to make the work the best it can be.
FJ–They keep their “stuff” to themselves.
NP–Expensive presents. Ha!
JB–The knowledge that the editor and the author know that they are working together towards the same goal.
There is something special about Bryan Collier. Something very special. Once again he was one of those speakers who I listened to and wondered how my life could have been complete without knowing that he was in it. He blew me away when he talked about FROM A SEED TP A TREE. I’ll share some of him most moving bits, but know that it can’t possibly do him justice–he wears his heart on his sleeve. Every emotion he has is illustrated clearly on his face and he is a charming, funny, intelligent, beautiful soul. If you ever get a chance to meet him…you will come back here and tell me that I was right.
*What I do with my work–I’m chasing HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON every time. *heart squish*
*In high school–I loved sports, but nothing touched me deeper than making art.
*You have to protect and nurture this artistic seed inside of you, but you still have to eat. Give up the romantic notions and do what you have to do.
*On visiting the lobbies of publishing houses every week for seven years, in order to try to sell a book–The publishing houses didn’t know what they did to me when they let me sit in their lobbies. It was magical, incredible. Julie Andrews walked by one day. I just wanted to get there.
*Everybody’s afraid of your dream–nobody knows what is going on inside of you.
Of course I floated down to my first break-out session of the day…
Lots of fun and great information from Jay Asher–NO BOOKMARKS ALLOWED: HOW TO INJECT SUSPENSE INTO YOUR NOVEL
Jay used one of the greatest suspense stories of all time to teach us what we needed to know…
There’s a Monster at the End of This Book! LOL!
So what do we need to keep the bookmark from slipping between the pages?
*You have to have one character the reader cares about.
*A satisfying ending is unpredictable, but you believe it had to happen just that way.
*Use chapter endings to your advantage.
*Suspense killers: bad dialogue, unnecessary description, forced motivation, vague action.
After a yummy break for lunch. (Frozen yogurt with M&M’s and chocolate sprinkles may have been involved.) We returned for another bang up keynote by Clare Vanderpool, author of MOON OVER MANIFEST. Clare was hysterical and moving when she talked about WRITING IN THE CROSSROADS: WHERE CRAFT AND CREATIVITY MEET.
Loved it when she talked about a little neighborhood boy who booked her to come into his classroom and talk. (too stinkin’ cute) He also asked her to sign his book–unfortunately for Clare it was the 4th Lemony Snicket book. ROTFL!!! Of course she did it. <3
*There is no “What to expect when your win the Newbery.” (Clare won as a debut author)
*Knowledge of craft can form the foundation to create.
*If we think we’re going to get our hands slapped every time we write a sentence, than it’s almost impossible to create.
*You really do have to put in the miles–just like running.
*It’s about writing, writing and more writing–you can’t learn to ride a bike without actually riding the bike.
*Sometimes we think something is wonderful and it’s not, but sometimes we think something is horrible and it is not.
* My theory is that the universe is made up of story.
Next up was Deborah Underwood and THE POWER OF QUIET.
*It might look like I’m doing nothing, but at the cellular level I’m very busy.
*Quiet is not validated in our society at all.
*There are built in pauses in our life.
*We owe it to the kids who read our books to make time for quiet–great things come from those pauses.
Back to the last break-out session of the day.
Jordan Brown–WRITING FOR BOYS
False perception: Writing for boys=Writing for people who don’t like to read. It has less to do with the ability to read and more to do with how to pitch to boys.
*Boys won’t like reading if they don’t like what they’re reading.
*Boys live in a multimedia world.
*Rise of the “Do it Yourself Aesthetic.”
*Developing connections with authors and readers
Kinds of things that have boy appeal.
*Boys don’t like to be talked down to.
*Boys do like gross-out humor but they know when it’s just thrown in randomly.
*Don’t assume that the things they like in life (sports etc…) are the only connections they will make to reading.
*Tether your fiction to the truth.
*It doesn’t have to be a boy character, but it helps.
*Guys just want to be yelled at less. Avoidance. They aren’t all about the personal development like girls.
*High concept doesn’t mean low quality.
*Don’t be afraid of illustrations or technology.
Ruta started to write because someone asked her what her story was and she dared to dig deep. She repeats often that history holds secrets, but it’s not just a political history that does this–it’s our own.
*How much of your emotional stuff are you willing to give?
*What is the novel only you can write?
*What scares you?
*What causes you pain?
*What do you wish would just go away?
*Expose your emotional truth, putting it behind your fiction–that is timeless.
*The things you are feeling–there is a reader out there who experiences the same thing.
*I met my savage self when I undertook this writing.
*You can’t break the broken–but you can glue yourself back together.
*Reveal yourself–you have a safety net–the SCBWI
By the time Ruta asked us “What is your story?” I was in tears and profoundly moved. Just like Bryan Collier, I can’t begin to translate the power of this keynote on to the page but I can tell you that I walked away feeling as if I give anything less than this to my writing than I’ve sold myself short.
Deborah Halverson did an amazing job with AN UP TO THE MINUTE SURVEY OF MARKET NEEDS AND TRENDS.
Just the broad strokes…
*Picture books–improved market, but still fragile.
*Chapter books–room for growth.
*MG–best spot for acquisition.
*YA–More successful that ever, but very dependent on the big list authors while the mid list authors are still struggling.
*High use of agents (conference appearances and referrals)
*What’s in the slush pile is sent prematurely–not usually a thought out fit.
*It’s hard to find self-published authors who can turn into successful acquisitions.
*Tastes of editors doesn’t change because of the market.
*Creativity is at the heart of what we do.
TIME FOR THE HIPPIE HOP!!!!!
Jodi Moore and Mike Jung
Amy Nichols and Me!!! (We’re blurry because we hippy hopping LOL!)
Me, Stephanie Ruble and Jodi Moore
Gretchen McNeil and Me!!!! Love her. <3
Debra Driza and Me…who knew she was so tall???
RA of Eastern Upstate New York…Nancy Castaldo in a fabulous jump suit!
Yes, we LOVE Lin Oliver!!!!
Leeza Hernandez had my favorite costume of the night!
Can you guess who this is? I’ll give you a hint from above…he loves Grover.
And don’t forget you can still win a Pre-order of TOUCHING THE SURFACE…HERE.
PS. It’s now 2am and I don’t have the braincells to read this over. I’m too tired to ask a creative conversational question so pop in if you’ve got something to say and if it’s got typos or formatting bloopers…I’ll fix it later *yawn* Night…