I dropped the boys at school.
I brought the puppy to Canine Kindergarten.
And then I made the great escape…
I was off to the 2015 SCBWI NY Winter Conference. I was giddy by the time I sat my butt on the train, because with the holidays, and the puppy and the boys and the snow, I was ready to get away. I needed a weekend where I focused on friends, writing and inspiration. Not to mention about 48 hours where the only person I have to clean up after was ME.
Settling into my seat on the train, I glanced out the window, saw a gorgeous American Bald Eagle in the tree, and then cracked open a book. You can all give a pleasurable sigh right along with me. *sigh* And then, as if good karma was touching me on the head with her magic finger, my hotel room was ready and I was off to meet my fabulous agent, Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary for lunch. (In case you’re wondering, Michelle is currently opened to queries, but be sure to follow the guidelines on her website.)
My favorite picture of us <3
And here are some of the treats she brought for me…
Two of The Maggie Malone Books by Jenna McCarthy and Carolyn Evans.
The Fire Artist by Daisy Whitney.
And here’s the new cover in case you’re wondering. OMG! I love it.
*does a happy dance* I can not wait to read them all!!!
Toting my cache, warm from Michelle Wolfson hugs, it was back to the hotel in time to meet up with all my friends. Some had done the Intensives and some were just arriving in NYC.
*Drum roll please* because it’s time to get to the stuff you really want to hear about…
It isn’t a conference if we don’t have Lin Oliver‘s conference statistics:
* 1,032 attendees
* From 47 states. Kansas, Wyoming, Oklahoma and North Dakota were missing–come on people–we need you there!
* There were people in attendance from 16 different countries *fist pump* With NY being the largest chunk of the pie followed by CA, MA and then NJ. Lin called the NJ folks out on their driving skills LOL!
* 32% of attendees are published and 375 folks were our talented illustrators.
* Start planning now so you can be in one of those seats next year!
The first Keynote of the conference was by Anthony Horowitz–Grabbing Young Readers From First Line to Last
Just so you know, Anthony had an amazing British accent, so if I’m going to be truthful, the whole audience would have let him read the phone book and still enjoyed his keynote LOL! But he WAS an amazing speaker. His rapid fire jokes and insights had everyone listening and laughing. Here are some highlights…
* He spent lots of time in the boarding school library because that was the only place he felt safe and secure.
*The end of a chapter should never be an excuse to stop reading.
*At one point in his career he was worried his grave stone would read BIG in Belgium LOL!
*Harry Potter changed EVERYTHING!
*Writers are arsonists–setting the world on fire is their natural default.
*Children don’t just read books–they devour them.
*The first line is the thing the kids will read in the store.
*Write up for kids.
*I am a camera-kids are bombarded with images, your words need to create strong images that keep their attention.
*Writing is telepathy-if you’re excited about what you’re writing, chances are that you’ll have readers excited too.
*NEVER GIVE UP
Next up was the Keynote Editor’s Panel: Children’s Books 2015–Report From the Front Lines
BH–Beverly Horowitz (VP and Publisher, Delacorte Press)
LG–Laura Goodwin (VP and Publisher, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)
SOL–Stephanie Owens Lurie (Associate Publisher, Disney-Hyperion)
MODERATOR LO–Lin OLiver
Just some highlights from the discussion…
JC–Adult sales are flat and children’s are up! *fist pump* BUT…teen sales are up on a handful of authors, but not the majority. And FYI the movie industry has a lot to do with that.
Ummm anyone want to make a blockbuster movie about TOUCHING THE SURFACE?
JC–Contemporary is not the only thing kids want to read.
JC–The picture book is NOT dead!
JC–Continued upswing in MG.
JC–reminder that the business is cyclical.
JC–Common Core has not killed fiction.
JC–We write and publish good books and let everyone else, especially the media, take care of themselves.
BH–Write a great book and people will talk about it.
LG–There is an ongoing battle with piracy.
LG–Social media has allowed our mouths to reach more people and allowed authors to be advocates for each other’s books. <3
SOL–A Nielsen’s survey says kids prefer physical books.
SOL–Smaller books can easily get elbowed out.
SOL–It’s difficult to break out new authors.
SOL–The biggest disruption to a writer (trying to write) is from the fans seeking their time and attention on social media.
SOL–There is a correlation between and author’s tweets and sales (but that doesn’t mean annoying buy my book tweets. Talking about fan interaction style tweets)
SOL–Think about more than “how do I get my book published” and focus on “how I can get my work to an audience.”
JC–Social media is great, but you have nothing if you don’t have a strong story. Focus on that.
JC–YA and MG have very different social media.
JC–When you’re looking for a publisher, they should be a home–a partnership. They should be someone who shares your vision but isn’t telling you what your vision is.
JC–I don’t really like publishing books–I like publishing authors and illustrators. <3
Some highlights from the Workshop…
*Read a lot and not just in YA.
*Have a social media presence that’s comfortable for you, but does not interfere with you getting your writing done.
*KNOW your characters inside and out.
*If you’re writing in 1st person it should come to you in a strong and organic way.
*Utilize maps and outlines for plot and structure but don’t be afraid to stray from them.
*Get a supportive critique group and get comfortable with tough love.
*Persevere when the going gets tough, but don’t be afraid to walk away from a project if it’s just not working.
This was a fabulous workshop. Best I’ve been to for explaining what literary fiction really means. In truth it has different connotations for different people. If you think literary fiction is dense, slow and boring, you’re probably reading writing that is UNSUCCESSFULLY trying to be literary.
Literary fiction is not about content–it’s about quality. It’s entertaining, but it’s also something more.
*Literary fiction needs to be about something that readers want to talk about because it engages them on an intellectual and emotional level.
*Readers of literary fiction crave authentic and original voice.
*Good writing without a plot is BORING not literary.
*YOU WANT YOUR LITERARY NOVEL TO ALSO BE COMMERCIAL!!!!!!
*Literary books are stories that break the rules and do not fit neatly inside their genres.
Time for another Keynote. This one Beyond Language: Creating Picture Books That are Read and Played by Herve Tullet
I’m going to be honest–it’s hard to explain Herve Tullet. He is not your typical keynote speaker. His favorite word is HA! Which is the reaction he wants from his readers when they explore his books. He believes it’s the most exciting thing when he can illicit that word from someone else.
Ideally I would have videotaped Herve interacting with the audience, as he guided us through his brilliant books, the way he does when he meets with children. But that’s not allowed, so this is the best I can do to capture the magic.
You must go out and buy his books and share them with children. <3
The last Keynote of the day was Kami Garcia talking about The Truth About Writing.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take a lot of notes because I was so caught up in Kami’s speech.. Suffice it to say she’s a hard working, funny lady with a big heart. I adored how her and her writing partner Margaret Stohl filled a void, empowered girls, set a fabulous standard for boys and the whole time stayed super connected to the teens they were writing for. One of the most fascinating parts of the story was their journey to publication. Kami doubts they would have been brave enough to do it the same way if they’d been purposefully trying to publish. And it was also “good” to hear, that despite her incredible success, Kami gets as nervous and insecure as we do every time she’s writing something new.
The rest of the evening included an Art Browse, where everyone had a chance to check out the gorgeous portfolios of the illustrators attending the conference. This was followed by the Gala Dinner where you could find me in my favorite spot…
THE MASHED POTATOE BAR!!!!!
After the Gala there was also several socials for LGBTQ, illustrators, new members/first time conference attendees and international attendees. And of course there is always the unofficial group of “Lobby Rats” that hangs out and talks half the night away. This wasn’t all the rats, we’re a large and transitory group, but this pic captured a bunch of us.
The wonderful part of this is that some of the Lobby Rats have been doing this for years and some we just met for the first time that very evening.
If you’re thinking about coming to next year’s conference and you’re worried about not knowing anyone, know you can always contact me and we’ll make sure you have friends to eat with and buddies to hang out with. Worrying about being alone should NEVER be a reason not to come to the NY conference!!!
I’m kind of thinking we should get Lobby Rats T-shirts. What do you think? SCBWI Lobby Rat?
And we now have the unofficial and very weird NY SCBWI Lobby Rats mascot, which was dressed up as Harry Potter this year. The costume kind of make it less creepy–but not much ROTFL!
And some Lobby Rats are RA’s who have work to do and missed the photo. Love you, Stacy Mozer and thanks for all you do for the SCBWI. (((((hugs)))))
I’ll be back on Thursday with the second half of the 2015 NY SCBWI Winter Conference recap. But in the mean time, I desperately need to know your favorite toppings on your mashed potatoes. Mine are mushrooms, bacon, cheddar cheese and chives. *grin*