I’m back for Part 2 of my NY 2017 SCBWI Conference Recap!!!
And like these two guys, I’m a bit confused…
(Scott Hammon and Justin Brancato)
I can’t remember exactly when, during the conference a few of these pictures happened.
So–I’m gonna go with it and just kick off with them.
This is just a shot giving you an idea of how big the conference tribe is.
Some of our SCBWI Faculty getting ready to go on stage and take a bow!
And over in the corner was all our fabulous RA’s who volunteer their time and experience. <3
We love you RA’s!!! How did I not get my conference picture with my RA Nancy Castaldo?
And then it was officially the Sunday Morning Conference Kick-off…
I love the awards!!!
Art Portfolio Honors
Art Portfolio Winner
Then we had the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Grants for talented Mid-List authors who have stalled in their publishing career. This is to remind them of their talent and how much we all still believe in them.
Only one of our Mid-List Author Grant Winners was in attendance. I think the weather kept many people from making it. But you can see what this kind of recognition from your peers can mean. <3
We were all choked up.
Next up was the Tomie dePaola Award for Illustrators. I’ve been watching talented artists receive this award since I’ve been coming to the NY SCBWI Conference and I was shocked to learn this was going to be the last time it’s given.
Moving forward, it will now become the Narrative Arts Award and it will still have “Assignments” <3
So, for this year’s winners–it must be extra special.
And there was another big announcement. On the horizon, the SCBWI will be doing a new project called BOOKS FOR READERS.
Two times a year, the tribe will come together to bring books to readers in need. The room was energized at the idea and now we are all waiting to hear more about the new project.
And then it was time to get down to the business of the day–The Current Landscape of Children’s Books
KG–Ken Geist (VP, Publisher, Orchard Books, Scholastic Press Picture Books, Cartwheel Books, Readers, Branches and Little Shepherd)
AH–Andrew Harwell (Senior Editor, Harper Collins)
CH–Carrie Howland (Senior agent, Empire Literary)
EK–Eileen Kreit (Vice President and Publisher, Puffin/Penguin Young Readers Group)
EN–Edward Nescarsulmer IV (Agent, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency)
Here’s the highlights…
AH–Yes, literally everything about children’s books is more important than ever.
EK–Pointed out the changes (cuts) occurring related to the NY Times Best Seller List are due to relocated resources needed to meet the current demand for political news. (I guess the politicians are getting us coming and going.)
KG–Authenticity matters. You can’t lift a flap on an ebook. Picture Books are here to stay.
AH–MG and YA readers are already discerning. Many of 2016’s award winners were already becoming best sellers before their win.
EN–Your brand is your name connected with excellence.
KG–Ha! We “actually” have a wrestling mat in Acquisitions. (On fighting for books you love)
EN–Mergers in publishing have happened for a reason–Penguin/Random–they were digging in. They were announcing to everyone–“we are here to stay.”
And, much to my delight, I found a friend of friend in the audience while waiting
for my next breakout session to start. His name is Hamlet <3
Next up was a Sunday Workshop–this was something we hadn’t done before and I really enjoyed having another fabulous break out session added to the conference.
This session was two pronged and packed in a HUGE amount of intense information.
Writing Within and Across Identity Elements with Cynthia Leitich Smith
How to Write About Difficult Subjects with Ellen Hopkins
Can brought her information at a fast and furious pace in order to give us as much knowledge as she could in a short time. Here are some of the things I was able to capture…
*51% of children today are people of color.
*We are all related.
*When writing, non-human characters are sometimes the ultimate diversity.
*Everything you write will be criticized. Be diligent–be brave.
*Books that feature diverse characters are not there just for a specific type of reader. And the diversity is not there just to teach you something.
Then Ellen mesmerized the audience with her personal stories, letters from readers and samples of her own writing…
*These are the kids we don’t wan to believe exist, but it’s true.
*Never self-censor–tell what needs to be told.
*Be TRUE TO CHARACTER!
Sara and I signed in at the front desk right after the UPS delivery LOL!
And for the last Keynote of the conference we were privileged to hear from Sara Pennypacker. And I was even luckier than most, because Sara made a stop at my boy’s school before the conference and I got to see her in action during a school visit and got some quality time to hang out with her and my friend and Pop-up Engineer Courtney McCarthy who was the book fairy for all the magic that happened for Book Fair an Drop Everything and Read Week.
I wrote like a fiend, trying to capture the best of Sara–here it is…
*We are all doing the same thing–in our own way we are trying to make order out of chaos.
*People who are passionate about what they do (in any area of life) never fail to inspire me. Surround yourself with people who walk with light instead of darkness.
*Write a HELL, YES manuscript–one that makes the agent, editor, publisher and reader say HELL, YES–I must have this!
*Creation is a river and rivers become stagnant if blocked. The best thing a river does is flow. We are all part of the river.
*Story illuminates in a way facts never can.
*Children are the best audience–children are free of adult boundary issues.
*Kids build bonds through characters they love. If an author loves a character. And a kid loves a character. Then ergo–the kid loves the author. This is why Ellen Hopkins stays in the parking lot for 2 hours after school visits because those teens know she doesn’t judge her characters–that she loves them–meaning they can trust her because they will be safe with her. They find her in the parking lot. <3
*Writing Tip–leave room for the reader. Don’t do it all yourself, it’s not a monologue.
*Writing Tip–The story is the boss.
*It’s not about me–story serves the reader.
-Say it with Sara…”If I were God’s own spiritual advisor–I would understand it’s not my job to preach.”
-Authors are not parents.
-Our job is to allow children to safely experience things we don’t actually want them to experience.
*Kids need to hear stories.
*Sometimes the problem exposes the wound that is REALLY the problem.
*Story is a template for kids.
*Children need to tell their stories.
-“There is an evil in the world because people aren’t allowed to tell their stories.” Carl Jung
-I write for children because they can’t write their own stories for themselves. Now I write to give the child a template to use to say…THIS is my story.
-All those people who allow children to to tell their stories may never know what a great and impactful thing they have done. (Thank you librarians and teachers and those who encourage voice)
*Join the SCBWI and then go out and persist!
*Go out and subtract a measurable amount of evil in the world. <3
And get your books signed by the authors and illustrators who have spent the conference teaching you and inspiring you…
Illustrator, Brian Floca and MOONSHOT
Love his art work in this book!
Totally, NOT BORED hanging out with my bud Debbie Ohi <3
Me and Sonya Sones
Signing for the readers at GUFS
The fierce and fabulous Ellen Hopkins!!!!
And Tomie DePaolo…an incredible picture book team
And as we were leaving the autograph room one of my friends pointed to the floor and said…
“this is where the magic happens.”
And my response was…
“then let’s be where the magic happens.” <3
Never be afraid to put yourself where the magic happens.
And that doesn’t change when the conference is over and you head back home…
Remember there will be snow on your windshield and a million other things that would like to keep you from your work.
But don’t let it stop you.
Every conference I attend, I realize that a word or a theme usually floats to the top of my conscious and reminds me what I need to know about myself, my writing and my process.
My take away from New York is PURPOSE AND PERSISTENCE!
I have a purpose in this writing world and I must work to fulfill that.
I believe that the myriad of obstacles that have been put in my path are not there to dissuade me from my work, but have rather been designed to ensure I do my BEST work.
I know I might never reach my own excellence if the world accepts my mediocrity.
This means my challenges are my gifts.
I believe I have a purpose and I will persist and my world will be a better place because of it.
In the comments, feel free to share your own writing manifesto.
Remember–your words have power and magic happened when you put them into the world.
And if you are able–come and join me in LA in July. There can never be too many Lobby Rats at a conference. <3
It’s time for the NY 2017 SCBWI Conference!!!!
I just got back and of course I wanted to share the awesomeness with you.
Just so you know, it wasn’t exactly easy to get there this year…
On Thursday we got hit with a winter storm. My house got just over 10 inches of snow–resulting in a very happy puppy.
With a day off of school, I was kind of lucky because I got some extra sleep and had plenty of time to pack for the next day.
But not everyone was so lucky. I know of several people who couldn’t get their flights sorted out and missed the conference all together. That was a huge disappointment.
I knew I was going to be running a little late for Friday’s Intensive, but my train schedule got pushed back even more due to the boys having 2hr delays. I decided not to stress and go with the flow.
Chilling out and day dreaming while looking out the train widow really paid off. I got to see 4 adult and 4 juvenile American Eagles! And I even captured one on my camera and that made me extra happy.
While I missed most of the morning portion of my Friday Intensive–WRITING THE VERSE NOVEL–but made it for the first half of the round table sessions. Despite being late, I still had an amazing experience and learned a ton. I’ve never attempted a novel in verse before, but I’m intrigued, I enjoy reading them and I always feel that learning new things brings depth and color to anything I’m working on. So it was a great opportunity. And the good news was that I was able to get the handouts and I have access to the notes.
The lovely Bonnie Bader facilitated the Intensive.
Listening to Sonya Sones—The Nuts and Bolts and Safety Pins of Writing the Novel in Verse
*Don’t write a poem that makes a teenager feel stupid. It must be accessible.
*Our goal is to move people with our words–create an emotional response.
*Teens are present tense human beings.
*Read your work out loud with ear plugs. It allows you to hear your own voice.
We also did some fun exercises with Ellen Hopkins‘ session Balancing Verse with Story
Do you want to get your creative descriptions flowing? Try asking yourself some interesting questions like…
What does anger smell like?
What does happiness taste like?
What does sorrow sound like?
What does boredom feel like?
What does love look like?
You should have heard all the interesting and varying responses in the room.
And after another session of round tables, there was even time for a Q & A session with the intensive faculty.
(Sonya Sones, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Ellen Hopkins and Emma Dryden)
Done for the day, it was time to meet up with my friends (old and new) and fellow Lobby Rats for a yummy Italian dinner and lots of catching up in the–you guessed it–lobby!
Then on Saturday morning–despite how comfortable my roomie and best bud, Jodi Moore and I were in our cozy beds at the Hyatt Grand–we rolled on downstairs for coffee, bagels and the kick-off of the conference.
Starting off the day was some birthday singing for the one and only Jane Yolen!
This was followed by Lin Oliver‘s famous SCBWI State of the Conference Address.
Here’s how it all went down…
*40% Published and 60% Pre-Published
*States not representing? North Dakota and Wyoming 🙁
*Attendees came from 61 different countries to include Hong Kong, Australia, Spain and Egypt.
*Some of this year’s interesting Professions/Day Jobs were…
-Costume Shop Supervisor
-Attorney/Voice Over Actor
-Chairman of the Book Selection Committee (everyone was looking for this person LOL!)
-Crime Scene Detective
The first Keynote of the day was the always moving and inspiring Bryan Collier
Here are some of the things you should know…
*When he was 4yo–he saw HIMSELF in the picture book Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. He became obsessed with art and headed to NY–there was no plan B
*Be careful who you share your dreams with, even the people who love you will tell you to get a job.
*Your dreams should be so outrageous they scare you.
*Everything your awkward about is the very thing that makes you special. <3
*Creativity is not just a pond–it’s a river. We are moving!
*The world is waiting for you to dream.
*Sometimes our readers aren’t standing in the doorway. They are in a ditch–behind bars. And they are waiting for you.
Want to check out some of Bryan’s amazing work? Look for his illustrations in KNOCK KNOCK.
Next up was a Panel Discussion–Four Types of Picture Books: A Closer Look
Moderator LL-Laurent Linn
DS–Daniel Salmieri (Illustrator)
GP–Greg Pizzoli (Author/ Illustrator)
ADP–Andrea Davis Pinkney (Author/Editor)
AB–Andrea Beaty (Author)
There was so much great information offered by this panel, so I’ve picked my favorite pieces of advice and inspiration to share with you…
ADP–Bringing non-fiction to readers is like spinach. You have to keep serving it up until they get a taste for it.
ADP–I’m under the belief that if something excites you–it can excite the child.
DS–Don’t be afraid to draw ANYTHING–you’re in a constant state of getting better.
GP–Picture book advice 1. a picture book can be anything 2. it should be direct 3. keep it short.
LL–Ballet look so easy. Effortless. But those ballerina’s have bloody stumps for feet. Rhyme has to look equally effortless.
Next up was my first Break Out Session–World Building with Arianne Lewin
This was a fabulous workshop and very relevant to what I’m working on in my WIP. Here’s what you need to know…
*Creating a world that’s immersive will keep the reader reading.
*The world should unfold organically.
*World building applies to ALL books–it’s the anchor for your story.
*The world has to be believable and manageable.
*1st build atmosphere–it make the reader feel comfortable slipping in.
*If the character believes it–the reader will believe it. It’s in the details.
*Great examples of world building–The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Golden Compass.
*The world is revealed by what your character does–show it!
The Lobby Rats taking a lunch break
One for me and one for my roomie <3
Then it’s back to work…
After lunch it was back to another breakout session.
This one was Writing Middle Grade Fiction with Andrew Harwell, Senior Editor at Harper Collins
*MG readers ages 8-12 (grades 2-6)
*This means that the middle grade section in bookstores houses a WIDE variety of books in one area–Captain Underpants to The Golden Compass.
*MG readers are extremely sophisticated–but keep your eye on the main character–that is the story anchor.
*Never talk down to your readers.
*There is no one, right gold standard voice or style in MG. Do what works for you and your character.
*Plant seeds –details in the earlier part of your book that you can catch again at the end.
*If you have the details clear in YOUR head, you don’t have to over explain anything to the reader. It will make sense. Make your plotting masterfully done.
*Make sure you give your characters a breathing moment–hit different emotional registers.
*The specific details are anchored in the universal themes.
*Be prepared to use sensitivity readers.
The afternoon keynote by Tahereh Mafi is STILL giving me goose bumps.
Everything about this keynote was incredible. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t capture it all. It was her words, which flowed non-stop. It was her elegant demeanor. It was her power and resilience. It was her history and her goals for the future. If you ever get a chance to hear her speak–know you are in for an altering experience.
This is what I was able to capture…
*A thick skin will only insulate you from pain, and act good is a writer who doesn’t feel anything?
*Speaking of her mom, who had her skull fractured on the streets of Iran: grief was a luxury she was never able to afford.
*My thin skin helps me to exhale emotions onto the page.
*Those rejections keep you hungry.
*Not everyone will know our stories and back stories–our inspirations and aspirations–but SOMEONE will find it.
*Lean into your pain and let it shape you.
*If you don’t give up, you can’t fail.
*She wrote and queried FIVE novels before the one that sold.
This year, the walls between the ballroom and the bookstore were opened. I loved it! This is everyone rushing to get Tahereh’s book after her moving keynote.
Next up was the afternoon panel–Children’s Books and the Social Media World: A Panel of Influencers
Moderator by Martha Brockenbrough MB
TJ–Travis Jonker (blogger) @100scopenotes and @TheYarnPodcast
CLS–Cynthia Leitich Smith (author/blogger) @CynLeitichSmith and www.cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com
MW–Mathew Winner (librarian/podcast host/blogger) @MatthewWinner and @AlltheWonders
Here’s a sample of what we got to hear…
TJ–I love when a voice we love in a book carries over into the authors social media.
CLS–Calls out Debbie Ohi as someone who is doing it RIGHT! She has take aways for her audience, snippets of her art, a positive and friendly attitude.
CLS–Write your mission statement as an author.
CLS–Know when to step away from social media and write your book.
CLS–Author profiles with animals–especially quirky animals get more love.
Worth a try, right?
MW–I never set out to have an audience. I set out to share what I love.
MW–Being nice makes you cool!
Usually book signings are on Sunday, but every once in awhile we have a couple people who need to sign on Saturday.
My roomie, Jodi Moore talking to Andrea Davis Pinkney!!!! She was the sweetest to cast with and I’m constantly blown away by what an intelligent woman Andrea is. You must read her work–it’s incredible. I fell in love with this picture book and got a signed copy for my school library…
A Poem For Peter
And I also got to speak with Tahereh Mafi and tell her what an impact her keynote had on me. <3
And then it was time for the Gala with it’s the SCBWI MASHED POTATO BAR!!!
As if it was meant to be–I walked by and they opened this particular Mashed Potato Bar and I was the first one to use it ROTFL!
Hope you enjoyed my NY 2017 SCBWI Part 1 Recap. I’ll be sure to get you Part 2 as soon as I can.
Any questions about the conference? I’ll do what I can to answer them. Planning on going to the LA conference in July and want to be in the Lobby Rat know? Let me know and I’ll add you to the FB group. Or if you’re planning to attend a different SCBWI conference and would like to make sure the Lobby Rats are represented–let me know. We can arrange that <3
And if you want to play along in the comments and give Ellen Hopkins’ exercise a try, here’s your question…
What color was the NY conference and why?
You can answer this as an attendee or as an arm chair conference follower.
My conference was green like a leafy vine, because many of the ideas that were floating around in my head, were finally able to be connected because of what I learned and the people who were inspired me.
It’s time for my last installment of my #LA16SCBWI recap. I apologize for taking so long. I’m usually well done with these by this point, but my kids, my own writing, and other life stuff has kept me busy. But I’m here now and I have lots of great information to share with you about the LA 2016 SCBWI Conference.
Lin and Steve strategically kicked off Sunday mornings #LA16SCBWI offerings with the Agent Panel. After an evening of dancing and kid lit shenanigans at the Gala–only the promise of finding an agent can get the sleepy masses out of their beds LOL!
Agent Panel: Acquisitions Today
VWA–Victoria Wells Arms (Victoria Wells Arms Literary)
GC–Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown, LTD)
KH–Kristen Hall (Catbird)
BS–Brooks Sherman (The Bent Agency)
ERS–Erica Rand Silverman (Stimola Literary Studio)
TW–Tina Wexler (ICM Partners)
Here are some interesting bits and pieces of the conversation…
KH–(Talking to her kids) On quitting her job and starting her own agency… I’m fine. I’m covered in hives, but really I’m fine.
TW–After her intro…”I should have just said I was a cat person.”
ERS–I’m looking for people who are purposeful in their craft.
TW–Do I love it? AND… Can I sell it?
KH–Relies on her instinct when picking clients.
BS–Doesn’t worry about what will sell. If he likes it, he’s willing to dive in.
GC–On queries: No voice of the MC. No gimmicks. Not overly personal. PROFESSIONAL! All authors used in comps should be no older than 5 years!
KH–Loves all the opposite query things that GC does ROTFL!
Then it was time for the Art Award Announcements!
The Mentorship Winners.
The Showcase Honors.
And Showcase Winner–Oge Mora
And speaking of fabulous illustrators, next up was a Keynote by Sophie Blackall: FORAGING FOR STORIES: HOW TO JUSTIFY EAVESDROPPING, LOITERING AND BUYING THINGS ON EBAY
Sophie was a natural storyteller and it was hard to pick out the individual threads to share because everything she said was woven together so interestingly. But I’ll do my best to pick out a few things for you…
*I collect things.
*I’m inspired by my fellows.
*One must always pay attention.
*Missed Connections–> the Measles Project.
*I rode the subway in NY, made eye contact with a stranger and ended up in Bhutan.
*Why is yoga still so hard? Because you are constantly pushing your limits. –>Apply that concept to your writing.
*Kids notice your trivial transgressions. Details matter.
*We make mistakes, but we should strive not to.
*The gestation of a book may be the best part.
*Toni Morrison writes into the light. “It’s not being in the light–it’s being there before it arrives.”
*The making part IS the best part. Do not hoard your ideas–use them all now. Something else will arrive.
Next up was my first Break-out Session of the day. I got so lucky picking Neal Schusterman-DON’T TELL DAD I TOTALED THE UNIVERSE: LESSONS IN WORLD BUILDING LEARNED THE HARD WAY
This was an incredible workshop. If you ever get a chance to talk world building with Neal–I suggest you take it. What I loved about his advice and techniques were how accessible they were. The focus was not on High Fantasy which isn’t what I write. And his approach was clear, logical and easy to assimilate into your own process. Plus he was inspirational and funny. Here is some of the best things I learned…
*There are no rules but the ones you make.
*Be prepared to live by your rules. There are ramifications to the rules that you make.
*You don’t have to address all the changes the butterfly effect has on your story, but you have to KNOW them.
*Rules can be problematic, but they can also be tools.
*Bring the reader in slowly.
*Stories are about people, no matter what world you are building–resist putting the world in front of the characters.
*Learn to write characters in the real world first–then move to world building.
*Master world building with shorter works.
*Too much info on the world can be confusing to the reader.
*When you are world building on existing mythology, you have to bring something new to the table, a twist.
*IF YOU CAN’T KEEP TRACK OF YOUR WORLD IN YOUR OWN HEAD, IT’S TOO COMPLICATED FOR YOUR READER!
*Start with the concept of the world. Find characters that fit into the world. Then work to balance the two.
*The world grows as you go along, that’s why revision is so important. By the end you know the world and the characters, then you have to go back and be sure that everything is consistent.
*Follow the exciting, shiny idea within your manuscript–even if you didn’t plan for it–otherwise the writing will be boring.
After lunch, Linda Sue Park did a fascinating afternoon Break-Out session on CHILDREN’S BOOK AWARDS: HOW JUDGING HAPPENS.
I took a picture–I swear I took a picture. But the phone goblins ate it. I’m still missing my good camera. I can’t believe I didn’t bring it. Maybe I need one of those lens attachments for my phone. Any recommendations?
Anyway–this break-out was Linda giving us back ground and information on the judging of kid lit awards and her personal experience doing the judging. There was so much interesting information woven into Linda’s narrative, but I’ll try to pull out some nuggets that will enlighten you.
*When judging the National Book Award in 2006
*Getting from 50 books down to the ones we wanted to discuss as a group was very difficult.
*Used a weighted math system to get down to the groups top 20 books.
*No one goes over these books the way the committee does–it is legit.
*The were the first committee to have a graphic novel as a finalist.
*The process was super time consuming. Linda couldn’t write for a year and sometimes resented not having a choice in what she could read.
*On judging–if you do this–you will never feel bad about not winning an award again. There are so many good books, deserving books out there.
*If you see Linda Sue Park–ask her how the truffles were? I promise, it’s a great story.
Next up was the always informative Deborah Halverson with the UP-TO-THE-MINUTE MARKET REPORT
Here is some of the newest market info complied by Deborah…
*Overall children’s publishing revenue dipped very little–not a lot of movement.
*YA fiction sales dipped by 3%–the Divergent factor. (dips following movie years)
*Non-fiction kids up by 17% due to adult coloring books
*Audiobooks up 24% making up 10-14% of children’s books
*Expansion as a theme. 60 new Indies this year. 660 since 2009. Stable but flat.
*New codes for YA on the bookshelves allowing for more customization and discovery.
*31 new imprints in the last four years.
Market Trend–How Your Current Projects Fit Into the Marketplace
-quality and creativity are being rewarded. Think: LAST STOP ON MARKET PLACE
-creativity in language and text
-dominated by younger PB’s
-some have longer texts where hope is strong and feels justified
-plenty of room for the illustrator to have story telling room
-Write a single title–>series possibility comes later
-diverse characters/actively looking for diversity
-historical fiction/biographies…ordinary people who change the world
-looking for marketing potential, story telling and personal connections
MIDDLE GRADE FICTION
-a great place to be
-agents say editors are asking
-open field–literary and commercial balance
-wants beautiful language, superb execution
-slow build that garners awards and longevity. Think OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper
-room for serious subject matter
-historical fiction–there are lesser known people to explore or new twist on well knowns
-multi-author series are still strong
-stand alones embraced too
-risks that don’t feel gimmicky
-non-fiction–fresh engagement-something unexpected
-MG is not wrapped up in a single trend at the moment
-looking for humor, adventure, realistic fiction
-serves a diverse audience but doesn’t make diversity an issue
-story trumps trends
-sweet spot falls between literary and commercial
-voice that masters the MG sensibility and funny bone
-in historical fiction a contemporary voice gives access–think Hamilton on Broadway
-realistic fiction and fantasy
-still happening but market saturation
-there are the big stars and the rest of us are duking it out for a space
-everyone is super careful/cautious about what they take on
-you need something different and stand out in a crowded market
-be careful about realistic contemporary–its been done
-blending genres–create fresh magic systems–think GRACELING
-layered female friendships*
-exploring grey areas*
-on twitter… #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List)
The internal mood of publishing…
*We are in a good place.
*Not being lambasted by trends.
*Room for thinking creatively.
*Not relying on only one thing.
*Publishing has settled into the mind set that we CAN change and adapt.
*An active author contract initiative underway
*Discovered we were doing it right all along.
Next up was a Keynote by one of SCBWI’s best, Ellen Hopkins: KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE REAL PRIZE
Ellen had the whole place in tears as she told the story of how life and writing intersect…
*Garbage writing is why they invented revision.
*In this day and age, books are candles in the darkness. And for some children, they are a lifeline.
*Keep your eyes on the real prize: making a positive difference in young lives.
And the final and closing keynote came from the one and only RICHARD PECK <3
*We gather today because misery loves company. *giggle*
*The barbarians are at our gates now–with phones in their hands–playing Pokemon. And they might die never knowing WE are the people who augment reality.
*There are 250 million texts and not a semi-colon among them.
*Where do you get your ideas? Isn’t it odd to suggest we can’t THINK of them?
*Schools don’t build foundations–they build upon them.
*Readers are not looking for authors in their books–they are looking for themselves.
*Throw out and rethink the first chapter after you have the table of contents for your real story.
*It’s never to late to be who you might have been” -George Elliot
And now that Richard Peck has reminded you who you are meant to be, it’s time for the autograph party.
Richard signing a book for the Desmond Fish Library who gave me the Alice Curtis Desmond Award
If you can see the iPad on the table, with Richard Peck—it was a part of me having a beautiful, full circle moment. This spring I had the privilege of being awarded the Alice Curtis Desmond Award and had to give my very first speech. And this speech was in front of another award winner–Salman Rushdie. Yup, it was a sweaty palm, heart racer. But I lived to tell the tale and what I was showing Richard was how I quoted HIM in my speech. And how I also heard Richard speak at my very first NY conference and clearly he had an impact on me then and over the years. And how he used the quote from my speech in his keynote and I couldn’t stop smiling at having the chance to share it all with him. Here’s that speech…
Being here tonight is both thrilling and a little terrifying.
I’m in awe of the esteemed company I get to keep this evening.
Compared to my fellow award winners, I’m at the beginning of my career. This is my first professional nod of recognition.
Receiving the Alice Curtis Desmond award reminds me that sometimes, our FIRST experiences do the most to shape our middles and our endings.
The acclaimed children’s author, Richard Peck once said… “–nobody BUT a reader, ever became a writer.”
When I hear that, what immediately comes to mind–are families, schools and libraries. They are the gate keepers that shape so many first experiences.
I still have my FIRST library card. I was the girl who had more books than Barbies.
In fact, I never went into the stacks without a large, paper grocery bag. I needed something big enough to hold my treasures. Those books held the world.
In the 6th grade, my English teacher read to my class… “In Flanders fields the poppies blow. Between the crosses, row on row.”
It was the FIRST time I understood how powerful writing could be. The meanest teacher I knew, was moved to tears—by words.
In the 10th grade, my class read THE GIVER by Lois Lowry. It was the FIRST time I realized I wasn’t alone. There were other people in the world who asked the same strange questions I did.
The summer before my senior year in high school, I took stock of who I was and what I wanted to be. I compared myself to some of my heroes: Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller, Anne Frank and Mahatma Gandhi.
It was the FIRST time I declared myself woefully inadequate to be anyone’s hero. I lost something that day.
On January 1, 2005, eighteen years later, I lost my father, but I finally found my voice. It was the FIRST day I decided to bravely live up to my own potential.
After my FIRST novel was published, my Mom, an extremely avid reader, told me I was the FIRST author she’d ever met in person. It wasn’t the first time I made my Mom proud, but it was one of my favorites.
My husband has always been my FIRST and most enthusiastic supporter. And because of it, there is an exceptionally large group of twenty-something single males, who work in IT Audit, who’ve read my young adult novel. #uniquemarketing
And I shouldn’t admit it, but when my boys were 2, 4 and 6 they ran out of clean socks and underwear because I was writing. It wasn’t the first time it happened, but it was the FIRST time they called me out on it. We bought more.
Then the day came when I received my FIRST letter from a fan. I’d become someone’s hero after all.
And now, because the clock and good story telling demands it, I need to make my ending reflect my beginning–by returning to the library, where I started.
I want to thank everyone at the Desmond Fish Library, not just for honoring me with my FIRST award and hosting such an incredible evening, but also for all you do–you bring books and readers together. You share my FIRST love and I could not be prouder to be a part of this community. Thank you so much.
I adore this guy! <3
Pam Munoz Ryan and Esperanza Rising
Sophie Blackall had the longest line in the room.
Getting my CHALLENGER DEEP signed by Neal Schusterman
I had an amazing conversation with him. So fan-girling!
Totally goof-balling around with Drew Daywalt of Crayon fame!
Don’t ask–I don’t know ROTFL!
Jon Klassen–what would he have done if I’d grabbed his hat and run? And how often does that happen???
And then we were hungry! Because fan-girling is kind of hard work.
And ice cream after dinner will certainly do the trick!
And it might even work tonight as a reward for getting this last #LA16SCBWI blog post done.
Hope this helpful. If you have any questions about the conference or SCBWI conferences in general, feel free to ask. And remember–if you’re heading to your first conference and you don’t know anyone, let me know and I’ll be sure to help out and introduce you to some new friends.
I’m back! And ready for #LA16SCBWI Part 2–Saturday.
You can’t start your day wrong with Jon Klassen: FINDING YOURSELF IN THE WORK
In case you live under a rock, Jon is the fantabulous author/illustrator of the hat books and more.
And according to Lin, he’s also one of the two hottest Canadians on the planet.
And we have one of them with us at #LA16SCBWI! LOL!
NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 16: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends the Catalyst Awards Dinner at Waldorf Astoria Hotel on March 16, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)
The laughs never ended after that comment, but Jon also brought his depth to the table in addition to his humor…
*”The worst thing you can think about when you’re working is yourself.” Agnes Martin
*Don’t think about your style.
*Your style is mysterious and should be opened up–but not by you.
*Take care of the machine that makes the style.
*Write the stories your brain is able to produce then evolve with your instrument.
*Stop trying to be creative. Don’t try to get a butterfly, you’ll get a car. Embrace the car. Force vs. Flow
Next up was Marie Lu: THE CREATIVE LIFE
Marie was fabulous–I can not begin to tell you how professional, charming, sweet, honest and adorable she was. I was blown away by her work ethic and her ability to speak so eloquently about her experiences. Here’s some of her take aways…
*Was born in China and moved to the US when she was 5.
*New Orleans was VERY different than China LOL! Her first time out exploring was during Mardi Gras. ROTFL!
*Starting writing as a teen.
*Went to work at Disney and was surrounded by creatives for the first time in her life.
*Being published is NOT relevant to being a writer.
*Every writer proceeds at their own pace, in their own way. The process itself should be reward enough.
*Marie has received well over 500 rejections in her writer’s life so far.
*You can’t perfect something that doesn’t exist.
*With time and practice you will get there, but you have to finish something in order to progress.
*Rejection comes for all of us–don’t fear it. The sooner you understand this, the sooner you will thicken your skin in preparation for the really tough criticism.
*Talent is over rated–most of what gets you there is passion, perseverance and hard work.
*Accepting criticism is the key to growth.
*If the critique isn’t “correct” it only means that something isn’t working.
*A high tide lifts all boats. It’s difficult to tame the envy monster but know that books lift books and writers lift writers. <3
*Be brave and listen–none of know everything or are always right.
*Never defend yourself–listen.
*It’s scary to be called out but remember no one goes out with bad intentions.
*As scary as it is to put yourself out there as a writer–think about how scary it often is to be the reader.
*Those readers are worth the work of being brave. <3
*We are all in this together.
Then this happened…
My Eastern NY SCBWI RA was chosen to give the keynote from last year’s crop of Crystal Kite winners!!!
Nancy Castaldo: THE TERRIFYING PATH TO PUBLICATION AND HOW IT ENDS
Hahahaha! I took no notes during Nancy’s speech. I was in the audience cheering, smiling, preening and proud. It was an excellent speech. It had dogs and writing inspiration. It was fabulous. You should book her for your next event.
Saturday’s first Break-Out session was with Justin Chanda: PRO-Track CAREER LONGEVITY
Justin is the Vice President and Publisher of the four flagship children’s imprints at Simon & Schuster: S&S Books for Young Readers, McElderry Books, Atheneum, and the new Salaam Reads. AKA—BAMS! Here’s a look at publishing through the Chanda Filter. As always, I could listen to him talk for hours.
*Always keep communication lines open. Establish the chain of command.
*Communication from an assistant is coming from your editor. Treat them with respect.
*Never think of your agent as a tool.
*A good editor is there to challenge you–not rewrite your book.
*No one wants an unsuccessful book.
*Creative differences happen, but we are all on the same page.
*Always be realistic about achievable deadlines. Advance notice of realistic expectations is better than missed deadlines.
*Make sure your working on your book, not just working on marketing it. At the end of the day readers want books, not marketing.
*Advertising doesn’t work–especially with children’s books. And $10,000 doesn’t even move the needle.
*What does work? Word of Mouth.
*If you do book tours, it’s inevitable you’ll be at an event where no one shows up. Use it as an opportunity to be professional, make connections and be charming.
*School Visits–there is an entire other industry set up to support us.
*It takes time to get traction as a speaker at schools and conferences.
*Social Media–don’t get caught up in the echo chamber.
*Twitter is the best/worst thing to happen in Kidlit.
*Unforgivable Practices–Never air your grievances on social media.
*The most important thing you can do for self promotion is to get other people to talk about your work.
*Keeping the book alive after the first year–work on the next book. Your next book promotes your first book.
Even at #LA16SCBWI there’s time for Lunch!!!! But then we are back for Carole Boston Weatherford: THE POWER OF PREMISE
I’m so sorry–I don’t have a lot of notes from Carole–she had one of those keynotes you just sit and soak in. She had me at… A premise is a promise that your manuscript will deliver on…
Next up was a panel discussion: INGREDIENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL PICTURE BOOK
JB–Jessixa Bagley (author/illustrator)
JP–John Parra (illustrator)
SR–Susan Rich (Editor–Little, Brown)
BS–Barney Saltzberg (Author)
DT–Don Tate (author/illustrator)
WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL PICTURE BOOK?
JB–the book has a completeness to it.
SR–it has to stand up to weary parents and antsy toddlers.
BS–Rhythm of the page turn, element of surprise.
DT–Connection through emotions
SR–If we knew what the secret ingredient was we’d replicate it.
BS–Put Jon Klassen’s name on it. ROTFL!
ADDITIONAL GOOD ADVICE…
SR–there are hooks (curricular and seasonal) that can make your books stand out–don’t start with that.
BS–You have to be careful who you share your work with and at what stage.
JP–it’s up to us to define ourselves–be unique.
BS–Take your ego and bury it in a box in the backyard. There is wisdom out there to be heard. Show up daily.
And I was waiting all day for this one…
Neal Schusterman on MAKING MEANING: THE WRITER’S STRUGGLES TO FIND ORDER IN CHAOS, AND STORIES WORTH TELLING
Neal started with an “adorable” representation of his 3rd Grade Teacher…
I’ll let you use your imagination on how she influenced Neal. The good news is that he had a strong and persistent personality.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Neal also talked about the fallacies he believes surround the writing process.
*This is how you do it.
-There isn’t one way. Do what works for you.
*Focus on your strengths.
-If you want to be a writer you have to be well rounded and work on your weaknesses.
*Writer’s Block is real.
-There’s no such thing. It’s writing when it’s hard and calling it that gives you permission to walk away. Being stuck it part of the process.
*If you build it, they will come.
-They’ll be walking by on their phones *snicker* Keep building over and over.
*Never ask for feedback from someone you feed.
-Family can be honest. My kids call me out.
*If traditional publishers won’t publish you, then e-pub.
-I know this probably isn’t a popular view, but if e-pub was available I never would have been traditionally published.
-Gate keepers are there with there rejections for a reason. When I look back, my work deserved to be rejected,
-traditional to e-pub is a little different.
*You must have your writing place
-In high school I had that–it was called detention. Now I write everywhere and get inspired. Check it out…
Why Do We Write?
-It’s all about the reader.
-Deep down we have a belief we have something to say.
And a reminder…If we are doing it right, we are always terrified we aren’t doing it right.
And that was the end of the instructional part of the day, but it don’t worry–the day was far from over…
I got to hang out and chat with Marie Lu and she signed my book!
I also got to check out all our fabulous illustrators at the Portfolio Showcase.
There were also Happy Hour Hangouts with the agents and editors.
Followed by the Red Carpet Ball
Our costume goal for the costume contest was to pull out all the stops and glam it up Hollywood style. Nothing says glamorous Hollywood then Fred Astaire!
I even had my tap shoes on.
A class of 2k12 fancy meet up for me and Lynne Kelly or maybe Ginger?
And I wasn’t the only one dressed up. The fashion police were on the scene. Some body was getting ticketed.
There was also a long line of red carpets LOL!
There were loads of people on the dance floor.
And even the balconies were full.
And later when things wound down, it was lovely to take off your top hat and sit outside.
And when you think there are no surprises left in the day…
You come back to your room and wonder if you’re having some unexpected company LOL!
Hoping all this good advice resonates with you. Which bit of inspiration speaks the loudest for you?
And don’t forget to stay tuned for #LA16SCBWI coming soon.
Hello… it’s #LA16SCBWI time…is there anybody out there? I know. I’ve neglected the blog, but for a good reason. Blogs are secondary to the writing and the writing has been my priority. But I LOVE my SCBWI conference blogs. They help me process everything I learned and I also love sharing a bit of the magic and insight with those who couldn’t make it. Plus I missed you. So, let’s go to #LA16SCBWI together!
Compared to last year, my journey to #LA16SCBWI was a breeze. No hassles. Everything was on time. The Jet Blue snack was blue chips. I even had my roomie picking me up at the airport and we defied the laws of LA rush hour and made it to the hotel in a record amount of time for the afternoon. Everything was perfect until…
My luggage lock wouldn’t come off. Really???? I think what happened was I accidentally twirled and twisted when I should have pushed and clicked–resetting the combo to a magic number I did not know. Grrrr. I thought about trying all the possible combinations then called the hotel desk and had a lovely gentleman cut it off for me. Crisis averted. Dinner was had and friends caught up. Easy Peasy. And when all was said and done, I fell asleep and never rolled over until morning. Not even the Biltmore ghosts could wake me.
Yes, the Biltmore hotel, the sight of #LA16SCBWI is supposed to be haunted. Do you see the wee ghosty on the SCBWI folder? I wouldn’t lie. Totally haunted. I’m positive, although I didn’t see, hear or sense a thing.
But any building that looks like this inside must be haunted, right?
BTW–sorry for the grainy pictures–I left my good camera at home by mistake. Boo!
But the ghosts aren’t really the important part–unless they inspire some fabulous stories. We were there to get our kid lit on and we took off running on Friday.
Steve Mooser and Lin Oliver were on the scene–Lin entertaining us with stories of her senior prom and bachelor party at the Biltmore. Which by the way, was built in 1923 and was originally a cathedral. And this past weekend it housed…
-952 Full Time Attendees (with a 950 seat ballroom) Good thing there were always spatially challenged writers who had trouble finding their way around the building LOL!
-47 States. (West Virginia was absent and Vermont. But Lin figures they were still too busy feeling the Bern)
-And there were some interesting primary occupations listed: 101 Full Time Artists, Cake decorator (because frosting is a legit medium), 93 FT Writers, A Writer/Shepherdess (and obviously a good one–never saw a single sheep in the Biltmore), 3 Paper engineers, a Bonsai Artist, a cluster? herd? swarm? flock? pod of lawyers? and a Retired Housewife. Lin didn’t know that last one was an option. Sign her up!
And our joke contest was Books in the Olympics–write your own headline!
In LA the faculty also marches in and shares their word of the conference. Here are some of my favorites from #LA16SCBWI…
–Lisa Yee and Martha Brockenbrough–Wonder Woman
–Alvina Ling–Breathe (she was congested)
–Linda Sue Park–(for anyone who cares about kids) VOTE!
The first Keynote Speaker of the conference was Drew Daywalt of crayon fame.
DOES THIS KEYNOTE MAKE MY BUTT LOOK BIG?
Drew was funny and sweet as he talked to the group. Here are some of the most interesting things Drew had to say…
*Jack Gantos wanted Drew to write for children–he was his Obi Wan Kanobi
*Did you ever notice how crayons are in your house but you didn’t buy them?
*20 years later..”I told you so, idiot!” Jack Gantos
*First school visit he panicked but the librarian told him he could bring THE box of crayons LOL! A boy raced past”security” and jumped in his lap and said…”I love you, Mr. Daywalt.” It changed his life. <3
*Hollywood kicked me for 20 years and knocked me down and a million little hands caught me. <3
*Be true to your voice.
*Authors find meaning in the meaningless and define meaning in the meaningful.
*Don’t overstay your welcome. *waves*
Next up was Pam Munoz Ryan: ONE WRITER’S CONFESSIONS
Things she’s learned along the way…
*Getting published and discovering I could still fail.
*If you’re not struggling to learn something new, you’re failing.
*If you aren’t struggling, you’re setting your goals too low.
*I wasn’t self actualized to feel marginalized. (On not seeing herself represented in the books she read)
*Things that get you out of writer’s block–a deadline.
*I don’t have a muse, but I’m still waiting.
*I don’t write every day. A writer has a relationship with writing.
*Goal: I want the reader to sit down and turn the page.
*It still stings–writing doesn’t get easier for me.
*I write in a feeble attempt at immortality.
*I read to forget and I write to remember. <3
Every conference has those bathroom breaks between speakers and they are perfect for coffee and meeting friends you’ve only loved on line. So pumped I FINALLY got to meet Lynne Kelly on of my fellow Class of 2k12 siblings. <3 Such a lovely treat.
The next Keynote belong to Justin Chanda (VP & Publisher of four children’s imprints at Simon & Schuster)
THE STATE OF THE STATE OF THE INDUSTRY
Justin took the stage fighting the urge to suggest we unify the party. LOL! Here were a few things going on in the industry…
* 2015-2016 was a great year for independent books stores.
*Kid lit is doing well, but blockbusters are driving the overall sales while the mid-list are struggling.
*Blockbusters keep the lights on.
*It’s a big leap of faith to acquire a picture book. Because of that editors are selectively looking for character drive, humorous books that appeal to adults as well as kids. You have to be the best of the best to get a deal in this market.
*Advice: Write, Illustrate, Rinse, Repeat.
Sorry it’s a little dark. Remember I forgot the one with the telephoto lens. Grrrrr But even so, I can vouch, this is my first break out session of the conference. It was a Pro-Track session with Don Tate on SCHOOL VISITS.
Don gave a sample of his own presentation, followed by advice and tips from himself and multiple experienced authors/illustrators. It was a wealth of knowledge.
He also shared the fabulous Debbie Gonzales who works with the academic standards to create projects, presentations and study guides. She’s currently working with TOUCHING THE SURFACE and I’ll be excited to soon launch some fabulous new ways that TTS can be used in the classroom.
And my favorite tip from Don? GO WITH THE FLOW–IT’S NOT ALWAYS GOING TO GO AS PLANNED!
Next up was the Editor Panel: THREE BOOKS I LOVED PUBLISHING AND WHY
SB-Stacey Barney–Senior Editor (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin)
KB-Kat Brzozowski–Editor (Swoon Reads/Feiwel and Friends)
AL-Alvina Ling–VP and Editor in Chief (Little, Brown)
MM-Melissa Manlove–Editor (Chromicle)
NP-Neal Porter–Publisher (Neal Porter Books)
MR-Matt Ringler–Senior Editor (Scholastic)
SS-Sara Sargent–Executive Editor (Harper Collins)
RS-Reka Simonsen–Executive Editor (Atheneum)
KS-Kate Sullivan–Senior Editor (Delacore)
Moderated by: ED-Emma Dryden (Dryden Books, LLC)
Each editor was asked to talk about three books they proudly published and talk about why they were meaningful. They also gave advice to the audience. I missed a few here and there and I can’t possibly effectively duplicate their gushing–but here’s what I can give you…
SB–Firebird, The Lions of Little Rock, A Crack in the Sea
*Breathe, publishing is a marathon. It teaches patience. Work on your craft.
KB–RL Stein’s Fear Street Series, When the Moon Was Ours
*Build a strong network of people. Publishing is small. Reciprocal relationships.
AL–Thunder Boy Jr, The Year of the Dog, Daughter of Smoke and Bone
*Rejection is not personal.
MM–Picture This, President Squid, Josephine
*Inspiration is electric, but it’s the lightening bolt that hits the person grinding the generator. You have to do the work.
NP–Giant Squid, School’s First Day of School, Ideas Are All Around
*Do I HAVE to write this book? Is there intense feeling?
MR–Kill the Boy Band, The Hero Two Doors Down, Puppy Place Series (Because you can’t have a bad day picking out puppies for book covers ROTFL!)
*Rejection can feel personal, but it’s an industry thing. Editors can’t always get what they want.
SS–Cruel Beauty, The Museum of Heartbreak, Last Year’s Mistake
*Look for the window where you know what an agent/editor likes but then make it different.
RS–Enchanted Air, THE WICKED AND THE JUST (In caps because it’s a fabulous book by my Class of 2k12 sib J. Anderson Coats) and Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal.
*Write what you love.
KS–Ash, Rapture Practice, Passion Counts
Next up was another Keynote with Jenni Holm: IT TAKES A FAMILY
Jenni shared lots of personal stories but this fact was key…If you’re going to write about your family, write about your mother’s family first LOL!
And then, just when you think you can’t do one more minute of conference, we got to celebrate the Golden Kite Award Winners and have a celebratory dinner.
We even had a display in the lobby of our celebrated books for #LA16SCBWI
And don’t forget the pyramid of chocolate. It was very yummy.
And on that sweet note, I’ll leave you to digest this first day of #LA16SCBWI and I promise I’ll be posting more soon.
Want to see a little bit more of the Biltmore and it’s Hollywood History? Check out this video…
The 2016 New York SCBWI Winter Conference Part 2
I’m back…and I realized that in Tuesday’s SCBWI Conference Recap post, I forgot to tell you how cold it was outside when we woke up. Inside too, for that matter.
Why I may have blocked it from my memory…
This was the inside of my window on the 29th floor.
But it did look rather pretty once the sun came out.
But I should probably stop giving you the cold shoulder and start filling you in on the rest of the SCBWI conference. When I left you on Tuesday…
…a large crowd of Kid Lit SCBWI writers and illustrators were eating picnic style on the floor of the hotel lobby and Debbie Ohi couldn’t give away a piece of her black and white cookie. Yes, we are a strange group–just go with it.
After lunch I had my second Break-out/Workshop session of the day with Elizabeth Bicknell, EVP, Executive Editorial Directo & Associate Publisher Candlewick Press–WRITING PICTURE BOOK TEXT.
Some of the books she used to illustrate fabulous and successful picture books.
Good things to know…
*Candlewick only does children’s books.
*Don’t make your story about too many things.
*PB’s are like a little play.
Topics in PB’s shift over time but here are currently popular story lines.
Up next was a Fireside Chat between Lin Oliver and Rainbow Rowell…
Lin and Rainbow are way too adorable together!
Here are my favorite take-aways…
*When you’re writing 1st person, you’re writing monologues.
*Good novelists have good memories.
*The best comedy comes at the moment of pathos. (The intersection of funny and sad)
*Like a dog returning to his own vomit–it’s a long and very funny story!
*Rainbow’s outlines are emails to her agent.
*Her plots are derived from characters. Using characters to fulfill a plot is very different than characters creating the plot.
*The shared texts we have now are pop culture–it’s no longer scripture etc…
*People find the references that are there for them.
*If I’d written girls when I was younger, I think I would have accepted more of what the world told me to.
*On writing in an Omaha Starbucks–Hey! Writing in a NYC Starbucks is a very different thing. They are like public restrooms that serve coffee! ROTFL!
*Not in the past, and maybe not in the future, but right now I am privileged to write full time.
*Publishing is a game of speculation. Everyone is guessing even though everything seems set in stone.
The next Keynote required no guessing at all to know it would be good. I’ve heard the fantabulous Kate Messner on numerous occasions and I’ve also heard nothing but wonderful things about Linda Urban and they were going to be talking about MUSIC, MOUNTAINS AND MOCHA LATTES: SUSTAINING A CREATIVE LIFE.
Kate spoke first and talked about her own journey to reconnect with a manuscript by climbing mountains.
*Sometimes we need one small thing to keep going.
*If climbing one mountain was good for my writing, climbing 40+ would be amazing.
*Put your butt in your chair, but when you’re stuck, get up.
Then Linda Urban talked about how she’d rather have her finger nails pulled out than climb mountains, but how she found the same creative inspiration in a little red ukulele.
*Playing the ukulele causes a rush I wasn’t getting while I was stuck in my MS.
*The dopamine it provided and a long trail of small musical success restored my creative confidence.
*The negative voice in my head got bored while I was playing.
And then the lovely Linda sang for us <3
And as you might imagine, these two inspirational and creative authors were each other’s biggest fans. So, please remember, if you can’t find a creative outlet that will lead you back to your writing–find a friend to have a Mocha Latte–it will work every time.
After all this inspiration there was a book signing with Rainbow Rowell, the Art Browse and the Gala dinner followed by multiple socials and of course my group of lobby rats hanging out in the lobby–sort of. Remember how cold it was? Well, that lobby was a wee bit drafty, so for the first time ever, the rats took to the underbelly of the hotel (like all good rats do) and moved out of the cold.
But as always–we stayed up talking way to long. Always one of my favorite parts of the SCBWI conference.
With not enough sleep under our belts, it was time for coffee, bagels and Day Three of the SCBWI conference. Once again our uber fantastic illustrators blew me out of the water with their gorgeous art and Jane Yolen got me all choked up giving out her SCBWI Mid-List Author Grants.
And it’s always our pleasure to thank the staff of the SCBWI for all they do to bring us together for these amazing conferences and to let them know how much we appreciate all they accomplish behind the scenes throughout the year.
Our first Keynote for Sunday was Rita Williams-Garcia and she talked about DO’S AND DON’TS IN CHILDREN’S PUBLISHING FROM A DEFINITE DON’T.
Here are some of my favorites from Rita–she was both moving and funny as she spoke.
*I loved telling stories–or as my mother called it–lying.
*Live in The Plan: I took every step possible in be coming what I envisioned. (She wrote 500 words every night as a child and rented out her sister’s typewriter to do it.)
*Don’t pick your major based on the hot guy with the afro–he doesn’t have any hair now!
Rita on really being faced with the prospect of editing a manuscript for the first time.
*Don’t stay with an uncontracted project too long.
*Don’t isolate yourself–TRIBE!
*Don’t block out criticism.
*Don’t be a know it all.
*Don’t stop writing–live in The Plan.
*Live with gratitude–do what you’re doing–you’re here!
Next up was Jacquelyn Mitchard–SAY GOODBYE TO ALL OF THAT: THE QUEST FOR THE PERFECT ENDING.
Jacquelyn was literary, funny, thoughtful and informative–so much good stuff to digest.
*People love the 19th Century greats because the ending is so clear.
*The last sentence of a books, for some writers, is the first sentence they know about.
*Most books really don’t echo the promises made in the first pages.
*The reader doesn’t want it to end, so how do you make it okay for the reader? It should do more than tie up loose ends–your job is to lead the reader back into the real world.
*Leave room for interpretation.
*Say what you’re going to do, do it, then get the hell out.
Since I don’t have a picture of the next panel, you should look at this one instead. This is what my hilarious friend, Scott Hammon, looks like after a Rocky-esque run up to the podium. He’s been waiting FIVE YEARS to win the SCBWI Conference joke contest!!! Watch out Jay Asher…Scott is very, very slowly creeping up after you. *grin*
Now back to the panel…
Moderator: RF-Ruben Pfeffer
AB: Alessandra Balzer—Vice President and Co-Publisher, Balzer + Bray and imprint at HarperCollins
EB: Elizabeth Bicknell–EVP, Executive Editorial Director & Associate Publisher Candlewick Press
GC: Ginger Clark—Agent, Curtis Brown, LTD
SD: Sarah Davies—Agent, Greenhouse Literary
AL: Alvina Ling—VP and Editor-in-Chief, Little Brown Books for Young Readers
The last panel discussion of the SCBWI conference was ACQUISITIONS TODAY: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES. This was a crazy interesting panel because it mixed editors AND agents and the quips and candor flying back and forth was both informative and entertaining. Once again I’ll be honest and say I spent more time listening to the fast flying information than taking notes. There was lots of information on preempts, auctions, bidding, multiple submissions and of course, everyone’s option on the lot. Check the #NY16SCBWI thread and TEAM BLOG for more detailed information on the panel.
And I won’t lie. This finally Keynote is the one I waited the whole conference for. I cannot even begin to explain how much of a fan I am of Gary Schmidt. I had the opportunity to hear him speak at an LA SCBWI Conference and he blew me away. I’ve also had the chance to read his books with my boys. We very recently finished reading his newest novel, ORBITING JUPITER together. It is now my favorite Schmidt novel, which is saying something. And to more completely put this book in perspective, my 15, 12 and 10-year-olds asked that we put The 5th Wave on hold so we could read ORBITING JUPITER faster. I love my kids. <3
The final Keynote was entitled THE BOMBERS OF THE BOSTON MARATHON, AND THE PLANES OF 9/11 AND HOW ANTHONY WISHED THEY WOULD.
It would be madness for me to try and do anything other than write down what inspired and moved me as Gary spoke.
*Why is it that when a group of Kid Lit writers gets together, we get along? This doesn’t happen with adult writer, poets. It’s because we have the same mission–we do it for kids.
*”Nobody came because nobody ever does.” –Jude the Obscure We are here to address this. We need to be the writers that show up.
*When an adult speaks to a child with honesty, they know that someone is telling them the truth and that despite the brokenness of the world–it is still worth living.
*We need to write for the kid sitting on the log who is waiting for someone to show up, because no one ever does.
-Like Anthony during 9/11. He went outside to see if a plane was going to hit his building and when it didn’t, he was disappointed because it would have saved a lot of trouble. Is it any wonder that he’s serving a life sentence?
-Like Jake, one year into his sentence. He loves the planets, especially Jupiter. When Gary sent him a book and a poster on the planets it was taken away. Once again, no one showed up.
-Like Marlene, a high school student actively engaged in a writing activity with Gary. When two teen boys walk in (who don’t do anything wrong or intimidating) this girl shuts down completely. When they leave she reengages. What happened in her life, in this school that shuts her down like that?
*The deep heartfelt question that we must ask as authors is…what ails you? It is a question of human empathy.
*Story and art can reveal human empathy.
*Story insists on human complexity and multidimensionality.
*Watch what happens if you take the stance in life that EVERYTHING MATTERS.
*If you want to be a writer, you have to LOVE the world.
*The writer believes with her whole heart that we give the world more to be human with. There is a reason ISIS destroys art.
*We write to serve. We don’t tell the kids how to act, we sit down beside them on the log and we say the truth.
And that is why I love Gary Schmidt…
And that is why I rushed to his book signing table and proceeded to get all choked up as I tried to explain my heart, head and soul to a man who I’m pretty sure already knows it. Remember…he loves the world.
Then there was the pleasure of meeting the newly minted Newbery Award Winner, Matt de la Pena. He’s the first Latino author to win the Newbery Medal for outstanding contribution to children’s literature with his picture book, LAST STOP ON MARKET PLACE. Matt is a fabulous SCBWI success story and we are all so proud of him and his accomplishments.
I also had the pleasure of getting my books signed by Oscar winner William Joyce!
And then I got to hang out and chat some more with Oprah Book Club author (DEEP END OF THE OCEAN) and editor-in-chief of Merit Press, Jacquelyn Mitchard.
Yes, the talent and advice this year were incredible.
And I can’t wait to read MELT by SCBWI Spark Award winner Selene Castrovilla. We were able to hang out at the Gala and she is all kinds of fabulous and everyone is raving about this novel!
And then it’s over–or is it?
Not for me, because it was Valentines Day and my hubby met me in NYC and we got to see…
The Broadway hit, CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT.
I was blown away. No seriously, it was incredible. I hope you all get the chance to see it–it’s a beautiful and timely book that is brought to life right in front of your eyes. It’s one of those plays that will change how you see the world and the people in it.
Once again, Kid Lit shows up and I’m so proud.
But even after dinner and a show…you’ll find your way home. Back to your family. Back to your writing. And back to your cat who really, really missed you.
Oh, wait–it was the dog who really, really missed you and the cat who hates it when you leave. And then you wake up in the morning and she’s sitting on top of you (really close) so you can completely understand what you’ve put her through. LOL!
I hope, whether you made the SCBWI conference or just read about it, that you’re all inspired and ready to show up for your writing life. I know I am. And now that these blogs are done, I’m ready to move forward on my WIP.
Did anything in the conference or the recap really connect with you? How is it effecting what you are working on? Have you wanted to write, but haven’t been sure how to start? The answer IS to show up. You must start some time. Why not begin today. The SCBWI will teach you everything you need to know. And I’d be more than happy to point you in the right direction.
Have a great weekend and see you next week.
It’s here, it’s here–it’s finally HERE! The #NY16SCBWI Winter Conference. And while we froze our writer and illustrator parts off this year–you know we still had a blast. Right along with the arctic blast. Here’s the highlights of the weekend…
I was thrilled to be able to head down bright and early–very, very early…
…for The Professional Author’s Forum Intensive. For all you PAL members of the SCBWI, this was such a lovely addition to the weekend. You should absolutely look for more of these PAL events in the future.
We started off the day with the fabulous and hysterical Lin Oliver and the chance to introduce ourselves and state our questions and goals. It immediately cemented us into a workshop style, intimate group instead of an audience in a lecture.
Lin Oliver, SCBWI Executive Director
Half the room of the PAL Intensives
After the intros, we got down to business with the very informative Agent, Ruben Pfeffer talking about PUBLISHING WITH MULTIPLE HOUSES (INCLUDING WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR EDITOR LEAVES)
This was a very informative session, focusing on the reasons to publish or not publish with multiple houses. He hit upon the strategic, contractual, our preferences, economic need and circumstantial factors.
Agent, Ruben Pfeffer (Ruben Pfeffer Content, LLC)
Next up was the I always get nervous around him even though he gives me no reason to, but come on he was the editor for the Harry Potter books, Arthur Levine chatting with Lin Oliver about LONGEVITY; HOW TO SUSTAIN YOUR CAREER.
Arthur Levine, Publisher, Arthur A. Levine Books and Lin Oliver
Here are some of my favorite bits from the conversation…
*What is essential about people doesn’t change despite our fears about publishing.
*Produce a BODY OF WORK–stop flogging just one thing.
*Find contemporary analogies to your book AFTER you’ve written it.
*When we get sucked into our anxieties, we lose track of what stories we can write and who wants to read them.
The next fabulous collaborator for the Intensive was Martha Brockenbrough, author and SCBWI TEAM BLOG talking about DEVELOPING A SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM THAT’S APPROPRIATE FOR YOU.
I’m not kidding–I’d love to see Martha do a detailed, whole day intensive just on this topic alone. She is a wealth of information and there were more questions than time to hear all her answers.
Martha started off by reminding us of our tendency to believe that when it comes to social media–If we build it they will come…
That would be a NOPE.
But don’t worry, she gave everyone a wealth of advice on building relationships, finding your audience and focusing on platform, being positive, looking long term and being authentic. She was also able to compare and contrast FB, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter and Goodreads. And this was followed by tips on how to keep it all manageable. If you ever get a chance to take a workshop with Martha, I highly recommend you take advantage of it.
After a quick and yummy lunch break, we were back in the saddle again hit the iconic kid lit author, Jane Yolen–ISSUES IN BEING A MID-LIST WRITER.
Among a plethora of informative and inspirational information, Jane reminded us that as Mid-list authors, we could be writing three kinds of books…
- A Head Book-The book you’ve been thinking about because research or experience had made you curious.
- A Heart Book-You don’t know why you have to write it, but you just do. It’s about you, but it’s also about the kids too.
- A Pocketbook Book-You know you can sell it $
She also reminded us to write the best book you can and don’t forget to nudge yourself in the path of luck.
Next up, was BRANDING YOURSELF: CHALLENGES IN WRITING MULTIPLE GENRES AND CATEGORIES with Linda Pratt Agent, Wernick and Pratt Literary and Jacquelyn Mitchard Author and Editor-in-Chief of Merit Press.
Jacquelyn Mitchard (Deep End of the Ocean–Oprah’s Book Club)
Here are some of the highlights…
*YA is not a genre, it’s a category.
*Being Branded means that you’ve gotten to the point where readers will buy your book in any category or genre because it is recognizably YOU!
*There’s nothing you want more than to be a habit.
*If you wanted to be careful, you should have been a dental hygienist ROTFL!
Bonnie Bader was up next and I forgot to take her picture! What? But you don’t need to see her to benefit from her talk on SUPPLEMENTING YOUR INCOME. Bonnie gave us valuable information on Packaging, Work for Hire, License work and Ghost Writing. But you can see Bonnie sitting next to Arthur Levine during our Summary, Conclusion and Questions time. And of course they had to kick us out after 5pm because there was so much to discuss with the faculty of the day. It was an amazing group.
And I’ll leave Friday behind with this great reminder from Arthur Levine…
“Our job is not to start trends, it’s to write books.”
After lots of meet up hugs with friends, a large group of us heading for dinner at Grand Central’s Oyster Bar (picture to come when Zainab figures out how to send it LOL!) the typical behavior of Lobby Rats hanging out in the lobby and not enough sleep (I can’t help but talk to my roomie Jodi Moore for half the night) it’s time to OFFICIALLY kick off the conference.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2016
This group is more than ready…
For Lin Oliver’s conference stats:
*337 Published authors and 815 pre-pubbed
*48 states were represented. Considering the weather in NY we excused Hawaii for ditching us. But we also decided that maybe the reason North Dakota was ditching us was that no one lived there. :o)
*19 Countries in attendance including the USA
*Our ranks included a micro biologist, coffee roaster, oil trader, ventriloquist and a psychic!
The first Keynote of the day was William Joyce–BOOKS ARE LIKE THE ICE CREAM SANDWICH: HOW NEW TECHNOLOGY DOESN’T CHANGE MUCH OF ANYTHING BUT IT’S KIND OF COOL
William immediately had us cracking up, telling the story of how he forgot why he’s picked that topic when he first agreed to be a conference speaker LOL! But he quickly found the original thread and sewed it all up for us.
*Books=Ice Cream Sandwiches–hard stuff on the outside and good stuff in the middle.
*When people put a book on an app or e-device they claim they are doing it because they want the story to be “interactive.” What the heck do these people think happens when you read a book? You interact with it *head thunk*–to call something interactive it has to be more than just reading it on a screen vs between a cover.
*On starting his own Multimedia company: “Don’t make anything crummy.”
*Strong and better realities of a start up: Having to tell new, young employees they had to pay taxes. LOL!
*I highly recommend winning an Oscar–it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my clothes.
Oscar Win – Moonbot Studios from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.
*Doing THAT (see above video) with all those young kids–amazing!
And if you want to see something fantastic…check out the app IMAG-N-O-TRON:The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
But be sure to come back to this blog and keep reading because I’ve got a Panel Discussion up next. THE BIG PICTURE: CHILDREN’S PUBLISHING: NOW AND IN THE NEAR FUTURE.
MOD: Lin Oliver
MT: Megan Tingly–Executive Vice-President and Publisher, Little Brown Books for Young Readers
AP: Andrea Pappenheimer–Senior Vice-President, Director of Sales/Associate Publisher HarperCollins Publishers
ML: Mallory Loehr—Vice-President, Publishing Director, Random House/Golden/Doubleday Books for Young Readers
JF: Jean Feiwel—Senior Vice-President and Director, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillian Children’s Publishing Group
JA: Jon Anderson—President and Publisher, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division
I hate to tell you this–but this was such a good session that I listened without taking as many notes as I should have. I apologize but I’m pretty sure Team Blog will have some excellent tweets and recaps for you.
Then it was time for the day’s first break-out session or workshop. There were so many great sessions to choose from, but I picked CREATING TEEN CHARACTERS with Martha Brockenbrough and Rainbow Rowell.
For this session I pulled up some rug in order to stretch my legs. Here were some of my favorite take-aways…
*Art inspires art
*I didn’t experience the events that happened in my books, but music got me to those places.
*It’s fiction, you get to make it up. (Oh, wait–Dragons ARE fake!)
In order to balance out my recap posts, I’m going to save the rest of the conference for your Thursday reading pleasure. While you wait, you can get a good laugh at all of us eating picnic style in the lobby.
And remember–if you’re there at next year’s conference–Debbi Ohi will share her cookie with you. She couldn’t get anyone to split it with her!!! If she’d only showed up BEFORE I ate all that chocolate. *sigh*
See you on Thursday with the #NY16SCBWI Conference Recap Part 2! While your waiting, tell me what session was your favorite if you were there. Or which one you would have loved to attend.
First of all–I’m gonna brag. Because this post is being written at 11:58 on Sunday morning 2/7 and you’re reading it on Thursday 2/11. Yes, I am ahead of the game! This is a huge accomplishment for me. This year I am systematically attacking my NY SCBWI conference prep with the hopes that this might be the year I get a good night’s sleep the night before. Or maybe I’m simply desperate to get out of the house after the scurvy wee germies invaded our home over the last few weeks. Either way, I vow to be squared away this year, particularly because I’ll be on a very early train for the Friday Author’s Pro Intensive.
I know that quite a few of you will be at the conference and I can’t wait to see you there. Feel free to come be a Lobby Rat. We are always hanging out in the lobby, talking and catching up, if you’re looking for something to do.
Here’s some of the Lobby Rat Faces you can look for.
And for all of you who can’t make it to NY, I’ll be live tweeting about the conference over the weekend along with the SCBWI Conference bloggers…
and a whole bunch of other fabulous folks who are inspired by what they are experiencing. It’s the next best thing to being there–everyone shares so much amazing information.
You can follow along with the conference on twitter by using the hash tag #NY16SCBWI.
And of course I’ll be doing my regular recap blogs after the conference, so be sure to watch for those next week.
If I stay this organized and efficient, I’ll be ready to go before you know it!
Now the only question remaining…how do you think the head is going to be decorated this year?
Leave your guess in the comments!
In case you’re wondering, by Day 3 of #LA15SCBWI I’m a little tired. But I’m not alone. You should have seen what happened when we had a coffee break and there was no coffee left! Kinda funny actually–is it still called a keg stand when you’re twisted upside down to get your mouth around the dregs of a coffee urn?
Anyway–now that I’ve fried your brain, it’s time to hear the Sunday morning special. Deborah Halverson and the UP-TO-THE-MINUTE MARKET REPORT.
I never miss this keynote–Deborah goes to great lengths to keep us up-to-date on publishing and trends. My fingers were flying as I took notes. Here’s a bit of what I captured…
*Last year’s children’s book sales were highly impacted by movies. Think The Fault in Our Stars, Insurgent etc… But even so, sales are not flat in the children’s market.
How to understand how what you’re already writing (no following trends please) fits in…
-short and bold
-illustrations tell 1/2 the story. Ex-Sam and Dave Dig a Hole
-Non-fiction still of interest-particularly narrative non-fiction
-Common core related books seem to be settling down. There’s still room for growth, but not explosive growth.
-PB’s that have layers
-funny character driven that has series potential
-there is room for new series
-Diary of a Wimpy Kid has become a very popular format
-MG has perked up
-Everything goes in MG
-Slow and steady can sometimes break out as a hit. Ex–Wonder
-Editors are seeing a wide selection in their inboxes but still not enough diverse submissions.
-WANT: Books with a literary soul and commercial legs
-Editors are intensely selective
-Seeing a lot of contemporary in their inboxes. People are often too quick to writ to the “middle” and hit genre expectations.
-beyond a black and white view of the world
-deep personal experiences
-looking to diversify their lists so it’s not all contemporary when the pendulum swings
And in the internal world of publishing…
-our past sense of unbalance is stabilizing.
-eBook subscription packages are a thing.
-Indie sales are up due to the Buy Local movement, slower eBook growth and publishers rethinking their practice.
Next up was our second morning keynote by Stephen Fraser—MIDDLE GRADE PERFECTION: WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM CLASSIC AND BEST SELLING BOOKS
Poor Stephen, he ended up in the seat next to mine at breakfast one morning and we chatted. FYI he’s a tremendously pleasant guy to talk to as you’re shoving muffins in your mouth. But as the conference went on, Jodi and I (my breakfast buddy and roomie) kept bumping into him. Our fear was that he might think we were stalking him. But really, we just kept turning up in his path like pennies. Hopefully he feels richer for having met us. LOL!
But on to the fabulous keynote…
*MG readers are some of the most loyal readers in the book world. They are strong, willing attentive readers but they are also strong critics.
If we examine the classics and best sellers, what do we learn from them?
1. Charlotte’s Web–Carefully crafted writing
2. Stone Fox–Drama
3. The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles–Imagination
4. The Clockwork Three–Mix genres, don’t be afraid
5. Heart of a Samurai–Bring history to life
6. Holes–Use humor
7. James and the Giant Peach–Be unapologetic and have fun
8. Junonia–Write to the emotional age of the child
9. Missing May–Place is character
10. Sarah Plain and Tall–Bring a visual quality to your work, make each word resonate
11. The Secret Garden–Let joy spill out
12. Harry Potter–Don’t worry about length
And that is your MG reading list for the fall. <3
The third keynote for the morning was Shannon Hale–Opening up the Clubhouse: Boys, Girls and Genderless
Shannon was INCREDIBLE. There has been so much on the internet lately that has made me sad and discouraged about all things boy, girl, man, woman, feminine, masculine etc… Truth be told, I found myself shutting down because the heart of most of the rhetoric was about raising people up–even if we have to do it by knocking other people down so we can get a leg up. I found it spiritually discouraging. Shannon was different. She was honest. She was thoughtful. She was hopeful. She was generous. She was above all on Team Human. Here’s some of what moved me…
*You are not NO thing. You are something–with YOUR thing. (On writing in your own voice and style.)
*Shakespeare wasn’t afraid of writing interesting women. I don’t know what happened?
*Boys–why are you so afraid of Princesses???? I’m so sorry you have to live in such fear. ROTFL!
*Boys, who told you you can only do half the stuff? (On girls being told they can do or be anything.)
*It’s NOT an equal playing field for women authors or boy readers.
*Boys are taught to be ashamed if they want to read a book about a girl or a “girly book.” We have a lot of work to do.
*Quoting editor Jordan Brown when asked where the Judy Blume for boys is? “Judy Blume is the JUDY BLUME for boys!”
*It wasn’t until people read novels about people in other circumstances that they were able to empathize. Reading novels creates empathy.
*Can you dig it? I CAN DIG IT!
At this point in the conference I came up with not one conference word, but two. Here’s what came together for me as the conference was winding down…
MINE–I picked this word because one of the messages thumping me over the head over the weekend was that it will be my unique voice, heart and soul that will sell my books. Chasing trends and the success of others will only leave me in the shadow of others. I don’t want to be standing beneath or behind anyone else. I intend to shine my own light.
TOGETHER–This made me laugh because my words are so oppositional, but while my writing is mine and mine alone–publishing is so much harder to navigate if you are alone. My tribe is instrumental in me reaching to be a better writer. They help me keep my inner compass pointed in the right/write direction. They inspire me and remind me that this isn’t easy for anyone. They mean the world to me.
My first Workshop of the day was with Allyn Johnston and Mem Fox–LET’S TALK PICTURE BOOKS…Q&A AND SOME READ ALOUD FUN
Let’s just start off by saying I could listen to Mem read picture books for days. That voice! But in addition to captivating the audience with her fabulous PB’s. Here is what Allyn and Mem had to share…
*I’m inspired by emotional experiences.
*I don’t want 5 of your 20 manuscripts–I want the one you care about–the one that’s going to change the emotional temperament of the reader.
*You should have only enough words that you’re ready to turn the page when the child is done reading the pictures.
*Adults are so much more inept at reading and understanding the illustrations than children.
*Worry more about the soul of the story than the word count. <3
*Beautiful language doesn’t undercut illustration.
*Illustrator notes are outrageous.
And it’s time for the Golden Kite Luncheon & Awards presentation with a keynote by Dan Yaccarino
SCBWI Member of the Year–Lee Wind!!!!!
“My tribe–my family.”
For Picture Book Illustration–Melissa Sweet and THE RIGHT WORD
“I hope we all find the right word whenever we need it.”
For Picture Book Text–Kristy Dempsey and A DANCE LIKE STARLIGHT: ONE BALLERINA’S DREAM
“By writers and illustrators, I mean friends and fellow dreamers.”
“Deep joy is only found in fulfilling our purpose.”
“I write to discover my own empathy–or to be honest–to work towards it.”
Kristy has been someone I’ve followed and admired on social media since I first started my journey as an author–it was amazing to see someone who has inspired me–have an impact on more of her peers. Her speech was incredible. <3
For Non-fiction–Candace Fleming for THE FAMILY ROMANOV
When the universe kept raising the question…who is interested in that?
“You are.” <3
For fiction–Deborah Wiles for REVOLUTION
“I am a product of my professional organizations. SCBWI.”
“Giving my heart away has been the secret to finding it.”
And the Sid Fleishman Award was given his son Paul Fleishman to…
Michelle Knudsen for EVIL LIBRARIAN
And from Dan Yaccarino‘s Keynote…
*Good work is never perfect.
*Don’t forget the power of visualization. Take time to picture your dreams happening every day.
*Get addicted to the divine spark of inspiration–try to bring the divinity of that spirit into your stories.
My afternoon Workshop was with Jordan Brown–FIVE PRINCIPLES OF REVISION
Just and FYI I will go to hear Jordan Brown talk about anything publishing related and quite a few things outside that topic too. He’s fabulous. I was taking notes like a boss because he had at least 45 principles I needed to remember. Here’s some of his best and most useful bits…
*Revision is hands down the most important part of the writing process.
*Your book should be about the most important story of your main character’s life.
*It’s hard to get perspective on your own work.
*You shouldn’t think of revision as an extension of the first draft.
*Revision is the opposite of drafting.
-DRAFTING is peeling back layers.
-REVISION is putting back layers that are more refined.
-Nothing is sacred.
-Character drives plot.
-Revision more often than not starts with cutting.
-Surprise yourself–if it feels familiar to you, it’s probably familiar to the reader too.
-Don’t be afraid to smart small–revision can be overwhelming.
*There are always things that are clearly important at the end of a book that weren’t at the beginning–go back and plant clues.
*READ, READ, READ!!!!!
The final keynote of the conference was by Kwame Alexander: #BasketballRules Kwame’s NEW #LA15SCBWI Keynote (Because Varian Johnson stole his other one Hahahaha!)
Rule #1–It might look like a long shot but you’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
Rule #2–Put in the work.
Rule #3–There’s no single formula for success, but you have to have a game plan.
Rule #4–A loss is inevitable.
Rule #5–When the game is on the line, don’t be afraid, grab the ball and take it to the hoop.
Rule #6–You’ve got to have teammates. It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in you. Look around…we are going to do great things.
And while that ends the formal part of the conference, you know I was in line half the afternoon to get my books signed and talk to all of these amazing authors and illustrators.
Candace Fleming–yup–we both joined the SCBWI when we were 12 LOL!
I loved talking about writing with Anna Shinoda and Debra Wiles also, but we chatted so long I got hustled on my way and never got a picture with her LOL!
I was so stoked to finally get this book in my hands and to see Martha Brockenbrough have such an amazing moment. She has been a friend and an inspiration for such a long time. I consider myself so lucky to have her in my life.
And I finally met my online buddy, Varian Johnson.
Yup, I may have cried a little with Shannon Hale, but you can’t blame me–she moved me to tears. <3
I’ve been getting books signed by Dan Santat for years. It put a smile on my face to see all his hard work come to his greatest success to date. I KNOW there will be so much more in store for him.
And then before I knew it, it was Monday and I was on my way to the airport, full of ideas, inspiration and determination…and too many books in my suitcase.
I had to pull out 13lbs of Baby Dragons and Beekles out of my suitcase to avoid a $50 luggage charge. But that’s okay–I always feel better when my signed treasures are close at hand.
If you missed the first two installments for the #LA15SCBWI Conference Recap, you can find them here…
LA SCBWI 2015 Part 1
LA SCBWI 2015 Part 2
I would love to see you there next year and if you have any questions about the conference, I’d be happy to answer them for you. It’s really a fabulous event, worth planning for if you’re able.
It’s Day 2 of #LA15SCBWI and I can’t imagine a more inspirational start then hearing Dan Santat speak. Dan was this year’s Caldecott winner with BEEKLE, but what really makes it this keynote special is that Dan “grew up” in the SCBWI. Like many of the speakers I’ve heard over the years, he got his start in this tribe and he made that very clear…ALL IT TAKES IS A LITTLE TASTE: STORIES OF HOW THE SCBWI HELPED ME AND HOW I GREW AS AN AUTHRO WHEN I WASN’T AT THE CONFERENCE
Over the course of Dan’s keynote, he made us laugh and he imparted tons of wisdom and inspiration. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place at the end of his speech. Here was my best take aways from Dan…
*Understand why YOU like–don’t be censored.
*If you have a closed mind, you’re going to miss out on the beauty of things.
*Comic books are soap operas for nerds.
*Learn from others. Ex. BREAKING BAD is a study in character development.
*Read Goodreads reviews with some common sense. You know when someone is giving you useful information that can help you grow. Also read the bad reviews of the classics to gain some perspective.
*Study the fundamentals–when you understand them, you then have the freedom to move around.
*Learn by imitation–don’t become a clone, use it to ADD to your fundamentals.
*If you do something hard once, you know you have it in you to do it again.
*Find your voice–stop imitating and start INNOVATING.
*Do what you love when the work will find you.
*Do it because you are passionate about what you do.
*If you put money in the equation, you’re never going to find it. It’s like chasing a shadow.
*Live and die by your own sword. If you put your faith in yourself you will tread water and survive.
*You don’t want to live with regrets. If I had quit I never would have had the Caldecott Medal. *cue sobs*
Next up was the AGENT’S PANEL: INSIDE THE CHILDREN’S BOOK MARKET
JR—Jodi Reamer (Writer’s House)
AP—Alexandra Penfold (Upstart Crow Literary)
KN—Kristin Nelson (Nelson Literary Agency)
BG—Barry Goldblatt (Barry Goldblatt Literary)
BB—Brenda Bowen (Greenberg Associates)
JB—Jenny Bent (The Bent Agency)
Here’s the advice and information that I took note of…
AP–You’re not acquiring a book, you’re taking on a life.
BG–Competition to get manuscripts read by editors is immense, so your MS needs to be in the best shape.
BG–9 to 5? WHAT IS THAT?
BG–You are the one in the driver’s seat. You get to choose.
JB–I don’t care who you are–there will be downtime in your career.
JB–Respect and honesty on both sides are key.
AP–Write the book that can get you above the noise.
BG–Editors should have the ability to take a flyer because a great smaller book can become a huge best seller. Ex–WONDER
JR–Social media should be natural. It should be you.
BG–We are colleagues. We’re not out to undercut each other. You’re not competing with anyone in this room.
AP–You never know where the connections are going to come from.
AP–If it makes me feel–I’ll follow you anywhere.
BG–We get jaded, but then we see something that knocks us off our seats and want to sell it!
AP–If you have a rich reading life, you will have a rich writing life.
BB–Best promo for a book is the next one. Keep writing.
JB–Be a mensch–Be kind. Be helpful. Be generous.
JB–I see social media as an opportunity to be kind to people and share.
Next up was my first Workshop of the Day. BONNIE BADER–CHAPTER BOOKS: WHAT’S WORKING AND WHAT’S NOT
Some things that make a book–a chapter book…
-a milestone event
-a protagonist around the age of the reader (7-10 year olds)
-Roughly 80-120 pages
-size of type, density of illustrations
-expand the details of your character to make them unique.
-use a universal theme with a twist
What kinds of chapter books that are successful…
–Magic Tree House
–Junie B Jones
–Princess in Black
–George Brown, Class Clown
–The Dory Books (Dory Fantasmagory)
The next keynote of the day was Jane O’Connor–BORROWING FROM LIFE: CREATING A CHARACTER
Here were some Fancy Nancy style tips to remember…
*Leave out all the stuff that’s boring.
*Eavesdropping is crucial to writing.
*Middles are a bitch.
Jane was followed by Varian Johnson–IF IT WERE EASY, EVERYONE WOULD DO IT
Varian was open and honest and so touching with his ability to share his hard publishing moments with the audience. He had so much inspiration to share…
*The hard is what makes it great.
*We make the time.
*We all deserve to be part of the conversation, but we have to do the work.
*My job is to put words on paper. If the muse shows up that day–BONUS.
*Writing is a job that deserves to be treated as such. Set up a schedule.
*Don’t talk about it. Be about it.
*And while I’m not looking forward to my next failure…I know it’s coming.
*We’re writers…IT’S OUR JOB TO MAKE FICTION COME TRUE. <3
My second Workshop of the day was with the lovely Wendy Loggia–FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
Ia addition to hearing Wendy rave about my fabulous agent Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary and my Wolf Pack Sistah Kiersten White…
…I loved learning a little bit more about Delacorte Press. Did you know…
*Delacorte plans their books out way in advance to give them the best marketing attention they can give. If you were to sell a book to Delacorte today (8/15) It would not be slotted for publication until Spring of 2017.
*Delacorte does not have a acquisitions board. Editors can acquire what they choose.
*Delacorte does not compete with other imprints at Random House
*Wendy does all her own editorial reading.
*Why Wendy purchases a manuscript?
-loves the voice
-thinks it deserves to be published
Our next keynote was Molly Idle–YES, AND: SETTING THE STAGE FOR CRAZY CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT
Sorry–was having an afternoon brain fart or a caffeine low and missed getting a picture of Molly. Just imagine a highly energetic creative teaching us how to use theater to create stronger writing and illustration on the page.
Ummm no pictures here either. I swear I wasn’t sleeping LOL! This was a great panel on DIVERSITY IN CHILDREN’S BOOKS: CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS
IWG—IW Gregorio (didn’t attend due to illness)
This may have been my favorite diversity panel I’ve heard yet. Here are some bits from my notes…
VJ–You don’t need permission to write diversely, but you do need to do your due diligence. And remember you aren’t trying to write the experience of ALL the people–just the one that’s your character. Your research is not different than any other research for a character.
JC–I try not to overthink the issue too much.
VJ–I’m not a fan of the term, CASUAL DIVERSITY, but it’s when the characters featured are diverse, but the diversity isn’t the issue. Ex-Lando in Star Wars
NY–I’ve never been sassy a day in my life! (on sassy diverse sidekicks)
JC–Write and illustrate without fear and if you have fear, pretend you don’t.
And then it was time for the Saturday Gala! This year’s theme was Sparkle and Shine. And FYI the sugar cookies were amazing–I ate them before I could get a picture LOL!
I hope all this fabulous information is helping your writing to sparkle and shine. You can catch me first conference blog installment here…LA SCBWI 2015 Part 1 At the end of that blog, you’ll see that I’m still running a contest to win a signed copy of…
WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN by Jodi Moore
So don’t forget to head over there and take advantage of the opportunity. I’ll be back on Thursday with LA SCBWI 2015 Part 3!!!