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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.
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…
This week something wonderful happened. I was told I’d be receiving the Alice Curtis Desmond Award in May!!! My award is for a local author and will be given at the Desmond-Fish Library Annual Associates Dinner. For a zillion and one reasons, I am giddy with excitement. But here are two of the zillion…
You can read more about the esteemed company I get to keep–Salman Rushdie (The Hamilton Fish Award) and Andy Chmar (The Patricia Adams Award) HERE.
I can’t wait to post more about this event in May.
Usually, taking the extra step is a good thing. It’s about attention to detail and getting things done. It’s all about taking it to the next level, unless your me. *sigh* A couple days ago I headed up to bed, in the dark, carrying an armful of stuff. It’s dangerous to leave junk on the stairs where people can trip, right?
Well, it’s also dangerous to put it away. The only way I can explain how it went down, is to suggest that my internal navigation system for climbing the stairs was off line. Clearly, the auto-pilot button was in the off position.
I thought there was ONE MORE STEP. And I took that step. Which really threw me for a loop (literally) when my foot came down and that extra step wasn’t actually there. I sort of lost my balance.
The good news is I didn’t fall down the stairs. Instead I bounced across the landing while smacking my left hip against the corner of the next set of steps. The other good news is that I didn’t drop a thing–not even the mushy wet bowl of cat food I was carrying. Impressed with that feat, I stood up, shook it all off–I’m a Bumble–I bounce.
Fast forward a couple days…
My butt cheek has a bruise that looks like a rorschach ink blot test. The chiropractor is observing one leg being a wee bit shorter than usual making me kinda crooked. And I’m not supposed to run until the whole compressed and rather tight area in my lower back gets a little break.
Not cool at all. I’ve been in the mood to run. Instead…I’ll be stretching and resting my backside. Haha–I guess it’s the extra step I need to get back on my running feet again.
Looking on the bright side, I’ve got more time to keep those blog posts coming. You have noticed how diligent I’ve been in keeping up in 2016? It’s not really a resolution–more like me stepping up LOL!
What’s the most entertaining thing you’ve managed to do when your internal navigation system went off line?
Three day weekends mess me up. The rest of the week I’m usually late for everything. Accidentally doing Monday things on a Tuesday can make things interesting too. In order to solve this problem, I really think we should ALWAYS have three day weekends. One day for running errands and working around the house. One day for hauling kids to sports and doing other high octane fun things and then one day to just chill the heck out.
I see you nodding your head in agreement. The person who can make this happens totally gets a cupcake–a really good cupcake.
But in the mean time, while we’re waiting for the implementation of the standardized 3-Day Weekend format, you can give me a round of applause because I didn’t just write this blog post on time (despite the weekend confusion) but also managed to get in today’s YA Outside the Lines Blog written in a timely manner to. If you’re interested (and waiting for 3-day weekends) you can check it out…Getting Schooled is a Mobius Strip
Now I’m off to get some writing done. What would you do if you had an extra day added to your weekends?
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!!!
Today it’s been a decade since my dad died. At first I started to say it’s been ten years since I lost him, but that didn’t sound right. As much as I miss him, I never feel as if I’ve “lost” him. He never seems absent to me. Rather it feels as if our relationship has been altered to fit our new circumstances–like he’s crossed through a magical wardrobe or passed through a wrinkle in time. He’s no longer huggable, which is a definite downside to this phase in our relationship, but the trade off is that there’s a fluid, intuitive connection between us that exceeds what we had when we were just an arms length away. But despite the continued love between us, I really miss having him here.
In memory of my “old life” with my Dad, my husband helped me find this video. It reminds me of why his absence still feels so big–he’d always showed up in a million small places. He was this guy for so many of us. He’s my role model.
Love you and miss you Dad. <3
Today in the comments, please celebrate someone living who is doing the little things that mean the most.
Happy New Year and don’t forget what’s important in 2015.
Riley is here!!! We got him on Friday and it’s been a whirlwind ever since. I’m tired and inspired. I’m in love with his little face and his adorable personality and extremely sweet temperament. But I miss sleeping and peeing by myself LOL! Knowing what it’s like to take care of a “baby” again isn’t the same as actually doing it. *sigh* But here’s the really good news. I’m very glad I we brought home this puppy. I have a feeling that with the right love, training and diligence, we’ll get everything sorted out in a reasonable amount of time. This cute little face was on the bucket list of FIVE people in my house. That’s a really good reason to make some sacrifices. No one ever died wishing for cleaner carpets and less unconditional love. And although I really like to sleep (a lot) I’m still pretty sure I won’t be wishing for more Zzzz’s when my ticker stops ticking. So, if everyone can bear with my occasional sleep deprived rants and my Oh-My-God-I’ve-Never-Owned-A-Dog-Now-What-Do-I-Do panic attacks, then I think everything will be okay. *paws crossed* Now it’s time to introduce you to Riley…
Fresh out of the car after a two hour ride home. (He was a champ BTW)
Exploring the landscape.
We’ve gotten quite close–he wants to sleep wherever he can touch my foot. <3
Riley gave up after all that playing. Just couldn’t make it up the driveway.
But he had enough energy to be grateful I carried him up the rest of the way LOL!
But if you think we wore out that puppy, you should see what the puppy did to the 11yo in the middle of decorating the tree Zzzzzzz…
And BTW–I can’t believe I was even able to write a blog post for today. So, yay for that! What have you been up to besides writing and sleeping LOL!
Sorry I missed you on Thursday. Boys with half day schedules and teacher conferences were cramping my blogging schedule. But I’ll tell you a secret–I didn’t mind not writing because I’m rather busy with another important aspect of drafting which is being a sponge. I’ve been kicking butt with my writing since buckling down in September and sending those boys back to school. *grin* And it’s been awesome and I’ve been loving it, that is, until my NaNo battery ran out of steam and d-i-e-d.
It was bound to happen. In my excitement to produce prolifically, I forgot what kind of an artist I am at heart. I am a sponge.
I soak up all kinds of stuff floating around me and then I squeeze it to see what kinds of questions pour out. But lately, I’m afraid that in my enthusiasm to write, write, write–I wasn’t absorbing as much as I need to. Writing can only a numbers game when we have thoughts in storage and I realized I was exhausting my supply faster than I could replenish it. My sponge was on the dry side.
But I’m happy to say that my “break” from word count is not a break from my drafting process. It’s very important for me to day dream, observe, read, ponder and experience. What are the more hidden aspects of your drafting process? What stimulates and feeds your artistic process?
Thursday is Thanksgiving, so I’ll be taking the day off. You’ll all be too busy eating turkey and watching the parade to read blogs. But I’ll be back next week in DECEMBER! How the heck did that happen? Guess I can say…see you next month LOL!