I’ve been thinking a lot about the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) lately. Okay–I always think a lot about the SCBWI. Type #scbwi into my blog and you’ll find post after post about how this group has been an instrumental part of my growth and development as a writer. But you’ll also see posts describing how my tribe has given me a safe place to fall and supportive hands to push me forward when I’m weak and insecure. I love this group.
Simultaneously, I’ve also been pondering the state of the world around me. And one of the things I’m seeing is an increase in adult bullies. It’s in the news–countries bullying countries. Religious, racial and political terror grows like weeds. There are bullies in corporations, schools and neighborhoods. Sometimes it even comes from the people who are teaching our children how to be kind. Our supposed leaders. It makes my head spin.
But my personal response, to what I often consider an epic wave of ugliness, is to be the leader I want to see in the world. Some days I’m more successful than others. But even when I’m at my best, my world has a small footprint. And that is what has me thinking about why the SCBWI works so well and is so loved by it’s tribe members. It’s a safe place. As big as it’s grows, it remains a family like institution where we are encouraged to look after the person to our left and the person to our right. When you allow yourself to be close to people and to care about them in a very personal way, your small footprint overlaps with their small footprint and a clear picture begins to emerge.
This TED talk is a little on the long side, but well worth a few extra moments of your time. It’s amazing–one of my favorites.
The SCBWI is a great institution because it has great leaders, but I feel it’s an amazing institution because those leaders encourage everyone to step into the circle of safety and add their footstep–to be a leader in their own way. We continue to grow, not because of our head count, but rather because of our heart count.
If you aren’t a member already, put your best foot forward and join our circle of safety.
The last couple of days I’ve been knee deep in a revision. You’ve probably heard me blabber on about this before, but revision is my favorite part of the writing process–until it’s not. Hey! Don’t roll your eyes at me. I’m serious. What I love about the revision process is that I’ve arrived at a place where I’ve created the template for my work. The bones are on the page. And then I have the ability to be a tinker and play around with all the pieces until they fit perfectly. But there always comes a point when I hit THE LINE.
THE LINE is the Bermuda triangle of the writing process. You can get lost there and disappear forever if you’re not careful. In my humble opinion, it is a fine margin between making something better and overworking it. Kinda of reminds me of pie crust. If you manipulate that pile of dough too much, it all starts to fall apart. Or it gets too tough. When you are tweaking your manuscript, there is usually the chance of trying to make everything so “perfect” you lose your voice. And as I heard in LA from EVERYONE–your voice IS who you are in this business. It is the only real currency you have.
But, I call it a THE LINE because Linda Sue Park is right also–the tools of our trade are our words and you had better send out your best ones. They must be worthy. You do have to walk right up to the very edge to present your best self to the world.
Now you want to know how to tell when you’ve crossed the line. In fact, I can see you pulling out your hair and running around a round room looking for a corner to sit it. I feel the same way in this business–often. And the hard truth is that you don’t know. I’ve never met a writer who does. If you watch yourself closely enough, you might begin to see the patterns in your own process, but truthfully, there are always exceptions. *sigh* We all have blind spots when it comes to our craft.
You’re never going to know for sure. Come here–let me hold you. (((((hugs))))
But there are things that are guaranteed…
*Always do your best. Not your “that was easy” best, but your blood, sweat and tears best. Then no matter what the outcome, you can hold your head up high.
*Never give up. And I don’t mean never give up on your manuscript. Sometimes, you have to know when to walk away–heck–after you’ve grown by writing a few more manuscripts, you can always come back with a new perspective. Most people don’t–they might harvest something from the fallen pages, but they realize that there was a reason they had to put the piece to the side. And you can only see that with distance and more practice. Just don’t let immediate failure take you to the point of ultimate failure. Stepping stones.
*Trust your voice. The things that make you different from everyone else that will capture the attention of others. But it’s rarely a lightening strike. Being different almost always makes it harder to be heard. When you’re different, your success depends on other people having a vision for your voice. Hold the course. Walk the line.
What’s “line” challenges you in your writing? How do you handle it?
I promised you a little Bonus Post to finish off my 2014 LA SCBWI 43rd Annual Summer Conference recap.
#LA14SCBWI Part 1
#LA14SCBWI Part 2
#LA14SCBWI Part 3
Do you have your dancing shoes on? You’re going to need them. *grin*
There is always some “interesting” things happening on a fully booked flight from NY to LA or back again. This is especially true on the way home when you leave the hotel at 5:45 in the morning. I was tired enough to sleep the whole way home, but of course my jet lagged, hyped up on caffeine, inspired mind wouldn’t turn off–so I wrote and revised almost the whole time. But there was also another little nugget of happiness that I discovered while getting ready for take off on Virgin America…
LOVED this!!! Even found some of my SYTYCD favorites in the safety video. <3 A *fist pump* to Virgin America for being innovative and keeping my attention. Well done!
And while a quirky little video isn’t going to make the flight from LA to NY any quicker, it certainly put a smile on my face. Hope you enjoyed it too.
I’ll be back next week with some brand new posts. What have you been up to while I’ve been conferencing? What other companies or repetitive messages would you like to see be as creative as Virgin America? Were you dancing in your seat?
And we are winding down to the last day of the 2014 LA SCBWI Conference. And the jet lag is starting to lose it’s steam, so of course I arrange for an early morning Class of 2k12 mini breakfast reunion with Suzanne Lazear (The Aether Chronicles) and Caroline Starr Rose (May B and Blue Birds). It was worth every yawn to have some quality time with my girls. <3 This is my public service announcement for the day: My class of 2k12 friends were indispensable to me for the last three years. If you are slotted for debut publication, seriously consider becoming part of the Class of’s Contact me if you need help finding contacts in the up and coming groups. I’ll help you figure it out.
The official morning started off with Deborah Halverson and her always helpful Market Report. Besides the who, what, when, where and why of the children’s book market being incredibly dynamic, she provided us with an amazing handout…
Just another fabulous benefit of being an SCBWI member and attending these awesome conferences. *fist pump* Time to join people–this organization is fabulous and means the world to me. Here is what you should know…
*Up-swing in picture books
*Increased demand for highly illustrated early chapter books.
*In response to Common Core:
-Not a lot of acquisition changes. Same quality books–just might market them differently.
-Eye out for subject matter that touches multiple areas. The more hooks the better.
*Diversity projects are increasing but editors are looking for approaches that are not stereotypical or heavy handed.
*MG is finally coming into it’s own–promising place for single tittles.
*The bar is very high with books like WONDER but there are varying needs within this audience.
*MG is allows slow growth over several years. 2-3 year projections while YA is more likely to be evaluated in a quick splash.
*YA possibly over saturated. Editors being picky.
*Popular, established authors are getting sales.
*Trilogy is slowly dying.
*NOT MORE OF THE SAME!!!!!
*Contemporary realistic fiction getting a bump.
*YA lovers continue reading after aging out.
Next up was an amazing Keynote with Linda Sue Park–THE HOW OF IT: MAKING EVERY WORD COUNT
This presentation was the PERFECT combination of technically useful and emotionally inspirational. LSP is hard to beat, she is a master of craft and emotionally dedicated to her work. Here is what you should know…
*Don’t bore the editor–you want then to hang on your every word so make every word count.
*How? Use the tools of the writing craft–WORDS!
*Small changes make huge differences.
*ALWAYS put your finished MS away for several weeks before you send it out. Look at it again with fresh eyes.
*Use the word count function and whittle down your words slowly.
-Pick your best words and put them in the best order.
*Change your font, it will help you see your MS differently.
*Print your work out and read it in a different location–some place you don’t usually write.
*Read your work aloud from beginning to end or have someone read it to you.
*Words have become one of our cheapest currencies because of technology and social media, so it’s even more important that we value our words.
*An adult is never going to love and reread books the way they will when they fall in love with a book as a child–our books have to be worthy of being ready more than 62 times. (Daniel) <3
Our next Keynote was by Sharon Flake–WALKING WOUNDED: HOW TO KEEP WRITING AFTER YOU’VE HIT THE WALL. Her best take aways were…
*”Magic” can give you a false sense of confidence.
*Kids need to know that there is more than one way to be a human being.
*Remember it’s in you to make it through.
*I love writing so much that even when it didn’t feel good I kept going.
*It’s about being a connection.
My first Workshop of the day was with Bonnie Bader–LEVELED READERS AND TRANSITIONAL CHAPTER BOOKS.
As a mom and a former special education teacher I really wanted to make some sense of this area that always seems so inconsistent and confusing to me. I walked away with a very good understanding of how these books work or don’t work and how difficult they are to write. I feel like they are a sudoku puzzle for children’s writers LOL! I think when I get a little extra time on my hands I might play around with the sight word list a little bit and see if I’m any good at it. If you see me with chunks of my hair pull out, you’ll know what I was doing.
Time for the Golden Kite Luncheon!!!!!
This is when we honor the outstanding members of our tribe. This year’s Member of the Year was Ellen Hopkins for her above and beyond service to the SCBWI and it’s tribe members. Love her! We also celebrated our Golden Kite winners.
Peter Brown–Golden Kite Winner for Picture Book Illustration
Pat Zietlow Miller–Golden Kite Winner for Picture Book Text
David Meissner–Golden Kite Winner for Non-fiction
Tim Federle–Golden Kite Winner for Fiction
And Bill Konigsberg–winner of the Sid Fleischman Humor Award
Each of these award winning tribe members gave amazing, funny and inspirational speeches. Best crop of award winners I’ve heard as a whole. I left lunch full, inspired and motivated. Can’t wait to read their books!!!!!
My afternoon Workshop was with Bruce Coville–NO BUT SERIOUSLY, THE ART AND CRAFT OF WRITING A SERIES
Sorry no picture–we got right down to business and there was a lot to learn. One of the great things for me at the conference was that I was able to take some very interesting classes on new topics I’d never explored before. As a regular conference attendee, this made me very happy.
Here are a few tips about series writing from Bruce who has 15 series under his belt…
*Show up at your desk–when you are doing your work you will maintain a certain level of competence in your writing and some times you will be lucky enough to rise above your own abilities.
*Two most important times of creativity are coming in and out of sleep–use them to your advantage.
*Always go for royalties because you are betting on yourself–the 1st Hardy Boys book (with a packager) the author made $150 Doh!
*Craft without inspiration is basket weaving. Inspiration without craft is modern art. *insert Bruce giggle here*
*An outline is not an impediment to creativity.
-Bruce’s tend to be front heavy
-They never end the way he planned and that’s ok
*If you want to explore a world or character with more depth than one book–a series is the way to go.
*Conclude a story but throw in an unresolved cord.
*Create your bible.
-tells what the world is gong to be
-characters, side kicks and bad guys
-Show you are taking your work seriously
*Writing for a packager is a great way to hone your craft–you should always write a book better than what they are expecting.
*Problems with a series:
-keeping it fresh
-keeping it consistent (BIBLE)
-getting important info to the people who haven’t read the previous books
-knowing when to stop
*Our lives are series non-fiction <3
I told you I’d have more Tomie!!! We were still able to do his interview with Lin Oliver via Skype <3
His bits of wisdom and love…
*Being an artist is also the way you live your life.
*When you create your art–be prepared to be misunderstood.
And then after feeling like I had the biggest, warmest pep talk from my SCBWI Yoda/Grandpa–Judy Blume stepped onto the stage for an inspirational send off…
* I was far from a courageous child–except in my head.
*I was brave in my writing the way I wasn’t in my life.
*Judy’s take away word from the conference is FOCUS.
*Do not let anyone discourage you. If they try–get angry not depressed!
*Determination is as important as talent.
*It doesn’t ever get easier–persist.
*Ideas come from everywhere and you never know when they will arrive.
*Kick the critic off of one shoulder and the sensor off the other. Sometimes you just have to write a book and not worry about who is going to read it.
As if this wasn’t enough, Judy shared with us the ups and downs of a project she’s currently working on and how she would also be leaving the conference inspired to go back to her work. Just like me–just like everyone else in that room who had the pleasure of hearing one of our greatest idols speak.
After a long and powerful standing ovation for Judy, Lin Oliver closed with this…
“We picked a very difficult and challenging road–it’s so much better that we walk down it together–hand in hand and arm and arm.”
My Tribe–I am grateful. <3
Yes, I photo bombed Meg Medina LOL!
But then Jodi and I gave her hugs so she didn’t mind.
Chatting with Bruce Coville–he’s such a hoot! Always love his advice.
Me and Bruce Coville <3
Like Aaron Becker and Journey and Journey says…Don’t stop believing.
Fan girling over Maggie Stiefvater–helping me solve for X.
Megan McDonald of Judy Moody and Stink fame.
Love her–she’s fabulously hilarious.
Judy Schachner or Miss Judy as my 9yo likes to call her–signing her newest, adorable Bits & Pieces.
Judy talking picture books with Jodi Moore author of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN. I want a collaboration–when Skippy Joh Jones moves in with my favorite Dragon.
And then it was over. Dinner with friends while talking about three days worth of awesomeness. Hugs goodbye. Suitcases packed and the pull to find your way home to family and the page where you left off in your own writing…
Hope you are as inspired as I still am over a week later. And my fingers are crossed that you enjoyed my conference recaps. See you on Thursday with a little conference bonus post before I put LA away until next year. <3
And I’m back!!!! And the answer to yesterday’s 2014 LA SCBWI 43rd Annual Summer Conference cliff hanger is that jet lag won again!!!! I WAS BACK UP AT 5 FREAKING 30 IN THE MORNING!!!!! *head thunk* On a positive note, I spent my extra two hours brainstorming my WIP’s while lying in my cozy bed. But that meant I didn’t get out of my room any earlier and this time the Starbucks line was too long to wait on. With a low caffeine and food gauge, I headed to the breakfast kiosk in the lobby where they were out of breakfast sandwiches for the next 5-10 minutes. (Not my lucky morning) With my face half melting off, I glanced back over at the ever lengthening Starbucks line and decided to wait. #teamkiosk I figured I’d purchase my fruit, coffee and my slower than slow sandwich NOW–and then while I drank my coffee and munched on my nectarine, I’d wait patiently for my breakfast sandwich to arrive. Grab and go. No. I was told there would be no coffee until my sandwich arrived. That’s how they did things. What? Obviously that had never met the likes of me before. *snort* I smiled and explained how my method would be so much more efficient and friendly and yummy and caffeinated. And they marveled at my brilliance and my witty banter and I drank my coffee and waited for my yummy sandwich while making friends with all the other people lusting for breakfast sandwiches. We really bonded. It was fabulous. <3
And despite the wait, I was blessedly on time for the first Keynote of the day.
Justin Chanda (Simon & Schuster) THE STATE OF THE STATE OF THE INDUSTRY
He is an incredible speaker–funny, practical, informative, optimistic, realistic and just plain enjoyable to listen to. Here’s what you need to know…
*We are all in this together.
*Printed things on paper have not been eradicated…and drones are not delivering our books…yet. LOL!
*It’s a cyclical business.
*There is something BIG and NEW in YA–CRF (Contemporary Realistic Fiction) HaHa! It was just “discovered” in the last five years. #trends
*trends are unpredictable–undeniable– and you can not write to them.
*YOUR INDIVIDUAL VOICE IS THE BIGGEST CAPITAL YOU HAVE IN THIS BUSINESS.
*JC predicts YA is going to scale back, but ultimately this is a good thing because the market is saturated and the glut is preventing books from being marketed correctly.
*There is lots of room for books that speak to the true experience of middle graders.
*Great rise in gender neutral books.
*The market for PB’s seems to be strong.
-not enough shelf space for a HUGE resurgence
-PB’s are 1% of book sales
-focus is on 5-6 year olds
-humor is doing well
-strong identifiable characters resonate
*APPS are not books.
*On Common Core: When the next wave of educational stuff comes along we’ll still be buying good books because good books hit the mark without trying.
*No one goes into publishing to get rich–we are here for bigger things.
*We are experts at bringing books and stories to kids. The book comes first.
*We are writers–we need to write–social media and marketing is important but it doesn’t trump story telling.
*There are always readers outside of trends.
See…I told you he was fabulous.
Next up was the Agent’s Panel: WHAT HOOKS ME
SD-Sarah Davies (Greenhouse)
SM-Steve Malk (Writer’s House)
EM-Erin Murphy (Erin Murphy Lit)
AP-Alexandra Penfold (upstart)
RP-Ruben Pfeffer (Ruben Pfeeffer Content)
LP-Linda Pratt (Warnick & Pratt)
LR-Laura Rennert (Andrea Brown)
MODERATOR: LO-Lin Oliver
LO–What hooks you?
AP-I want books that make me feel. Books that are as smart as the kids who read them.
EM-AUTHENTICITY. I don’t want to feel the hand of the author pushing.
SM-Reinventing and layering a fresh point of view over a classic.
SD-AMBITION. Not for money. But someone who works hard and has big ideas. They want to be the master of their craft.
RP-POTENTIAL. I want to make contact with a character that can bring me into their world . Details can be fixed later.
LR-Characrter drive, page turning, emotionally powerful. The exploration of universals in unique ways.
PL-INTRIGUE. Make me feel like THIS character should exist.
-Also wants a professional cover letter.
LO-Tell us about cover letters?
LP-A line or two that verifies you’ve done your homework. Followed by a brief summary of what your work is about. Add credentials at the end but leave out the “my kids love it.”
-Avoid comparisons to books that are too big. Comp titles are good to have but use them wisely.
SM-They bring the professionalism. Take it seriously and don’t sell yourself short. Proves your investment
EM-It helps the agent get the bigger picture of you and your potential career.
LR-Reading for a sense of the person behind the story. But remember the process of querying is like dating so don’t over share your scary stuff on the first date. :o)
AP-Don’t over promise and under deliver. Did you say what you meant to say.
SD-Calm down–it’s okay–it points the way to the writing. And writing a pitch is an art–so practice.
LO-How do you see your role when you take on a new client?
RP-I wear many hats–particularly what the client will benefit from the most.
EM-I’ll ask you to revise because it’s a skill and if you don’t have the skill, I can’t talk you up to editors.
SD-Revision–if the bar can be raised–it’s better for the sale.
-I want to guarantee at the point of submission that we took that MS out as strong as we could make it.
RP-The potential of the brand
AP-Helping to hone their attention towards the second book.
SM-(Cutting in) Brand is a tricky word. Your brand is simply who YOU are.
LO-What makes you cringe?
EM-Submisions from prison. *cue whole ballroom cracking up*
LR-Something that feels formulaic.
LP-Dropped in the middle of ungrounded action. Wants to be vested in the character.
RP-Too much or not enough opening information.
AP-Lot’s of bad rhyme in PB’s–changing the trajectory of the story to meet the rhyme.
EM-Envisioning yourself as a celebrity instead of focusing on the writing.
SM-Making big mistakes that indicate you’re not that serious about what you are doing.
SD-Prologues with car accidents
-Same beginnings all the time.
-Prologue that’s different than the first chapter.
-Wakes up, gets our of bed and looks in the mirror.
*The beginning doesn’t have to be the beginning–fresh language that gets you into the story at a different place.
Even though the morning proved to be off to an amazing start–you can’t stop believing that there’s more. The next Keynote was from Aaron Becker–SOME ADJUSTMENTS WERE MADE ALONG THE WAY: ONE ARTIST’S JOURNEY.
Aaron started us off by getting the whole room to help him sing Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. You appreciate that transition now, don’t you? LOL!
Anyway–if I’ve got you mystified and you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about–you might not realize that the Aaron is the gifted author/illustrator of the 2014 Caldecott Honor book JOURNEY.
Love, love love this wordless picture book. You can’t even begin to imagine how much story is hidden between it’s gorgeous, sweet, humorous, creative, magical illustrations. But it all made sense when Aaron talked about how stories are how we understands our lives. That is something that resonates with me down to my core. I also wanted to add that I have two young artist/illustrators at home and I took this shot of one of Aaron’s early masterpieces to show them how we grow as we practice our craft.
It left them with their jaws hanging open and it reminded me that we continually have to work at our practice to reach the vision we have of ourselves in our mind. Time to get out my “red crayon” and make some magic happen on my pages. <3
Mary Lee and Megan
I know my recaps can be a bit lengthy at times, but don’t get moody–get Judy Moody!!!! Next up was my first Workshop of the day with Megan McDonald and Mary Lee Donovan JUDY: FOREVER 8–CREATING AND SUSTAINING A SERIES.
Both Megan (the author of Judy Moody) and Mary Lee (Judy Moody editor-Candlewick) were amazing, funny and informative. The thrust of the presentation was about the unique choices that were made all along the course of Judy Moody’s development. The creativity in writing and marketing led to the launch of a beloved early chapter book series that has become a huge hit. Here are some of the takeaways…
*Megan made “me collage’s” to help her brainstorm and get to know her characters and her world.
*They avoided formulaic packaging. It’s uniqueness helped it to stand out.
*Judy Moody is a 3rd grader but her first book was 150 pages long. This was a little unique for 7-10 year olds. But they liked having a thick book to carry around.
*The book had short, episodic chapters targeting 7-10 year olds.
*The print was large with a lot of white space and frequent illustrations.
*At the time, bright colors were competing on the shelf so the craft paper design and unique shape caught people’s attention.
*Judy Moody was positioned as a new cast of characters that everyone needed to meet.
*Marketing was directed to a kid audience and a teacher audience. Word of mouth then helped Judy Moody reinvent the 3rd grade novel. <3
Next up I grabbed lunch on the go and headed over to my regional get together. I didn’t have time to take pics but there were french fries in my Big Fat Gyro and there was some debate about the authenticity of that. My RA was served in the same way in Greece. So anyone have any thoughts on this? It was a first for me. Very yummy, too.
Next up was a Keynote by Maggie Stiefvater A THEIF AND AN ARTIST STEALING STORIES FROM LIFE.
Maggie is an amazing storyteller–as you might imagine from that series of pics. She’s just too animated to pin down LOL! But after listening to Maggie, I also began to think of her as a modern day renaissance woman. Very intelligent and loaded with all kinds of artistic ability in so many areas–writing, sketching and music. I was relieved that she wasn’t very good in the kitchen because I was starting to get a little intimidated and jealous. But considering how much amazing advice she shared and how it impacted my own thoughts on writing, I’m a fan-girl for sure. Some of Maggie’s best take aways…
*I am rarely creating things form scratch. I steal the soul of someone else and then as an artist I stitch it back together.
*The only way to get better at something is to practice.
*Shallow Thievery vs. Deep Artistry
-Learn to solve for X–things are not what is on the surface.
-It’s not about the punch, it’s about why he threw it and more importantly why he’d never thrown it before.
*It’s not write what you know (we don’t personally know that much to be interesting) It’s about WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW THE ESSENCE OF.
And I get to hear the hilarious Megan McDonald talk again at her Keynote WRITER, WRESTLER, STUTTERER, SPY: FINDING YOUR VOICE AS A WRITER.
The really cool thing about Megan’s keynote was that it was completely different than the info I’d heard in the morning. *fist pump* Most of her stuff was side split tingly hilarious stories that I couldn’t even begin to recount here, but I did pull this out and write it in my notes…
*If you want to write–find your splinter–the thing that is embedded, still sharp and hurting you. Write about that.
Day two of the conference seemed to be about repeat speakers, which was completely okay with me because I really enjoyed them just as much the second time around. My afternoon Workshop was with Justin Chanda–YOU HAVE YOUR 1ST (2ND, 3RD) CONTRACT(S) HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP AND HURT YOURSELF.
A seriously helpful workshop and one of the best PRO sessions I’ve taken. Right up there with those done by Ruta Sepetys. My only complaint was that it was too short. Would love to see the same workshop offered as an AM/PM two part workshop. Justin talked about some of the best and worst practices that could help or hurt an author after they’ve gotten a contract.
*The starting point for everything is your editor.
*Most important people on staff are the assistants–treat them that way.
*Do not say one thing to your editor and another to your agent and leave your agent to solve it. (ex. Editor: Can you have it to me in 4 weeks. Author: Sure, No problem. Author talking to Agent: There is no way I can do that in four weeks—please fix it. *weeps*)
-Run around becomes tedious for everyone
-We are all in this together.
-Always better to be honest.
*You have to stand up for yourself–it is your book.
*A good editor will never rewrite your book, they will help you make your vision clearer. “I will never win that argument if it’s not meant to be won.”
*Everyone is always working towards the same goal.
*Try not to send multiple emails in one week with different subjects.
*Don’t be afraid to ask questions, we love to talk about what we do.
*Remember to work on your book–consumers want books not marketing. You’re first job is to WRITE!!!!
*100’s of people touch your book along the process of publication.
*Everyone wants your book to work–no one is sitting in the back room trying to figure out how to screw you over.
*80% of tanked covers have been at the author’s insistence. Speak your mind but trust your team.
*80% of the books Justin publishes lose money. The top 20% is carrying the 80%
*Good marketing departments need to be nimble.
*There is a finite amount of marketing resources. And it’s usually unpredictable.
*Do not compare your publication plans with anyone else’s.
*Don’t spend your own money in a vacuum. Coordinate with your team to get the best for your money.
*Publication grows with you throughout your career.
*Highly recommends school visits as the best way to self promote. WORD OF MOUTH!
*Social media is the greatest and worst thing to happen to publishing.
-DO NOT VENT ONLINE
-DO NOT PLEAD YOUR GRIEVANCES IN THE COURT OF SOCIAL MEDIA.
*And like Debbi Oh always says…Another writer’s success doesn’t diminish your chance of success–cheer on other writers. <3
Phew!!!! I’m getting really tired. This may be one of the longest conference recaps I’ve ever had. It’s all because there was so much great information and inspiration. Like this next panel…
A Marketing and Sales Panel–PUTTING YOUR BOOK IN THE HANDS OF READERS: HOW SALES, MARKETING AND PUBLICITY BRING YOUR BOOK TO MARKET with Felicia Frazier, Shanta Newlin and Emily Romero
These ladies were fire crackers. This was hands down the best sales/marketing/publicity class I’ve been exposed to at a conference. Entertaining and informative–I wanted to hang out with this smart and charismatic ladies. Here’s my best takeaway from each of them…
*We are so lucky–we have a replenishing source of kids EVERY YEAR! ROTFL!!!
*Our business is a recommendation based business.
*You have to see, hear or read about a book at least 5 times before you make a purchase.
As pumped as I was, my perky personality was getting hungry and starting to wilt. The final Keynote of the evening was Cynthia Kadohata MY LIFE: REAL AND IMAGINED.And yes, I forgot to take another picture. But here is my favorite takeaway…
*No matter what writing problem you have the answer is always somewhere in your life.
There–I did it. I made it through day 2. *nods off* BUT WAIT—It’s time for the 2014 Poolside Gala!!!!!!! It was Tomie Depaola’s 80th Birthday Bash: A Night in Old Italy. Since Tomie couldn’t be there, we did serenade him with a flash mob to That’s Amore. <3 A copy of that is floating around Youtube somewhere. Here’s a snap shot of the rest of the evening…
The party was getting started. The view from my room.
I was having trouble coming up with a costume and a friend suggested being an “old” tourist in Italy.
I immediately started channeling my Dad LOL!
Nancy my RA stomping some grapes with me.
Hanging out with my Shop Talk buddy Imogene–New York to LA!!!
My Dad would have absolutely hung out with the Pope ROTFL!
Lots of laughs all night.
Jodi and Howard–dancing buddies <3
And then I fell asleep. Lies. Then I hung out in the lobby and talked with friends. And then I fell asleep. More Lies. Then I got in my PJ’s and talked with Jodi some more. ROTFL! But then I finally did fall asleep–and it was great until I …
Well, that’s a story for my finally recap post next Tuesday. We don’t want to overwhelm you–I don’t think this lengthy post can take one more word. Hope it was helpful and didn’t make your eyes bleed. In fact–as encouragement to write the last post recap, why don’t you let me know in the comments which bit of posted wisdom or inspiration resonates with you the most. And don’t forget my fries and gyro conundrum. See you next week.
It’s Conference Recap time!!!! And yes, if you’re paying attention–this post was supposed to be up this morning. But I flew in last night and had as much fun reconnecting with my family as I did when I was reconnecting with my tribe. So now it was time for them to get my attention. I’m also not super timely with today’s post because I was so tired it felt as if I no longer had bones. It’s hard to type without bones. It’s much better to sit on the couch and become one with the cushions. And lastly I’m pokey because laundry doesn’t do itself *sigh* and neither do the dishes and all those other chores. Completely bummed that there wasn’t a shift in the domestic universe while I was gone. But I’m on it now, so here we go.
Jodi, Robin, Kim and Caroline
Thursday night, before the official 2014 LA SCBWI 43rd Annual Summer Conference kick off, is time for meeting up with old friends and giving first time hugs to friends you know incredibly well online, but have never laid eyes on before. Such a treat to make those connections. Such an easy way to really kick your jet lag into high gear LOL!
OMG!!!!! Even though I was THAT tired and didn’t have to be up until about 7–I WAS UP AT 5:30 AM!!!!!!!! JET LAG!!!! But that’s okay–it’s early in the conference. It won’t happen again. It never happened to me before in LA. IT WON”T HAPPEN AGAIN. And I’m so pumped to get started and there’s coffee–lots of coffee!!!! I am the master of my destiny. And I have my “jet lag” T-shirt on. LOL!
So I’m ready and I know I’m going to be wide awake for Lin Oliver‘s State of the SCBWI Conference Statistics.
*19 Countries + the USA
*We had four missing states this year and when Lin chastised South Dakota for never coming–BUSTED! One of them had tricked us and snuck in. YAY!!!! South Dakota in the house!!!!!! But not Arkansas, Montana and Mississippi. Boo. Get on that people.
*Half the room was published authors or as Lin said–630 authors understood that publishing is not the end game–there is so much more to learn on this journey <3
We also took a moment to remember the amazing Walter Dean Myers and sniffle because our beloved Tomie DePaola wasn’t going to make the conference or his birthday bash gala due to illness. But the good news was that he was going to be ok. (More on Tomie in future recaps)
And then we’re off with…
*slurps more coffee*
Meg Rosoff‘s Keynote: WARNING: PETER RABBIT MAY BE HARMFUL TO YOUR HEALTH
As you know, my recap posts can’t possibly capture the complete amazingness of the conference and it’s speakers–and it shouldn’t–I’m trying to tempt you into coming next year and hanging out with me. But even if I could get it all down in it’s full bloggy splendor, it’s a no-no to post too much conference material that doesn’t belong to me. Completely understandable. But, get your pens out, because I am gong to give you some of my favorite bits of wisdom and inspiration, starting with Meg…
*Reading books gives you imagination and the ability to tell a story and those skills will make everyone better at everything–except Accountants and Politicians–it will put them in jail LOL!
*The most difficult problems in the universe are solved in the telling of stories.
*Adults have already formed their opinions about sexuality. Kids are discovering through books and tolerance is growing.
*Treasure your faults–they are an important kind of truth.
*Writing is bloody difficult.
*Imagination can be very dangerous–it can change the world and that’s why we write.
Next up is the Editor’s Panel: 3+3 THREE THINGS YOUR BOOK SHOULD INCLUDE AND THREE THINGS IT SHOULDN’T
AB-Alessandra Balzer (Balzer + Bray–Harper Collin’s Children)
MLD-Mary Lee Donovan (Candlewick)
AJ-Allyn Johnston (Beach Lane Books–Simon & Schuster)
WL-Wendy Loggia (Delacort press/Random House Children’s Books)
LM-Lucia Monfried (Dial Books for Young Readers)
DS-Dinah Stevenson (Clarion Books-Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
JSG- Julie Strauss-Gabel (Dutton Children’s Books–Penguin Young Readers)
Moderator: LO-Lin Oliver
LO–What is the most important thing you look for?
MLD-VOICE. You bring it automatically but you have to write it authentically.
AJ-SURPRISE I want the unexpected. Goosebumps. Spend less time working on your cover letter and more time worrying about your MS.
WL-VOICE You can’t hone your voice–it’s who you are. It’s immediate.
LM-ORIGINALITY It’s rare, but it’s what all editors look for.
DS-A BEGINNING an invitation that contains the seeds of the end.
JSG-A GOOD FIT sometimes a manuscript can be good, but there is a better home for it.
LO-So, how do we find that perfect fit?
JSG-You can’t get it anywhere if you write to the general masses. It’s okay to be unique and different–you only need one.
MLD-Research–take the time to find the connection.
LO-(answering part of her own question LOL!) The SCBWI has a web resource document called EDITED BY.
***Everyone chiming in–NO MULTIPLE SUBMISSIONS WITHIN THE SAME PUBLISHING HOUSE***
LO-Going to the dark side…what do you not want to see???
JSG-BORING–my best asset is a short attention span.
DS-Don’t want to see 100,000 words.
LM-Show instead of tell.
WL-Absent page numbers. I WANT PAGE NUMBERS ON YOUR MS!
AJ-Don’t be weird. Like sending your submission in a plastic green fish. *shudders*
MLD-The urge to teach/preach
AB-Too much packed into the beginning to get the editor’s attention. It can have the reverse effect.
LO-How do you know if you’re boring???? We all think we’re pretty great, right??? LOL!
Some additional bits of advice…
AJ–Write something with snappy humor.
WL-Show thoughtfulness behind your choices.
AJ-Confidence! Then I can relax and enjoy the story because I know I’m in good hands.
LM-Write your heart–ignore trends.
JSG-Word of mouth is what makes a book a success.
AB-Hook–it has to meet different people at different levels.
AJ-The final page turn can make or break picture book.
DS-Craft has a lot to do with making choices–we don’t always need to know the color of the dog’s collar.
JSG-Sub Plots: sometimes people throw them in to give their book additional engines to make it to the end. If you take the sub plot out, will the story still stand?
AB-Don’t put the cart before the horse. Work on the first steps. Establish relationships.
LM-There is no speeding up becoming a good writer. The better books are the ones that get published.
JSG-Once you are out of the gate–you can’t get back in. Be ready for it.
Next up was my first Workshop of the conference. Laura Rennert (Andrea Brown Literary Agency) THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF A SUCCESSFUL CAREER: FIRST BOOKS THROUGH IMPORTANT MILESTONES
Laura walked us through a case study of the fabulous Maggie Stiefvater and how they built her career together. Here are a couple powerful bits to share…
*The more distinct and individual the brand, the more powerful it is.
*Think about what is powerful and organic to you, but that can break out in a very full category of your peers.
*Growth is from book to book to book.
And Yum! It’s LUNCH TIME!!!!
Look how quick that was. Now it’s time to go back after being in guacamole heaven. I seriously adore the green stuff and could eat it every day. And since I have a feeling that Skippy Jon Jones would love guacamole– it was obviously the perfect meal to eat before listening to a Keynote by Judy Schachner: THINKING IN PICTURES–MY STORYTELLING PROCESS
Judy’s fabulous and funny presentation was very visual–but come on–she’s an artist and illustrator. It’s supposed to be. But that makes it a bit hard to share some of her amazing information. But I think I’m going to have fun just giving you some of the bullets in my notes (completely out of context) and see how it works for you. *giggle*
Here we go…
*I worship at the alter of prairie dogs.
*Diagnosed ADHD by a boy at a school visit.
*Loves dead mice and collects hairballs.
*29ft Viking ship!
*Be a collector.
*Run for your lives–she’s got the rabies!!!!
Now, wasn’t that fun. Feel free to tell me what you think Judy was referring to in the comments :o)
Up next was another Keynote. This time with Stephen Chbosky (author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower) HOW TO WRITE YOUR TIMELESS CLASSIC (OR DIE TRYING)
I’m an über fan girl of Stephen and his book so these bits of wisdom are real gifts…
*The next person to write a classic could be in this room.
BAM! He’s not even a sentence or two in and he has me. Because I believe that. I believe that not only can that be me–but that if I work hard enough–it will be me. And I like people who remind me that the smartest thing you can do is shoot for the stars and then figure out a way to get there.
*If you write–you are a writer. Take control of your own destiny.
*Find an idea. Share your ideas with the people you trust and see which one everyone gravitates towards. That’s the one. And it’s usually the one you think is too weird or too hard to make happen.
*You are going to find that one beautiful book you are destined to write.
*The best writers know exactly who they are and what they are doing.
And then my favorite takeaway…
*Books change lives–save lives. That’s why we are here. We want to change the world. It only takes one.
And maybe I was so blown away by talking to Stephen while he signed my book that I forgot to get a picture WITH him. But sometimes you don’t need that to remember the moment…
I was already hard at work on the plane ride home. Thank you Stephen Chbosky for being made of awesome. I’ll keep my promise <3
*sigh* Workshop #2 Wasn’t quite a good fit for me. I came in a little late because I was Face Timing with my kids (3 hour time difference) and then the topic wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be. So not a lot of notes for you so we’ll move along.
Next up was the Diversity Panel #weneeddiversebooks
Here is who was on it…
LSP-Linda Sue Park
Moderator SMW-Suzanne Morgan Williams
And here were some of the best takeaways
SMW-Why do kids need diverse books–especially if you did “okay” without them?
MM-When kids don’t have access to examples of themselves in books, it’ affects them. They become embarrassed by who they are.
-All of our journeys are universal, but we have to share our own stories.
LG-Positive imagery for everyone.
LSP-For young readers connections can happen at a really deep level.
SMW-Who writes diverse books?
LSP-Anyone can and should be able to write any one and any thing. But not everyone can do it well. If you do it, you need a passionate personal stake in what you’re writing or you may make things worse. Research can go a long way, but it has to be intensive and extensive. Immersion. At heart–writing multiculturally when this doesn’t happen is a lack of respect.
LG-It comes down to why you are doing it. People will call you with a passion if you mess up–even if your motives are honest.
SF-There are lots of submissions out there, but most of them reduce cultural diversity down to food, clothing and stereotypes. They lack depth.
LSP-Perpetuating stereo types are like ear worms that stick and that is a mistake. It makes people feel disrespected and does the opposite of what it’s supposed to do–enforcing negative energy.
And then it was time for my very first PAL Book Sale & Wine and Cheese Party!!!! I got to sell TOUCHING THE SURFACE to my tribe members while eating cheese. Do you know how much I love cheese? And talking books with friends? Good times were had by all. <3 What an awesome Day 1
Now it’s time for the cliff hanger…
*Did Kim have jet lag again tomorrow?
*Was there enough coffee in the world to make it through day two after such a jam-packed, awesome day one?
*Did anyone figure out what Miss Judy Schachner was talking about? *grin*
If you want to know these and other questions, leave a comment and be sure to stop back over on Thursday for my PART 2 of the LA SCBWI Conference Recap!!!!
Things I did besides finishing my packing for SCBWI LA…
-I got my hair done.
-Made homemade soup and zucchini crabbiless crab cakes for dinner.
-Read to the boys for an hour.
-And of course I caught up on the latest episode of SYTYCD where I saw an epic ton of dances that I’m over the moon about. But this one in particular reminded me of all my writer sistahs.
Whether it’s my critique partners, my SCBWI friends or the Binders–there always seems to be someone there for the highs and the lows. It’s a beautiful thing that rarely ceases to escape me. That dance illustrated the supportive group of women I’ve chosen to have in my life. It feels as if we are more invested in picking each other up than we are in stepping on one another. I love that. We aren’t perfect, but I always sense the desire to be more–be our best.
Knowing I get to see some of these amazing sistahs (and my guy buds too) has me super excited to head to LA TODAY!!!!! I’ll be tweeting about the conference, so if you want to be an arm chair attendee–follow along using the hashtag #LA14SCBWI And of course I’ll start my usual conference recaps after I get back and un-fry my brain. LOL! I get so inspired after attending the event. Stay tuned more to come…
I promised you I’d be back today after my vacation and my blogcation. It was a good thing I took the blogaction (small break from posting) because the internet where we were staying could be a bit “moody” at times.
First off, it was a great vacation–lots of fun and sun and relaxation and roller coasters and yummy dinners and ice cream. And of course while I was away, I took some pictures. Not too many because I’ve started to learn it’s just as important to be IN the moment as it is to try and capture it, but I did take a couple. On our way home–driving for hours and reliving the vacation highlights, my husband gave me a great compliment. <3 He said he loved how I had started to learn how to sneak up on my subjects when I’m taking a picture. How I’m learning to capture the moment without interrupting everyone all the time. Of course I blushed and grinned and when I got home, I went to take a look at my pictures and tried to see what he was talking about. I tried to find you some of my favorite moments of photographic espionage to illustrate what he was taking about…
*sigh* I have to admit that most of MY favorites are his favorites too. But don’t fret, there is still a time and place for a posed picture from time. Just ask the crew at Table 15 at a wedding I recently attended. *grin*
See–posing CAN be fun and funny. But even so, I imagine you’re thinking…”that’s lovely Kim, but what the heck does this have to do with writing?”
A lot!!!!! I swear. I’ve been thinking about that relationship (you know I always do *wink*) And what I’ve come to realize is that at the same time I’ve been learning to sneak up on my pictures, I’ve also learned to come at my characters in a more subtle way. Let’s give you an example of what I mean. In my earlier writing I was inclined to describe a character like this…
Amelia had blue eyes that sparkled every time she smiled and because she was so petite, it always looked like her eyes took up half of her face. Whenever she made eye contact with a boy, which was often, she ran her delicate fingers through her mop of blonde curls. She was such a flirt and it made me sick.
That’s not a bad description. For better or worse, it hits all the typical things like eye color, hair and height. The description is based on a lot of telling, not showing. It’s a posed portrait of a character.
Now let’s try coming at a character like Amelia from a more indirect route. Let’s sneak up on her and the narrator a little…
When the bell tinkled on the door to the school bookstore, Amelia tucked a curl of hair behind her ear. Then she smoothed down her already ironed skirt in anticipation. All of that preening occurring before she even saw who had stepped into the shop. The shop where she’d carefully stationed herself during back to school week at the university. When Amelia took in the college sweatshirt that the jock-of-the-month was wearing, she really threw it into high gear, batting her voluminous lashes like an exotic bird in the middle of a complicated mating ritual. After seeing that, I slunk down to the pet aisle to throw up a hair ball.
Now I’m not saying there isn’t room for improvement here (I just met Amelia and the mysterious narrator 15 minutes ago) but I’ve come to love the second description so much more than the first. In just the amount of time it took me to craft the second one, I started to get a real sense of who these characters were and I developed a desire to see what else they were going to do–what they were about. I think that’s because I snuck up on them and really took a deeper look as I was describing what I saw from the shadows. I’m hoping you agree with me on this one. Yes?
Anyway, whether you’re taking pictures or developing with words, give the indirect approach a little bit of your consideration. Sneaking up on your subjects is a quiet, but powerful way to capture a moment or tell a deeper story.
Do you agree with me? What characters, books or authors do you think do this really well? Have you ever pictured a character one way only to find out that what you thought was never actually in the description?
Woo hoo!!!! I’m taking a small vacation from the blog next week.
Of course I’ll still be hanging around on multiple avenues of social media–but don’t plan on official blog posts.
See you on the flip side–I’ll be getting ready for the SCBWI LA conference!!!!!
It takes brains to help families.
How do I know this?
Because my very good friends, the Matthews Family have told me so.
(picture courtesy of the It Takes Brains website)
And I believe them because they have an intimate relationship with autism.
Here is their story…
I know that organ or brain donation is not for everyone. But it is for me. My personal beliefs are that I want to go out doing as much good for other people as I can. If you happen to be standing nearby when I make my exit–get my organs on ice ASAP! My driver’s license has me listed as an organ donor. And make sure that you contact the Autism BrainNet 24-hour Hotline (877- 333-0999) as soon as possible and inform the medical personnel of my intent to make a brain tissue donation. Tell them that this brain (as weird as it might be) is for the Matthews family.
I would greatly appreciate your support of this family and other families with autistic challenges. Please do what you can–sign up to use your brain for something good. You can do that HERE. You can also share this blog with everyone you can. Or use your own platform to pass the IT TAKES BRAINS website along to others. And please feel free to use the comments below to pass on your love and encouragement to a family that could really use it at this time. The details are personal–but the Matthews family has more than their fair share of challenges right now. So let’s give them more than our brains–let’s give them a little bit of our hearts too. <3