Sep

9

2014

Let’s Talk About Platform, Marketing and Social Media aka Publishing PMS

Filed under: Blogging, Check-it-out, Marketing, Pondering, Publishing, Touching the Surface

For the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to lump platform, marketing and social media into one big ball of extrovertedness. For short we can call it Publishing PMS. And believe me when I say there are days when publishing PMS is about as pleasant as a bout of the hormonal blues. *sigh* Putting yourself and your book out there isn’t always easy and it can often make you moody and irritable. Since I first signed my contract for TOUCHING THE SURFACE, I’ve tried out lots of PMS approaches to enhance my foothold in the world of publishing. There are some that I stand behind for their effectiveness. There are some that I have no idea if they benefit me, but I certainly enjoy them. And there are some things that have proven to be an epic waste of time. I don’t have time to go through every little detail but I thought I’d share a few Publishing PMS bits of wisdom with you…

*Have a website and keep it up to date.

*Blog only if you like to do it and you can show up regularly. It isn’t about how often you blog, but more about how reliable you are to your readers.

*Pick your social media outlet of choice (twitter, FB, Instagram etc…) and make genuine relationships on it. If you’re dong it right, you should be giving to that community more than you are taking.

*The swag item I use the most is my bookmarks. Leave room on them to sign your name or add a small message.

*Create eye catching and informative displays for when you have a presentation table for an event such as a book fair.

*Try to find a unique and affordable supplementary piece of swag that helps you to stand out. (I used origami cranes with a sticker of my book and the phrase DARE TO DELVE written on the wings)

*Spend more time writing the next book than marketing the one that’s coming out.

*I think it’s worth the time to send out postcards to Indie Bookstores. Plan ahead and do a few at a time. If you are involved with a group of authors, pool your information and resources on bookstores and libraries.

*Join or create a support group for your debut launch or any launch for that matter. Banning together is great for publishing support, but also for emotional support.

*In retrospect, I would have taken the lions share of the money I spent on marketing, pre-ordered X number of books before my launch and then distributed them as charitable gifts to local or school libraries. While it’s hard to say if a book placed in a library will increase sales, it it likely to at least get your book in front of real readers. This may possibly create positive word of mouth and future fans who just might be looking for your next book. Plus–all those pre-orders don’t hurt either.

Success ahead sign

 

Those are just some of my thoughts. What tips would you pass along to deal with Publishing PMS? Do you have any questions about a certain PMS tactic? If time and money weren’t an option, what would you do to make your book a big ball of extrovertedness?

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Sep

4

2014

Art Stimulates Art: We Make Ripples

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Dancing, Pondering, Writing

Ahhhh last night was the season finale of one of my favorite shows–So You Think You Can Dance. As many of you know, I’m not just a writer–I’ve been a dancer all my life. And the one think I’ve found is that the making of any kind of art stimulates the creation of more art. iStock_000000667473XSmall-300x358

 

My absolutely favorite dance last night involved the Top Ten contestants dancing with the All Stars. And the performance made me smile–it made my heart soar. That one dance perfectly captured the way I feel about life and the things I try to accomplish with my writing.

The secret is there’s as much joy in creating a ripple as there is in being touched by one. We are all drops in the same pond. Never underestimate what can happen when you replace fear with hope.

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So, tell me. Did you watch this season’s SYTYCD? Did you have a favorite dancer? Favorite performance? How do other forms of art stimulate your writing? And even more importantly, do you understand the powerful effect just a drop of kindness can have on someone else? It’s time to rain down on those around you–whether you are dancing, writing, or just breathing–make ripples.

 

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Sep

2

2014

Write Sticky: Being in Charge of Your Own Behavior Modification

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Drafting, Pondering, Revision, Writing, Writing for Children, Writing Style, Young Adult (YA)

Normally Tuesday blogs are a problem when I’m coming off of a three day weekend. But this isn’t just any big weekend, it’s back-to-school week in the Sabatini house. And that mean’s yesterday, September 1st, was the official kick off to Kim’s New Year. January 1st might be for resolutions, but September 1st is always about fresh starts, organization and motivation. At least for me. So, because I’ve had this date on my mind, there was no way I was going to be late or miss this blog post.

Maybe you’re wondering why am I so super focused on my own private and personal back to school reset button? It’s simple–UNINTERRUPTED WRITING TIME!!!! Something I haven’t seen since last November when I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time. *fist pump* It was right after NaNo that we dropped into hard-core, preparing to move mode. There were also holidays, the actual move, an epic ton of snow to shovel thanks to the polar vortex and then my kids switched schools. Before you know it they were all home for the summer. Writing still happened in the middle of all the chaos, but it became this thing I did while unpacking boxes or in the middle of a noisy pile of boys. And it made me appreciate the days when I was allowed to have stretches of time to day dream in silence. At least between the loads of laundry.

Pulling on a few of the many writing lessons I learned from last year, I formulated my plan for this year.

*During NaNoWriMo I learned that showing up to my writing almost daily is very important to staying firmly entrenched in the world I’m creating.

*I learned that I’m competitive with myself and more likely to keep myself honest when I declare my intentions.

*Starting small usually results in larger than anticipated output for me.

*Supportive groups are my thing.

*I love calendars, charts, stickers, markers and spending time in Staples or the craft stores.

Sooooooo here’s my plan. photo 11

 

Right in front of my favorite writing spot, I’m posting a monthly calendar with my daily goal. If I reach my goal for the day–I get a sticker!!! I found some of the cutest stickers ever so this is highly motivational. What’s my daily goal? I have two works in progress that I’m having a blast writing. My daily goal is to write at least 200 new words on each project. Or if I’m in a place where I’m revising, I need to revise at least two pages of either project a day. This is not an unmanageable goal on most days. But the upside is tremendous.

In September, if I write just 200 new words for each project, I can accumulate 6,000 words on each manuscript. BUT…when I sit down to start writing, I almost never write just 200 words. Yesterday I exceeded my goal on a day I might have normally considered a non-writing day because I had company coming over for a picnic. Yeah–I wanted that cute little dog sticker. LOL!

Another part of making this method work for me is the power of accountability. I don’t just have people (aka my kids) walking through my kitchen, looking at my stickers and cheering or *gasp* shaming me because I have too many blank spaces. As if that isn’t enough LOL! But now I’ve also blogged about it. And at the end of each month I’m going to post my sticker chart. Let’s make this clear–I DO NOT WANT ANYONE SEEING ME NOT WRITING!!!!! Especially with my kids back in school. NO EXCUSES!!!! This will be a HUGE motivator for me to be productive. Maybe I’ll even have some banner days where I can draw in stars or hearts for uber excellence. BTW I can do that since I’m in charge of my own behavior modification.

But even public shame and humiliation has it’s limits. I mentioned I do better when I’m involved with supportive groups. Time to step up writer buds. Get your own calendar printed out ASAP! Go buy some stickers. Set a daily goal that is easily reachable. You are free to use or work off of mine– 200/2r x2. It stands for 200 words or 2 pages of revision for the two manuscripts that I currently an working on. Feel free to use the twitter hashtag #writesticky You can tweet to show me your calendars, shout out your successes or feel free to beg for motivation–I’ll be doing that too. Just remember, this is a no-brainer, with a whole lot of upside. So come be brainless with me and let’s get some writing done!

 

PS–If you’re not a writer, but have a goal and you’d like to participate–you know you can #writesticky too

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Aug

28

2014

Why Summer Needs to be OVER!

Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m as sad as the next person about the end of the summer. *scratches head* Then again maybe I’m not. Sure I’m not looking forward to regularly scheduled morning wake ups, making lunches, three kids whining about homework, after school sports and the logical reduction of my ice cream intake. But gosh darn it–the summer makes me feel so unorganized. And that’s saying a lot–I’m pretty scattered on a regular basis. With a 6th grade orientation today and a bunch of other things, it took me until 2:53 in the afternoon to realize–hmmmm it’s Thursday–I kinda have a blog due. (And I only remembered that because I was thinking about posting a Throwback Thursday photo on FB LOL!)

So, here’s your #TBT pic…

photo 1This was me back in the late 90’s on top of a tower in Coppenhagen. :o)

And here is my list of reason why–as lovely as it is–SUMMER NEEDS TO BE OVER!

*I need regularly scheduled wake ups and bed times. My body likes it and this year I don’t have to get up super early so I’m doing a happy dance!

*Making lunches–this is a stretch because I have to make three this year instead of two, but I can start catching up on all those grown-up lunches with friends I haven’t seen all summer.

*Kids whining about homework means their brains are engaged. By the end of the summer, it has become obvious that my kids will benefit from the mental stimulation. And so will I!

*Yes, after school sports are a bear, but I’ll get my work done while they are at school and that makes me less resentful about my whole evening feeling like we are running non-stop. And all three boys are on the same schedule and out of school early enough for homework and dinner to theoretically get done ahead of time. I’ll keep you posted on how this works out for real.

*Let’s not kid ourselves–there is NEVER a dip in ice cream consumption. Silly reader.

*Jeans!!!!! I love wearing jeans and a sweater. It’s my outfit of choice with a pair of comfy sneakers or clogs. Happy days are almost here.

*Cool night and breezes. Windows open but snuggled under a down comforter. *sigh*

*Autumn leaves. Can’t wait to see the changes at my new house. Pics to come.

*Publishing is back from vacation and bookishness is in the air. And there are stretches of writing time without feeling guilty about having kids home.

*Running!!!! It’s my favorite time of year to run outside. FAVORITE!

*Stew, soup, and chili–YUMMY!!!! And hot chocolate with whipped cream.

*Trading in my air conditioning for my wood stove. Not a big AC girl unless the humidity forces my hand. But I do love to be warm and toasty.

*The kick off to the year’s best stretch of holidays LOL!

*RAIN–I know it sounds weird, but I love a good rainy day when it’s not a chess pool of hot humidity. *see woodstove and throw in slippers and a cozy blanket.

*The “REAL” new year. I always consider the first day of school my new year. September 3rd is a fresh start for me. <3

*And on time blog posts. Why are you laughing? Okay, if not in the fall–definitely in the winter. Ha!

 

What’s you’re favorite things about kicking summer to the curb?

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Aug

26

2014

Beautiful Writing

Filed under: Pondering, Writing

I had the pleasure of seeing the Broadway Musical BEAUTIFUL on Sunday. I loved it! Amazing story and music–the performances were superb. I’m a HUGE fangirl of Jessie Mueller now. But it also burrowed into my heart because it spoke to me about VOICE and this is a theme that has been happily haunting me since the #LA14SCBWI Conference. I don’t believe in coincidences–I believe in messages. So I try to listen the very best I can to what the universe is blasting me with. Here’s what I learned about my writing and voice from Carol King and the Broadway Musical BEAUTIFUL…

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1. Love what you do.

2. Be yourself.

3. Speak your truth.

4. You can not be heard by others unless you can be heard by yourself.

5. Artistry must be repetitively practiced.

6. Failure is the gateway to growth and success.

7. Friendship is an important ingredient in our work.

8. People long to make real and meaningful connections with other people.

9. A journey starts with a plan and almost always takes an unexpected turn.

10. Sometimes the unexpected turns out to be something beautiful…

 

You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face

and show the world

all the love in your heart.

Then people gonna treat you better.

You’re gonna find–yes–you will

that you’re beautiful as you feel.

Be sure to watch this all the way through–there’s a bang up ending.

 

What is the most beautiful thing about your writing? What’s your favorite Carol King song? Have you seen the play? If you get the chance to take it in–don’t miss it. <3

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Aug

21

2014

Why the SCBWI Works–It’s Not Head Count, It’s Heart Count

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Family, Pondering, SCBWI, Writing, Writing for Children

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.

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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.

 

 

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Aug

19

2014

THE LINE

Filed under: Drafting, Pondering, Revision, Writing, Writing Style

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.

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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?

 

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Aug

14

2014

Bonus Post for the 2014 LA SCBWI 43rd Annual Summer Conference–Coming Home

Filed under: Check-it-out, Conferences, Dancing, SCBWI

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.

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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?

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Aug

12

2014

The 2014 LA SCBWI 43rd Annual Summer Conference–Part 3 Sunday

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, SCBWI, Writing for Children

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.

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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…

 

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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

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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

 

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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!!!!!

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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.

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Peter Brown–Golden Kite Winner for Picture Book Illustration

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Pat Zietlow Miller–Golden Kite Winner for Picture Book Text

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David Meissner–Golden Kite Winner for Non-fiction

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Tim Federle–Golden Kite Winner for Fiction

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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.

-prevents contradictions

-tells what the world is gong to be

-characters, side kicks and bad guys

-plots

-maps

-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:

-consistent deadlines

-keeping it fresh

-keeping it consistent (BIBLE)

-getting important info to the people who haven’t read the previous books

-topping yourself

-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

 

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His bits of wisdom and love…

*COURAGE

*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…

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 BE BRAVE…

* 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

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Yes, I photo bombed Meg Medina LOL!

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But then Jodi and I gave her hugs so she didn’t mind.

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Chatting with Bruce Coville–he’s such a hoot! Always love his advice.

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Me and Bruce Coville <3

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Like Aaron Becker and Journey and Journey says…Don’t stop believing.


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Fan girling over Maggie Stiefvater–helping me solve for X.

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Megan McDonald of Judy Moody and Stink fame.


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Love her–she’s fabulously hilarious.

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Judy Schachner or Miss Judy as my 9yo likes to call her–signing her newest, adorable Bits & Pieces.

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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…

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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

 

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Aug

7

2014

The 2014 LA SCBWI 43rd Annual Summer Conference–Part 2 Saturday

Filed under: Community, Conferences, Dancing, Publishing, SCBWI, Writing, Writing for Children, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

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.

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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.

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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! 
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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.


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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

Love that!

And I get to hear the hilarious Megan McDonald talk again at her Keynote WRITER, WRESTLER, STUTTERER, SPY: FINDING YOUR VOICE AS A WRITER.

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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. 

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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…

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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

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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…

SALES:

*We are so lucky–we have a replenishing source of kids EVERY YEAR! ROTFL!!!

MARKETING:

*Our business is a recommendation based business.

PUBLICITY:

*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…

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The party was getting started. The view from my room.

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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!

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Nancy my RA stomping some grapes with me.

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Hanging out with my Shop Talk buddy Imogene–New York to LA!!!

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My Dad would have absolutely hung out with the Pope ROTFL!

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Lots of laughs all night.

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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.

 

 

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