Hello… it’s #LA16SCBWI time…is there anybody out there? I know. I’ve neglected the blog, but for a good reason. Blogs are secondary to the writing and the writing has been my priority. But I LOVE my SCBWI conference blogs. They help me process everything I learned and I also love sharing a bit of the magic and insight with those who couldn’t make it. Plus I missed you. So, let’s go to #LA16SCBWI together!
Compared to last year, my journey to #LA16SCBWI was a breeze. No hassles. Everything was on time. The Jet Blue snack was blue chips. I even had my roomie picking me up at the airport and we defied the laws of LA rush hour and made it to the hotel in a record amount of time for the afternoon. Everything was perfect until…
My luggage lock wouldn’t come off. Really???? I think what happened was I accidentally twirled and twisted when I should have pushed and clicked–resetting the combo to a magic number I did not know. Grrrr. I thought about trying all the possible combinations then called the hotel desk and had a lovely gentleman cut it off for me. Crisis averted. Dinner was had and friends caught up. Easy Peasy. And when all was said and done, I fell asleep and never rolled over until morning. Not even the Biltmore ghosts could wake me.
Yes, the Biltmore hotel, the sight of #LA16SCBWI is supposed to be haunted. Do you see the wee ghosty on the SCBWI folder? I wouldn’t lie. Totally haunted. I’m positive, although I didn’t see, hear or sense a thing.
But any building that looks like this inside must be haunted, right?
BTW–sorry for the grainy pictures–I left my good camera at home by mistake. Boo!
But the ghosts aren’t really the important part–unless they inspire some fabulous stories. We were there to get our kid lit on and we took off running on Friday.
Steve Mooser and Lin Oliver were on the scene–Lin entertaining us with stories of her senior prom and bachelor party at the Biltmore. Which by the way, was built in 1923 and was originally a cathedral. And this past weekend it housed…
-952 Full Time Attendees (with a 950 seat ballroom) Good thing there were always spatially challenged writers who had trouble finding their way around the building LOL!
-47 States. (West Virginia was absent and Vermont. But Lin figures they were still too busy feeling the Bern)
-And there were some interesting primary occupations listed: 101 Full Time Artists, Cake decorator (because frosting is a legit medium), 93 FT Writers, A Writer/Shepherdess (and obviously a good one–never saw a single sheep in the Biltmore), 3 Paper engineers, a Bonsai Artist, a cluster? herd? swarm? flock? pod of lawyers? and a Retired Housewife. Lin didn’t know that last one was an option. Sign her up!
And our joke contest was Books in the Olympics–write your own headline!
In LA the faculty also marches in and shares their word of the conference. Here are some of my favorites from #LA16SCBWI…
–Lisa Yee and Martha Brockenbrough–Wonder Woman
–Alvina Ling–Breathe (she was congested)
–Linda Sue Park–(for anyone who cares about kids) VOTE!
The first Keynote Speaker of the conference was Drew Daywalt of crayon fame.
DOES THIS KEYNOTE MAKE MY BUTT LOOK BIG?
Drew was funny and sweet as he talked to the group. Here are some of the most interesting things Drew had to say…
*Jack Gantos wanted Drew to write for children–he was his Obi Wan Kanobi
*Did you ever notice how crayons are in your house but you didn’t buy them?
*20 years later..”I told you so, idiot!” Jack Gantos
*First school visit he panicked but the librarian told him he could bring THE box of crayons LOL! A boy raced past”security” and jumped in his lap and said…”I love you, Mr. Daywalt.” It changed his life. <3
*Hollywood kicked me for 20 years and knocked me down and a million little hands caught me. <3
*Be true to your voice.
*Authors find meaning in the meaningless and define meaning in the meaningful.
*Don’t overstay your welcome. *waves*
Next up was Pam Munoz Ryan: ONE WRITER’S CONFESSIONS
Things she’s learned along the way…
*Getting published and discovering I could still fail.
*If you’re not struggling to learn something new, you’re failing.
*If you aren’t struggling, you’re setting your goals too low.
*I wasn’t self actualized to feel marginalized. (On not seeing herself represented in the books she read)
*Things that get you out of writer’s block–a deadline.
*I don’t have a muse, but I’m still waiting.
*I don’t write every day. A writer has a relationship with writing.
*Goal: I want the reader to sit down and turn the page.
*It still stings–writing doesn’t get easier for me.
*I write in a feeble attempt at immortality.
*I read to forget and I write to remember. <3
Every conference has those bathroom breaks between speakers and they are perfect for coffee and meeting friends you’ve only loved on line. So pumped I FINALLY got to meet Lynne Kelly on of my fellow Class of 2k12 siblings. <3 Such a lovely treat.
The next Keynote belong to Justin Chanda (VP & Publisher of four children’s imprints at Simon & Schuster)
THE STATE OF THE STATE OF THE INDUSTRY
Justin took the stage fighting the urge to suggest we unify the party. LOL! Here were a few things going on in the industry…
* 2015-2016 was a great year for independent books stores.
*Kid lit is doing well, but blockbusters are driving the overall sales while the mid-list are struggling.
*Blockbusters keep the lights on.
*It’s a big leap of faith to acquire a picture book. Because of that editors are selectively looking for character drive, humorous books that appeal to adults as well as kids. You have to be the best of the best to get a deal in this market.
*Advice: Write, Illustrate, Rinse, Repeat.
Sorry it’s a little dark. Remember I forgot the one with the telephoto lens. Grrrrr But even so, I can vouch, this is my first break out session of the conference. It was a Pro-Track session with Don Tate on SCHOOL VISITS.
Don gave a sample of his own presentation, followed by advice and tips from himself and multiple experienced authors/illustrators. It was a wealth of knowledge.
He also shared the fabulous Debbie Gonzales who works with the academic standards to create projects, presentations and study guides. She’s currently working with TOUCHING THE SURFACE and I’ll be excited to soon launch some fabulous new ways that TTS can be used in the classroom.
And my favorite tip from Don? GO WITH THE FLOW–IT’S NOT ALWAYS GOING TO GO AS PLANNED!
Next up was the Editor Panel: THREE BOOKS I LOVED PUBLISHING AND WHY
SB-Stacey Barney–Senior Editor (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin)
KB-Kat Brzozowski–Editor (Swoon Reads/Feiwel and Friends)
AL-Alvina Ling–VP and Editor in Chief (Little, Brown)
MM-Melissa Manlove–Editor (Chromicle)
NP-Neal Porter–Publisher (Neal Porter Books)
MR-Matt Ringler–Senior Editor (Scholastic)
SS-Sara Sargent–Executive Editor (Harper Collins)
RS-Reka Simonsen–Executive Editor (Atheneum)
KS-Kate Sullivan–Senior Editor (Delacore)
Moderated by: ED-Emma Dryden (Dryden Books, LLC)
Each editor was asked to talk about three books they proudly published and talk about why they were meaningful. They also gave advice to the audience. I missed a few here and there and I can’t possibly effectively duplicate their gushing–but here’s what I can give you…
SB–Firebird, The Lions of Little Rock, A Crack in the Sea
*Breathe, publishing is a marathon. It teaches patience. Work on your craft.
KB–RL Stein’s Fear Street Series, When the Moon Was Ours
*Build a strong network of people. Publishing is small. Reciprocal relationships.
AL–Thunder Boy Jr, The Year of the Dog, Daughter of Smoke and Bone
*Rejection is not personal.
MM–Picture This, President Squid, Josephine
*Inspiration is electric, but it’s the lightening bolt that hits the person grinding the generator. You have to do the work.
NP–Giant Squid, School’s First Day of School, Ideas Are All Around
*Do I HAVE to write this book? Is there intense feeling?
MR–Kill the Boy Band, The Hero Two Doors Down, Puppy Place Series (Because you can’t have a bad day picking out puppies for book covers ROTFL!)
*Rejection can feel personal, but it’s an industry thing. Editors can’t always get what they want.
SS–Cruel Beauty, The Museum of Heartbreak, Last Year’s Mistake
*Look for the window where you know what an agent/editor likes but then make it different.
RS–Enchanted Air, THE WICKED AND THE JUST (In caps because it’s a fabulous book by my Class of 2k12 sib J. Anderson Coats) and Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal.
*Write what you love.
KS–Ash, Rapture Practice, Passion Counts
Next up was another Keynote with Jenni Holm: IT TAKES A FAMILY
Jenni shared lots of personal stories but this fact was key…If you’re going to write about your family, write about your mother’s family first LOL!
And then, just when you think you can’t do one more minute of conference, we got to celebrate the Golden Kite Award Winners and have a celebratory dinner.
We even had a display in the lobby of our celebrated books for #LA16SCBWI
And don’t forget the pyramid of chocolate. It was very yummy.
And on that sweet note, I’ll leave you to digest this first day of #LA16SCBWI and I promise I’ll be posting more soon.
Want to see a little bit more of the Biltmore and it’s Hollywood History? Check out this video…
The 2016 New York SCBWI Winter Conference Part 2
I’m back…and I realized that in Tuesday’s SCBWI Conference Recap post, I forgot to tell you how cold it was outside when we woke up. Inside too, for that matter.
Why I may have blocked it from my memory…
This was the inside of my window on the 29th floor.
But it did look rather pretty once the sun came out.
But I should probably stop giving you the cold shoulder and start filling you in on the rest of the SCBWI conference. When I left you on Tuesday…
…a large crowd of Kid Lit SCBWI writers and illustrators were eating picnic style on the floor of the hotel lobby and Debbie Ohi couldn’t give away a piece of her black and white cookie. Yes, we are a strange group–just go with it.
After lunch I had my second Break-out/Workshop session of the day with Elizabeth Bicknell, EVP, Executive Editorial Directo & Associate Publisher Candlewick Press–WRITING PICTURE BOOK TEXT.
Some of the books she used to illustrate fabulous and successful picture books.
Good things to know…
*Candlewick only does children’s books.
*Don’t make your story about too many things.
*PB’s are like a little play.
Topics in PB’s shift over time but here are currently popular story lines.
Up next was a Fireside Chat between Lin Oliver and Rainbow Rowell…
Lin and Rainbow are way too adorable together!
Here are my favorite take-aways…
*When you’re writing 1st person, you’re writing monologues.
*Good novelists have good memories.
*The best comedy comes at the moment of pathos. (The intersection of funny and sad)
*Like a dog returning to his own vomit–it’s a long and very funny story!
*Rainbow’s outlines are emails to her agent.
*Her plots are derived from characters. Using characters to fulfill a plot is very different than characters creating the plot.
*The shared texts we have now are pop culture–it’s no longer scripture etc…
*People find the references that are there for them.
*If I’d written girls when I was younger, I think I would have accepted more of what the world told me to.
*On writing in an Omaha Starbucks–Hey! Writing in a NYC Starbucks is a very different thing. They are like public restrooms that serve coffee! ROTFL!
*Not in the past, and maybe not in the future, but right now I am privileged to write full time.
*Publishing is a game of speculation. Everyone is guessing even though everything seems set in stone.
The next Keynote required no guessing at all to know it would be good. I’ve heard the fantabulous Kate Messner on numerous occasions and I’ve also heard nothing but wonderful things about Linda Urban and they were going to be talking about MUSIC, MOUNTAINS AND MOCHA LATTES: SUSTAINING A CREATIVE LIFE.
Kate spoke first and talked about her own journey to reconnect with a manuscript by climbing mountains.
*Sometimes we need one small thing to keep going.
*If climbing one mountain was good for my writing, climbing 40+ would be amazing.
*Put your butt in your chair, but when you’re stuck, get up.
Then Linda Urban talked about how she’d rather have her finger nails pulled out than climb mountains, but how she found the same creative inspiration in a little red ukulele.
*Playing the ukulele causes a rush I wasn’t getting while I was stuck in my MS.
*The dopamine it provided and a long trail of small musical success restored my creative confidence.
*The negative voice in my head got bored while I was playing.
And then the lovely Linda sang for us <3
And as you might imagine, these two inspirational and creative authors were each other’s biggest fans. So, please remember, if you can’t find a creative outlet that will lead you back to your writing–find a friend to have a Mocha Latte–it will work every time.
After all this inspiration there was a book signing with Rainbow Rowell, the Art Browse and the Gala dinner followed by multiple socials and of course my group of lobby rats hanging out in the lobby–sort of. Remember how cold it was? Well, that lobby was a wee bit drafty, so for the first time ever, the rats took to the underbelly of the hotel (like all good rats do) and moved out of the cold.
But as always–we stayed up talking way to long. Always one of my favorite parts of the SCBWI conference.
With not enough sleep under our belts, it was time for coffee, bagels and Day Three of the SCBWI conference. Once again our uber fantastic illustrators blew me out of the water with their gorgeous art and Jane Yolen got me all choked up giving out her SCBWI Mid-List Author Grants.
And it’s always our pleasure to thank the staff of the SCBWI for all they do to bring us together for these amazing conferences and to let them know how much we appreciate all they accomplish behind the scenes throughout the year.
Our first Keynote for Sunday was Rita Williams-Garcia and she talked about DO’S AND DON’TS IN CHILDREN’S PUBLISHING FROM A DEFINITE DON’T.
Here are some of my favorites from Rita–she was both moving and funny as she spoke.
*I loved telling stories–or as my mother called it–lying.
*Live in The Plan: I took every step possible in be coming what I envisioned. (She wrote 500 words every night as a child and rented out her sister’s typewriter to do it.)
*Don’t pick your major based on the hot guy with the afro–he doesn’t have any hair now!
Rita on really being faced with the prospect of editing a manuscript for the first time.
*Don’t stay with an uncontracted project too long.
*Don’t isolate yourself–TRIBE!
*Don’t block out criticism.
*Don’t be a know it all.
*Don’t stop writing–live in The Plan.
*Live with gratitude–do what you’re doing–you’re here!
Next up was Jacquelyn Mitchard–SAY GOODBYE TO ALL OF THAT: THE QUEST FOR THE PERFECT ENDING.
Jacquelyn was literary, funny, thoughtful and informative–so much good stuff to digest.
*People love the 19th Century greats because the ending is so clear.
*The last sentence of a books, for some writers, is the first sentence they know about.
*Most books really don’t echo the promises made in the first pages.
*The reader doesn’t want it to end, so how do you make it okay for the reader? It should do more than tie up loose ends–your job is to lead the reader back into the real world.
*Leave room for interpretation.
*Say what you’re going to do, do it, then get the hell out.
Since I don’t have a picture of the next panel, you should look at this one instead. This is what my hilarious friend, Scott Hammon, looks like after a Rocky-esque run up to the podium. He’s been waiting FIVE YEARS to win the SCBWI Conference joke contest!!! Watch out Jay Asher…Scott is very, very slowly creeping up after you. *grin*
Now back to the panel…
Moderator: RF-Ruben Pfeffer
AB: Alessandra Balzer—Vice President and Co-Publisher, Balzer + Bray and imprint at HarperCollins
EB: Elizabeth Bicknell–EVP, Executive Editorial Director & Associate Publisher Candlewick Press
GC: Ginger Clark—Agent, Curtis Brown, LTD
SD: Sarah Davies—Agent, Greenhouse Literary
AL: Alvina Ling—VP and Editor-in-Chief, Little Brown Books for Young Readers
The last panel discussion of the SCBWI conference was ACQUISITIONS TODAY: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES. This was a crazy interesting panel because it mixed editors AND agents and the quips and candor flying back and forth was both informative and entertaining. Once again I’ll be honest and say I spent more time listening to the fast flying information than taking notes. There was lots of information on preempts, auctions, bidding, multiple submissions and of course, everyone’s option on the lot. Check the #NY16SCBWI thread and TEAM BLOG for more detailed information on the panel.
And I won’t lie. This finally Keynote is the one I waited the whole conference for. I cannot even begin to explain how much of a fan I am of Gary Schmidt. I had the opportunity to hear him speak at an LA SCBWI Conference and he blew me away. I’ve also had the chance to read his books with my boys. We very recently finished reading his newest novel, ORBITING JUPITER together. It is now my favorite Schmidt novel, which is saying something. And to more completely put this book in perspective, my 15, 12 and 10-year-olds asked that we put The 5th Wave on hold so we could read ORBITING JUPITER faster. I love my kids. <3
The final Keynote was entitled THE BOMBERS OF THE BOSTON MARATHON, AND THE PLANES OF 9/11 AND HOW ANTHONY WISHED THEY WOULD.
It would be madness for me to try and do anything other than write down what inspired and moved me as Gary spoke.
*Why is it that when a group of Kid Lit writers gets together, we get along? This doesn’t happen with adult writer, poets. It’s because we have the same mission–we do it for kids.
*”Nobody came because nobody ever does.” –Jude the Obscure We are here to address this. We need to be the writers that show up.
*When an adult speaks to a child with honesty, they know that someone is telling them the truth and that despite the brokenness of the world–it is still worth living.
*We need to write for the kid sitting on the log who is waiting for someone to show up, because no one ever does.
-Like Anthony during 9/11. He went outside to see if a plane was going to hit his building and when it didn’t, he was disappointed because it would have saved a lot of trouble. Is it any wonder that he’s serving a life sentence?
-Like Jake, one year into his sentence. He loves the planets, especially Jupiter. When Gary sent him a book and a poster on the planets it was taken away. Once again, no one showed up.
-Like Marlene, a high school student actively engaged in a writing activity with Gary. When two teen boys walk in (who don’t do anything wrong or intimidating) this girl shuts down completely. When they leave she reengages. What happened in her life, in this school that shuts her down like that?
*The deep heartfelt question that we must ask as authors is…what ails you? It is a question of human empathy.
*Story and art can reveal human empathy.
*Story insists on human complexity and multidimensionality.
*Watch what happens if you take the stance in life that EVERYTHING MATTERS.
*If you want to be a writer, you have to LOVE the world.
*The writer believes with her whole heart that we give the world more to be human with. There is a reason ISIS destroys art.
*We write to serve. We don’t tell the kids how to act, we sit down beside them on the log and we say the truth.
And that is why I love Gary Schmidt…
And that is why I rushed to his book signing table and proceeded to get all choked up as I tried to explain my heart, head and soul to a man who I’m pretty sure already knows it. Remember…he loves the world.
Then there was the pleasure of meeting the newly minted Newbery Award Winner, Matt de la Pena. He’s the first Latino author to win the Newbery Medal for outstanding contribution to children’s literature with his picture book, LAST STOP ON MARKET PLACE. Matt is a fabulous SCBWI success story and we are all so proud of him and his accomplishments.
I also had the pleasure of getting my books signed by Oscar winner William Joyce!
And then I got to hang out and chat some more with Oprah Book Club author (DEEP END OF THE OCEAN) and editor-in-chief of Merit Press, Jacquelyn Mitchard.
Yes, the talent and advice this year were incredible.
And I can’t wait to read MELT by SCBWI Spark Award winner Selene Castrovilla. We were able to hang out at the Gala and she is all kinds of fabulous and everyone is raving about this novel!
And then it’s over–or is it?
Not for me, because it was Valentines Day and my hubby met me in NYC and we got to see…
The Broadway hit, CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT.
I was blown away. No seriously, it was incredible. I hope you all get the chance to see it–it’s a beautiful and timely book that is brought to life right in front of your eyes. It’s one of those plays that will change how you see the world and the people in it.
Once again, Kid Lit shows up and I’m so proud.
But even after dinner and a show…you’ll find your way home. Back to your family. Back to your writing. And back to your cat who really, really missed you.
Oh, wait–it was the dog who really, really missed you and the cat who hates it when you leave. And then you wake up in the morning and she’s sitting on top of you (really close) so you can completely understand what you’ve put her through. LOL!
I hope, whether you made the SCBWI conference or just read about it, that you’re all inspired and ready to show up for your writing life. I know I am. And now that these blogs are done, I’m ready to move forward on my WIP.
Did anything in the conference or the recap really connect with you? How is it effecting what you are working on? Have you wanted to write, but haven’t been sure how to start? The answer IS to show up. You must start some time. Why not begin today. The SCBWI will teach you everything you need to know. And I’d be more than happy to point you in the right direction.
Have a great weekend and see you next week.