Posts Tagged ‘Conferences’

Nov

7

2017

Silver Bay Falling Leaves Eastern Upstate NY SCBWI Retreat 2017

Filed under: Check-it-out, Conferences, Critique, Drafting, Kimberly Sabatini, Publishing, Revision, SCBWI, Writing, Writing for Children

Hello dear readers! It’s been so long since we’ve chatted. I’ve missed you. But as we’ve discussed–I have no intention of filling up your inbox with random chatter. Although I am super capable of doing it.

Instead I’ve promised to only blog when I had something relevant to add to the conversation. And here I am with a brief recap of the 2017 Silver Bay Falling Leaves Eastern Upstate NY SCBWI Retreat. I have to share this SCBWI event with you for a number of reasons–I met amazing people, learned fabulous things and I think you’d love to come to this event next year! So let me tempt you.

The weather was beautiful when I arrived at Silver Bay and I took advantage and walked around a bit. I was happy  that I’d brought my good camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After checking in and getting my bearings, it was time for dinner and our first round of workshops.

*WORKSHOP #1 Gestalt: or 1+1=More  Words and Pictures in Picturebooks by Rotem Moscovich (Executive Editor at Disney-Hyperion)

And if you look closely at Rotem’s display of fabulous picture books, in the middle of the bottom row you’ll see my forever friend and editor for TOUCHING THE SURFACE, Anica Rissi’s THE TEACHER’S PET. Rotem told everyone all about Anica’s art note perfection and the magic that ensued because of it. Interested in finding out more about The Teacher’s Pet? Have Anica come and visit your class and tell you the story herself <3

And I don’t want to forget to tell you some of Rotem’s best words of wisdom…

*Gestalt=more than the sum of it’s parts.

*The best picture books are composite texts that combine the text, the illustrations and the input of the reader.

A great example of this is ONE SPECIAL DAY by Lola M Schaefer and Jessica Meserve

*WORKSHOP #2 The Body Electric by Katherine Jacobs (Senior Editor, Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group)

And here are Kate’s best bits…

*Characters are the best way to engage your reader. Follow the characters–>sing the body electric!

*Resist the urge to over describe your characters, but be sure to KNOW those characters.

*Flat characters vs Round Characters. Round characters are surprising, unique and multi-dimensional.

*Motivation: What does your character want?

*Conflict: you need a problem that can be solved.

 

And then it was back to the main building. Want to take a peek?

 

The inside is great too. 

 

 

And if you’r anything like me and thinking of heading here next year for the first time, you might like to know what the rooms look like. So, let’s head upstairs…

 

 

 

Yes, we had real keys and wooden doors. And the most adorable, clean and cozy rooms…

 

 

On Saturday, we spent the morning broken up into critique groups. I brought five pages of my current YA work in progress and my group was super helpful. I also want them to finish writing all their projects and get them published–so I can read them! In the afternoon we had our one-on-one critiques with our editor/agent mentor. I brought a chapter book project for that and got an insanely amazing amount of help from Grace Kendall. More from her later. <3

In between lunch, critiques, and dinner we had some glorious free time for writing, sharing, hiking or whatever else you wanted to do.

I planted my butt at that round table and got in several hours of work. It was fun to shove a pair of ear plugs in my ears and enjoy being “alone” around so many writers. And productive!

Then it was time for evening workshops. And my apologies–my pictures from these workshops went missing. *grrrr* WAIT!!!! I FOUND THEM> ADDING THEM IN BELOW.

 

*Workshop #3 Non-Fiction Proposal Writing with Hilary Van Dusen (Executive Editor, Candlewick Press)

Here are some of the things Hilary is looking for in a Non-Fiction Proposal…

*Demonstrates passion

*Proof that the author has done their research

*A summary

*Outline

*Sample chapter or two

*A sense of the author–who they are and what they are about

Workshop #4 It’s Not A Race: How to Find and Build the Perfect Pacing for Your Manuscript with Grace Kendall (Editor, Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers/Macmillian)

Here’s what Grace thinks you need to know about pacing…

*What is pacing? Character + Plot + Purpose = Pacing

*Your sense of pacing is different for each purpose.

*Why is pacing a problem? Too slow = bored reader and too fast = reader loses empathy. Additionally, bad craft creates distrust in the reader.

*You can use pacing like any of your other creative tools. (character, voice, diction etc…)

*You can look at pacing at the book, scene, paragraph and sentence level.

 

And then it was time for the Big Falling Leaves Birthday Bash!!! It’s the 10th Anniversary of this retreat and we celebrated at the Boat House…

On the mantle are book covers of Falling Leaves success stories. <3 More are preparing for their book birthdays in 2018 and beyond…

 

Our fearless leader, Nancy Castaldo and her Left hand Lois, Lois Miner Huey and her Right hand man, Greg Matusic. Thanks for EVERYTHING guys!

And here is our fabulous faculty from left to right: Hilary, Rotem, Kendra, Grace, Kate and Jennifer

On Sunday morning we packed up our suitcases, but we still had a half day of awesomeness. We even get to have a toasty fire…

*Workshop #5 Be the Hero of Your Own Writing Process with Kendra Levin (Executive Editor at Viking Children’s Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House)

Here’s some tips on how to be a hero…

*There is a universality to the creative process.

*The happiest people can find a way to extra meaning from anything that happens to them.

*Heroes: Protect, Serve and Make Sacrifices.

*Having a step-by-step plan and having goals is key to being a writer.

*Know your strengths and weaknesses. Actively address the areas where you need the most work.

*Writing for young people REALLY DOES MATTER!

Want to find out more about how to be the hero of your own writing process?

 

The Hero is You by Kendra Levin (Life Coach for Writers)

Next we jumped to the Editor/Agent Roundtable for an intimate Q & A Session before our last speaker of the conference.

*Workshop #6 Best Practices for Maximizing Your Books’ Success with Jennifer Laughran (Senior Agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency and Bookseller)

What to do to increase your success…

*Website–think of it as your business card. (contact info, links to social media, blog if you have one)

*On your website have a pre-order page/book page (include ISBN, links to buy the book including Indie options, Skype/school visit info and curriculum guide if you have it.)

*Have a Press Kit on your website.

*Present yourself the way you want to be perceived.

*Never vent business or rant like a crazy person on line.

*Give to the writer community–don’t just be a taker.

*Introduce yourself to local booksellers.

*Figure out what your niche is and lean into it.

*Find out what about you is unique that you can share with readers. Find ways to add value to what you are doing.

*Publicists and Marketing: other people are more likely to help you if you are helping yourself.

Want more of this fabulous advice? Check out Jenn’s Podcast–the link is on her website.

 

And then it was time to go home–and work! I’m still so energized. Falling Leaves gave me so many new friends and an incredible amount of insight into my projects–particularly one I was very stuck on. Sometimes all it takes is a trust fall with your tribe. <3

Any questions about the retreat? I’ll happily answer what I can or point you in the right direction. And I have one more question before you go… This question is inspired by the book DEVOTED by Jennifer Mathieu. We used it as a learning text in Kate’s presentation.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver

 

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Feb

10

2015

The 2015 SCBWI NY Winter Conference Part 1

Filed under: Conferences, SCBWI, Touching the Surface

I dropped the boys at school.

I brought the puppy to Canine Kindergarten.

And then I made the great escape…

I was off to the 2015 SCBWI NY Winter Conference. I was giddy by the time I sat my butt on the train, because with the holidays, and the puppy and the boys and the snow, I was ready to get away. I needed a weekend where I focused on friends, writing and inspiration. Not to mention about 48 hours where the only person I have to clean up after was ME.

Settling into my seat on the train, I glanced out the window, saw a gorgeous American Bald Eagle in the tree, and then cracked open a book. You can all give a pleasurable sigh right along with me. *sigh* And then, as if good karma was touching me on the head with her magic finger, my hotel room was ready and I was off to meet my fabulous agent, Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary for lunch. (In case you’re wondering, Michelle is currently opened to queries, but be sure to follow the guidelines on her website.)

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My favorite picture of us <3

And here are some of the treats she brought for me…

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Illusions of Fate by Kirsten White.

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Two of The Maggie Malone Books by Jenna McCarthy and Carolyn Evans.

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The Fire Artist by Daisy Whitney.

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And a coveted ARC of The Big Fix by Linda Grimes!!!!

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And here’s the new cover in case you’re wondering. OMG! I love it.

*does a happy dance* I can not wait to read them all!!!

Toting my cache, warm from Michelle Wolfson hugs, it was back to the hotel in time to meet up with all my friends. Some had done the Intensives and some were just arriving in NYC.

*Drum roll please* because it’s time to get to the stuff you really want to hear about…

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It isn’t a conference if we don’t have Lin Oliver‘s conference statistics:

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* 1,032 attendees

* From 47 states. Kansas, Wyoming, Oklahoma and North Dakota were missing–come on people–we need you there!

* There were people in attendance from 16 different countries *fist pump* With NY being the largest chunk of the pie followed by CA, MA and then NJ. Lin called the NJ folks out on their driving skills LOL!

* 32% of attendees are published and 375 folks were our talented illustrators.

* Start planning now so you can be in one of those seats next year!

The first Keynote of the conference was by Anthony Horowitz–Grabbing Young Readers From First Line to Last

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Just so you know, Anthony had an amazing British accent, so if I’m going to be truthful, the whole audience would have let him read the phone book and still enjoyed his keynote LOL! But he WAS an amazing speaker. His rapid fire jokes and insights had everyone listening and laughing. Here are some highlights…

* He spent lots of time in the boarding school library because that was the only place he felt safe and secure.

*The end of a chapter should never be an excuse to stop reading.

*At one point in his career he was worried his grave stone would read BIG in Belgium LOL!

*Harry Potter changed EVERYTHING!

*Writers are arsonists–setting the world on fire is their natural default.

*Children don’t just read books–they devour them.

*The first line is the thing the kids will read in the store.

*Write up for kids.

*I am a camera-kids are bombarded with images, your words need to create strong images that keep their attention.

*Writing is telepathy-if you’re excited about what you’re writing, chances are that you’ll have readers excited too.

*NEVER GIVE UP

Next up was the Keynote Editor’s Panel: Children’s Books 2015–Report From the Front Lines

JC–Justin Chanda (VP and Publisher, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

BH–Beverly Horowitz (VP and Publisher, Delacorte Press)

LG–Laura Goodwin (VP and Publisher, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)

SOL–Stephanie Owens Lurie (Associate Publisher, Disney-Hyperion)

MODERATOR LO–Lin OLiver

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Just some highlights from the discussion…

JC–Adult sales are flat and children’s are up! *fist pump* BUT…teen sales are up on a handful of authors, but not the majority. And FYI the movie industry has a lot to do with that.

Ummm anyone want to make a blockbuster movie about TOUCHING THE SURFACE?

JC–Contemporary is not the only thing kids want to read.

JC–The picture book is NOT dead!

JC–Continued upswing in MG.

JC–reminder that the business is cyclical.

JC–Common Core has not killed fiction.

JC–We write and publish good books and let everyone else, especially the media, take care of themselves.

BH–Write a great book and people will talk about it.

LG–There is an ongoing battle with piracy.

LG–Social media has allowed our mouths to reach more people and allowed authors to be advocates for each other’s books. <3

SOL–A Nielsen’s survey says kids prefer physical books.

SOL–Smaller books can easily get elbowed out.

SOL–It’s difficult to break out new authors.

SOL–The biggest disruption to a writer (trying to write) is from the fans seeking their time and attention on social media.

SOL–There is a correlation between and author’s tweets and sales (but that doesn’t mean annoying buy my book tweets. Talking about fan interaction style tweets)

SOL–Think about more than “how do I get my book published” and focus on “how I can get my work to an audience.”

JC–Social media is great, but you have nothing if you don’t have a strong story. Focus on that.

JC–YA and MG have very different social media.

JC–When you’re looking for a publisher, they should be a home–a partnership. They should be someone who shares your vision but isn’t telling you what your vision is.

JC–I don’t really like publishing books–I like publishing authors and illustrators. <3

Time for the AM Workshop! Writing Young Adult Fiction with Liz Tingue (Editor, Razorbill, Penguin Young Readers Group)

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Some highlights from the Workshop…

*Read a lot and not just in YA.

*Have a social media presence that’s comfortable for you, but does not interfere with you getting your writing done.

*KNOW your characters inside and out.

*If you’re writing in 1st person it should come to you in a strong and organic way.

*Utilize maps and outlines for plot and  structure but don’t be afraid to stray from them.

*Get a supportive critique group and get comfortable with tough love.

*Persevere when the going gets tough, but don’t be afraid to walk away from a project if it’s just not working.

After a yummy break for lunch, it was time for my afternoon Workshop with Emily Clement (Associate Editor, Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic Inc.) Writing Literary Ficiton.

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This was a fabulous workshop. Best I’ve been to for explaining what literary fiction really means. In truth it has different connotations for different people. If you think literary fiction is dense, slow and boring, you’re probably reading writing that is UNSUCCESSFULLY trying to be literary.

Literary fiction is not about content–it’s about quality. It’s entertaining, but it’s also something more.

*Literary fiction needs to be about something that readers want to talk about because it engages them on an intellectual and emotional level.

*Readers of literary fiction crave authentic and original voice.

*Good writing without a plot is BORING not literary.

*YOU WANT YOUR LITERARY NOVEL TO ALSO BE COMMERCIAL!!!!!!

*Literary books are stories that break the rules and do not fit neatly inside their genres.

Time for another Keynote. This one Beyond Language: Creating Picture Books That are Read and Played by Herve Tullet

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I’m going to be honest–it’s hard to explain Herve Tullet. He is not your typical keynote speaker. His favorite word is HA! Which is the reaction he wants from his readers when they explore his books. He believes it’s the most exciting thing when he can illicit that word from someone else.

Ideally I would have videotaped Herve interacting with the audience, as he guided us through his brilliant books, the way he does when he meets with children. But that’s not allowed, so this is the best I can do to capture the magic.

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You must go out and buy his books and share them with children. <3

 

The last Keynote of the day was Kami Garcia talking about The Truth About Writing.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t take a lot of notes because I was so caught up in Kami’s speech.. Suffice it to say she’s a hard working, funny lady with a big heart. I adored how her and her writing partner Margaret Stohl filled a void, empowered girls, set a fabulous standard for boys and the whole time stayed super connected to the teens they were writing for. One of the most fascinating parts of the story was their journey to publication. Kami doubts they would have been brave enough to do it the same way if they’d been purposefully trying to publish. And it was also “good” to hear, that despite her incredible success, Kami gets as nervous and insecure as we do every time she’s writing something new.

Kami was also nice enough to sign a copy of her book and make a video message for my friend Jeannie who’s a HUGE fan and couldn’t make the conference. How cool is that?IMG_0299

The rest of the evening included an Art Browse, where everyone had a chance to check out the gorgeous portfolios of the illustrators attending the conference. This was followed by the Gala Dinner where you could find me in my favorite spot…

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THE MASHED POTATOE BAR!!!!!

After the Gala there was also several socials for LGBTQ, illustrators, new members/first time conference attendees and international attendees. And of course there is always the unofficial group of “Lobby Rats” that hangs out and talks half the night away. This wasn’t all the rats, we’re a large and transitory group, but this pic captured a bunch of us.

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The wonderful part of this is that some of the Lobby Rats have been doing this for years and some we just met for the first time that very evening.

If you’re thinking about coming to next year’s conference and you’re worried about not knowing anyone, know you can always contact me and we’ll make sure you have friends to eat with and buddies to hang out with. Worrying about being alone should NEVER be a reason not to come to the NY conference!!!  

I’m kind of thinking we should get Lobby Rats T-shirts. What do you think? SCBWI Lobby Rat? 

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And we now have the unofficial and very weird NY SCBWI Lobby Rats mascot, which was dressed up as Harry Potter this year. The costume kind of make it less creepy–but not much ROTFL!

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And some Lobby Rats are RA’s who have work to do and missed the photo. Love you, Stacy Mozer and thanks for all you do for the SCBWI. (((((hugs)))))

I’ll be back on Thursday with the second half of the 2015 NY SCBWI Winter Conference recap. But in the mean time, I desperately need to know your favorite toppings on your mashed potatoes. Mine are mushrooms, bacon, cheddar cheese and chives. *grin*

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Jul

30

2014

Art Stimulates Art: Dancing with my Writer Sistahs

Filed under: Community, Conferences, Dancing, Pondering, SCBWI, Writing

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.

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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…

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Mar

11

2014

The 2014 NY SCBWI Conference–Part 3

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

We are on the 2014 NY SCBWI conference recap homestretch!!!! But just like with attendance at a conference, even though you’re sad to have it come to an end, you should also be feeling those itchy fingers wanting to write and create now that you’ve been inspired.

One of the very best Keynotes of the Conference was by Kate Messner: The Spectacular Power of Failure

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Everyone in the room was affected by the power of Kate’s words. Why? There were multiple reasons, but the biggest were that  Kate’s a dynamic speaker and the topic was relevant to everyone. Relatable and inspiring. Here are some of her best moments…

*Why do a talk on Failure? Because we share the shame we feel over the fear of failure.

*Be Brave. But it’s okay to be afraid. Of course you’re nervous–>if it weren’t , it wouldn’t be worth doing.

*Fight or Flight Fear is different than Fear of Failure, but it’s just as strong.

*On Art and Fear: You learn how to make your work by making your work.

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I saved my chocolate fix for just the right spot…

*The act of sitting down to do the work brings on the idea fairy. (My idea fairy obviously likes chocolate-that’s why we get along so well.)

*Fail Fast, Fail Often: Sometimes losing can help you win.

*If we want to make art–failures are pretty good trail markers pointing us in the right direction.

*A problem that is insurmountable is manageable, when we talk to a friend. We are not afraid of our friend’s failures LOL!

*The only thing we can control is how we do our work. (Can I get an amen?)

*Failure let’s us be role models.

*High-stakes testing undermines divergent thinking. (I seriously LOVE this!)

Thank you, Kate–this pep-talk was exactly what I needed, right when I needed it. You’re the BEST! <3

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Next up…Keynote Panel: The Art of the Picture Book

SS–Shandra Strickland

OJ–Oliver Jeffers

MF–Marla Frazee

RC–Raul Colon

PB–Peter Brown

Moderated by AL–Arthur Levine (If I have to tell you who he is–you haven’t done your homework well enough)

 

Just a few little tidbits that stuck to me…

*SS–When something isn’t working: sometimes you have to walk away to figure it out.

*MF–It’s hard to know when a piece is going downhill. I keep thinking I can fix it.

*SS–Turning down a project that doesn’t resonate is an ability that comes with maturity.

*RC–The illustrator doesn’t just want to illustrate the text–they are there to extend it.

 

Additionally Peter Brown got into a lively debate about authors and illustrators having more connection and collaboration in the picture book process. Everyone else on the panel felt strongly about giving the illustrator room to create without the influence of the author. Peter understood this, but felt there were advantages for authors to learn to think more spatially. I will tell you that he was getting a lot of cheers from the picture book writers in the audience LOL! In my humble opinion, both sides of the debate were fascinating and relevant.

 

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I’m going to be honest–I was so bummed that Sharon Draper had to cancel due to a family emergency. I’d just finished reading OUT OF MY MIND with the boys and we are HUGE fans. But Nikki Grimes is such an eloquent speaker and writing royalty, I couldn’t stay disappointed. In fact, I could listen to her description of a girl’s first kiss all day long. Her voice. Her words. He perception and humor. It was amazing.

*I have been day dreaming for the better part of my life.

*It’s all right. Just keep writing. You’ll figure it out eventually.

 

Some other conference highlights as the big weekend comes to a close…

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Tomie dePaola giving out the Tomie dePaola Award for Illustration

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Jane Yolen giving out the Mid-list Author Grants (And it was her birthday!)

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Hanging out with my roommie. It was Jeannie Intrieri‘s first national SCBWI conference. I think she’s hooked. <3

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Getting more Kate Messner books for the boys and I to read. <3 We are uber fans!!!

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The hustle, bustle and blur of everyone trying to meet their favorite authors and get their books signed.

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And the moment you realize that it’s a l-o-n-g time until the 2014 LA SCBWI Conference in August. *le sigh*

I’ve done it! Another conference blog for the archives. Even though they are a lot of work to put together, I know I’m going to continue to look back at these memories and bits of wisdom and be so glad that I’ve journaled them. I also really enjoy how many people have told me how much they love the conference blogs. You guys rock!

What other kinds of blog posts–here or on other sites–do you find the most useful/memorable?

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Mar

6

2014

The 2014 NY SCBWI Conference–Part 2

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

 

Part 2 of my SCBWI conference recap–let’s pick up where I left off. I’ve had a yummy lunch at the food court in Grand Central and I’ve dug into the chocolate stash in my bag. If you didn’t want to hang out with me before, you might once you know I bring enough for friends.

I also forgot to mention I did some live tweeting from the conference #NY14SCBWI. And my clown “shout out” even got tweeted. It DOES count for something. And here is my writer friend..Bee Bee the Clown <3

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I made lots of new friends through tweeting and if you go back and search the #NY14SCBWI hashtag–you will find a wealth of information on sessions I didn’t attend and links to other bloggers recapping the conference.

Grrrr I took a picture at my next Breakout session. I know I did, because Sara Shandler (Senior Vice President, Editorial, Alloy Entertainment) wore the cutest outfit EVER! Guess you’re going to have to take my word for it LOL!

Breakout session #2 was Developing and Selling a Series

I picked this talk because it was an area in publishing that I don’t know a whole heck of a lot about. After hearing Sara talk I have a few excellent tidbits to share with you…

*Have a clear, one sentence pitch/concept. You have a very limited time to capture someone’s attention.

*Each book must have it’s own story arc.

*Know your ending.

-where is the story going?

-is it a closed arc or can it be extended?

*Avoid following trends, know what’s out there and be unique.

 

The next Keynote Speaker was Elizabeth Wein: Bearing Witness: Authorial Responsibility

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AGAIN I’m missing an action shot, so here she is signing my copy of ROSE UNDER FIRE!!!  I waffled for such a long time about whether to get Rose or CODE NAME VERITY. I finally decided to pick my favorite of the two, but it was soooooo close.

Things you should know…

*She’s a 20 year overnight success story.

*Everyone is at wildly different stages of the journey.

*We are responsible for putting ideas in people’s heads at the earliest of ages.

 

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Next up was the Keynote Panel: Banning Books–Where Do We Stand?

JB – Joan Bertin (Executive Director, National Coalition against Censorship)

EH – Ellen Hopkins

SR – Susanna Reich (Chair, Children’s and Young Adult Book Committee, Pen American Center)

 

I’m going to have a ton for you from Ellen Hopkins. She is brave and amazing and I hung on her every word…

*You make children stronger by giving them the truth.

*Pull the books out from under the covers and read them WITH your kids.

*Do you think that Harper Lee didn’t write To Kill A Mockingbird for a reason?

*If a thirteen year old girl is sexually abused, shouldn’t she have the right to read a book about it?

*Write bravely–speak the truth.

*I have a responsibility to my readers–not the censors. Speak the truth.

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Appropriately wearing my I READ BANNED BOOKS bracelet and reading To Kill A Mockingbird with the boys.

And Susanna Reich noted…

*72 of the top 100 most challenged books in the past years have been children’s books.

*Librarians are on the front line of censorship.

*Multicultural books can speak to all kids, not just children of color.

*To create something you have to face your own fears.

 

THAT is an amazing note to end the day on…if the day were ending. Up next was the Gala Dinner where you will ALWAYS find me hanging out by the MASHED POTATO BAR!!!!!

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The picture is a little blurry, but can you blame me if my hands were trembling in excitement? A MASHED POTATO BAR people!!!! Unfortunately, just looking at that picture puts me back into carb overload. I think I need to lay down on my couch and take a nap…

That’s right–I forgot to tell you. I FINALLY GOT MY COUCH!!!

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Oh, happy day.

I’ll be back on Tuesday with the last conference recap. But while you’re waiting for some closure (hopefully on your cozy couch) tell me what your favorite banned book is.

 

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Sep

24

2013

The Eastern NY SCBWI Conference 2013–Sail Into Inspiration

Filed under: Author Events, Book Signings, Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, SCBWI, Touching the Surface

Just this past weekend (September 21-22) I got the chance to sail into inspiration at the Eastern NY SCBWI Regional Conference. It was a fabulous event for multiple reasons…

*This is my local conference and I love supporting my local SCBWI in anyway I can. This was the very first SCBWI conference I ever attended (back in June of 2007) and it was a life changer for me. I am here to tell you I would not be a published author if it were not for the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators)

*Because this was a local conference, I had the good fortune of have more of my Eastern NY buddies able to attend than I do at most conferences. I seriously love this group of writers and I never get to spend as much time with them as I would like. This was a treat.

*The Faculty was INCREDIBLE! And no, I’m not just saying that because this was my first time as conference faculty. LOL! Although, it was an awesome experience.  I’m saying that because it was an incredible line up with speakers who have or who need to grace the SCBWI international stage. But just so you know, this is absolutely an area where I’d like to see some personal growth on my part. I have proposals developed for future SCBWI events so keep your fingers crossed that I get selected.

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So, let’s get to the conference recap…

After registration and a warm welcome from the ship’s captain (RA Nancy Castaldo) We had the honor of listening to a Children’s Literature legend–Jerry Pinkney. Seriously, I could stare at his art and listen to his thoughtful stories all day.

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Here are some of Jerry’s best thoughts during his Keynote Speech about ENVIRONMENT, TOOLS AND PROCESS

*His mom read him Hans Christian Anderson and it informed his work.

*His parents supported his artistry–in fact he drew on his bedroom walls and when they became full, his dad would repaint them white.

*He uses poetry to interpret our history and to help bring to light the roll people of color played in our past.

*Jerry Pinkney is dyslexic and to compensate, he is very organized with his art.  *fist pump* A big HUG going out to another awesome dyslexic!!!! Yes, you know I hugged him–I do that.

 

Session #1–An Editor and An Agent Discuss Acquisition (Jennifer Laughran-Agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency and Elise Howard-Editor and Publisher of Algonquin Young Readers)

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Here are some of the best take aways from this session…

*When you write a good query/pitch, it will get used in the publishing process.

*In most cases, titles change.

*When submitting a PB manuscript, use illustrator notes sparingly (to explain a visual joke that can not be understood through the text)

*It’s okay to break the querying rules if and only if your manuscript is so fantastic I’m obsessed with it. If it’s that good I’ll read it scribbled on a cocktail napkin. (But yours is not that good.) LOL! Jennifer Laughran

 

Session #2–PUBLISHING NUTS AND BOLTS with Harold Underdown

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I’m a huge fan of Harold to start with. I’ve seen him speak before and he’s written The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Children’s Book PublishingHe’s a fabulous source of information on a broad swath of children’s literature topics and you can’t get better than picking his brain. Here are some great take-aways from his Saturday session…

*Platform: in children’s writing it is not a necessity to come with one–it will develop over time.

*Picture Book writers are going to have a hard time finding an agent. Kids commercial fiction needs an agent.

*Kids have different developmental needs and have diverse tastes. This is a wonderful thing but it makes writing for them challenging.

*Picture Books are not just ONE thing.

*Study what’s on the shelves now, not what is on your shelves–Books are always evolving.

*Study the books on award lists.

*On formatting a manuscript–ALWYAS FOLLOW THE RULES.

 

Lunch was YUMMY! I have no pictures, I was too busy inhaling it. There was soup and salad with chicken or beef. The rolls were warm and toasty and the cookies were scrumptious. In fact, they were so good, I wasn’t even focused on the DEBUT AUTHOR PANEL right after lunch!!!!!

Ummmm I have no notes for you LOL! I was doing double duty being moderator and panelist along with Lizzie Foley (REMARKABLE) and Lisa Amowitz (BREAKING GLASS) But I do have pictures (Thank you to everyone who shared them with me!!!!!)

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1239825_10151883761112402_1809836222_nYeah, I talk with my hands a lot. *giggle*

 

Next up was an Agent Panel–REPRESENTING OUT WORK with Amy Boggs (Donald Mass), Melissa Turk (Melissa Turk & the Artist Network) and Jennifer Laughran (Andrea Brown)

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All three agents gave a ton of insight into how they operate, what they’re looking for and the general ins and outs of working with an agent. Here are some of the highlights…

*Your query should leave out the “it’s a fast paced …” part of the cover flap. (AB)

*Don’t hand any paper (synopsis) to an agent at a conference. It will burn their hand. LOL! Follow submission guidelines and reference the conference. (JL)

*On contracts: Every little word id there because it happened to somebody. (AB)

*Good questions to ask an agent in an interview: What books do you like that you don’t represent? What books do you dislike? (JL)

*PB Writers or Author/Illustrators should query one MS but have 3 or 4 fleshed out MS’s in the wings.

 

Next there was a book signing!!!!!! I LOVE getting a chance to share TOUCHING THE SURFACE with new people and talking about their projects and aspirations. I made so many new friends this weekend.

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Autographing was followed by dinner and then…

A DESSERT CAFE WITH ELIZABETH BIRD (Youth Materials Specialist for the New York Public Library)

Let me just tell you, I was blown away by Betsy’s Keynote and the dessert selection was the bonus!!! YUM!!! But I would have adored her talk even without a HUGE side of chocolate yumminess. But since it was there…BONUS!!!! I apologize because I didn’t take a lot of notes or tweet–I was simply a captive listener. But if you’d like a taste of what Betsy has to offer, I highly encourage you to check out her blog–Fuse #8. It’s amazing!

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Kim Sabatini, Betsy Bird, Harold Underdown, Lois Miner-Huey and Nancy Castaldo

On a side note–Betsy incorporated Lois’ fabulous book Ick! Yuck! Eew!: Our Gross American History into her presentation and raved about it, not remembering that Lois would be in the audience. How cool is that??? All my teacher buds, be sure to check this one out because it’s got librarians cheering.

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 After such a fabulous day, I  went home completely pumped, totally exhausted and full of too much chocolate. But I needed to get over it quickly because I still had the SUNDAY INTENSIVES!!!!!

There were three choices for the Sunday event…

*Harold Underdown: MANAGING YOUR CAREER IN A CHANGING MARKET

*Kendra Levin (Editor, Viking) MEET YOUR CHARACTERS: HOW MOTIVATION DRIVES STORY

*Semadar Megged (Art Director, Philomel) PORTFOLIO EXAMINATION AND DISCUSSION

 

They all sound great, don’t they? I picked the session with Harold. It was a small intimate group and I learned a metric ton of stuff. I didn’t tweet or take pics because I was interactively engaged and that is a great thing. After two hours of intensive we finished off the conference with an amazing presentation from Steve Sheinkin, author of BOMB. Steve is a former text book writer with a passion for history and a drive to turn our past into really honest and interesting stories so that kids can remember and enjoy them. I was also very impressed with the idea that most of out history lives in gray area. The text book writers and those who influence them have created a world of black and white. Steve pointed out that no one wants to hear there is good and bad in everyone, particularly their heroes.But maybe that narrow way of thinking is in the past–because with the accolades that Steve is getting for his writing and research, I think history books are changing for the better.

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Let’s face it, no matter how long an SCBWI conference is, it ends too soon. So, before I go, some candids proving how much everyone was enjoying it…

 

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Kim and Linda–your neighborhood Shop Talk Coordinators!!

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Jeannie and I met because she almost knows my brother LOL!

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Some of our Shop Talkers doing a pile on. <3

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I love being a mentor for talented young writers. Kim and Danielle. ((((hugs))))

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Kim and Linda hugging on our awesome RA!!!! Thanks for everything, Nancy. <3

And that’s a wrap. Any questions about the conference? Want to know more about our Hudson Valley Shop Talk? We want YOU!!!! Anyone take notes for the debut author panel. I’d love it if you threw a highlight or two from the presentation in the comments. What conference are you planning on doing next? Want more info on the SCBWI??? Just let me know what you need to know. And plan on coming to #EastNYSCBWI next time. <3

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Aug

8

2013

The Truth About Sleep Away Camp and How to Find Me Quicker than a Little Unidog

Filed under: Author Events, Blogging, Book Signings, Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Contests, SCBWI, Touching the Surface, YA Books, YA Outside the LInes, Young Adult (YA)

Today I’m cross-posting over at YA Outside the Lines and talking about The Truth About Sleep Away Camp. There may be 80’s permed hair for your amusement!

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Just a reminder, you still have time to enter my write a review contest!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I also have some up and coming events…

*I’ll be at Oblong Books and Musics HVYAS Birthday Party!! More info HERE!

*Children’s Writer or Illustrator and located in the Hudson Valley? Join us for our local SCBWI Shop Talk Meeting in August. For more information, feel free to contact me directly.

*I’ll also be faculty at my very first conference, which is also the very same conference I first attended as a newbie. Yea, pretty WOW! Registration is still open for the SCBWI Eastern NY Conference on September 21-22nd. Lots of amazing speakers and opportunities.

*September 28th I’ll be part of a fantastic line-up at the Warwick Children’s Book Festival. Details Here

*October 17th I’m thrilled to be a part of the Ulster BOCES FALL INTO BOOKS CHILDREN’S & TEEN LITERATURE CONFERENCE in Kingston NY. I adore hanging out with librarians!!!

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And good news…finding me is not nearly as hard as finding a little unidog. So, come hang out and we’ll squee and hug and talk about books and maybe eat some chocolate. I usually have some stored in a bag or pocket somewhere.

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May

3

2013

Heading to the New England SCBWI Conference!!!!

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

This morning I’m headed to the NESCBWI Conference!!! (It’s Daddy Party Weekend!!!)  This is my first time attending a New England event, but I always here people raving about them. So excited to finally go. *fist pump* I’m very excited to meet up with some old friends and to make some new ones, too. I’m also  thrilled with the amazing classes I’m taking. Lots to learn. Here’s what’s on the agenda. The 2013 NESCBWI Conference Word-by-Word: The Art of Craft. Can you guess where I’ll be? Come on, you know me pretty well by now.

No need to miss me while I’m gone. *grin* I’ll be tweeting live from the hashtag #nescbwi13  Feel free to join the virtual conversation. It will be just like I packed you in my suitcase and smuggled you in, but without appendages falling asleep and me getting in trouble LOL!

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Of course when I get back I’ll have pictures and an overview of the conference for you. ((((hugs))))

Have a great weekend!!!!

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Feb

4

2013

A Great SCBWI Conference is Like A Spoon Full of Sugar

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

My brain is spinning and I am exhausted, but it was another amazing NY SCBWI Conference. Notes are coming, but in the meantime you should know that a great SCBWI Conference is like a spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down. (The best medicine against rejection, writer’s block, and marketing fatigue.) I’m serious, just ask the amazing Julie Andrews. I’ll tell you all about her Wednesday.

What’s your favorite Julie Andrews moment?

 

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Aug

10

2012

THe 41st Annual SCBWI Summer Conference in LA–Part 2–Saturday

Filed under: Conferences, Contests, SCBWI, Touching the Surface

It’s Saturday. The alarm seems to go off earlier and by alarm I mean my roommate poking me with her finger. The Starbucks line seems longer and the excitement seems bigger. Maybe it’s the caffeine or maybe it’s because SCBWI Conferences are freaking awesome. Realistically–it could be both.

Starting off the morning with Karen Cushman and COURTING SURPRISE. She was fabulous so I must share some of my favorite bits of advice and wisdom…

*The function of freedom is to free someone else.

*Rules: Make your own rules, or better yet, don’t follow any.

*We find the unconscious gifts we give ourselves.

*There is a difference between and editor and a critic.

*Tell the truth–there are things we are morally certain of and that the kind of truth I’m talking about.

*Write with passion and heart.

*Lighthouses don’t run around looking for boats to save–they just stand there and shine. (My favorite)

I’m going to be honest–this year was the year of the Panels. The Editor, Picture Book and Agent Panels were among the best I’ve ever seen this time. I was truly impressed. This was the Editor Panel: HOW TO SUCCEED IN PUBLISHING–FINDING YOUR VOICE.

From left to right with some of their best tips…

(JB) Jordan Brown

(EH) Elise Howard

(NP) Neal Porter

(LO) Lin Oliver–Moderator

(FJ) Farrin Jacobs

(TB) Tamar Brazis

(LG) Laura Goodwin

How do you define voice?

LG–It’s what makes an author unique. Equated with style, not to be confused with being stylish. The more you know who you are the clearer your voice is.

EH–Read Dan Gutman’s faculty bio from the conference and 1,200 people knew who she was talking about. That’s voice.

FJ–Things can be “too voicey” and feel unnatural.

JB–Bad voice is when you are picturing an author in their house trying to write a scene instead of being swept into a scene.

What are the attributes of successful authors/illustrators?

LG–Flexibility

EH–They are a contradiction. When you send an editorial letter, they do what you’ve asked but they likely do it in their own unique way, bringing something new and unexpected to the table.

TB–The ability to revise–separate your ego from the project to make the work the best it can be.

FJ–They keep their “stuff” to themselves.

NP–Expensive presents. Ha!

JB–The knowledge that the editor and the author know that they are working together towards the same goal.

There is something special about Bryan Collier. Something very special. Once again he was one of those speakers who I listened to and wondered how my life could have been complete without knowing that he was in it. He blew me away when he talked about FROM A SEED TP A TREE. I’ll share some of him most moving bits, but know that it can’t possibly do him justice–he wears his heart on his sleeve.  Every emotion he has is illustrated clearly on his face and he is a charming, funny, intelligent, beautiful soul. If you ever get a chance to meet him…you will come back here and tell me that I was right.

*What I do with my work–I’m chasing HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON every time. *heart squish*

*On Ezra Jack Keats–I never met him and he never met me, but when he wrote the SNOWY DAY, he spoke to me directly.

*In high school–I loved sports, but nothing touched me deeper than making art.

*You have to protect and nurture this artistic seed inside of you, but you still have to eat. Give up the romantic notions and do what you have to do.

*On visiting the lobbies of publishing houses every week for seven years, in order to try to sell a book–The publishing houses didn’t know what they did to me when they let me sit in their lobbies. It was magical, incredible. Julie Andrews walked by one day. I just wanted to get there.

*Everybody’s afraid of your dream–nobody knows what is going on inside of you.

Of course I floated down to my first break-out session of the day…

Lots of fun and great information from Jay Asher–NO BOOKMARKS ALLOWED: HOW TO INJECT SUSPENSE INTO YOUR NOVEL

Jay used one of the greatest suspense stories of all time to teach us what we needed to know…

There’s a Monster at the End of This Book! LOL!

So what do we need to keep the bookmark from slipping between the pages?

*Anticipation

*You have to have one character the reader cares about.

*A satisfying ending is unpredictable, but you believe it had to happen just that way.

*Inject suspense

*Use chapter endings to your advantage.

*Suspense killers: bad dialogue, unnecessary description, forced motivation, vague action.

After a yummy break for lunch. (Frozen yogurt with M&M’s and chocolate sprinkles may have been involved.) We returned for another bang up keynote by Clare Vanderpool, author of MOON OVER MANIFEST. Clare was hysterical and moving when she talked about WRITING IN THE CROSSROADS: WHERE CRAFT AND CREATIVITY MEET.

Loved it when she talked about a little neighborhood boy who booked her to come into his classroom and talk. (too stinkin’ cute) He also asked her to sign his book–unfortunately for Clare it was the 4th Lemony Snicket book. ROTFL!!! Of course she did it. <3

*There is no “What to expect when your win the Newbery.” (Clare won as a debut author)

*Knowledge of craft can form the foundation to create.

*If we think we’re going to get our hands slapped every time we write a sentence, than it’s almost impossible to create.

*You really do have to put in the miles–just like running.

*It’s about writing, writing and more writing–you can’t learn to ride a bike without actually riding the bike.

*Sometimes we think something is wonderful and it’s not, but sometimes we think something is horrible and it is not.

* My theory is that the universe is made up of story.

Next up was Deborah Underwood and THE POWER OF QUIET.

Shhhh…

*It might look like I’m doing nothing, but at the cellular level I’m very busy.
*Quiet is not validated in our society at all.
*There are built in pauses in our life.
*We owe it to the kids who read our books to make time for quiet–great things come from those pauses.

Back to the last break-out session of the day.

Jordan Brown–WRITING FOR BOYS

False perception: Writing for boys=Writing for people who don’t like to read. It has less to do with the ability to read and more to do with how to pitch to boys.

*Boys won’t like reading if they don’t like what they’re reading.

*Boys live in a multimedia world.

*Rise of the “Do it Yourself Aesthetic.”

*Developing connections with authors and readers

Kinds of things that have boy appeal.

*Boys don’t like to be talked down to.

*Boys do like gross-out humor but they know when it’s just thrown in randomly.

*Don’t assume that the things they like in life (sports etc…) are the only connections they will make to reading.

*Tether your fiction to the truth.

*It doesn’t have to be a boy character, but it helps.

*Guys just want to be yelled at less. Avoidance. They aren’t all about the personal development like girls.

*High concept doesn’t mean low quality.

*Don’t be afraid of illustrations or technology.

Okay–I’m read to start to gush again. It’s time for more Ruta Sepetys, SCBWI success story and author of BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY.

 


Ruta talked about YOU CAN’T BREAK THE BROKEN: WRITING EMOTIONAL TRUTH

Ruta started to write because someone asked her what her story was and she dared to dig deep. She repeats often that history holds secrets, but it’s not just a political history that does this–it’s our own.

*How much of your emotional stuff are you willing to give?

*What is the novel only you can write?

*What scares you?

*What causes you pain?

*What do you wish would just go away?

*Expose your emotional truth, putting it behind your fiction–that is timeless.

*The things you are feeling–there is a reader out there who experiences the same thing.

*I met my savage self when I undertook this writing.

*You can’t break the broken–but you can glue yourself back together.

*Reveal yourself–you have a safety net–the SCBWI

By the time Ruta asked us “What is your story?” I was in tears and profoundly moved. Just like Bryan Collier, I can’t begin to translate the power of this keynote on to the page but I can tell you that I walked away feeling as if I give anything less than this to my writing than I’ve sold myself short.

Deborah Halverson did an amazing job with AN UP TO THE MINUTE SURVEY OF MARKET NEEDS AND TRENDS.

Just the broad strokes…

*Picture books–improved market, but still fragile.

*Chapter books–room for growth.

*MG–best spot for acquisition.

*YA–More successful that ever, but very dependent on the big list authors while the mid list authors are still struggling.

General Submissions:

*High use of agents (conference appearances and referrals)

*What’s in the slush pile is sent prematurely–not usually a thought out fit.

*It’s hard to find self-published authors who can turn into successful acquisitions.

Internal Mood:

*Cautiously optimistic

*Tastes of editors doesn’t change because of the market.

*Creativity is at the heart of what we do.

TIME FOR THE HIPPIE HOP!!!!!

Jodi Moore and Mike Jung

Amy Nichols and Me!!! (We’re blurry because we hippy hopping LOL!)

Me, Stephanie Ruble and Jodi Moore

Gretchen McNeil and Me!!!! Love her. <3

Debra Driza and Me…who knew she was so tall???

RA of Eastern Upstate New York…Nancy Castaldo in a fabulous jump suit!

Yes, we LOVE Lin Oliver!!!!

Leeza Hernandez had my favorite costume of the night!

Can you guess who this is? I’ll give you a hint from above…he loves Grover.

And don’t forget you can still win a Pre-order of TOUCHING THE SURFACE…HERE. 

PS. It’s now 2am and I don’t have the braincells to read this over. I’m too tired to ask a creative conversational question so pop in if you’ve got something to say and if it’s got typos or formatting bloopers…I’ll fix it later *yawn* Night…

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