I’m back for Part 2 of my NY 2017 SCBWI Conference Recap!!!
And like these two guys, I’m a bit confused…
(Scott Hammon and Justin Brancato)
I can’t remember exactly when, during the conference a few of these pictures happened.
So–I’m gonna go with it and just kick off with them.
This is just a shot giving you an idea of how big the conference tribe is.
Some of our SCBWI Faculty getting ready to go on stage and take a bow!
And over in the corner was all our fabulous RA’s who volunteer their time and experience. <3
We love you RA’s!!! How did I not get my conference picture with my RA Nancy Castaldo?
And then it was officially the Sunday Morning Conference Kick-off…
I love the awards!!!
Art Portfolio Honors
Art Portfolio Winner
Then we had the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Grants for talented Mid-List authors who have stalled in their publishing career. This is to remind them of their talent and how much we all still believe in them.
Only one of our Mid-List Author Grant Winners was in attendance. I think the weather kept many people from making it. But you can see what this kind of recognition from your peers can mean. <3
We were all choked up.
Next up was the Tomie dePaola Award for Illustrators. I’ve been watching talented artists receive this award since I’ve been coming to the NY SCBWI Conference and I was shocked to learn this was going to be the last time it’s given.
Moving forward, it will now become the Narrative Arts Award and it will still have “Assignments” <3
So, for this year’s winners–it must be extra special.
And there was another big announcement. On the horizon, the SCBWI will be doing a new project called BOOKS FOR READERS.
Two times a year, the tribe will come together to bring books to readers in need. The room was energized at the idea and now we are all waiting to hear more about the new project.
And then it was time to get down to the business of the day–The Current Landscape of Children’s Books
KG–Ken Geist (VP, Publisher, Orchard Books, Scholastic Press Picture Books, Cartwheel Books, Readers, Branches and Little Shepherd)
AH–Andrew Harwell (Senior Editor, Harper Collins)
CH–Carrie Howland (Senior agent, Empire Literary)
EK–Eileen Kreit (Vice President and Publisher, Puffin/Penguin Young Readers Group)
EN–Edward Nescarsulmer IV (Agent, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency)
Here’s the highlights…
AH–Yes, literally everything about children’s books is more important than ever.
EK–Pointed out the changes (cuts) occurring related to the NY Times Best Seller List are due to relocated resources needed to meet the current demand for political news. (I guess the politicians are getting us coming and going.)
KG–Authenticity matters. You can’t lift a flap on an ebook. Picture Books are here to stay.
AH–MG and YA readers are already discerning. Many of 2016’s award winners were already becoming best sellers before their win.
EN–Your brand is your name connected with excellence.
KG–Ha! We “actually” have a wrestling mat in Acquisitions. (On fighting for books you love)
EN–Mergers in publishing have happened for a reason–Penguin/Random–they were digging in. They were announcing to everyone–“we are here to stay.”
And, much to my delight, I found a friend of friend in the audience while waiting
for my next breakout session to start. His name is Hamlet <3
Next up was a Sunday Workshop–this was something we hadn’t done before and I really enjoyed having another fabulous break out session added to the conference.
This session was two pronged and packed in a HUGE amount of intense information.
Writing Within and Across Identity Elements with Cynthia Leitich Smith
How to Write About Difficult Subjects with Ellen Hopkins
Can brought her information at a fast and furious pace in order to give us as much knowledge as she could in a short time. Here are some of the things I was able to capture…
*51% of children today are people of color.
*We are all related.
*When writing, non-human characters are sometimes the ultimate diversity.
*Everything you write will be criticized. Be diligent–be brave.
*Books that feature diverse characters are not there just for a specific type of reader. And the diversity is not there just to teach you something.
Then Ellen mesmerized the audience with her personal stories, letters from readers and samples of her own writing…
*These are the kids we don’t wan to believe exist, but it’s true.
*Never self-censor–tell what needs to be told.
*Be TRUE TO CHARACTER!
Sara and I signed in at the front desk right after the UPS delivery LOL!
And for the last Keynote of the conference we were privileged to hear from Sara Pennypacker. And I was even luckier than most, because Sara made a stop at my boy’s school before the conference and I got to see her in action during a school visit and got some quality time to hang out with her and my friend and Pop-up Engineer Courtney McCarthy who was the book fairy for all the magic that happened for Book Fair an Drop Everything and Read Week.
I wrote like a fiend, trying to capture the best of Sara–here it is…
*We are all doing the same thing–in our own way we are trying to make order out of chaos.
*People who are passionate about what they do (in any area of life) never fail to inspire me. Surround yourself with people who walk with light instead of darkness.
*Write a HELL, YES manuscript–one that makes the agent, editor, publisher and reader say HELL, YES–I must have this!
*Creation is a river and rivers become stagnant if blocked. The best thing a river does is flow. We are all part of the river.
*Story illuminates in a way facts never can.
*Children are the best audience–children are free of adult boundary issues.
*Kids build bonds through characters they love. If an author loves a character. And a kid loves a character. Then ergo–the kid loves the author. This is why Ellen Hopkins stays in the parking lot for 2 hours after school visits because those teens know she doesn’t judge her characters–that she loves them–meaning they can trust her because they will be safe with her. They find her in the parking lot. <3
*Writing Tip–leave room for the reader. Don’t do it all yourself, it’s not a monologue.
*Writing Tip–The story is the boss.
*It’s not about me–story serves the reader.
-Say it with Sara…”If I were God’s own spiritual advisor–I would understand it’s not my job to preach.”
-Authors are not parents.
-Our job is to allow children to safely experience things we don’t actually want them to experience.
*Kids need to hear stories.
*Sometimes the problem exposes the wound that is REALLY the problem.
*Story is a template for kids.
*Children need to tell their stories.
-“There is an evil in the world because people aren’t allowed to tell their stories.” Carl Jung
-I write for children because they can’t write their own stories for themselves. Now I write to give the child a template to use to say…THIS is my story.
-All those people who allow children to to tell their stories may never know what a great and impactful thing they have done. (Thank you librarians and teachers and those who encourage voice)
*Join the SCBWI and then go out and persist!
*Go out and subtract a measurable amount of evil in the world. <3
And get your books signed by the authors and illustrators who have spent the conference teaching you and inspiring you…
Illustrator, Brian Floca and MOONSHOT
Love his art work in this book!
Totally, NOT BORED hanging out with my bud Debbie Ohi <3
Me and Sonya Sones
Signing for the readers at GUFS
The fierce and fabulous Ellen Hopkins!!!!
And Tomie DePaolo…an incredible picture book team
And as we were leaving the autograph room one of my friends pointed to the floor and said…
“this is where the magic happens.”
And my response was…
“then let’s be where the magic happens.” <3
Never be afraid to put yourself where the magic happens.
And that doesn’t change when the conference is over and you head back home…
Remember there will be snow on your windshield and a million other things that would like to keep you from your work.
But don’t let it stop you.
Every conference I attend, I realize that a word or a theme usually floats to the top of my conscious and reminds me what I need to know about myself, my writing and my process.
My take away from New York is PURPOSE AND PERSISTENCE!
I have a purpose in this writing world and I must work to fulfill that.
I believe that the myriad of obstacles that have been put in my path are not there to dissuade me from my work, but have rather been designed to ensure I do my BEST work.
I know I might never reach my own excellence if the world accepts my mediocrity.
This means my challenges are my gifts.
I believe I have a purpose and I will persist and my world will be a better place because of it.
In the comments, feel free to share your own writing manifesto.
Remember–your words have power and magic happened when you put them into the world.
And if you are able–come and join me in LA in July. There can never be too many Lobby Rats at a conference. <3
It’s time for the NY 2017 SCBWI Conference!!!!
I just got back and of course I wanted to share the awesomeness with you.
Just so you know, it wasn’t exactly easy to get there this year…
On Thursday we got hit with a winter storm. My house got just over 10 inches of snow–resulting in a very happy puppy.
With a day off of school, I was kind of lucky because I got some extra sleep and had plenty of time to pack for the next day.
But not everyone was so lucky. I know of several people who couldn’t get their flights sorted out and missed the conference all together. That was a huge disappointment.
I knew I was going to be running a little late for Friday’s Intensive, but my train schedule got pushed back even more due to the boys having 2hr delays. I decided not to stress and go with the flow.
Chilling out and day dreaming while looking out the train widow really paid off. I got to see 4 adult and 4 juvenile American Eagles! And I even captured one on my camera and that made me extra happy.
While I missed most of the morning portion of my Friday Intensive–WRITING THE VERSE NOVEL–but made it for the first half of the round table sessions. Despite being late, I still had an amazing experience and learned a ton. I’ve never attempted a novel in verse before, but I’m intrigued, I enjoy reading them and I always feel that learning new things brings depth and color to anything I’m working on. So it was a great opportunity. And the good news was that I was able to get the handouts and I have access to the notes.
The lovely Bonnie Bader facilitated the Intensive.
Listening to Sonya Sones—The Nuts and Bolts and Safety Pins of Writing the Novel in Verse
*Don’t write a poem that makes a teenager feel stupid. It must be accessible.
*Our goal is to move people with our words–create an emotional response.
*Teens are present tense human beings.
*Read your work out loud with ear plugs. It allows you to hear your own voice.
We also did some fun exercises with Ellen Hopkins‘ session Balancing Verse with Story
Do you want to get your creative descriptions flowing? Try asking yourself some interesting questions like…
What does anger smell like?
What does happiness taste like?
What does sorrow sound like?
What does boredom feel like?
What does love look like?
You should have heard all the interesting and varying responses in the room.
And after another session of round tables, there was even time for a Q & A session with the intensive faculty.
(Sonya Sones, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Ellen Hopkins and Emma Dryden)
Done for the day, it was time to meet up with my friends (old and new) and fellow Lobby Rats for a yummy Italian dinner and lots of catching up in the–you guessed it–lobby!
Then on Saturday morning–despite how comfortable my roomie and best bud, Jodi Moore and I were in our cozy beds at the Hyatt Grand–we rolled on downstairs for coffee, bagels and the kick-off of the conference.
Starting off the day was some birthday singing for the one and only Jane Yolen!
This was followed by Lin Oliver‘s famous SCBWI State of the Conference Address.
Here’s how it all went down…
*40% Published and 60% Pre-Published
*States not representing? North Dakota and Wyoming 🙁
*Attendees came from 61 different countries to include Hong Kong, Australia, Spain and Egypt.
*Some of this year’s interesting Professions/Day Jobs were…
-Costume Shop Supervisor
-Attorney/Voice Over Actor
-Chairman of the Book Selection Committee (everyone was looking for this person LOL!)
-Crime Scene Detective
The first Keynote of the day was the always moving and inspiring Bryan Collier
Here are some of the things you should know…
*When he was 4yo–he saw HIMSELF in the picture book Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. He became obsessed with art and headed to NY–there was no plan B
*Be careful who you share your dreams with, even the people who love you will tell you to get a job.
*Your dreams should be so outrageous they scare you.
*Everything your awkward about is the very thing that makes you special. <3
*Creativity is not just a pond–it’s a river. We are moving!
*The world is waiting for you to dream.
*Sometimes our readers aren’t standing in the doorway. They are in a ditch–behind bars. And they are waiting for you.
Want to check out some of Bryan’s amazing work? Look for his illustrations in KNOCK KNOCK.
Next up was a Panel Discussion–Four Types of Picture Books: A Closer Look
Moderator LL-Laurent Linn
DS–Daniel Salmieri (Illustrator)
GP–Greg Pizzoli (Author/ Illustrator)
ADP–Andrea Davis Pinkney (Author/Editor)
AB–Andrea Beaty (Author)
There was so much great information offered by this panel, so I’ve picked my favorite pieces of advice and inspiration to share with you…
ADP–Bringing non-fiction to readers is like spinach. You have to keep serving it up until they get a taste for it.
ADP–I’m under the belief that if something excites you–it can excite the child.
DS–Don’t be afraid to draw ANYTHING–you’re in a constant state of getting better.
GP–Picture book advice 1. a picture book can be anything 2. it should be direct 3. keep it short.
LL–Ballet look so easy. Effortless. But those ballerina’s have bloody stumps for feet. Rhyme has to look equally effortless.
Next up was my first Break Out Session–World Building with Arianne Lewin
This was a fabulous workshop and very relevant to what I’m working on in my WIP. Here’s what you need to know…
*Creating a world that’s immersive will keep the reader reading.
*The world should unfold organically.
*World building applies to ALL books–it’s the anchor for your story.
*The world has to be believable and manageable.
*1st build atmosphere–it make the reader feel comfortable slipping in.
*If the character believes it–the reader will believe it. It’s in the details.
*Great examples of world building–The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Golden Compass.
*The world is revealed by what your character does–show it!
The Lobby Rats taking a lunch break
One for me and one for my roomie <3
Then it’s back to work…
After lunch it was back to another breakout session.
This one was Writing Middle Grade Fiction with Andrew Harwell, Senior Editor at Harper Collins
*MG readers ages 8-12 (grades 2-6)
*This means that the middle grade section in bookstores houses a WIDE variety of books in one area–Captain Underpants to The Golden Compass.
*MG readers are extremely sophisticated–but keep your eye on the main character–that is the story anchor.
*Never talk down to your readers.
*There is no one, right gold standard voice or style in MG. Do what works for you and your character.
*Plant seeds –details in the earlier part of your book that you can catch again at the end.
*If you have the details clear in YOUR head, you don’t have to over explain anything to the reader. It will make sense. Make your plotting masterfully done.
*Make sure you give your characters a breathing moment–hit different emotional registers.
*The specific details are anchored in the universal themes.
*Be prepared to use sensitivity readers.
The afternoon keynote by Tahereh Mafi is STILL giving me goose bumps.
Everything about this keynote was incredible. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t capture it all. It was her words, which flowed non-stop. It was her elegant demeanor. It was her power and resilience. It was her history and her goals for the future. If you ever get a chance to hear her speak–know you are in for an altering experience.
This is what I was able to capture…
*A thick skin will only insulate you from pain, and act good is a writer who doesn’t feel anything?
*Speaking of her mom, who had her skull fractured on the streets of Iran: grief was a luxury she was never able to afford.
*My thin skin helps me to exhale emotions onto the page.
*Those rejections keep you hungry.
*Not everyone will know our stories and back stories–our inspirations and aspirations–but SOMEONE will find it.
*Lean into your pain and let it shape you.
*If you don’t give up, you can’t fail.
*She wrote and queried FIVE novels before the one that sold.
This year, the walls between the ballroom and the bookstore were opened. I loved it! This is everyone rushing to get Tahereh’s book after her moving keynote.
Next up was the afternoon panel–Children’s Books and the Social Media World: A Panel of Influencers
Moderator by Martha Brockenbrough MB
TJ–Travis Jonker (blogger) @100scopenotes and @TheYarnPodcast
CLS–Cynthia Leitich Smith (author/blogger) @CynLeitichSmith and www.cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com
MW–Mathew Winner (librarian/podcast host/blogger) @MatthewWinner and @AlltheWonders
Here’s a sample of what we got to hear…
TJ–I love when a voice we love in a book carries over into the authors social media.
CLS–Calls out Debbie Ohi as someone who is doing it RIGHT! She has take aways for her audience, snippets of her art, a positive and friendly attitude.
CLS–Write your mission statement as an author.
CLS–Know when to step away from social media and write your book.
CLS–Author profiles with animals–especially quirky animals get more love.
Worth a try, right?
MW–I never set out to have an audience. I set out to share what I love.
MW–Being nice makes you cool!
Usually book signings are on Sunday, but every once in awhile we have a couple people who need to sign on Saturday.
My roomie, Jodi Moore talking to Andrea Davis Pinkney!!!! She was the sweetest to cast with and I’m constantly blown away by what an intelligent woman Andrea is. You must read her work–it’s incredible. I fell in love with this picture book and got a signed copy for my school library…
A Poem For Peter
And I also got to speak with Tahereh Mafi and tell her what an impact her keynote had on me. <3
And then it was time for the Gala with it’s the SCBWI MASHED POTATO BAR!!!
As if it was meant to be–I walked by and they opened this particular Mashed Potato Bar and I was the first one to use it ROTFL!
Hope you enjoyed my NY 2017 SCBWI Part 1 Recap. I’ll be sure to get you Part 2 as soon as I can.
Any questions about the conference? I’ll do what I can to answer them. Planning on going to the LA conference in July and want to be in the Lobby Rat know? Let me know and I’ll add you to the FB group. Or if you’re planning to attend a different SCBWI conference and would like to make sure the Lobby Rats are represented–let me know. We can arrange that <3
And if you want to play along in the comments and give Ellen Hopkins’ exercise a try, here’s your question…
What color was the NY conference and why?
You can answer this as an attendee or as an arm chair conference follower.
My conference was green like a leafy vine, because many of the ideas that were floating around in my head, were finally able to be connected because of what I learned and the people who were inspired me.