Posts Tagged ‘Deborah Halverson’
It’s time for my last installment of my #LA16SCBWI recap. I apologize for taking so long. I’m usually well done with these by this point, but my kids, my own writing, and other life stuff has kept me busy. But I’m here now and I have lots of great information to share with you about the LA 2016 SCBWI Conference.
Lin and Steve strategically kicked off Sunday mornings #LA16SCBWI offerings with the Agent Panel. After an evening of dancing and kid lit shenanigans at the Gala–only the promise of finding an agent can get the sleepy masses out of their beds LOL!
Agent Panel: Acquisitions Today
VWA–Victoria Wells Arms (Victoria Wells Arms Literary)
GC–Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown, LTD)
KH–Kristen Hall (Catbird)
BS–Brooks Sherman (The Bent Agency)
ERS–Erica Rand Silverman (Stimola Literary Studio)
TW–Tina Wexler (ICM Partners)
Here are some interesting bits and pieces of the conversation…
KH–(Talking to her kids) On quitting her job and starting her own agency… I’m fine. I’m covered in hives, but really I’m fine.
TW–After her intro…”I should have just said I was a cat person.”
ERS–I’m looking for people who are purposeful in their craft.
TW–Do I love it? AND… Can I sell it?
KH–Relies on her instinct when picking clients.
BS–Doesn’t worry about what will sell. If he likes it, he’s willing to dive in.
GC–On queries: No voice of the MC. No gimmicks. Not overly personal. PROFESSIONAL! All authors used in comps should be no older than 5 years!
KH–Loves all the opposite query things that GC does ROTFL!
Then it was time for the Art Award Announcements!
The Mentorship Winners.
The Showcase Honors.
And Showcase Winner–Oge Mora
And speaking of fabulous illustrators, next up was a Keynote by Sophie Blackall: FORAGING FOR STORIES: HOW TO JUSTIFY EAVESDROPPING, LOITERING AND BUYING THINGS ON EBAY
Sophie was a natural storyteller and it was hard to pick out the individual threads to share because everything she said was woven together so interestingly. But I’ll do my best to pick out a few things for you…
*I collect things.
*I’m inspired by my fellows.
*One must always pay attention.
*Missed Connections–> the Measles Project.
*I rode the subway in NY, made eye contact with a stranger and ended up in Bhutan.
*Why is yoga still so hard? Because you are constantly pushing your limits. –>Apply that concept to your writing.
*Kids notice your trivial transgressions. Details matter.
*We make mistakes, but we should strive not to.
*The gestation of a book may be the best part.
*Toni Morrison writes into the light. “It’s not being in the light–it’s being there before it arrives.”
*The making part IS the best part. Do not hoard your ideas–use them all now. Something else will arrive.
Next up was my first Break-out Session of the day. I got so lucky picking Neal Schusterman-DON’T TELL DAD I TOTALED THE UNIVERSE: LESSONS IN WORLD BUILDING LEARNED THE HARD WAY
This was an incredible workshop. If you ever get a chance to talk world building with Neal–I suggest you take it. What I loved about his advice and techniques were how accessible they were. The focus was not on High Fantasy which isn’t what I write. And his approach was clear, logical and easy to assimilate into your own process. Plus he was inspirational and funny. Here is some of the best things I learned…
*There are no rules but the ones you make.
*Be prepared to live by your rules. There are ramifications to the rules that you make.
*You don’t have to address all the changes the butterfly effect has on your story, but you have to KNOW them.
*Rules can be problematic, but they can also be tools.
*Bring the reader in slowly.
*Stories are about people, no matter what world you are building–resist putting the world in front of the characters.
*Learn to write characters in the real world first–then move to world building.
*Master world building with shorter works.
*Too much info on the world can be confusing to the reader.
*When you are world building on existing mythology, you have to bring something new to the table, a twist.
*IF YOU CAN’T KEEP TRACK OF YOUR WORLD IN YOUR OWN HEAD, IT’S TOO COMPLICATED FOR YOUR READER!
*Start with the concept of the world. Find characters that fit into the world. Then work to balance the two.
*The world grows as you go along, that’s why revision is so important. By the end you know the world and the characters, then you have to go back and be sure that everything is consistent.
*Follow the exciting, shiny idea within your manuscript–even if you didn’t plan for it–otherwise the writing will be boring.
After lunch, Linda Sue Park did a fascinating afternoon Break-Out session on CHILDREN’S BOOK AWARDS: HOW JUDGING HAPPENS.
I took a picture–I swear I took a picture. But the phone goblins ate it. I’m still missing my good camera. I can’t believe I didn’t bring it. Maybe I need one of those lens attachments for my phone. Any recommendations?
Anyway–this break-out was Linda giving us back ground and information on the judging of kid lit awards and her personal experience doing the judging. There was so much interesting information woven into Linda’s narrative, but I’ll try to pull out some nuggets that will enlighten you.
*When judging the National Book Award in 2006
*Getting from 50 books down to the ones we wanted to discuss as a group was very difficult.
*Used a weighted math system to get down to the groups top 20 books.
*No one goes over these books the way the committee does–it is legit.
*The were the first committee to have a graphic novel as a finalist.
*The process was super time consuming. Linda couldn’t write for a year and sometimes resented not having a choice in what she could read.
*On judging–if you do this–you will never feel bad about not winning an award again. There are so many good books, deserving books out there.
*If you see Linda Sue Park–ask her how the truffles were? I promise, it’s a great story.
Next up was the always informative Deborah Halverson with the UP-TO-THE-MINUTE MARKET REPORT
Here is some of the newest market info complied by Deborah…
*Overall children’s publishing revenue dipped very little–not a lot of movement.
*YA fiction sales dipped by 3%–the Divergent factor. (dips following movie years)
*Non-fiction kids up by 17% due to adult coloring books
*Audiobooks up 24% making up 10-14% of children’s books
*Expansion as a theme. 60 new Indies this year. 660 since 2009. Stable but flat.
*New codes for YA on the bookshelves allowing for more customization and discovery.
*31 new imprints in the last four years.
Market Trend–How Your Current Projects Fit Into the Marketplace
-quality and creativity are being rewarded. Think: LAST STOP ON MARKET PLACE
-creativity in language and text
-dominated by younger PB’s
-some have longer texts where hope is strong and feels justified
-plenty of room for the illustrator to have story telling room
-Write a single title–>series possibility comes later
-diverse characters/actively looking for diversity
-historical fiction/biographies…ordinary people who change the world
-looking for marketing potential, story telling and personal connections
MIDDLE GRADE FICTION
-a great place to be
-agents say editors are asking
-open field–literary and commercial balance
-wants beautiful language, superb execution
-slow build that garners awards and longevity. Think OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper
-room for serious subject matter
-historical fiction–there are lesser known people to explore or new twist on well knowns
-multi-author series are still strong
-stand alones embraced too
-risks that don’t feel gimmicky
-non-fiction–fresh engagement-something unexpected
-MG is not wrapped up in a single trend at the moment
-looking for humor, adventure, realistic fiction
-serves a diverse audience but doesn’t make diversity an issue
-story trumps trends
-sweet spot falls between literary and commercial
-voice that masters the MG sensibility and funny bone
-in historical fiction a contemporary voice gives access–think Hamilton on Broadway
-realistic fiction and fantasy
-still happening but market saturation
-there are the big stars and the rest of us are duking it out for a space
-everyone is super careful/cautious about what they take on
-you need something different and stand out in a crowded market
-be careful about realistic contemporary–its been done
-blending genres–create fresh magic systems–think GRACELING
-layered female friendships*
-exploring grey areas*
-on twitter… #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List)
The internal mood of publishing…
*We are in a good place.
*Not being lambasted by trends.
*Room for thinking creatively.
*Not relying on only one thing.
*Publishing has settled into the mind set that we CAN change and adapt.
*An active author contract initiative underway
*Discovered we were doing it right all along.
Next up was a Keynote by one of SCBWI’s best, Ellen Hopkins: KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE REAL PRIZE
Ellen had the whole place in tears as she told the story of how life and writing intersect…
*Garbage writing is why they invented revision.
*In this day and age, books are candles in the darkness. And for some children, they are a lifeline.
*Keep your eyes on the real prize: making a positive difference in young lives.
And the final and closing keynote came from the one and only RICHARD PECK <3
*We gather today because misery loves company. *giggle*
*The barbarians are at our gates now–with phones in their hands–playing Pokemon. And they might die never knowing WE are the people who augment reality.
*There are 250 million texts and not a semi-colon among them.
*Where do you get your ideas? Isn’t it odd to suggest we can’t THINK of them?
*Schools don’t build foundations–they build upon them.
*Readers are not looking for authors in their books–they are looking for themselves.
*Throw out and rethink the first chapter after you have the table of contents for your real story.
*It’s never to late to be who you might have been” -George Elliot
And now that Richard Peck has reminded you who you are meant to be, it’s time for the autograph party.
Richard signing a book for the Desmond Fish Library who gave me the Alice Curtis Desmond Award
If you can see the iPad on the table, with Richard Peck—it was a part of me having a beautiful, full circle moment. This spring I had the privilege of being awarded the Alice Curtis Desmond Award and had to give my very first speech. And this speech was in front of another award winner–Salman Rushdie. Yup, it was a sweaty palm, heart racer. But I lived to tell the tale and what I was showing Richard was how I quoted HIM in my speech. And how I also heard Richard speak at my very first NY conference and clearly he had an impact on me then and over the years. And how he used the quote from my speech in his keynote and I couldn’t stop smiling at having the chance to share it all with him. Here’s that speech…
Being here tonight is both thrilling and a little terrifying.
I’m in awe of the esteemed company I get to keep this evening.
Compared to my fellow award winners, I’m at the beginning of my career. This is my first professional nod of recognition.
Receiving the Alice Curtis Desmond award reminds me that sometimes, our FIRST experiences do the most to shape our middles and our endings.
The acclaimed children’s author, Richard Peck once said… “–nobody BUT a reader, ever became a writer.”
When I hear that, what immediately comes to mind–are families, schools and libraries. They are the gate keepers that shape so many first experiences.
I still have my FIRST library card. I was the girl who had more books than Barbies.
In fact, I never went into the stacks without a large, paper grocery bag. I needed something big enough to hold my treasures. Those books held the world.
In the 6th grade, my English teacher read to my class… “In Flanders fields the poppies blow. Between the crosses, row on row.”
It was the FIRST time I understood how powerful writing could be. The meanest teacher I knew, was moved to tears—by words.
In the 10th grade, my class read THE GIVER by Lois Lowry. It was the FIRST time I realized I wasn’t alone. There were other people in the world who asked the same strange questions I did.
The summer before my senior year in high school, I took stock of who I was and what I wanted to be. I compared myself to some of my heroes: Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller, Anne Frank and Mahatma Gandhi.
It was the FIRST time I declared myself woefully inadequate to be anyone’s hero. I lost something that day.
On January 1, 2005, eighteen years later, I lost my father, but I finally found my voice. It was the FIRST day I decided to bravely live up to my own potential.
After my FIRST novel was published, my Mom, an extremely avid reader, told me I was the FIRST author she’d ever met in person. It wasn’t the first time I made my Mom proud, but it was one of my favorites.
My husband has always been my FIRST and most enthusiastic supporter. And because of it, there is an exceptionally large group of twenty-something single males, who work in IT Audit, who’ve read my young adult novel. #uniquemarketing
And I shouldn’t admit it, but when my boys were 2, 4 and 6 they ran out of clean socks and underwear because I was writing. It wasn’t the first time it happened, but it was the FIRST time they called me out on it. We bought more.
Then the day came when I received my FIRST letter from a fan. I’d become someone’s hero after all.
And now, because the clock and good story telling demands it, I need to make my ending reflect my beginning–by returning to the library, where I started.
I want to thank everyone at the Desmond Fish Library, not just for honoring me with my FIRST award and hosting such an incredible evening, but also for all you do–you bring books and readers together. You share my FIRST love and I could not be prouder to be a part of this community. Thank you so much.
I adore this guy! <3
Pam Munoz Ryan and Esperanza Rising
Sophie Blackall had the longest line in the room.
Getting my CHALLENGER DEEP signed by Neal Schusterman
I had an amazing conversation with him. So fan-girling!
Totally goof-balling around with Drew Daywalt of Crayon fame!
Don’t ask–I don’t know ROTFL!
Jon Klassen–what would he have done if I’d grabbed his hat and run? And how often does that happen???
And then we were hungry! Because fan-girling is kind of hard work.
And ice cream after dinner will certainly do the trick!
And it might even work tonight as a reward for getting this last #LA16SCBWI blog post done.
Hope this helpful. If you have any questions about the conference or SCBWI conferences in general, feel free to ask. And remember–if you’re heading to your first conference and you don’t know anyone, let me know and I’ll be sure to help out and introduce you to some new friends.
In case you’re wondering, by Day 3 of #LA15SCBWI I’m a little tired. But I’m not alone. You should have seen what happened when we had a coffee break and there was no coffee left! Kinda funny actually–is it still called a keg stand when you’re twisted upside down to get your mouth around the dregs of a coffee urn?
Anyway–now that I’ve fried your brain, it’s time to hear the Sunday morning special. Deborah Halverson and the UP-TO-THE-MINUTE MARKET REPORT.
I never miss this keynote–Deborah goes to great lengths to keep us up-to-date on publishing and trends. My fingers were flying as I took notes. Here’s a bit of what I captured…
*Last year’s children’s book sales were highly impacted by movies. Think The Fault in Our Stars, Insurgent etc… But even so, sales are not flat in the children’s market.
How to understand how what you’re already writing (no following trends please) fits in…
-short and bold
-illustrations tell 1/2 the story. Ex-Sam and Dave Dig a Hole
-Non-fiction still of interest-particularly narrative non-fiction
-Common core related books seem to be settling down. There’s still room for growth, but not explosive growth.
-PB’s that have layers
-funny character driven that has series potential
-there is room for new series
-Diary of a Wimpy Kid has become a very popular format
-MG has perked up
-Everything goes in MG
-Slow and steady can sometimes break out as a hit. Ex–Wonder
-Editors are seeing a wide selection in their inboxes but still not enough diverse submissions.
-WANT: Books with a literary soul and commercial legs
-Editors are intensely selective
-Seeing a lot of contemporary in their inboxes. People are often too quick to writ to the “middle” and hit genre expectations.
-beyond a black and white view of the world
-deep personal experiences
-looking to diversify their lists so it’s not all contemporary when the pendulum swings
And in the internal world of publishing…
-our past sense of unbalance is stabilizing.
-eBook subscription packages are a thing.
-Indie sales are up due to the Buy Local movement, slower eBook growth and publishers rethinking their practice.
Next up was our second morning keynote by Stephen Fraser—MIDDLE GRADE PERFECTION: WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM CLASSIC AND BEST SELLING BOOKS
Poor Stephen, he ended up in the seat next to mine at breakfast one morning and we chatted. FYI he’s a tremendously pleasant guy to talk to as you’re shoving muffins in your mouth. But as the conference went on, Jodi and I (my breakfast buddy and roomie) kept bumping into him. Our fear was that he might think we were stalking him. But really, we just kept turning up in his path like pennies. Hopefully he feels richer for having met us. LOL!
But on to the fabulous keynote…
*MG readers are some of the most loyal readers in the book world. They are strong, willing attentive readers but they are also strong critics.
If we examine the classics and best sellers, what do we learn from them?
1. Charlotte’s Web–Carefully crafted writing
2. Stone Fox–Drama
3. The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles–Imagination
4. The Clockwork Three–Mix genres, don’t be afraid
5. Heart of a Samurai–Bring history to life
6. Holes–Use humor
7. James and the Giant Peach–Be unapologetic and have fun
8. Junonia–Write to the emotional age of the child
9. Missing May–Place is character
10. Sarah Plain and Tall–Bring a visual quality to your work, make each word resonate
11. The Secret Garden–Let joy spill out
12. Harry Potter–Don’t worry about length
And that is your MG reading list for the fall. <3
The third keynote for the morning was Shannon Hale–Opening up the Clubhouse: Boys, Girls and Genderless
Shannon was INCREDIBLE. There has been so much on the internet lately that has made me sad and discouraged about all things boy, girl, man, woman, feminine, masculine etc… Truth be told, I found myself shutting down because the heart of most of the rhetoric was about raising people up–even if we have to do it by knocking other people down so we can get a leg up. I found it spiritually discouraging. Shannon was different. She was honest. She was thoughtful. She was hopeful. She was generous. She was above all on Team Human. Here’s some of what moved me…
*You are not NO thing. You are something–with YOUR thing. (On writing in your own voice and style.)
*Shakespeare wasn’t afraid of writing interesting women. I don’t know what happened?
*Boys–why are you so afraid of Princesses???? I’m so sorry you have to live in such fear. ROTFL!
*Boys, who told you you can only do half the stuff? (On girls being told they can do or be anything.)
*It’s NOT an equal playing field for women authors or boy readers.
*Boys are taught to be ashamed if they want to read a book about a girl or a “girly book.” We have a lot of work to do.
*Quoting editor Jordan Brown when asked where the Judy Blume for boys is? “Judy Blume is the JUDY BLUME for boys!”
*It wasn’t until people read novels about people in other circumstances that they were able to empathize. Reading novels creates empathy.
*Can you dig it? I CAN DIG IT!
At this point in the conference I came up with not one conference word, but two. Here’s what came together for me as the conference was winding down…
MINE–I picked this word because one of the messages thumping me over the head over the weekend was that it will be my unique voice, heart and soul that will sell my books. Chasing trends and the success of others will only leave me in the shadow of others. I don’t want to be standing beneath or behind anyone else. I intend to shine my own light.
TOGETHER–This made me laugh because my words are so oppositional, but while my writing is mine and mine alone–publishing is so much harder to navigate if you are alone. My tribe is instrumental in me reaching to be a better writer. They help me keep my inner compass pointed in the right/write direction. They inspire me and remind me that this isn’t easy for anyone. They mean the world to me.
My first Workshop of the day was with Allyn Johnston and Mem Fox–LET’S TALK PICTURE BOOKS…Q&A AND SOME READ ALOUD FUN
Let’s just start off by saying I could listen to Mem read picture books for days. That voice! But in addition to captivating the audience with her fabulous PB’s. Here is what Allyn and Mem had to share…
*I’m inspired by emotional experiences.
*I don’t want 5 of your 20 manuscripts–I want the one you care about–the one that’s going to change the emotional temperament of the reader.
*You should have only enough words that you’re ready to turn the page when the child is done reading the pictures.
*Adults are so much more inept at reading and understanding the illustrations than children.
*Worry more about the soul of the story than the word count. <3
*Beautiful language doesn’t undercut illustration.
*Illustrator notes are outrageous.
And it’s time for the Golden Kite Luncheon & Awards presentation with a keynote by Dan Yaccarino
SCBWI Member of the Year–Lee Wind!!!!!
“My tribe–my family.”
For Picture Book Illustration–Melissa Sweet and THE RIGHT WORD
“I hope we all find the right word whenever we need it.”
For Picture Book Text–Kristy Dempsey and A DANCE LIKE STARLIGHT: ONE BALLERINA’S DREAM
“By writers and illustrators, I mean friends and fellow dreamers.”
“Deep joy is only found in fulfilling our purpose.”
“I write to discover my own empathy–or to be honest–to work towards it.”
Kristy has been someone I’ve followed and admired on social media since I first started my journey as an author–it was amazing to see someone who has inspired me–have an impact on more of her peers. Her speech was incredible. <3
For Non-fiction–Candace Fleming for THE FAMILY ROMANOV
When the universe kept raising the question…who is interested in that?
“You are.” <3
For fiction–Deborah Wiles for REVOLUTION
“I am a product of my professional organizations. SCBWI.”
“Giving my heart away has been the secret to finding it.”
And the Sid Fleishman Award was given his son Paul Fleishman to…
Michelle Knudsen for EVIL LIBRARIAN
And from Dan Yaccarino‘s Keynote…
*Good work is never perfect.
*Don’t forget the power of visualization. Take time to picture your dreams happening every day.
*Get addicted to the divine spark of inspiration–try to bring the divinity of that spirit into your stories.
My afternoon Workshop was with Jordan Brown–FIVE PRINCIPLES OF REVISION
Just and FYI I will go to hear Jordan Brown talk about anything publishing related and quite a few things outside that topic too. He’s fabulous. I was taking notes like a boss because he had at least 45 principles I needed to remember. Here’s some of his best and most useful bits…
*Revision is hands down the most important part of the writing process.
*Your book should be about the most important story of your main character’s life.
*It’s hard to get perspective on your own work.
*You shouldn’t think of revision as an extension of the first draft.
*Revision is the opposite of drafting.
-DRAFTING is peeling back layers.
-REVISION is putting back layers that are more refined.
-Nothing is sacred.
-Character drives plot.
-Revision more often than not starts with cutting.
-Surprise yourself–if it feels familiar to you, it’s probably familiar to the reader too.
-Don’t be afraid to smart small–revision can be overwhelming.
*There are always things that are clearly important at the end of a book that weren’t at the beginning–go back and plant clues.
*READ, READ, READ!!!!!
The final keynote of the conference was by Kwame Alexander: #BasketballRules Kwame’s NEW #LA15SCBWI Keynote (Because Varian Johnson stole his other one Hahahaha!)
Rule #1–It might look like a long shot but you’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
Rule #2–Put in the work.
Rule #3–There’s no single formula for success, but you have to have a game plan.
Rule #4–A loss is inevitable.
Rule #5–When the game is on the line, don’t be afraid, grab the ball and take it to the hoop.
Rule #6–You’ve got to have teammates. It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in you. Look around…we are going to do great things.
And while that ends the formal part of the conference, you know I was in line half the afternoon to get my books signed and talk to all of these amazing authors and illustrators.
Candace Fleming–yup–we both joined the SCBWI when we were 12 LOL!
I loved talking about writing with Anna Shinoda and Debra Wiles also, but we chatted so long I got hustled on my way and never got a picture with her LOL!
I was so stoked to finally get this book in my hands and to see Martha Brockenbrough have such an amazing moment. She has been a friend and an inspiration for such a long time. I consider myself so lucky to have her in my life.
And I finally met my online buddy, Varian Johnson.
Yup, I may have cried a little with Shannon Hale, but you can’t blame me–she moved me to tears. <3
I’ve been getting books signed by Dan Santat for years. It put a smile on my face to see all his hard work come to his greatest success to date. I KNOW there will be so much more in store for him.
And then before I knew it, it was Monday and I was on my way to the airport, full of ideas, inspiration and determination…and too many books in my suitcase.
I had to pull out 13lbs of Baby Dragons and Beekles out of my suitcase to avoid a $50 luggage charge. But that’s okay–I always feel better when my signed treasures are close at hand.
If you missed the first two installments for the #LA15SCBWI Conference Recap, you can find them here…
LA SCBWI 2015 Part 1
LA SCBWI 2015 Part 2
I would love to see you there next year and if you have any questions about the conference, I’d be happy to answer them for you. It’s really a fabulous event, worth planning for if you’re able.
And we are winding down to the last day of the 2014 LA SCBWI Conference. And the jet lag is starting to lose it’s steam, so of course I arrange for an early morning Class of 2k12 mini breakfast reunion with Suzanne Lazear (The Aether Chronicles) and Caroline Starr Rose (May B and Blue Birds). It was worth every yawn to have some quality time with my girls. <3 This is my public service announcement for the day: My class of 2k12 friends were indispensable to me for the last three years. If you are slotted for debut publication, seriously consider becoming part of the Class of’s Contact me if you need help finding contacts in the up and coming groups. I’ll help you figure it out.
The official morning started off with Deborah Halverson and her always helpful Market Report. Besides the who, what, when, where and why of the children’s book market being incredibly dynamic, she provided us with an amazing handout…
Just another fabulous benefit of being an SCBWI member and attending these awesome conferences. *fist pump* Time to join people–this organization is fabulous and means the world to me. Here is what you should know…
*Up-swing in picture books
*Increased demand for highly illustrated early chapter books.
*In response to Common Core:
-Not a lot of acquisition changes. Same quality books–just might market them differently.
-Eye out for subject matter that touches multiple areas. The more hooks the better.
*Diversity projects are increasing but editors are looking for approaches that are not stereotypical or heavy handed.
*MG is finally coming into it’s own–promising place for single tittles.
*The bar is very high with books like WONDER but there are varying needs within this audience.
*MG is allows slow growth over several years. 2-3 year projections while YA is more likely to be evaluated in a quick splash.
*YA possibly over saturated. Editors being picky.
*Popular, established authors are getting sales.
*Trilogy is slowly dying.
*NOT MORE OF THE SAME!!!!!
*Contemporary realistic fiction getting a bump.
*YA lovers continue reading after aging out.
Next up was an amazing Keynote with Linda Sue Park–THE HOW OF IT: MAKING EVERY WORD COUNT
This presentation was the PERFECT combination of technically useful and emotionally inspirational. LSP is hard to beat, she is a master of craft and emotionally dedicated to her work. Here is what you should know…
*Don’t bore the editor–you want then to hang on your every word so make every word count.
*How? Use the tools of the writing craft–WORDS!
*Small changes make huge differences.
*ALWAYS put your finished MS away for several weeks before you send it out. Look at it again with fresh eyes.
*Use the word count function and whittle down your words slowly.
-Pick your best words and put them in the best order.
*Change your font, it will help you see your MS differently.
*Print your work out and read it in a different location–some place you don’t usually write.
*Read your work aloud from beginning to end or have someone read it to you.
*Words have become one of our cheapest currencies because of technology and social media, so it’s even more important that we value our words.
*An adult is never going to love and reread books the way they will when they fall in love with a book as a child–our books have to be worthy of being ready more than 62 times. (Daniel) <3
Our next Keynote was by Sharon Flake–WALKING WOUNDED: HOW TO KEEP WRITING AFTER YOU’VE HIT THE WALL. Her best take aways were…
*”Magic” can give you a false sense of confidence.
*Kids need to know that there is more than one way to be a human being.
*Remember it’s in you to make it through.
*I love writing so much that even when it didn’t feel good I kept going.
*It’s about being a connection.
My first Workshop of the day was with Bonnie Bader–LEVELED READERS AND TRANSITIONAL CHAPTER BOOKS.
As a mom and a former special education teacher I really wanted to make some sense of this area that always seems so inconsistent and confusing to me. I walked away with a very good understanding of how these books work or don’t work and how difficult they are to write. I feel like they are a sudoku puzzle for children’s writers LOL! I think when I get a little extra time on my hands I might play around with the sight word list a little bit and see if I’m any good at it. If you see me with chunks of my hair pull out, you’ll know what I was doing.
Time for the Golden Kite Luncheon!!!!!
This is when we honor the outstanding members of our tribe. This year’s Member of the Year was Ellen Hopkins for her above and beyond service to the SCBWI and it’s tribe members. Love her! We also celebrated our Golden Kite winners.
Peter Brown–Golden Kite Winner for Picture Book Illustration
Pat Zietlow Miller–Golden Kite Winner for Picture Book Text
David Meissner–Golden Kite Winner for Non-fiction
Tim Federle–Golden Kite Winner for Fiction
And Bill Konigsberg–winner of the Sid Fleischman Humor Award
Each of these award winning tribe members gave amazing, funny and inspirational speeches. Best crop of award winners I’ve heard as a whole. I left lunch full, inspired and motivated. Can’t wait to read their books!!!!!
My afternoon Workshop was with Bruce Coville–NO BUT SERIOUSLY, THE ART AND CRAFT OF WRITING A SERIES
Sorry no picture–we got right down to business and there was a lot to learn. One of the great things for me at the conference was that I was able to take some very interesting classes on new topics I’d never explored before. As a regular conference attendee, this made me very happy.
Here are a few tips about series writing from Bruce who has 15 series under his belt…
*Show up at your desk–when you are doing your work you will maintain a certain level of competence in your writing and some times you will be lucky enough to rise above your own abilities.
*Two most important times of creativity are coming in and out of sleep–use them to your advantage.
*Always go for royalties because you are betting on yourself–the 1st Hardy Boys book (with a packager) the author made $150 Doh!
*Craft without inspiration is basket weaving. Inspiration without craft is modern art. *insert Bruce giggle here*
*An outline is not an impediment to creativity.
-Bruce’s tend to be front heavy
-They never end the way he planned and that’s ok
*If you want to explore a world or character with more depth than one book–a series is the way to go.
*Conclude a story but throw in an unresolved cord.
*Create your bible.
-tells what the world is gong to be
-characters, side kicks and bad guys
-Show you are taking your work seriously
*Writing for a packager is a great way to hone your craft–you should always write a book better than what they are expecting.
*Problems with a series:
-keeping it fresh
-keeping it consistent (BIBLE)
-getting important info to the people who haven’t read the previous books
-knowing when to stop
*Our lives are series non-fiction <3
I told you I’d have more Tomie!!! We were still able to do his interview with Lin Oliver via Skype <3
His bits of wisdom and love…
*Being an artist is also the way you live your life.
*When you create your art–be prepared to be misunderstood.
And then after feeling like I had the biggest, warmest pep talk from my SCBWI Yoda/Grandpa–Judy Blume stepped onto the stage for an inspirational send off…
* I was far from a courageous child–except in my head.
*I was brave in my writing the way I wasn’t in my life.
*Judy’s take away word from the conference is FOCUS.
*Do not let anyone discourage you. If they try–get angry not depressed!
*Determination is as important as talent.
*It doesn’t ever get easier–persist.
*Ideas come from everywhere and you never know when they will arrive.
*Kick the critic off of one shoulder and the sensor off the other. Sometimes you just have to write a book and not worry about who is going to read it.
As if this wasn’t enough, Judy shared with us the ups and downs of a project she’s currently working on and how she would also be leaving the conference inspired to go back to her work. Just like me–just like everyone else in that room who had the pleasure of hearing one of our greatest idols speak.
After a long and powerful standing ovation for Judy, Lin Oliver closed with this…
“We picked a very difficult and challenging road–it’s so much better that we walk down it together–hand in hand and arm and arm.”
My Tribe–I am grateful. <3
Yes, I photo bombed Meg Medina LOL!
But then Jodi and I gave her hugs so she didn’t mind.
Chatting with Bruce Coville–he’s such a hoot! Always love his advice.
Me and Bruce Coville <3
Like Aaron Becker and Journey and Journey says…Don’t stop believing.
Fan girling over Maggie Stiefvater–helping me solve for X.
Megan McDonald of Judy Moody and Stink fame.
Love her–she’s fabulously hilarious.
Judy Schachner or Miss Judy as my 9yo likes to call her–signing her newest, adorable Bits & Pieces.
Judy talking picture books with Jodi Moore author of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN. I want a collaboration–when Skippy Joh Jones moves in with my favorite Dragon.
And then it was over. Dinner with friends while talking about three days worth of awesomeness. Hugs goodbye. Suitcases packed and the pull to find your way home to family and the page where you left off in your own writing…
Hope you are as inspired as I still am over a week later. And my fingers are crossed that you enjoyed my conference recaps. See you on Thursday with a little conference bonus post before I put LA away until next year. <3
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?
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?
*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.
*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.
*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.
*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.
*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…