Posts Tagged ‘Jane Yolen’

Feb

18

2017

NY 2017 SCBWI Conference Part 2

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Kim Sabatini, Kimberly Sabatini, Pondering, Publishing, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, Writing, Writing for Children, Writing Style

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!!!

Student Illustrators

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

Moderator–LO–Lin Oliver

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

AND

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…

Cynthia:

*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…

Ellen:

*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.

*No proselytizing!

     -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!!!!

Lin Oliver

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

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Feb

14

2017

NY 2017 SCBWI Conference Part 1

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Fun and Games, Kim Sabatini, Kimberly Sabatini, Middle Grade, Pondering, Publishing, Reading, SCBWI, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing for Children

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 SonesThe 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…

*1,121 Attendees

*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

     -Dog Groomer

     -Podiatrist

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!


Cheers!

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.

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Feb

18

2016

The 2016 New York SCBWI Winter Conference Part 2

Filed under: Author Events, Book Signings, Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Pondering, Publishing, Reading, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, Writing, Writing for Children

The 2016 New York SCBWI Winter Conference Part 2

I’m back…and I realized that in Tuesday’s SCBWI Conference Recap post, I forgot to tell you how cold it was outside when we woke up. Inside too, for that matter.

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Why I may have blocked it from my memory…

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This was the inside of my window on the 29th floor.

 

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But it did look rather pretty once the sun came out.

But I should probably stop giving you the cold shoulder and start filling you in on the rest of the SCBWI conference. When I left you on Tuesday…

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…a large crowd of Kid Lit SCBWI writers and illustrators were eating picnic style on the floor of the hotel lobby and Debbie Ohi couldn’t give away a piece of her black and white cookie. Yes, we are a strange group–just go with it.

After lunch I had my second Break-out/Workshop session of the day with Elizabeth Bicknell, EVP, Executive Editorial Directo & Associate Publisher Candlewick Press–WRITING PICTURE BOOK TEXT.

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Elizabeth Bicknell

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Some of the books she used to illustrate fabulous and successful picture books.

Good things to know…

*Candlewick only does children’s books.

*Don’t make your story about too many things.

*No Flashbacks.

*PB’s are like a little play.

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Topics in PB’s shift over time but here are currently popular story lines.

Up next was a Fireside Chat between Lin Oliver and Rainbow Rowell

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Lin and Rainbow are way too adorable together!

Here are my favorite take-aways…

*When you’re writing 1st person, you’re writing monologues.

*Good novelists have good memories.

*The best comedy comes at the moment of pathos. (The intersection of funny and sad)

*Like a dog returning to his own vomit–it’s a long and very funny story!

*Rainbow’s outlines are emails to her agent.

*Her plots are derived from characters. Using characters to fulfill a plot is very different than characters creating the plot.

*The shared texts we have now are pop culture–it’s no longer scripture etc…

*People find the references that are there for them.

*If I’d written girls when I was younger, I think I would have accepted more of what the world told me to.

*On writing in an Omaha Starbucks–Hey! Writing in a NYC Starbucks is a very different thing. They are like public restrooms that serve coffee! ROTFL!

*Not in the past, and maybe not in the future, but right now I am privileged to write full time.

*Publishing is a game of speculation. Everyone is guessing even though everything seems set in stone.

The next Keynote required no guessing at all to know it would be good. I’ve heard the fantabulous Kate Messner on numerous occasions and I’ve also heard nothing but wonderful things about Linda Urban and they were going to be talking about MUSIC, MOUNTAINS AND MOCHA LATTES: SUSTAINING A CREATIVE LIFE.

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Kate spoke first and talked about her own journey to reconnect with a manuscript by climbing mountains.

*Sometimes we need one small thing to keep going.

*If climbing one mountain was good for my writing, climbing 40+ would be amazing.

*Put your butt in your chair, but when you’re stuck, get up.

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Then Linda Urban talked about how she’d rather have her finger nails pulled out than climb mountains, but how she found the same creative inspiration in a little red ukulele.

*Playing the ukulele causes a rush I wasn’t getting while I was stuck in my MS.

*The dopamine it provided and a long trail of small musical success restored my creative confidence.

*The negative voice in my head got bored while I was playing.

And then the lovely Linda sang for us <3

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And as you might imagine, these two inspirational and creative authors were each other’s biggest fans. So, please remember, if you can’t find a creative outlet that will lead you back to your writing–find a friend to have a Mocha Latte–it will work every  time.

After all this inspiration there was a book signing with Rainbow Rowell, the Art Browse and the Gala dinner followed by multiple socials and of course my group of lobby rats hanging out in the lobby–sort of. Remember how cold it was? Well, that lobby was a wee bit drafty, so for the first time ever, the rats took to the underbelly of the hotel (like all good rats do) and moved out of the cold.

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But as always–we stayed up talking way to long. Always one of my favorite parts of the SCBWI conference.

With not enough sleep under our belts, it was time for coffee, bagels and Day Three of the SCBWI conference. Once again our uber fantastic illustrators blew me out of the water with their gorgeous art and Jane Yolen got me all choked up giving out her SCBWI Mid-List Author Grants.

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And it’s always our pleasure to thank the staff of the SCBWI for all they do to bring us together for these amazing conferences and to let them know how much we appreciate all they accomplish behind the scenes throughout the year.

Our first Keynote for Sunday was Rita Williams-Garcia and she talked about DO’S AND DON’TS IN CHILDREN’S PUBLISHING FROM A DEFINITE DON’T.

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Here are some of my favorites from Rita–she was both moving and funny as she spoke.

*I loved telling stories–or as my mother called it–lying.

*Live in The Plan: I took every step possible in be coming what I envisioned. (She wrote 500 words every night as a child and rented out her sister’s typewriter to do it.)

*Don’t pick your major based on the hot guy with the afro–he doesn’t have any hair now!

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Rita on really being faced with the prospect of editing a manuscript for the first time.

*Don’t stay with an uncontracted project too long.

*Don’t isolate yourself–TRIBE!

*Don’t block out criticism.

*Don’t be a know it all.

*Don’t stop writing–live in The Plan.

*Live with gratitude–do what you’re doing–you’re here!

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Next up was Jacquelyn Mitchard–SAY GOODBYE TO ALL OF THAT: THE QUEST FOR THE PERFECT ENDING.

Jacquelyn was literary, funny, thoughtful and informative–so much good stuff to digest.

*People love the 19th Century greats because the ending is so clear.

*The last sentence of a books, for some writers, is the first sentence they know about.

*Most books really don’t echo the promises made in the first pages.

*The reader doesn’t want it to end, so how do you make it okay for the reader? It should do more than tie up loose ends–your job is to lead the reader back into the real world.

*Leave room for interpretation.

*Say what you’re going to do, do it, then get the hell out.

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Since I don’t have a picture of the next panel, you should look at this one instead. This is what my hilarious friend, Scott Hammon, looks like after a Rocky-esque run up to the podium. He’s been waiting FIVE YEARS to win the SCBWI Conference joke contest!!! Watch out Jay Asher…Scott is very, very slowly creeping up after you. *grin*

Now back to the panel…

Moderator: RF-Ruben Pfeffer

AB: Alessandra BalzerVice President and Co-Publisher, Balzer + Bray and imprint at HarperCollins

EB: Elizabeth Bicknell–EVP, Executive Editorial Director & Associate Publisher Candlewick Press

GC: Ginger ClarkAgent, Curtis Brown, LTD

SD: Sarah DaviesAgent, Greenhouse Literary

AL: Alvina LingVP and Editor-in-Chief, Little Brown Books for Young Readers

The last panel discussion of the SCBWI conference was ACQUISITIONS TODAY: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES. This was a crazy interesting panel because it mixed editors AND agents and the quips and candor flying back and forth was both informative and entertaining. Once again I’ll be honest and say I spent more time listening to the fast flying information than taking notes. There was lots of information on preempts, auctions, bidding, multiple submissions and of course, everyone’s option on the lot. Check the #NY16SCBWI thread and TEAM BLOG for more detailed information on the panel.

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And I won’t lie. This finally Keynote is the one I waited the whole conference for. I cannot even begin to explain how much of a fan I am of Gary Schmidt. I had the opportunity to hear him speak at an LA SCBWI Conference and he blew me away. I’ve also had the chance to read his books with my boys. We very recently finished reading his newest novel, ORBITING JUPITER together. It is now my favorite Schmidt novel, which is saying something. And to more completely put this book in perspective, my 15, 12 and 10-year-olds asked that we put The 5th Wave on hold so we could read ORBITING JUPITER faster. I love my kids. <3

The final Keynote was entitled THE BOMBERS OF THE BOSTON MARATHON, AND THE PLANES OF 9/11 AND HOW ANTHONY WISHED THEY WOULD.

It would be madness for me to try and do anything other than write down what inspired and moved me as Gary spoke.

*Why is it that when a group of Kid Lit writers gets together, we get along? This doesn’t happen with adult writer, poets. It’s because we have the same mission–we do it for kids.

*”Nobody came because nobody ever does.” –Jude the Obscure   We are here to address this. We need to be the writers that show up.

*When an adult speaks to a child with honesty, they know that someone is telling them the truth and that despite the brokenness of the world–it is still worth living.

*We need to write for the kid sitting on the log who is waiting for someone to show up, because no one ever does.

          -Like Anthony during 9/11. He went outside to see if a plane was going to hit his building and when it didn’t, he was disappointed because it would have saved a lot of trouble. Is it any wonder that he’s serving a life sentence?

          -Like Jake, one year into his sentence. He loves the planets, especially Jupiter. When Gary sent him a book and a poster on the planets it was taken away. Once again, no one showed up.

          -Like Marlene, a high school student actively engaged in a writing activity with Gary. When two teen boys walk in (who don’t do anything wrong or intimidating) this girl shuts down completely. When they leave she reengages. What happened in her life, in this school that shuts her down like that?

*The deep heartfelt question that we must ask as authors is…what ails you? It is a question of human empathy.

*Story and art can reveal human empathy.

*Story insists on human complexity and multidimensionality.

*Watch what happens if you take the stance in life that EVERYTHING MATTERS.

*If you want to be a writer, you have to LOVE the world.

*The writer believes with her whole heart that we give the world more to be human with. There is a reason ISIS destroys art.

*We write to serve. We don’t tell the kids how to act, we sit down beside them on the log and we say the truth.

And that is why I love Gary Schmidt…

And that is why I rushed to his book signing table and proceeded to get all choked up as I tried to explain my heart, head and soul to a man who I’m pretty sure already knows it. Remember…he loves the world.

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Then there was the pleasure of meeting the newly minted Newbery Award Winner, Matt de la Pena. He’s the first Latino author to win the Newbery Medal for outstanding contribution to children’s literature with his picture book, LAST STOP ON MARKET PLACE. Matt is a fabulous SCBWI success story and we are all so proud of him and his accomplishments.

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I also had the pleasure of getting my books signed by Oscar winner William Joyce!

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And then I got to hang out and chat some more with Oprah Book Club author (DEEP END OF THE OCEAN) and editor-in-chief of Merit Press,  Jacquelyn Mitchard.

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Yes, the talent and advice this year were incredible.

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And I can’t wait to read MELT by SCBWI Spark Award winner Selene Castrovilla. We were able to hang out at the Gala and she is all kinds of fabulous and everyone is raving about this novel!

And then it’s over–or is it?

Not for me, because it was Valentines Day and my hubby met me in NYC and we got to see…

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The Broadway hit, CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT.

I was blown away. No seriously, it was incredible. I hope you all get the chance to see it–it’s a beautiful and timely book that is brought to life right in front of your eyes. It’s one of those plays that will change how you see the world and the people in it.

Once again, Kid Lit shows up and I’m so proud.

But even after dinner and a show…you’ll find your way home. Back to your family. Back to your writing. And back to your cat who really, really missed you.

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Oh, wait–it was the dog who really, really missed you and the cat who hates it when you leave. And then you wake up in the morning and she’s sitting on top of you (really close) so you can completely understand what you’ve put her through. LOL!

I hope, whether you made the SCBWI conference or just read about it, that you’re all inspired and ready to show up for your writing life. I know I am. And now that these blogs are done, I’m ready to move forward on my WIP.

Did anything in the conference or the recap really connect with you? How is it effecting what you are working on? Have you wanted to write, but haven’t been sure how to start? The answer IS to show up. You must start some time. Why not begin today. The SCBWI will teach you everything you need to know. And I’d be more than happy to point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend and see you next week.

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Feb

16

2016

The 2016 New York SCBWI Winter Conference Recap Part 1

Filed under: Author Events, Book Signings, Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Freaky Friday, Publishing, Reading, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, Writing for Children, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

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It’s here, it’s here–it’s finally HERE! The #NY16SCBWI Winter Conference. And while we froze our writer and illustrator parts off this year–you know we still had a blast. Right along with the arctic blast. Here’s the highlights of the weekend…

I was thrilled to be able to head down bright and early–very, very early…

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…for The Professional Author’s Forum Intensive. For all you PAL members of the SCBWI, this was such a lovely addition to the weekend. You should absolutely look for more of these PAL events in the future.

We started off the day with the fabulous and hysterical Lin Oliver and the chance to introduce ourselves and state our questions and goals. It immediately cemented us into a workshop style, intimate group instead of an audience in a lecture.

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Lin Oliver, SCBWI Executive Director

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Half the room of the PAL Intensives

After the intros, we got down to business with the very informative Agent, Ruben Pfeffer talking about PUBLISHING WITH MULTIPLE HOUSES (INCLUDING WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR EDITOR LEAVES)

This was a very informative session, focusing on the reasons to publish or not publish with multiple houses. He hit upon the strategic, contractual, our preferences, economic need and circumstantial factors.

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Agent, Ruben Pfeffer (Ruben Pfeffer Content, LLC)

Next up was the I always get nervous around him even though he gives me no reason to, but come on he was the editor for the Harry Potter books, Arthur Levine chatting with Lin Oliver about LONGEVITY; HOW TO SUSTAIN YOUR CAREER.

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Arthur Levine, Publisher, Arthur A. Levine Books and Lin Oliver

Here are some of my favorite bits from the conversation…

*What is essential about people doesn’t change despite our fears about publishing.

*Produce a BODY OF WORK–stop flogging just one thing.

*Find contemporary analogies to your book AFTER you’ve written it.

*When we get sucked into our anxieties, we lose track of what stories we can write and who wants to read them.

The next fabulous collaborator for the Intensive was Martha Brockenbrough, author and SCBWI TEAM BLOG talking about DEVELOPING A SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM THAT’S APPROPRIATE FOR YOU.

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I’m not kidding–I’d love to see Martha do a detailed, whole day intensive just on this topic alone. She is a wealth of information and there were more questions than time to hear all her answers.

Martha started off by reminding us of our tendency to believe that when it comes to social media–If we build it they will come…

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That would be a NOPE.

But don’t worry, she gave everyone a wealth of advice on building relationships, finding your audience and focusing on platform, being positive, looking long term and being authentic. She was also able to compare and contrast FB, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter and Goodreads. And this was followed by tips on how to keep it all manageable. If you ever get a chance to take a workshop with Martha, I highly recommend you take advantage of it.

After a quick and yummy lunch break, we were back in the saddle again hit the iconic kid lit author, Jane Yolen–ISSUES IN BEING A MID-LIST WRITER.

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Among a plethora of informative and inspirational information, Jane reminded us that as Mid-list authors, we could be writing three kinds of books…

  1. A Head Book-The book you’ve been thinking about because research or experience had made you curious.
  2. A Heart Book-You don’t know why you have to write it, but you just do. It’s about you, but it’s also about the kids too.
  3. A Pocketbook Book-You know you can sell it $

She also reminded us to write the best book you can and don’t forget to nudge yourself in the path of luck.

Next up, was BRANDING YOURSELF: CHALLENGES IN WRITING MULTIPLE GENRES AND CATEGORIES with Linda Pratt Agent, Wernick and Pratt Literary and Jacquelyn Mitchard Author and Editor-in-Chief of Merit Press.

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Linda Pratt

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Jacquelyn Mitchard (Deep End of the Ocean–Oprah’s Book Club)

Here are some of the highlights…

*YA is not a genre, it’s a category.

*Being Branded means that you’ve gotten to the point where readers will buy your book in any category or genre because it is recognizably YOU!

*There’s nothing you want more than to be a habit.

*If you wanted to be careful, you should have been a dental hygienist ROTFL!

Bonnie Bader was up next and I forgot to take her picture! What? But you don’t need to see her to benefit from her talk on SUPPLEMENTING YOUR INCOME. Bonnie gave us valuable information on Packaging, Work for Hire, License work and Ghost Writing. But you can see Bonnie sitting next to Arthur Levine during our Summary, Conclusion and Questions time. And of course they had to kick us out after 5pm because there was so much to discuss with the faculty of the day. It was an amazing group.

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And I’ll leave Friday behind with this great reminder from Arthur Levine…

“Our job is not to start trends, it’s to write books.”

After lots of meet up hugs with friends, a large group of us heading for dinner at Grand Central’s Oyster Bar (picture to come when Zainab figures out how to send it LOL!) the typical behavior of Lobby Rats hanging out in the lobby and not enough sleep (I can’t help but talk to my roomie Jodi Moore for half the night) it’s time to OFFICIALLY kick off the conference.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2016

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This group is more than ready…

For Lin Oliver’s conference stats:

*1,151 Attendees

*337 Published authors and 815 pre-pubbed

*48 states were represented. Considering the weather in NY we excused Hawaii for ditching us. But we also decided that maybe the reason North Dakota was ditching us was that no one lived there. :o)

*19 Countries in attendance including the USA

*Our ranks included a micro biologist, coffee roaster, oil trader, ventriloquist and a psychic!

The first Keynote of the day was William Joyce–BOOKS ARE LIKE THE ICE CREAM SANDWICH: HOW NEW TECHNOLOGY DOESN’T CHANGE MUCH OF ANYTHING BUT IT’S KIND OF COOL

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William immediately had us cracking up, telling the story of how he forgot why he’s picked that topic when he first agreed to be a conference speaker LOL! But he quickly found the original thread and sewed it all up for us.

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*Books=Ice Cream Sandwiches–hard stuff on the outside and good stuff in the middle.

*When people put a book on an app or e-device they claim they are doing it because they want the story to be “interactive.” What the heck do these people think happens when you read a book? You interact with it *head thunk*–to call something interactive it has to be more than just reading it on a screen vs between a cover.

*On starting his own Multimedia company: “Don’t make anything crummy.”

*Strong and better realities of a start up: Having to tell new, young employees they had to pay taxes. LOL!

*I highly recommend winning an Oscar–it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my clothes.

Oscar Win – Moonbot Studios from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

*Doing THAT (see above video) with all those young kids–amazing!

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And if you want to see something fantastic…check out the app IMAG-N-O-TRON:The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

But be sure to come back to this blog and keep reading because I’ve got a Panel Discussion up next. THE BIG PICTURE: CHILDREN’S PUBLISHING: NOW AND IN THE NEAR FUTURE.

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MOD: Lin Oliver

MT: Megan Tingly–Executive Vice-President and Publisher, Little Brown Books for Young Readers

AP: Andrea Pappenheimer–Senior Vice-President, Director of Sales/Associate Publisher HarperCollins Publishers

ML: Mallory LoehrVice-President, Publishing Director, Random House/Golden/Doubleday Books for Young Readers

JF: Jean FeiwelSenior Vice-President and Director, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillian Children’s Publishing Group

JA: Jon AndersonPresident and Publisher, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division

I hate to tell you this–but this was such a good session that I listened without taking as many notes as I should have. I apologize but I’m pretty sure Team Blog will have some excellent tweets and recaps for you.

Then it was time for the day’s first break-out session or workshop. There were so many great sessions to choose from, but I picked CREATING TEEN CHARACTERS with Martha Brockenbrough and Rainbow Rowell.

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For this session I pulled up some rug in order to stretch my legs. Here were some of my favorite take-aways…

*Art inspires art

*I didn’t experience the events that happened in my books, but music got me to those places.

*It’s fiction, you get to make it up. (Oh, wait–Dragons ARE fake!)

In order to balance out my recap posts, I’m going to save the rest of the conference for your Thursday reading pleasure. While you wait, you can get a good laugh at all of us eating picnic style in the lobby.

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And remember–if you’re there at next year’s conference–Debbi Ohi will share her cookie with you. She couldn’t get anyone to split it with her!!! If she’d only showed up BEFORE I ate all that chocolate. *sigh*

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See you on Thursday with the #NY16SCBWI Conference Recap Part 2! While your waiting, tell me what session was your favorite if you were there. Or which one you would have loved to attend.

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Feb

12

2015

The 2015 NY SCBWI Winter Conference Part 2

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

I’m back with the second half of the 2015 NY SCBWI Conference recap. You can find Part 1 HERE. And yes, in case you’re wondering, I am extra tired because I stayed up too late talking to my fabulous roommate Jodi Moore talking about her newest dragon book!!!

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An unexpected perk of the conference was a chance to get a sneak peek at Jodi’s new Dragon Baby–WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN

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Illustration courtesy of Flashlight Press

It’s bad enough that the new baby takes up Mom’s lap and Dad’s time. But
when this tiny, drooly, stinky, crying newborn somehow charms the dragon, the
boy decides he’s had enough of this baby business. Is there room in the castle
for three? Find out When a Dragon Moves In Again.

Sequel to the award-winning When a Dragon Moves In

Can’t wait for the Fall to bring this Dragon home <3

Jodi and her Dragon weren’t the only people we were celebrating on Sunday morning. The day kicked off with the Awards Presentations…

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Congrats to all the illustrators who won awards. Your work is gorgeous.

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And Sana accepts the Mid-List Author award from Jane Yolen who credits her with being a force in bringing diversity to our children’s books.

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We also got to sing Happy Birthday to Jane. <3

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And celebrate with Caldecott winner Dan Santat even if he wasn’t in the room.

We’ll catch him in person in LA. But until then, here’s how proud we are of Dan…

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And we can’t forget to thank the SCBWI staff that makes these conferences happen…

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They are the BEST!

The first Keynote of the day was by another amazing author/illustrator…The Making of a Picture Book by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

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I was blown away by her, her process and her books. Laura talked about having a notebook to capture your stream of consciousness. And she shared her notebooks with us. I loved this beginning…

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Laura also reminded us that when making a concept book, there is always story–there is depth. She kick started so many ideas for me and she opened my eyes to how to see picture book writing in a completely different way. Take a look at her award winning book Green…

 

The next Keynote was James Dashner–Writing Commercial Fiction.

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James was a funny guy. He started off his speech like Letterman with a top 10 List.

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But between the jokes he had some serious and helpful stuff to share. He reminded us that even though he’s the author of The Maze Runner, which was recently made into a movie, it wasn’t so long ago that he was sitting where we were. He went to college to become an accountant and hated it. He struggled as a new author with a small press and a kinda weird cover. But you should never give up because…

*The Maze Runner was rejected the first time it went out.

*Sometimes it is about lucky breaks, but if you quit you won’t get the chance to enjoy them.

He also told us…

*He never takes his success for granted because he could have been stuck in a job he hated.

*And it might be helpful to use a title that guarantees success–like Harry Potter and the Divergent Games of Hunger. ROTFL!

 

And there is nothing else I can say that’s better than that. *grin* But what I can tell you about next is the Keynote Agent’s Panel: Charting Charting Your Career Path.

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BG–Barry Goldblatt (Barry Goldblatt Literary)

JL–Jennifer Laughran (Andrea Brown Literary Agency)

TW–Tina Wexler (International Creative Management)

Moderated by BB–Brenda Bowen

Here’s some golden nuggets from the agents:

BG–On career: This is not a speed race. If everything goes right I get to be your agent for 30, 40, 50 years.

JL–Illustrators need to have a centrally located online portfolio.

BG–There is no call I fear more than the one when a client says they’ve quit their job. This is not a job you get into with the intention of supporting your family.

TW–If you are writing with your heart you are writing with your passion. You are not writing to pay the bills.

BG–Don’t query with a rhetorical question or in your characters voice.

BG–If you find yourself tracking your Amazon ranking more than five times a day, you have a problem.

 

The last Keynote of the conference was Kwame Alexander talking about Dancing Naked on the Floor: How to say Yes to the Writerly Life

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Just this week Kwame won the Newbery!!!! After hearing him speak and then reading his work on the train home I know exactly why he won. He is amazing! Here is some of what he inspired us with…

*I didn’t have money, but what I did have was poetry.

*Children’s authors make our living on school visits. We don’t get paid too much by publishers.

*I wanted to write words that elevated, inspired, informed, and uplifted people.

*This writing life is not about sitting in a room with your pencil and paper. You’ve got to get out into the world.

*Need a community around you of truthtellers to keep you on track.

*CROSSOVER was rejected more than 20 times by publishers. Kwame Alexander almost self-published it. It just won the Newbery award.

*When the NO’s come they’re getting out of the way for the Yes’. You can’t let other people’s NO’s define your Yes’.

*You can’t have a dream come true if you don’t have a dream and you can’t write a book if you’re not writing.

*Sit on it.  WAIT–Kwame Alexander didn’t say that. The Fonz did!!!

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WE got a surprise visit from the one and only Henry Winkler. He was adorable because he was as blown away as the rest of us by Kwame. But he did tell us that we must teach our children where they are great, not where we think they should go. And he also said he has a new mantra which is…I’m going to try. And I think everyone ended the conference inspired and with that very same mantra.

But before we left, we got to get our books signed…

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This year’s Newbery winner, Kwame Alexander.

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Anthony Horowitz

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Laura Vaccaro Seeger

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Herve Tullet

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And James Dashner

And then it’s back home in time for a bit more snow…

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Thanks so much for reliving the 2015 NY SCBWI Conference with me. If you attended, who was your favorite speaker and if you didn’t, who would you have most loved to meet? Hope to see you in NY next year–the Lobby Rats are looking for new friends.

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Apr

29

2014

The 6th Annual Hudson Children’s Book Festival is THIS Saturday!

Filed under: Author Events, Book Signings, Check-it-out, Community, Fun and Games, In the Wild, Touching the Surface, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

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Woo hoo!!! I am so excited to be a part of the 6th Annual Hudson Children’s Book Festival!!!!

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I’ll be there with my sharpies signing copies of TOUCHING THE SURFACE!!!

But it’s not just me!

There is an epic ton of amazing kid lit folks on the scene. For the full Author/Illustrator list click HERE.

But I have to SQUEE!

Some of my best writer buds and fan yourself fan-girl worthy authors are going to be there…

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So, come out and visit all of us!!!! We can’t wait to hang out with you <3

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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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Feb

8

2013

The 14th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference February 1-3, 2013 Part 2

Filed under: Conferences, SCBWI, Writing, Writing for Children

Sunday morning was rough and involved coffee and help from strangers. Oh, the life of an overly talkative, sleep derived conference goer…

After checking out, scavenging a breakfast sandwich, stowing luggage and coat and hauling around my books like a pack mule, there were lots and lots of well deserved Sunday morning awards. The illustrators were honored for their gorgeous work and the Tomie dePaolo award given out by Tomie!!!! It’s been a few years since he’s been at the conference and everyone was so excited to see him and hear him talk.

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There was also the Emerging Voices Awards given out by Jane Yolen. These awards celebrate the mid-list authors who are the work horses of publishing. (Unlike the dancing Arabians.)

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Then, with coffee finally charging through my system, it was on to KEYNOTE #1: Tell Me a Story by Margaret Peterson Haddix

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Margaret is a wonderfully animated speaker, which was very exciting, but also resulted in some bloopers for your entertainment…

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Luckily, we aren’t defined by our bloopers. LOL!  Here’s all the good stuff…

*You don’t get to be a historic artifact or an author without a certain amount of persistence.

*Books are alive and relevant for kids in the digital age.

*Don’t you think they thought it was a dooms-day scenario when we shifted from storytelling to the written word? Or from hand-written books to the use of the print press? We’ll sort out the digital stuff.

*I have absolute faith that what we do is essential to kids and society.

*There is a high correlation between childhood reading and vocabulary.

*More children reading wouldn’t fix EVERY problem in society, but it would certainly help a lot.

KEYNOTE #2: IT TAKES TWO: The Pleasure and Pitfalls of Writing a Series by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton

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I sat there in awe as I listened to Julie Andrewsand her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton. Sure, part of it was because Julie Andrews is an icon. But that wasn’t the only reason, they were both lovely, hard working, funny, sweet and knowledgable. I was blown away by their dedication to children’s literature. Here’s some of what they had to say, but I have to be honest and let you know that some of their best stuff was in subtle gestures and humor–their interactions with each other. It was in the things that weren’t quotable. You could see it–fell it.

*The more we serve young readers, the more they will flourish & the better the world will be for everyone.

*We are so lucky to do what we do and love what we do, which is the secret to life, really.

*When writing, never underestimate the value of the bathroom break. (Or a spritz of perfume LOL!)

*The more you know your characters, the better your characters will react to the situation.

*Which of us here doesn’t remember the book that made the difference …that showed us we weren’t alone?

*Books were my anchor. My escape. My safe haven… They became the most trustworthy of friends.

*It’s hard to write books and it’s an enormous responsibility to write for children.

*Nobody’s perfect except for Mary Poppins … and she’s only practically perfect. *grin*

photo copy

Check out more books in the Julie Andrews Collection

And when I met Julie and Emma, I got to tell them about my nickname (Kimmiepoppins) and the picture of me attending my book launch event.

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It was a long story, told quickly, but I was at least able to share the truth by saying…you made a difference in my life. I got to say thank you. And then my arms and legs turned to jelly and I had the shakes for twenty minutes LOL! It sounds so stupid. I know that Julie Andrews puts her pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else, but I have a soft spot for the people who change the world in a way that involves some of my favorite things–musicals, books and children.

But I would also be remiss if I didn’t tell you how utterly and completely Emma won me over. She’s a gem in the writing community and we are so lucky to have her. On Sunday I became a huge fan.

I personally wouldn’t want to follow Julie Andrews and be the final speaker of the day, but I know one guy who can pull it off…

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FINAL KEYNOTE: Writing in 3 Easy Steps, 3 Somewhat Less Easy Steps, 2 Pretty Difficult Steps, and 1 Impossible Step by Mo Willems  (<—–Mo’s 9 steps are posted here)

Here are some other Mo-isms that i loved…

*Everyone was so inspirational–as the closer I feel obligated to be OUT-SPIRATIONAL!

*The glass is 1/2 full of poison.

*When I write a manuscript, if it makes sense I’ve done it wrong. (On leaving room for the illustrative part of the story)

*It’s my job to write incomprehensible books for illiterates. ROTFL!

*Craftsman vs Artist–An artist makes it beautiful, a craftsman is trying to understand the audience. Ex-A coffee mug can be gorgeous, but it also has to be able to hold coffee.

*Be succinct.

*Write about what you are passionate about.

*ALWAYS THINK ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE, NOT FOR YOUR AUDIENCE. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.

*Get better dreams. If you are making your dreams come true–you’re not shooting high enough. You’re setting the bar too low and that’s as far as you’ll go. You might not reach all of your dreams but you’ll go higher than you might have expected.

*You need to be invisible. How? Read THE BEST and find their mistakes. Every book has holes–there’s your space–your entry.

*The hook isn’t the story.

*Be a philosopher. Write what you don’t know. It’s only interesting to you if you’re trying to figure it out.

*Ideas are not to be trapped, they are gardens you plant everyday. You have to be patient.

*Write a lot and whatever’s not funny (or good) take it away and see what’s left. If nothings left at the end–start over. That’s what it means to be a professional.

*You are going to have to do public speaking–get used to it. Take a class.

*Your job is to be some child’s best friend.

Then it was time for the autograph party. Boo! No pics allowed of Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton. But here are a few others…

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Shaun Tan and Me (plus a little bit of Arthur Levine’s arm LOL!)

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Hanging out with Meg Rosoff. She is so fabulous!

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 Shaun Tan signing a copy of The Arrival for my local elementary school. Go Frogs!

And then I ran–dragging bags of books and luggage behind me–another conference over. But not really, it’s inspiration is only beginning to take root and grow…

What is the biggest thing you’ve heard from someone in the children’s literature world that has stuck with you and blossomed over time?

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Feb

6

2012

The NY12SCBWI Conference-Part 3

Filed under: Conferences, SCBWI, Uncategorized

It’s Sunday.  Technically it’s Super Bowl Sunday and I’m sitting in the middle of a football party in my living room. I’m in the big chair in the corner with my lap top and a heavy-duty set of ear plugs, digging into this last conference post that took place last Sunday. I’d like to say this is dedication, but truly it’s not.  I’m *gasp* not a football die hard and I only feel compelled to even be in the living room (instead of hiding upstairs) because my kids think I should be thrilled about this spectacular sports event. I do not begrudge them the excitement and passion of the game, I feel the same emotion when I go to the “Super Bowl” of kid lit writing events.  To each his own and if you like both…more power to you.  Let’s kickoff this last conference post!

 

 

Sunday January 29th, 2012

8:30-9:00  AWARD PRESENTATION for the Tomie dePaola Award and the Art Showcase winners but first a HUGE shout-out for the staff of the SCBWI.

Feel free to stop reading and give them a little standing ovation…I’ll wait.

Now, on to the Portfolio Showcase Winner: Mike Curato

This could have easily been a picture of me standing in front of the cupcake counter at the Magnolia Bakery.  Mike obviously knows how to capture a moment!

You can check out the art from the rest of the winners on the SCBWI Conference blog and also find artwork from more of our talented illustrators on the SCBWI’s Illustrator Gallery.

 

9:00-9:15  SURPRISE ANNOUNCEMENT by Jane Yolen

I don’t know about you, but I get tingly just thinking about Jane Yolen speaking–she always captures my attention and has something fantastic to say.  This year was no exception.  The SCBWI has started the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Grant.

Here is what Lee Wind on the SCBWI Blog had to say about it…

“Congratulations to Mary K. Whittington for winning this year’s inaugural Jane Yolen Mid-List Author grant! A published author who hasn’t had a new book come out in a while, Mary recently had a stroke, and is halfway through writing a new novel using voice recognition software. Jane calls Mary her hero, and hopes the grant helps her get that novel finished and out into the world.

And our cheers as well to Ann Whitford Paul and Barbara Diamond Golden for their honor grants.

More information about the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Grant (and how to nominate a mid-list author you know for next year) will be forthcoming on scbwi.org, where you’ll find information on all the author and illustrator Grants and Awards.”

Yes…Jane Yolen is made of awesome!

9:15-10:15  PANEL: METHODS TO THE MADNESS: THE PROCESS OF MAKING PICTURE BOOKS: Featuring the Bookmakers Dozen and  moderated by Laurent Linn

Don’t hate me–I loved the Bakers Dozen, but there were just too many people for one panel.  So many, I’m not even going to list them all.  It took me the first half hour of the presentation to figure out who was who.  But I did jot down a couple gems from Peter Brown…

*If you plan on making a career in this business–you have to be an idea factory!

*You need to take the reader into account–you don’t want to make the best book ever that no one reads.

*You don’t want to be the last one to write a vampire book–you want to be the first one to write a robovamp book.  Don’t steal that.

Time to goof off a little before the next panel…Lin said to stretch.

Scott, Jodi, Kim and Sam

Allan, Justin and Scott…ready to tackle the agent panel. LOL!

10:30-11:30  PANEL” THE CURRENT MARKET FOR YOUR WORK: FOUR AGENTS’ VIEWS

Moderator (LO) Lin Oliver

(GK) Ginger Knowlton, Agent, Curtis Brown LTD.

(RB) Regina Brooks, Founder and President, Serendipity Literary Agency, LLC

(CR) Chris Richman, Agent, Upstart Crow Literary

(KW) Ken Wright, Agent, Writers House

***I’M INTERRUPTING THIS BLOG WITH A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT…THE GIANTS HAVE SCORED A TOUCH DOWN!!!!  EVERYONE SEEMS EXCITED. NOW BACK TO OUR REGULAR PROGRAMING.***

State of the market…

(KW) Every time I make a submission, editors are asking where is this book going to go and how is the author going to get me there. The days are gone when someone can acquire a book just because they “like it.”

(GK) Exciting, Exhilarating, Exhausting

What are you looking for?

(CR) Voice…but a lot comes down to the hook.

(KW) I choose based on what I know about individual editors.

(RB) My job is to come up with ways to position the book.

(GK) Lots of debut novels being published, so agents and editors are looking for fresh voices.

(KW) YA is going to continue to trend.

On building a career author…

(GK) Nurture every connection–small community, play nice.

(CR) The more attractive you can make yourself, the more likely we are to want to work with you.  (No…not physically attractive. *head thump*)

11:30-12:30  CLOSING KEYNOTE: KEEPING YOUR FOCUS by Kathryn Erskine

I love how animated and enthusiastic Kathryn is!

F-freedom

O-organization

C-creativity

U-understanding

S-sharing

Here’s the best of each category…

FREEDOM

*Create whenever you can.

*Free yourself from the guilt that you’re taking time away from other people.

*Free yourself from self-doubt. Do you remember what books got awards when you were 15? No–you remember what books moved you.

*Whenever you think about hanging it up–remember there is a kid out there who needs you.

ORGANIZATION

*Organize your workspace.

*Organize your MS–Scrivener.  (I’m a personal fan.)

CREATIVITY

*To be creative you really have to take care of yourself.

*Being creative is hard, sublime, ridiculous.

*You’ve got to do what works for you.

UNDERSTANDING

*What do you want to say?

*Understand your audience–how to relate you your readers.

SHARING

*At some point you have to let your “baby” out into the world, but have it ready.  Taking some time to do it right is worth it.

*Published of now, take some time to connect with your readers NOW.

STAY FOCUSED…

*You know your passion–that’s why you’re here.

*talent plus determination.

*Books save us.

12:30-1:00  DOOR PRIZES AND CLOSING REMARKS

1:00-3:00 AUTOGRAPH PARTY!!!!!!

Chris Crutcher and Me!!!!

Making a cyber friend into a real life friend.  Cindy Rodriguez and Me.  And yes, I have on my TEAM WOLF PACK T-shirt!!!!

Class of 2k12 love–Me and Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

Kim and Kathryn Erskine–totally LOVE her!!!!

Kathryn Erskine signed one special for my Fishkill Frogs!

Me and my best buddy, Jodi Moore–author of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN. *love*

Me and the love triangle queen, Cassandra Clare.

Cheryl Klein is AWESOME!!! That’s all I have to say. *grin*

Lin Oliver signing for my boys who ADORE her books!!!!!!

The perfect end to a perfect weekend. (Magnolia Bakery)

Hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of the NY SCBWI Conference.  Next I’ll be heading to the Eastern PA 20th Annual Pocono Mountain Retreat, where I’ll be spending the weekend with…drum roll…Laurie Halse Anderson. *SQUEE*  If you’re not too far away, think about signing up, I’d love to hang out with you.

Any conferences in your future?  Tell me where you’re heading–I always love to hear about your writing adventures and I’d love to read about what you’ve learned along the way. Were you at NY?  What was your highlight? And who won that Super Bowl?  And were you watching?

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