Posts Tagged ‘Justin Brancato’




The NY 2018 SCBWI Winter Conference

Filed under: Conferences, Kim Sabatini, Kimberly Sabatini, Publishing, SCBWI, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing for Children

It’s that time of year again! #ny18scbwi This weekend was the NY SCBWI Winter Conference.

This year the SCBWI changed things up a little bit. Based on the feedback they’ve been receiving from it’s members, they wanted to try to create a conference that had a more intimate feel. The goal was to provide us with smaller, more craft based workshops. This meant the size of the conference was cut by roughly half. There were some other changes too and fun additions. So, strap on your seat belt and I’ll walk you through the event.

It was an exciting, shiny evening on Friday. The first ever, Golden Kite Awards were held and it was fabulous. We started the night with our golden girl, Lin Oliver introducing our keynote speaker, Chelsea Clinton.

Chelsea was intelligent and engaging and it was lovely to officially welcome her and her books into the our SCBWI family.

I was bummed I didn’t have my good camera with me. But the sting was lessen by checking out my signed copy of…

She Persisted

Chelsea brought enough books for every one to have one. It was so sweet. <3 And after she was done, we had the privilege of celebrating our fabulous peers who were selected to win the Golden Kite Award and the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor.

Every speaker was inspiring and their books all sounded amazing. And as always the people in my tribe inspired me and made me proud.

My roomie, Jodi chatting with the brave Elana K Arnold.

Me with Elana. I’m already reading WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF and it’s making me think and feel in powerfully important ways.

The Golden Kite for Middle Grade was Jack Cheng with SEE YOU IN THE COSMOS!

And Deborah Heiligman let me hold her golden kite for Vincent and Theo! A girl has to dream, right?

After that, there was strawberries and champagne and lots of catching up with friends. And then it was off to bed to get ready for tomorrow’s conference.

Kicking off Saturday morning was Lin Oliver giving us our stats for the conference…

*48 States were represented.

*Missing was Alabama and Arkansas. The Dakotas got it together this year.

*Participants also came from 13 nations.

*Our participants and their day jobs were also diverse. There was a composer, a natural gas marketer, a pediatrician, a psychic medium and a crime scene detective in the audience.

Lin suggested that since us nerdy artists weren’t the most socially out front people, a good ice breaker would be to go around and ask someone new…”are you the crime scene detective?”



Here are his best take aways…

*A great exercise is to tell a story about yourself. We can see greatness in others, but it’s in us too.

*It’s hard to judge your own work–listen to those who can help you and come to the conference like a blank slate, ready to take it all in.

*If you can look at your earlier work and cringe a little bit, you’ve improved.

*There is no such thing as paying your dues. You must work hard, but there is some randomness in the process.

*Find those who are unbiased and who will give you true and trusted advice.

*It’s important to know who you are and be inspired by the things you know and love.


Next up was the first of three Master Class Workshops: THE IMPORTANCE OF PACING with Phoebe Yeh

Here’s the information I’ll be working into my writing…

*Try doing a chapter breakdown of your novel. Chapters that are all about the same length keep the pace from being choppy.

*Often authors writing a series hold on to the big pay-off for a future book at the expense of writing the best book they can write now. Never save what you need in the moment.

*When things feel rushed, you may have to write transition or your characters might not be developed enough.

*It’s hard to have a flashback without slowing things down.


After lunch–Lobby Rat style on the lobby carpet, I attended my second Master Class Workshop of the Conference: A PRACTICAL INTRODUCTION TO THE MYSTERIES OF LINE EDITING by Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson.

This Master Class had so much information in it, I’m going to recommend that if you ever get an opportunity to work with Harold and Eileen, you take advantage of it.

Here’s some of their best tips and tricks…

*Stages of editing…

–1. Developmental editing (big picture–problems with plot and characterization)

–2. Line editing (unnecessary material, clumsy phrasing, convoluted sentences and sequencing)

–3. Copy-editing (final polish–punctation, grammar, spelling and style)

*Line editing is typically learned via apprenticeship.

*It’s messy because it’s subjective, has multiple elements and every editor does it differently.

*Line editing has two core components–teachable elements and personal elements. And the hard part is doing them both at the same time.

*How are line edits done? By hand or with Track Changes.

*The best thing you can do for your writing is trust your reader.

*Line editing is learned by doing. Here are some of the recommended resources for learning more about this skill…

And if you want to learn more about where Harold and Eileen will be doing conference and online workshops or their independent editing, you can find out more about them here

With our Mater Classes over for the day, it was back to the ballroom for the editor panel: HOW I GET TO YES!


CD–Caitlyn Dloughy (vice president/editorial director of Caitlyn Dloughy Books-Atheneum Books for Young Readers)

JS–Jill Santopolo (editorial director of Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group)

TL–Tiffany Liao (editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)

DN–Daniel Nayeri (publisher at a new imprint at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group)

What makes you say yes to a MS?

JS–Beautiful writing. I can help fix plot and character. I need to be able to see a vision for the book.

TL–Reading the MS is a transportive, immersive experience. The writer has a velcro voice that sticks with you. Can I push this MS to great? Does the writer have something to say–clarity of vision? Funny voices. Middle grade. No horses LOL!

CD–When I’m reading and I get nervous because it’s going so well and I don’t want the author to mess up. If it holds–I have to publish it.

DN–the stakes in a new imprint are high and I can lose my job with every bad acquisition. So I chose something that is undeniably worth loving despite it’s flaws.

When a MS is rejected, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Help us understand this.

JS–It might not be what the editor is looking for at the moment. JS likened it to buying a bridesmaid’s dress. If the bride is looking for a light blue, casual elegant book–they aren’t doing to want a bronze book.

CD–Sometimes I’ve just purchased a similar book. Sometimes it’s bad timing. I’ve written rejection letters while crying.

DN–Up front costs to make books are much larger than you might imagine. You can love someone else’s home, but that doesn’t mean you want to take out a mortgage and buy it.

TL–What’s worse than rejection is a very painful publishing process. Things can look great on paper but you need the X-factor in a project you take on.

After dinner and mingling with the infamous mashed potato bar, slider station and cupcake galore we headed to the portfolio showcase/illustrators social. This was awesome because I got a chance to view the portfolios of friends, lobby rats and new artists who tickled my artistic fancy. Here’s some of their work…

Art by: Stephanie Olivieri, dooleyglot, Milanka Reardon, Jessica Lanan, Jennifer M. Varn, Nick Fasnacht, Larry Daley, Amy Kenney, Kerry McQuaide, Justin Brancato and Stephanie Ruble. And Edna Cabcabin Moran’s card jumped out of my folder and walked away. Bad card!

And after that–as usual–the Lobby Rats (the ones who could stay awake) were hanging in the lobby <3

And then we were back up on Sunday and kicking off another busy day with the Awards Presentations followed by and unexpected pep talk by the illustrious Jane Yolen–WHAT THE OLD LADY HAS TO SAY: REVISING YOUR WRITING LIFE.

*Return to the compost pile of your own work–reinvention works!

*Try different styles and genres.

*Nature–it’s free for the taking. Three idea is the low end for eery walk. File them for later.

*Don’t let anyone tell you you’re JUST a writer.

*Have fun when you’re dreaming.




EM–Erin Murphy (Erin Murphy LiteraryAgency)

MoN–Molly O’Neill (Root Literary)

KH–Kirsten Hall (President of Catbird)

BS–Brooke Sherman (Janklow & Nesbit Associates)

MZ–Marietta Zacker (Gallt & Zacker)

The panel started with a brief overview of each panelist and then turned into a humorous challenge to discover who had taken the most circuitous root to becoming an agent. BS did law and at one point was in the Peace Corp. MoN was a traveling youth minister and MZ declared herself a winner as a MATH major in college. :o)

What’s coming? Trends?

MoN–Lots of room in YA. Everyone is looking for the next Hunger Games but publishers are being more cautious than they have in the past. MG is thriving. Books that are marketed for education are finding their way onto award lists, best seller lists, into movies and into the cultural conversation. Lots of opportunity for author/illustrators and there are interesting things to be borrowed from the TV and Movie industry. PB’s are doing well also and we are seeing more and more innovative stuff being done.

KH–In PB we are seeing better representation of marginalized characters, PB biographies. And PB’s are effecting the demand for more illustrated chapter books. Readers want visuals attached to content.

BS–I think there is an absence of trends in the YA space right now and I’m happy about it. Originals instead of a knockoff of a knockoff. But that does’t mean publishers aren’t TRYING to find the next trend. It’s great to see marginalized voices but we should never focus on the author’s identity over the story.

Are we in a a corrective phase?

BS–We are having conversations we need to be having, but if we can introduce more nuance to the conversations we can find more common ground. I want to work with people who are willing to have uncomfortable conversations in order to make better books.

EM–Children’s Book Publishing had been a bright spot–generally robust. But last year was tough. Books were delayed because people couldn’t write. We were creatively stagnant and it feels like love is broken right now.

MZ–Give yourself permission to write your own story–that gives room for everyone to have a place.

EM–We are now telling stories that have never been told and these will be the new classics!

MZ–The only kid lit book on menstruation was ARE YOU THERE GOD IT’S ME, MARGARET? This is not a trend, it’s life. Half of our readers have periods!

EM–There are kids who NEED books about dealing with grief.

MoN–Older books were much more formulaic. Readers want to connect with our books by seeing themselves. And teens/tweens don’t want to be told what to think. They want to be respected for who they are.

Phew…that was a lot of highlights. But they had so much great stuff to share.


Then is was off to the final Master Class of the conference: Carmela Iaria–CONNECTING WITH THE GATEKEEPERS: HOW TO GET YOUR BOOK NOTICED BY TEACHERS AND LIBRARIANS.

This Pro Workshop had a CRAZY amount of excellent information. Here was the big picture of what we covered…

1.Identify the Core Audience you’re trying to reach. (classroom teachers, school admin/curriculum developer, public librarians, school librarians or professors)

2. Decide the main pitch.

You have your pitch and positioning, what happens next? Look into…

3. Institutional Press and Reviews. (traditional book review coverage, blog review coverage, consumer coverage [goodreads, Amazon])

4. Promotional materials (discussion questions, curriculum guides, posters, bookmarks etc..)

5. Advertising (print and digital ads, traditional print ads, email blasts, e-newsletter , website display ads, social media ads)

6. Digital and online promotion (join the social conversation, follow influencers, create your own social media sites.

7. Apply for awards (national awards, state awards–>state reading lists)

8. Make author appearances. (local libraries, local schools, Skype, regional book festivals, regional/state conferences, national conferences)

And here is our fabulous faculty…

And then we ended with a power house…Angie Thomas, debut author of the NYTimes bestseller THE HATE U GIVE–HOW I BECAME A WRITER.

“I’m here to ask you to change the world.”

“It’s Rosa Park’s birthday, Black History Month and two weeks until Black Panther comes out, so I can say what I want. Publishing failed me.”

“I was never the hero in books. Rappers became my heroes. Hip hop was urban America’s CNN. It gave us our voice–at it’s root, hip hop is a VOICE. Tupac spoke about me, he saw me, he recognized who I was–books didn’t. I wanted to write the way rappers do–make things messy.”

“Activism is messy.”

“Diversity is NOT a trend. DO NOT make your MC a POC as a way in. We respect those we write for–they are not a meal ticket.”

“Put in the work and get a sensitivity reader. It’s not censorship–it’s a good editing habit.”

“We don’t deal with issue books, we write great books that deal with issues.”

“Show your readers who they can be and what if they are instilled with compassion because they read our books?”

“We do have the power to change the world.”

And just like that, my heart swelled, my mind cleared and my battery was fully recharged. All that was left was getting some fabulous books signed and saying my goodbyes.

Just pretend Angie and I aren’t making silly faces LOL!

And I got to hug one of my favorite people in Kidlit–Laurie Halse Anderson <3 How’s that for an awesome ending to a conference?


Hope you enjoyed the recap. And remember that next year I have a Lobby Rats button just for you. All you need to do it come. I’ve got my fingers crossed you’ll be there.





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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


How to Write About Difficult Subjects with Ellen Hopkins

Can brought her information at a fast and furious pace in order to give us as much knowledge as she could in a short time. Here are some of the things I was able to capture…


*51% of children today are people of color.

*We are all related.

*When writing, non-human characters are sometimes the ultimate diversity.

*Everything you write will be criticized. Be diligent–be brave.

*Books that feature diverse characters are not there just for a specific type of reader. And the diversity is not there just to teach you something.

Then Ellen mesmerized the audience with her personal stories, letters from readers and samples of her own writing…


*These are the kids we don’t wan to believe exist, but it’s true.

*Never self-censor–tell what needs to be told.


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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