Posts Tagged ‘laurie halse anderson’




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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Goals: You Have to Talk Nicely to the Universe Before You Disturb It

Filed under: Community, Pondering, Publishing, Writing, Writing for Children, Young Adult (YA)

In typical fashion, the new year kicks off conversations about goals and fears–particularly the fear of not achieving said goals. I imagine this to be true for the majority of folks that breath, but I KNOW its a hot topic for writers. Writing and selling books is like asking people to expose their soft spots to the world and then letting everyone take pot shots at them. Sometimes you get high fives, but mostly you get snickers and frowns. Sometimes you get worse. Even when everything is handled professionally, being critiqued can cause a bucket load of insecurities to rise to the surface.


In a recent conversation with some of my closest writing buds, I reminded everyone that we had to go into 2014 with the right attitude. Some people may think it’s hokey, but I believe there is a difference between saying…

a) I want an agent.


b) I will get an agent when my writing and my understanding of the publication process is good enough.

In one sentence, the universe hears you say want and you get WANT, which wasn’t really what you were after with that statement. In the other sentence the universe hears WILL and that is a whole different animal. You’ve planted a seed. Now you have to give it time to grow roots. I’m a big fan of deadlines, they motivate me to stop procrastinating and get things done, but I’ve learned to never attach deadlines to the aspects of my success I’m unable to control. There is a difference between saying…

a) I will sell a new book every year.


b) I will continue to sell books. I won’t stop writing and I won’t stop trying. Good books will sell, so I need to write good books.

One of those sentences is a lot more attainable than the other.

I also try to remember that the next new thing is always a freaking weird thing first. What the heck am I talking about? Hindsight is not so easy to spot the first time around. All the GREAT new books and authors–the break-out stars, whether they were overnight successes or years and years in the making–came from an uncomfortable uniqueness that most people anticipated would be a big pit of failure. The very same weird thing that makes writers impossible to see coming, is what also makes them visionary. Everyone is looking for the next NEW thing. New is the operative word.

There is a big difference between saying…

a) I’m going to be the next Laurie Halse Anderson


b) My name is Kimberly Sabatini and there is not another person out there that can write the books in my heart and my head. My goal is to have a long and successful career, like Laurie Halse Anderson, where I  write award winning books and where I’m an advocate and role model for teens, librarians, teachers and my fellow writers.  I want to WILL help Laurie disturb the universe. <3


That’s MY story and I’m sticking to it. I know it works because it’s gotten me here so far. Take a moment and think about your goals for the future and if you haven’t already been doing it…

*phrase them in the positive.

*take off all the crazy deadlines that run the risk of making you think you’re a failure. If you have big plans–give them room to unfold.

*know  your role models and separate who they are from what the do.

*understand what it is that makes you freaking weird and then then ride that pony to the finish line. No one else has YOUR voice. Use it to disturb the universe.

You’ve got this!


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TOUCHING THE SURFACE is out in Paperback TODAY! Enter to Win a Copy

Filed under: Apocalypsies, Author Events, Book Signings, Booksellers, Check-it-out, Class of 2k12, Community, Conferences, Contests, Dancing, Family, In the Wild, Publishing, SCBWI, The Class of 2k12, Touching the Surface, Wolfson Literary, Writing, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)





TOUCHING THE SURFACE is out in paperback TODAY!!!!!

Where you can find it:


*Barnes & Noble


Can you believe it’s been almost a year since I became an author? And even longer since I sold my first book and got an agent. Here’s a little walk down memory lane. Humor me–I’m nostalgic today. So in no particular order because that would add a layer of organization I’m not capable of, here’s just a few of my most fabulous moments between finding my agent and birthing a paperback…


Standing outside the Simon & Schuster offices.

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Apocalypsies at the LA SCBWI Conference!!!


Meeting my agent (Michelle Wolfson) and editor (Anica Rissi) for the first time. <3


The Class of 2k12!!!!!

The day I got my ARC of TOUCHING THE SURFACE!!!!

Came home from a run to find my ARC’s had finally arrived!!! Such a squee moment!!!

ARC-Touching the Surface

The ARC!


Authors, Simon & Pulse friends and Writer Buds at the NY SCBWI Conference. <3

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Bookmarks!!! Thanks Jeff Fielder.


Bringing my book to the Golf Bag Holder (Eastern PA Poconos Mountain Retreat with Jodi Moore.)


First book I ever signed went to Laurie Halse Anderson. Love her.

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This made it feel so real.

YAmazing Race

Loved participating in the YAmazing Race with my Apocalypsies!!!


First author event, even before my book was out. LOL! With my buds from the Class of 2k12. <3


Making friends at BEA!!! Lisa and Kim.


First BEA was even sweeter because I got to spend time with my fabulous agent. <3


Blogger love <3  Finally got to meet Erica!!!!

yotlicon copy

Joining YA Outside the Lines. 


It was a BEA Apocalypsie event of awesome.


Ummmm I got to hear JOHN GREEN!!!!!!!!!!!


Made amazing new blogger friends. Kim and Grace. <3


Hanging with Jay Asher at LA SCBWI–Dude, it was awesome.

Bookanistas Button FINAL

Joining the Bookanistas!

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Kimmiepoppins met Mary Poppins!!!! I met Julie Andrews!!!!


Signing my contract!!!!!! I AM GOING TO BE AN AUTHOR!!!


My book was at Bologna. Takes my breath away.




My Yanni dance girls wearing TOUCHING THE SURFACE T-shirts. <3


Signing books at my book launch.

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Good friends drove in from far away despite all the trouble with Hurricane Sandy.


Just an amazing experience.


Unable to thank my friends and family enough for their love and support on that special day.


More book launch at Oblong Books. I LOVE that bookstore and everyone in it. <3

Kim and Dad at Powell Point-Grand Canyon July 1998


Dad–there–even when he couldn’t be. The dedication.


On bookshelves in bookstores.


Kimmiepoppins finally gets a book launch in NYC after Hurricane Sandy delayed it. Mean Hurricane–awesome party.


Woo hoo!!! I got to speak at the NY Public Library.


I’m a fangirl–it’s A.S. King people!!!!!


I’m a fangirl–it’s Sharon Creech people!!!!


My first SCBWI faculty gig at the Eastern NY SCBWI Conference–where I got paid to talk with my hands about things I love.

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Connecting with teen readers and making hedgehogs. *grin*

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Loving on my writer mama, K.L. Going. <3 Wouldn’t be here without her.

And because you made it to the end of my reminiscing…you shall be rewarded with a chance to win a signed copy of the brand spanking new TOUCHING THE SURFACE paperback!!!!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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SCBWI Eastern PA Pocono Mt. Retreat 2012

Filed under: Conferences, SCBWI, Touching the Surface, Writing, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

Another successful SCBWI Eastern PA Pocono Mt. Retreat! Every time I attend this conference there is something special going on. This year I was thrilled to spend the weekend with Laurie Halse Anderson and to bring a friend to her first writing conference, but more about that later. First off, everyone celebrated the 20 year anniversary of the conference by exchanging memories. I was still in transit, but my buddy Jodi Moore (author of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN) told the very special story of the Golf Bag Holder. If you haven’t heard this story you can read about it HERE.

Now we have two of our “babies” sitting in the Golf Bag Holder with us. <3

Now that everyone knows the secret of the Golf Bag Holder, everyone wants in on the love. This just makes me smile.

First up was my Workshop Session with Sara Sargent, who talked about Inspiration, World Building and Other Indoor Sports.

My favorite thing she said in this session was that watching a character evolve is fun. Seeing it happen live is exciting, so take your reader on the ride with you instead of giving them so much backstory. I don’t think I can ever be reminded of this too much. Great advice.

The first Keynote speaker of the Conference was New York Times best selling illustrator Amy June Bates

Here is some of my favorite nuggets from Amy…
*If you wish to be pretty, please be more honest with yourself.”
*One person is a portrait, more is a story.
*Dynamic bodies captured in gestures tell stories.
Later in the evening we had Sweets, Swaps and Shirts. This is where you wear a fun T-shirt (conversation starter), sway books and eat candy. I brought some of my favorite Simon Pulse books to share. I loved sharing these wonderful authors with my friends.


This is the part of the program where the Friday all-night gab-fest mutates into a dire need for coffee AND the heart thumping anticipation of knowing that Laurie Halse Anderson is going to be the morning’s guest speaker. *SQUEE*

Laurie’s keynote was Writing the life of Your Dreams. Crap! How am I going to pick out just a few choice phrases for you to savor when everything she says resonates with me and makes my heart grow by three sizes? I’ll do my best…

*Never Google your name–You only need to know what YOU think of your work.

*Writing time will not magically appear.

*Having a dedicated writing space opens up a dedicated writing space in your brain.

*Give yourself the gift of art, especially if you’re feeling dry. You need new stuff going into the well.

*”I would rather have a root canal and then chew on aluminum foil that write a first draft.” I LOVE THIS WOMAN!

*Ideal ratio of time spent for writers–10 hours writing : 5 hours reading : 1 hour farting on the internet. *head thunk*

Next up I had the pleasure of having a second Workshop session with the lovely Sara Sargent. 

It was a packed house so I pulled up a section of rug, which was actually rather comfortable. This session with Sara was about TENSION and how to take your novel to the next level.

My third Workshop session was outside of my usual box, but I enjoyed it tremendously. YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP: HOW TO USE PRIMARY SOURCES TO CREATE NARRATIVE NON-FICTION by Deborah Heiligman.

As I mentioned, narrative non-fiction is not something I ever plan to write myself. Research makes me break out in hives, but I LOVED hearing about how Deborah created CHARLES AND EMMA and I’m biting at the bit to read it now. Attending this session gave me lots of great take aways that I could translate into my own writing life, but the one thing that really struck a cord was when Deborah said…”It all has to be in service to the love story.” What she meant was that, with an avalanche of facts and interesting information to pick from, the only way to successfully chose what to put in the book came when she reminded herself that her story was a love story and all the information needed to progress that plot line of Darwin’s life. I loved being reminded of that–I know how helpful it is to have that focus in my own writing. So, as a little side note, I highly encourage you to step outside of your box every once in awhile and take a session that you don’t think will be a perfect fit, because you just might find something wonderful in the unexpected.

Now it’s time for Laurie Halse Anderson to get mean about revision in Workshop #4

I’ll share a couple of her secrets with you…

*Everything needs to be on the table to be cut or changed–even the main character.

*It doesn’t matter if it REALLY happened. It’s only good if it informs the story.

*It can always be better.

*The fun of reading is the mystery–don’t weigh down it down with too much back story.

*Make the character’s life hard.

*Kids reach for books to find out how other people deal with situations.

*THE GAP-this magical place between the reader and the story. You want to trust the reader enough to let them fill out some of the places on their own.


At dinner, Taylor and I had our very first knitting lesson. It was so much fun when it stopped being confusing LOL!

This is how I started…

And this is how I ended…

Megan, Carli, Kim, Stephanie and Taylor

After dinner the lovely Kay Winters talked about THE POWER OF PICTURE BOOKS.

BTW–Guess who had an ARC in the Silent Auction?

ME!!!!! I’m very happy that TOUCHING THE SURFACE could help raise funds for next year’s scholarships. And the auction winner was…

My girl and yarn guru, Carli Bandeira. I really hope she loves it. <3

And just when you think that we’d exhausted our sugar rush from the Sweet Inspirations candy bags with writing prompts…

It’s time for a dance party… Twist and Shout!!! Oh, and Mary–we did Jagger LOL!


Heading back in after checking out of our room and putting our bags in the car, Taylor and I were cruelly reminded (by Megan and Jodi) that we had yet to make it to the table with the morning beverages LOL!

Next I got the chance to hear Deb Heiligman speak some more…

*Writing for children is the most important job in the world.

*When I am writing I recognize myself–I know who I am when I’m writing.

And to finish off the conference there was a FIRST PAGES/FIRST LOOKS Panel that evaluated the first pages of picture book, middle grad and young adult manuscripts in addition to a selection of three illustrations by three of our artists. And of course, because the conference was so wonderful, I can’t help but avoid saying goodbye. Here were some more highlights from the weekend…

Friends sharing their books.

I finally was formally introduced to Carli’s tea duck. He totally quacks me up!

A full circle moment for me–getting to share one of my heroes with someone I love very much. Laurie personally welcomed Taylor into our tribe.

We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us…

Laurie and Taylor. This makes my heart squish.

Laurie signing books for the Fishkill Frogs!

Taylor with knotted yarn barf. ROTFL!

Sara Sargent and I have a very similar chocolate addiction. We bonded. Green & Black’s Organic

Yep, I was totally trying to put Angie in my suitcase. I love this lady.

And speaking of love…

I know it’s a little blurry, but the thing is…I can see it clearly and that is all that matters.

Monday is almost here and I’m more than tired. I stayed up too late talking to my friends all weekend, but very moment was a gift I couldn’t pass up, and speaking of presents…

I’m now the proud owner of my very own Time Turner. It feels good to have it–you never know when you might need it. But for now…

I don’t want to go back and change a thing–it was perfect.

I’m taking questions about the conference or the magic of the Golf Bag Holder.  Or you can feel free to chime in about the sheer awesomeness of Laurie Halse Anderson or the SCBWI Eastern PA. Wish you all could have been there.

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Fan-girl Heads to the SCBWI Poconos Mt. Retreat

Filed under: Conferences, SCBWI, Touching the Surface, Writing, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

I’m heading off the the Eastern PA SCBWI Pocono Mountain Retreat today!!!! So much fun–I love this conference. I’ve been going for years. It’s an intimate conference that has a professional, yet homey feel. It all has a nice mix of workshops that inspire and provide craft. And this year one of the keynote speakers is…


SQUEE!!!! It’s Laurie Halse Anderson.

No, you don’t have to clean out your ears–I AM SPENDING THE WHOLE WEEKEND IN A STATE OF COMPLETE AND UTTER FAN-GIRLINESS!!!!!! There are also lots of other great people and events that I can’t wait to share with you. I’ll be tweeting live on Twitter with the hashtag #SCBWIPA. So follow along–join the conversation. I’ll try to get on FB once in awhile too. Off to finish getting ready. See you on Monday!

So, if you could spend the weekend with any author at all…who would it be?

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Banned Books Week-Revolutions of the Soul

Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s Banned Books Week and you know how I feel about that.  Judy Blume also has an opinion…

Like Judy, I agree that all reading is valuable.  I believe this whole heartedly, but just to be sure, I stopped and did a quick re-evaluation as a parent.  After a hearty gut check, I was happy to realize that I’m still a fan of giving access.

There’s a difference between providing age appropriate content and censoring content that is age appropriate.  

And what about reading up?  I’m all for it.  I did it all the time as a kid and it was empowering, educational and exciting.  I have yet to discover any negative side effects from the experience.  In fact, I think it has made me a better person.

I hope there comes a day when Banned Books Week is a laughable relic.  When generations of future readers look back and laugh at our idiocy.  But in the mean time, I must confess that I have a secret desire…

I want to write the kind of book that people need to ban.

I strive to write things that are going to connect with people on a real and honest level.  I’m not writing to stir the potWhen a book is banned because its readers find meaning in it

Two of my favorite mantras are…

“Be yourself.  Have an opinion. Tell the world.”   by K.L. Going

“Dare to disrupt the universe.”  by Laurie Halse Anderson

For me, those are words to live by.  But I’m not alone.  There are many who dare.  Here are the ALA’s top 100 banned/challenged books from 2000-2009.  I bet you’re going to be shocked to find some of your favorites are on this list.  It makes me crazy but I try to remember one other thing that Laurie Halse Anderson said…

“Revolutions of the soul are scary things.”

What is your favorite banned book?  Is there a particular book you’re shocked to see on the list? 

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SCBWI LA 40th Anniversary Conference-Part 9

Filed under: Apocalypsies, Conferences, SCBWI

This is it!  I’m ready to finish this up and move on.  Fasten your seat belts and get ready for your final SCBWI LA Conference installment!

This is not John Green.  Not a single one.

Nova Ren Suma, Julie Strauss-Gabel and Michael Bourret fill in for the missing John Green. (unable to make it due to medical issues)  I was seriously bummed not to get to meet one of my favorite authors, but so happy for my friend Nova (author of IMAGINARY GIRLS) to get this opportunity.  

I wasnt the only Nova fan!  Every crowd should have an enthusiastic Mike Jung in the back LOL!  (If you’re lucky)
Some highlights from their discussion…
*Nova-When something really scares you, its probably the right thing to explore.  I picked Michael as an agent because he pushed me to grow as a writer.
*Michael-I know that I’ve lost out on clients because I’ve been honest about what my expectations were.
From my own experience, I can’t agree more.  A great fit with your agent is the foundation you need and it will increase the chances that you’ll find an editor who is also an amazing match.
Time for the 2011 Golden Kite Awards Luncheon
We had a wonderful slide show, looking back over 40 years.  It was amazing.  Wish it was posted some place so that I could share it with you

This was dessert.  Everything about this made me smile.

Listening to the speeches of the Golden Kite recipients.  They were fantastic–so proud of them.

A special keynote from the impeccable Richard Peck.  I adore this man.  

Hanging with the Apocalypsies…Emily, Kim, Tamara and Mike.

This is when that big lunch and dessert became a problem.  Navigating the halls in a chocolate coma, I didn’t get to Bruce Coville’s workshop in time to get a seat or a piece of rug.  This picture was taken from the door with my hands up over my head.  The good news was that I could hear him just fine.

GAHHH!!!! Every word out of this man’s mouth is genius.  I’ll try to pick the best ones to share with you…
*Stories happen when a character is forced to make a difficult choice.  NEED DRIVES THE ACTION.
*Use yourself, steal from everyone around you.  Cast the book as if you are writing a play.
*Characters should have…
     -an agenda (theirs, not yours)
     -some inconsistencies (do you know anyone who doesn’t?)
*Plot is what happens when desire meets obstacle.
*If there is no chance to crash if you have not jumped.
Because the universe is fair, and wanted to make up for my inability to even cross the threshold of Bruce’s workshop, I was able to snag front row seats for the final keynote of the conference.  *squee*  While we waited for…drum roll…Laurie Halse Anderson.  We decided to take some pictures.  Guess who joined us?  Linda Sue Park!!!!!

Jodi, Laura, Edna, Amy N., Linda Sue Park, Kim and Amy S.

Then Linda switched out with our buddy Jeff so he could get in the picture too!
Laurie Halse Anderson-DARING THE UNIVERSE
Laurie, means so much to me.  I can’t put into words the effect that she has had on my life, the impact she has made.  The places I’ve dared to go because I knew I had a friend along for the journey.  Yes, because of her I have become someone who dares to disturb the universe.  I love that, I love her and I want a T-shirt that says it!  

Here is what you just can’t miss…
*Art disturbs the universe.  When we create it we make our neighbors nervous and our politicians fret.  
*We gather here to collect our courage.
*Revolutions of the soul are a scary thing.
*If you don’t jump, the wings never come.
*To write is to terrorize yourself.
*When things get bad, just remember, BABY…YOU’RE GOING TO DIE.  Puts it in perspective. Ha!
*It is your obligation to disturb the universe the best that you can.
*In 20 years, you will be more disappointed in the things you didn’t do than the ones you did.
*In children’s literature, we are not competitors, we are co-conspirators.
And here are the best co-conspirators that any of us could possibly have.  *sniff* 
Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser taking a bow after 40 years of love, dedication and brilliance.  <3

Dan Santat signing a book for the boys.

Kim and Dan giving K.L. Going the thumbs up.  (Dan is illustrating her new picture book)
The amazing author/illustrator Marla Frazee.  I adore her picture books.  *heart squish*

No one can blame me for sneaking Jon Scieszka the bunny ears.  He’s just mad because he didn’t think of it first. LOL!

No need to get teary about the end of the conference–yet.  It’s off to KidLit Night at the Pink Taco!!!!

What you don’t know is that we’re hungry enough to eat the table!  (Can you see me leaning in?)

Apocalypsies!!!!  Gretchen, Kim, Emily and Debra.  I love these gals!!!!

We ate.  We hung out.  A few of us even did the Pitch Slam with Mary Kole. 
 It was so hard to say goodbye to everyone.  The conference was amazing, but it was time to go home to the other people we love, to return to our writing, to once again sleep more than 4 consecutive hours and to begin to dream about going again next year.  Ummm and to do laundry.  *head thunk*
I know that these recaps have been endless.  I hope I was able to capture a little bit of the magic of the experience and share it with you.  Because honestly, I wish you’d been there too.  If you have any recommendations for things you’d like to see in future conference blogs–let me know and I’ll see if I can make it happen.  Hope to see you at a conference soon.  :o)

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SCBWI LA 40th Anniversary Conference-Part 3

Filed under: Conferences

It’s Friday afternoon at the SCBWI LA 40th Anniversary Conference and we have…


Seriously, I’m not great at taking notes when Libba is speaking, due to the fact that I’m laughing so hard.  But here are some pearls of delightful wisdom that did manage to make it into my notebook…

*Getting it wrong is a necessary part of getting it right.

*Book 1-this is a kind of ignorance is bliss and you only get it once.
  Book 2-this is fun, I already know the characters!
  Book 3-yeah, I got nothing.  I love deadlines.  I love the whooshing sound they make when they fly by.

*Best Survival suggestions…
     -The voice is in there, buried under the one you hate.
     -Close the door on external voices.
     -Readers are not trends.
     -The difference between the right novel and the wrong novel might just be in how you present your novel.  Find out what works for your story.
     -Writing is freaking scary.
     -We write it wrong in the beginning to protect ourselves.
     -All books carry our DNA and if we knew that going in we’d be too frightened to write.

I know I’m spoiled.  I know it’s completely unfair that I get to follow a Keynote by Libbra Bray with a Workshop session with Laurie Halse Anderson.  All I can say is that I have a freaking fantastic fairy god-mother.  That’s the only logical explanation.


Laurie is one of my personal super heroes.  Many of you probably know that she was the first speaker at my very first SCBWI Conference and she has shaped my life as a writer.  I never get tired of being inspired by her heart and soul and her wisdom.  Again, here are some of my favorite take-aways from her talk…

*Personal problems are like whack-a-moles…they never stop popping up.  You need to accept the distractions and manage the interruptions.

*24 hours is enough.  God is not cruel, but she expects you to do the work. *grin*

*Discomfort won’t kill you.  Staying with discomfort will pay off with strength and growth.

*You are in more control of how you spend your time and energy than you want to admit…
     -Turn of the TV/internet
     -Stop volunteering.  There are other people who fill their creative voids through volunteering at the PTA-this is not your calling.  You fuel yourself through a different kind of art.
     -Family needs to see you follow your dreams.

*Be gentle with yourself.  The doubt lives in all of us.  Don’t be a writer, be writing.  Be the verb instead of the noun.

Next up….


This was a very interesting look at a topic that we are constantly debating and trying to figure out.  Here are some key pieces of info…

*Adults reeducate and retool to maneuver new landscapes.  Children have nothing to unlearn about the digital world-it’s where they live.

*Story still matters the most.

*We are not moving away from print, we are moving towards a world of print AND digital.

Now its Autograph time!!!!!!

Kim and Jerry Pinkney

Chatting with Bruce Coville.
Talking about dyslexia and how my boys love to play Unicorn Chronicles.  

Bruce Coville and Kim.
Norton Juster signing the Phantom Tollbooth and laughing because Jules Feiffer didn’t leave him any room when he signed it at the NY Conference. LOL!
Laurie Halse Anderson and Kim *heart squish*
Finally got to meet some awesome online friends in person.  Mike Jung, debut author of GEEKS, GIRLS AND SECRET IDENTITIES out in the fall off 2012 and Nova Ren Suma, author of IMAGINARY GIRLS.  I love these guys!
While I didn’t get a picture, I also snagged a copy of BROOKLYN BURNING by Steve Brezenoff.  I am so excited to read this!!!!!
We’ve finally made it through the first day of the conference, unless you’ve decided to do Peer Group Critiques, Yoga, the Illustrator Social, International Member Social or the Nonfiction Writers Social.  I opted to just be social and EAT!!!!  I’ll be back on Wednesday, kicking off Saturday’s recap with the amazing Donna Jo Napoli.  If you want the conference effect to feel real, you should probably stay up till the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday, jump around in excitement and grab a coffee and some starch at a Starbucks near you before settling down to check out the blog.  *yawn* 
See you Wednesday.  

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The Wall Street Journal vs. My Heroes–Darkness TO Visible

Filed under: Young Adult (YA)

I’m sure you’ve seen the article in the Wall Street Journal–Darkness too Visible.  Everyone is commenting on it and I don’t want to be redundant.  In short, the YA community is up in arms.  We had a visceral response to what was written and for multiple reasons.  Here are my favorite responses–Libba BrayLaurie Halse Anderson and the voices of everyone on twitter who commented on #YAsaves.

What I want to talk about is heroes.  YA is filled with them and I don’t mean the ones that are created in between the pages of books. (Although they can be pretty awesome too.)  I’m talking about the real heroes.  I have been a member, in some capacity, of the YA community for a long time.  I’ve been a teenager, a reader, an aspiring author, a friend and I will be a debut novelist in the Fall of 2012. Never, in all my different interactions with those in YA, have I ever met an author, publisher, editor or agent who wasn’t ultimately driven by their love of writing and their desire to bring something good into the world.

Yes, yes, yes–I know, publishing is a business and ugly things happen just like in any slice of life.  I’m not naive.  But I believe, that at the end of the day, most of what we do is driven by that insecure, bruised, shamed, lonely teenager in all of us.  We work as a team to bring these books into the world because we are trying to fill the void that was there when our book wasn’t.  This means something to us.  The person we are today and the one who never got past some really hard and ugly things.

In my opinion, the Wall Street Journal article opinion piece, will end up having done way more good than damage.  It has reminded everyone that we have real heroes that walk among us.  I have K.L. Going’s slogan pinned right next to my desk where I can see it every day.  “Be yourself.  Have an opinion.  Tell the World.”  Our heroes don’t just write the books, they step up and they stand out.  And while their words are a powerful tool–they almost don’t need to use them–they’ve mastered the art of “show don’t tell.”

I once told Laurie Halse Anderson that she changed my life by her ability to be so real, human and honest to me during those fragile times when I was just beginning to write.  She told me that she had once stood in the same place and others had done the same thing for her.  She told me…”This is what we do, we support each other and one day you will do it for the ones coming behind you.”  If I ever get lost, on my journey as an author–have no fear–I know where to turn.  I’ll be looking towards my heroes…

While my list of heroes in YA is longer than my left arm, today I would like to tip my hat to Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Ellen HopkinsLaurie Halse Anderson and Jay Asher for being brave and reminding us of the value of having a powerful and unique voice–on and off the page.

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The Truth About Getting an Agent – Part 3

Filed under: Blogging, Conferences, SCBWI, Writing

I’m back and gratefully a little smarter than I was in Part 1 and 2 of this adventure. When I left off,  I’d just joined SCBWI and even more shocking–I’d signed up for the SCBWI 2007 Eastern NY Conference.  I’m not sure what possessed me, I’m not super spontaneous on a normal day, but to make it even more of a head scratcher–the conference was on my 2-year-old’s birthday.  OK-maybe a little break, even from this cutie, wasn’t a bad thing for a mom of three boys under the age of six.  It felt important–I was compelled to go.  Of course, my super, fabulous husband has supported me from the beginning and so the term "Daddy Party Weekend" was born. LOL!

Of course the birthday was fully celebrated later and on multiple other occasions, but I still wonder how I ended up at that conference…  All I can say was something was pushing me.  Was it my Dad?  I’d like to think he was giving me a nudge in the right direction.  

I went, but I almost didn’t make it through registration.  I walked down the step into a room full of people who I didn’t know.  I was sure they knew that I was a kid-lit impersonator.  I came so close to leaving–then I saw one face that I knew…

Chris Shave and I taught together at a local Intermediate school and he was my life raft for the day.  I had someone to hang out with and to sit with at the lunch table.  Thank you, Chris.  (((((hugs)))))

****I need to interrupt this blog for an important  public service announcement…if you’re ever at a conference by yourself–with no one to hang out with.  (Example: eating room service alone at your first NY SCBWI Conference) COME FIND ME!!!!!  I know how bad that feels, so hang out with me instead.  We will now return to our regular programming.****

Once I settled down and decided to stay, my life changed forever.  I met the two most wonderful role models an aspiring children’s writer could ask for–Laurie Halse Anderson and K.L. Going.  

I didn’t take pictures at that original conference, so I’ll borrow this one from Laurie’s book tour of Chains.  If you’re interested, my very first blog post EVER was inspired by Laurie and written about her.  (ORIGINAL BLOG POST)  It took me two months of cyber stalking the Mad woman in the Forrest to get up enough courage to write that first post…but I did it.  

Later, when I saw Laurie at the book signing in the picture above, I broke into tears as I proudly told her that I’d completed the first draft of my novel and it was because of her.  I’ll never forget her sincere interest in me.  It made me feel like a legitimate writer for the first time.  I love this lady even more because she cried with me and told me more wonderful things that I’ll never forget… 

She told me to remember that she once stood where I was standing and the reason she was here was because someone else had done for her, what she had done for me.  She said that Children’s Writers are the finest people in the whole world and when I make it (and she knows I will) I will pay it forward and help other aspiring writers on their journey.  

So in case you’re wondering–I’m planning on making it.  I have something to pay forward and amazing people who believe in me.

I know–I could have died happy right after that experience, but by golly the writing gods have a purpose for me and they were hammering home their point that day.  They say lightening can’t strike twice, but I also met K.L. Going and was equally as inspired by her.  Then I discovered she was giving a very intimate local Writer’s Workshop in a couple of weeks and I could also get a 10 page one-on-one critique.  I decided to go, but first I had to start writing my book…

I had an idea.  It was a beginning.  It’s morphed and changed and grown since the summer of 1997, but I had an idea and I wrote 27 pages down and I had my critique.  It was perfect.  Kelly gave me enough thumbs up to keep me going and lots of ideas on world building and a million other things I didn’t know.  Then I began to work on it.   Kelly has a motto and its by my desk where I can see it every day.  Be yourself.  Have an Opinion. Tell the World.  My work was cut out for me.

The following year, with my first NY SCBWI conference (room service and all) under my belt, I returned to Kelly’s workshop again.  It was one year later and I purchased a double critique and sent her my first 20 pages.

*K.L. Going’s Workshop

I was nervous.  It had been a whole year and what if what I’d written stunk?  I was feeling like this…

I could have flown to the moon and back when she commented about my persistence IN CLASS!!!  She said that she’d seen a HUGE improvement in my writing since last year.  Then we talked and once again she pushed me in the right direction and I learned another extremely important lesson–the whole story can be in your head–but no one can read it unless it is on the page.  I needed to stop revising so much while writing my first draft.  I gave myself permission to just write.  

I also gave myself a couple goals.  I’d just applied to the Rutgers On-on-One Conference in October.  I didn’t know if I’d get in or not, but I was going to have a finished draft by the date of that conference.  Then when I was done revising, I was going to hire Kelly to critique my full manuscript.  

I finished the first draft AND got into Rutgers.  

The day I put the last words on the paper–I laid my head down on my desk and bawled.  I hadn’t known.  It was shocking to figure out that I hadn’t been sure I could really do it–write a whole novel.   I also realized that I had no idea how the story was going to end until I finished it.  I finally understood that this story was my emotional journey, just as much as it was my characters, and no matter what happened to this book in the future–it existed.  I existed.  I now occupied the world in a brand new way.  Everything was perfect–well until I had to learn all about that thing called revision.  But for now, lets just enjoy this magic moment. Revision is a story for another day.   But keep in mind, you don’t get an agent without being able to revise…stay tune and I can prove it to you.  Of course I learned the hard way.  *grin*   

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