Posts Tagged ‘Lin Oliver’




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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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


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

MW–Mathew Winner (librarian/podcast host/blogger) @MatthewWinner and @AlltheWonders

Here’s a sample of what we got to hear…

TJ–I love when a voice we love in a book carries over into the authors social media.

CLS–Calls out Debbie Ohi as someone who is doing it RIGHT! She has take aways for her audience, snippets of her art, a positive and friendly attitude.

CLS–Write your mission statement as an author.

CLS–Know when to step away from social media and write your book.

CLS–Author profiles with animals–especially quirky animals get more love.

Worth a try, right?

MW–I never set out to have an audience. I set out to share what I love.

MW–Being nice makes you cool!

Usually book signings are on Sunday, but every once in awhile we have a couple people who need to sign on Saturday.

My roomie, Jodi Moore talking to Andrea Davis Pinkney!!!! She was the sweetest to cast with and I’m constantly blown away by what an intelligent woman Andrea is. You must read her work–it’s incredible. I fell in love with this picture book and got a signed copy for my school library…

A Poem For Peter

And I also got to speak with Tahereh Mafi and tell her what an impact her keynote had on me. <3

And then it was time for the Gala with it’s the SCBWI MASHED POTATO BAR!!!

As if it was meant to be–I walked by and they opened this particular Mashed Potato Bar and I was the first one to use it ROTFL!


Hope you enjoyed my NY 2017 SCBWI Part 1 Recap. I’ll be sure to get you Part 2 as soon as I can.

Any questions about the conference? I’ll do what I can to answer them. Planning on going to the LA conference in July and want to be in the Lobby Rat know? Let me know and I’ll add you to the FB group. Or if you’re planning to attend a different SCBWI conference and would like to make sure the Lobby Rats are represented–let me know. We can arrange that <3

And if you want to play along in the comments and give Ellen Hopkins’ exercise a try, here’s your question…

What color was the NY conference and why?

You can answer this as an attendee or as an arm chair conference follower.

My conference was green like a leafy vine, because many of the ideas that were floating around in my head, were finally able to be connected because of what I learned and the people who were inspired me.

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LA 2016 SCBWI Conference Part 3 (Sunday) #LA16SCBWI

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

It’s time for my last installment of my #LA16SCBWI recap. I apologize for taking so long. I’m usually well done with these by this point, but my kids, my own writing, and other life stuff has kept me busy. But I’m here now and I have lots of great information to share with you about the LA 2016 SCBWI Conference.



Lin and Steve strategically kicked off Sunday mornings #LA16SCBWI offerings with the Agent Panel. After an evening of dancing and kid lit shenanigans at the Gala–only the promise of finding an agent can get the sleepy masses out of their beds LOL!


Agent Panel: Acquisitions Today

VWA–Victoria Wells Arms (Victoria Wells Arms Literary)

GC–Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown, LTD)

KH–Kristen Hall (Catbird)

BS–Brooks Sherman (The Bent Agency)

ERS–Erica Rand Silverman (Stimola Literary Studio)

TW–Tina Wexler (ICM Partners)

MOD-Lin Oliver

Here are some interesting bits and pieces of the conversation…

KH–(Talking to her kids) On quitting her job and starting her own agency… I’m fine. I’m covered in hives, but really I’m fine.

TW–After her intro…”I should have just said I was a cat person.”

ERS–I’m looking for people who are purposeful in their craft.

TW–Do I love it? AND… Can I sell it?

KH–Relies on her instinct when picking clients.

BS–Doesn’t worry about what will sell. If he likes it, he’s willing to dive in.

GC–On queries: No voice of the MC. No gimmicks. Not overly personal. PROFESSIONAL! All authors used in comps should be no older than 5 years!

KH–Loves all the opposite query things that GC does ROTFL!


Then it was time for the Art Award Announcements!


The Mentorship Winners.


The Showcase Honors.


And Showcase Winner–Oge Mora


And speaking of fabulous illustrators, next up was a Keynote by Sophie Blackall: FORAGING FOR STORIES: HOW TO JUSTIFY EAVESDROPPING, LOITERING AND BUYING THINGS ON EBAY



Sophie was a natural storyteller and it was hard to pick out the individual threads to share because everything she said was woven together so interestingly. But I’ll do my best to pick out a few things for you…

*I collect things.

*I’m inspired by my fellows.

*One must always pay attention.

*Missed Connections–> the Measles Project.

*I rode the subway in NY, made eye contact with a stranger and ended up in Bhutan.

*Why is yoga still so hard? Because you are constantly pushing your limits. –>Apply that concept to your writing.

*Kids notice your trivial transgressions. Details matter.

*We make mistakes, but we should strive not to.

*The gestation of a book may be the best part.

*Toni Morrison writes into the light. “It’s not being in the light–it’s being there before it arrives.”

*The making part IS the best part. Do not hoard your ideas–use them all now. Something else will arrive.

Next up was my first Break-out Session of the day. I got so lucky picking Neal Schusterman-DON’T TELL DAD I TOTALED THE UNIVERSE: LESSONS IN WORLD BUILDING LEARNED THE HARD WAY


This was an incredible workshop. If you ever get a chance to talk world building with Neal–I suggest you take it. What I loved about his advice and techniques were how accessible they were. The focus was not on High Fantasy which isn’t what I write. And his approach was clear, logical and easy to assimilate into your own process. Plus he was inspirational and funny. Here is some of the best things I learned…

*There are no rules but the ones you make.

*Be prepared to live by your rules. There are ramifications to the rules that you make.


*You don’t have to address all the changes the butterfly effect has on your story, but you have to KNOW them.

*Rules can be problematic, but they can also be tools.

*Bring the reader in slowly.

*Stories are about people, no matter what world you are building–resist putting the world in front of the characters.

*Learn to write characters in the real world first–then move to world building.

*Master world building with shorter works.

*Too much info on the world can be confusing to the reader.

*When you are world building on existing mythology, you have to bring something new to the table, a twist.


*Start with the concept of the world. Find characters that fit into the world. Then work to balance the two.

*The world grows as you go along, that’s why revision is so important. By the end you know the world and the characters, then you have to go back and be sure that everything is consistent.

*Follow the exciting, shiny idea within your manuscript–even if you didn’t plan for it–otherwise the writing will be boring.

After lunch, Linda Sue Park did a fascinating afternoon Break-Out session on CHILDREN’S BOOK AWARDS: HOW JUDGING HAPPENS.

I took a picture–I swear I took a picture. But the phone goblins ate it. I’m still missing my good camera. I can’t believe I didn’t bring it. Maybe I need one of those lens attachments for my phone. Any recommendations?

Anyway–this break-out was Linda giving us back ground and information on the judging of kid lit awards and her personal experience doing the judging. There was so much interesting information woven into Linda’s narrative, but I’ll try to pull out some nuggets that will enlighten you.

*When judging the National Book Award in 2006

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 12.38.24 PM

*Getting from 50 books down to the ones we wanted to discuss as a group was very difficult.

*Used a weighted math system to get down to the groups top 20 books.

*No one goes over these books the way the committee does–it is legit.

*The were the first committee to have a graphic novel as a finalist.

*The process was super time consuming. Linda couldn’t write for a year and sometimes resented not having a choice in what she could read.

*On judging–if you do this–you will never feel bad about not winning an award again. There are so many good books, deserving books out there.

*If you see Linda Sue Park–ask her how the truffles were? I promise, it’s a great story.

Next up was the always informative Deborah Halverson with the UP-TO-THE-MINUTE MARKET REPORT


Here is some of the newest market info complied by Deborah…

*Overall children’s publishing revenue dipped very little–not a lot of movement.

*YA fiction sales dipped by 3%–the Divergent factor. (dips following movie years)

*Non-fiction kids up by 17% due to adult coloring books

*Audiobooks up 24% making up 10-14% of children’s books

*Expansion as a theme. 60 new Indies this year. 660 since 2009. Stable but flat.

*New codes for YA on the bookshelves allowing for more customization and discovery.

*31 new imprints in the last four years.

Market Trend–How Your Current Projects Fit Into the Marketplace



-quality and creativity are being rewarded. Think: LAST STOP ON MARKET PLACE

-creativity in language and text

-dominated by younger PB’s

-some have longer texts where hope is strong and feels justified

-plenty of room for the illustrator to have story telling room

-character driven

-Write a single title–>series possibility comes later

-diverse characters/actively looking for diversity

-historical fiction/biographies…ordinary people who change the world

-looking for marketing potential, story telling and personal connections


-a great place to be

-agents say editors are asking

-open field–literary and commercial balance

-wants beautiful language, superb execution

-slow build that garners awards and longevity. Think OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper

-room for serious subject matter

-historical fiction–there are lesser known people to explore or new twist on well knowns

-multi-author series are still strong

-stand alones embraced too

-risks that don’t feel gimmicky

-non-fiction–fresh engagement-something unexpected

-MG is not wrapped up in a single trend at the moment

-looking for humor, adventure, realistic fiction

-serves a diverse audience but doesn’t make diversity an issue

-story trumps trends

-sweet spot falls between literary and commercial

-voice that masters the MG sensibility and funny bone

-in historical fiction a contemporary voice gives access–think Hamilton on Broadway

-realistic fiction and fantasy

-still happening but market saturation

-there are the big stars and the rest of us are duking it out for a space

-everyone is super careful/cautious about what they take on

-you need something different and stand out in a crowded market

-be careful about realistic contemporary–its been done

-blending genres–create fresh magic systems–think GRACELING


-layered female friendships*

-exploring grey areas*

-on twitter… #MSWL  (Manuscript Wish List)

The internal mood of publishing…

*We are in a good place.

*Not being lambasted by trends.

*Room for thinking creatively.

*Not relying on only one thing.

*Publishing has settled into the mind set that we CAN change and adapt.

*An active author contract initiative underway

*Discovered we were doing it right all along.

Next up was a Keynote by one of SCBWI’s best, Ellen Hopkins: KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE REAL PRIZE


Ellen had the whole place in tears as she told the story of how life and writing intersect…

*Garbage writing is why they invented revision.

*In this day and age, books are candles in the darkness. And for some children, they are a lifeline.

*Keep your eyes on the real prize: making a positive difference in young lives.

And the final and closing keynote came from the one and only RICHARD PECK <3


*We gather today because misery loves company. *giggle*

*The barbarians are at our gates now–with phones in their hands–playing Pokemon. And they might die never knowing WE are the people who augment reality.

*There are 250 million texts and not a semi-colon among them.

*Where do you get your ideas? Isn’t it odd to suggest we can’t THINK of them?

*Schools don’t build foundations–they build upon them.

*Readers are not looking for authors in their books–they are looking for themselves.

*Throw out and rethink the first chapter after you have the table of contents for your real story.

*It’s never to late to be who you might have been” -George Elliot

And now that Richard Peck has reminded you who you are meant to be, it’s time for the autograph party.


Richard signing a book for the Desmond Fish Library who gave me the Alice Curtis Desmond Award

If you can see the iPad on the table, with Richard Peck—it was a part of me having a beautiful, full circle moment. This spring I had the privilege of being awarded the Alice Curtis Desmond Award and had to give my very first speech. And this speech was in front of another award winner–Salman Rushdie. Yup, it was a sweaty palm, heart racer. But I lived to tell the tale and what I was showing Richard was how I quoted HIM in my speech. And how I also heard Richard speak at my very first NY conference and clearly he had an impact on me then and over the years. And how he used the quote from my speech in his keynote and I couldn’t stop smiling at having the chance to share it all with him. Here’s that speech…


Being here tonight is both thrilling and a little terrifying.

I’m in awe of the esteemed company I get to keep this evening.

Compared to my fellow award winners, I’m at the beginning of my career. This is my first professional nod of recognition.

Receiving the Alice Curtis Desmond award reminds me that sometimes, our FIRST experiences do the most to shape our middles and our endings.

The acclaimed children’s author, Richard Peck once said… “–nobody BUT a reader, ever became a writer.”

When I hear that, what immediately comes to mind–are families, schools and libraries. They are the gate keepers that shape so many first experiences.

I still have my FIRST library card. I was the girl who had more books than Barbies.

In fact, I never went into the stacks without a large, paper grocery bag. I needed something big enough to hold my treasures. Those books held the world.

In the 6th grade, my English teacher read to my class… “In Flanders fields the poppies blow. Between the crosses, row on row.”

It was the FIRST time I understood how powerful writing could be. The meanest teacher I knew, was moved to tears—by words.

In the 10th grade, my class read THE GIVER by Lois Lowry. It was the FIRST time I realized I wasn’t alone. There were other people in the world who asked the same strange questions I did.

The summer before my senior year in high school, I took stock of who I was and what I wanted to be. I compared myself to some of my heroes: Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller, Anne Frank and Mahatma Gandhi.

It was the FIRST time I declared myself woefully inadequate to be anyone’s hero. I lost something that day.

On January 1, 2005, eighteen years later, I lost my father, but I finally found my voice. It was the FIRST day I decided to bravely live up to my own potential.

After my FIRST novel was published, my Mom, an extremely avid reader, told me I was the FIRST author she’d ever met in person. It wasn’t the first time I made my Mom proud, but it was one of my favorites.

My husband has always been my FIRST and most enthusiastic supporter. And because of it, there is an exceptionally large group of twenty-something single males, who work in IT Audit, who’ve read my young adult novel. #uniquemarketing

And I shouldn’t admit it, but when my boys were 2, 4 and 6 they ran out of clean socks and underwear because I was writing. It wasn’t the first time it happened, but it was the FIRST time they called me out on it. We bought more.

Then the day came when I received my FIRST letter from a fan. I’d become someone’s hero after all.

And now, because the clock and good story telling demands it, I need to make my ending reflect my beginning–by returning to the library, where I started.

I want to thank everyone at the Desmond Fish Library, not just for honoring me with my FIRST award and hosting such an incredible evening, but also for all you do–you bring books and readers together. You share my FIRST love and I could not be prouder to be a part of this community. Thank you so much.


I adore this guy! <3


Pam Munoz Ryan and Esperanza Rising


Sophie Blackall had the longest line in the room.


Getting my CHALLENGER DEEP signed by Neal Schusterman


I had an amazing conversation with him. So fan-girling!

Totally goof-balling around with Drew Daywalt of Crayon fame!

Don’t ask–I don’t know ROTFL!





Jon Klassen–what would he have done if I’d grabbed his hat and run? And how often does that happen???



And then we were hungry! Because fan-girling is kind of hard work.




And ice cream after dinner will certainly do the trick!

And it might even work tonight as a reward for getting this last #LA16SCBWI blog post done.

Hope this helpful. If you have any questions about the conference or SCBWI conferences in general, feel free to ask. And remember–if you’re heading to your first conference and you don’t know anyone, let me know and I’ll be sure to help out and introduce you to some new friends.

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LA 2016 SCBWI Conference Part 1 (Friday) #LA16SCBWI

Filed under: Check-it-out, Class of 2k12, Community, Conferences, Publishing, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, The Class of 2k12, Touching the Surface, Uncategorized, Writing for Children

Hello… it’s #LA16SCBWI time…is there anybody out there? I know. I’ve neglected the blog, but for a good reason. Blogs are secondary to the writing and the writing has been my priority. But I LOVE my SCBWI conference blogs. They help me process everything I learned and I also love sharing a bit of the magic and insight with those who couldn’t make it. Plus I missed you. So, let’s go to #LA16SCBWI together!




Compared to last year, my journey to #LA16SCBWI was a breeze. No hassles. Everything was on time. The Jet Blue snack was blue chips. I even had my roomie picking me up at the airport and we defied the laws of LA rush hour and made it to the hotel in a record amount of time for the afternoon. Everything was perfect until…


My luggage lock wouldn’t come off. Really???? I think what happened was I accidentally twirled and twisted when I should have pushed and clicked–resetting the combo to a magic number I did not know. Grrrr. I thought about trying all the possible combinations then called the hotel desk and had a lovely gentleman cut it off for me. Crisis averted. Dinner was had and friends caught up. Easy Peasy. And when all was said and done, I fell asleep and never rolled over until morning. Not even the Biltmore ghosts could wake me.

Yes, the Biltmore hotel, the sight of #LA16SCBWI is supposed to be haunted. Do you see the wee ghosty on the SCBWI folder? I wouldn’t lie. Totally haunted. I’m positive, although I didn’t see, hear or sense a thing.


But any building that looks like this inside must be haunted, right?






BTW–sorry for the grainy pictures–I left my good camera at home by mistake. Boo!

But the ghosts aren’t really the important part–unless they inspire some fabulous stories. We were there to get our kid lit on and we took off running on Friday.



Steve Mooser and Lin Oliver were on the scene–Lin entertaining us with stories of her senior prom and bachelor party at the Biltmore. Which by the way, was built in 1923 and was originally a cathedral. And this past weekend it housed…

-952 Full Time Attendees (with a 950 seat ballroom) Good thing there were always spatially challenged writers who had trouble finding their way around the building LOL!

-348 Published

-603 Pre-Published

-47 States. (West Virginia was absent and Vermont. But Lin figures they were still too busy feeling the Bern)

-15 Countries

-And there were some interesting primary occupations listed: 101 Full Time Artists, Cake decorator (because frosting is a legit medium), 93 FT Writers, A Writer/Shepherdess (and obviously a good one–never saw a single sheep in the Biltmore), 3 Paper engineers, a Bonsai Artist, a cluster? herd? swarm? flock? pod of lawyers? and a Retired Housewife. Lin didn’t know that last one was an option. Sign her up!

And our joke contest was Books in the Olympics–write your own headline!

In LA the faculty also marches in and shares their word of the conference. Here are some of my favorites from #LA16SCBWI…


David Diaz–melarchy

Arthur Levine–personal

Justin Chanda–inclusivity

Ginger Clark–Brexit

Peter Brown–awkward

Nancy Castaldo–noble

Lisa Yee and Martha Brockenbrough–Wonder Woman

Alvina Ling–Breathe (she was congested)

Linda Sue Park–(for anyone who cares about kids) VOTE!


The first Keynote Speaker of the conference was Drew Daywalt of crayon fame.



Drew was funny and sweet as he talked to the group. Here are some of the most interesting things Drew had to say…

*Jack Gantos wanted Drew to write for children–he was his Obi Wan Kanobi

*Did you ever notice how crayons are in your house but you didn’t buy them?

*20 years later..”I told you so, idiot!” Jack Gantos

*First school visit he panicked but the librarian told him he could bring THE box of crayons LOL! A boy raced past”security” and jumped in his lap and said…”I love you, Mr. Daywalt.” It changed his life. <3

*Hollywood kicked me for 20 years and knocked me down and a million little hands caught me. <3

*Be true to your voice.

*Be vulnerable.

*Authors find meaning in the meaningless and define meaning in the meaningful.

*Don’t overstay your welcome. *waves*





Next up was Pam Munoz Ryan: ONE WRITER’S CONFESSIONS


Things she’s learned along the way…

*Getting published and discovering I could still fail.

*If you’re not struggling to learn something new, you’re failing.

*If you aren’t struggling, you’re setting your goals too low.

*I wasn’t self actualized to feel marginalized. (On not seeing herself represented in the books she read)

*Things that get you out of writer’s block–a deadline.

*I don’t have a muse, but I’m still waiting.

*I don’t write every day. A writer has a relationship with writing.

*Goal: I want the reader to sit down and turn the page.

*It still stings–writing doesn’t get easier for me.

*I write in a feeble attempt at immortality.

*I read to forget and I write to remember. <3


Every conference has those bathroom breaks between speakers and they are perfect for coffee and meeting friends you’ve only loved on line. So pumped I FINALLY got to meet Lynne Kelly on of my fellow Class of 2k12 siblings. <3 Such a lovely treat.


The next Keynote belong to Justin Chanda (VP & Publisher of four children’s imprints at Simon & Schuster)


Justin took the stage fighting the urge to suggest we unify the party. LOL! Here were a few things going on in the industry…

* 2015-2016 was a great year for independent books stores.

*Kid lit is doing well, but blockbusters are driving the overall sales while the mid-list are struggling.

*Blockbusters keep the lights on.

*It’s a big leap of faith to acquire a picture book. Because of that editors are selectively looking for character drive, humorous books that appeal to adults as well as kids. You have to be the best of the best to get a deal in this market.

*Advice: Write, Illustrate, Rinse, Repeat.


Sorry it’s a little dark. Remember I forgot the one with the telephoto lens. Grrrrr But even so, I can vouch, this is my first break out session of the conference. It was a Pro-Track session with Don Tate on SCHOOL VISITS.

Don gave a sample of his own presentation, followed by advice and tips from himself and multiple experienced authors/illustrators. It was a wealth of knowledge.


He also shared the fabulous Debbie Gonzales who works with the academic standards to create projects, presentations and study guides. She’s currently working with TOUCHING THE SURFACE and I’ll be excited to soon launch some fabulous new ways that TTS can be used in the classroom.




SB-Stacey Barney–Senior Editor (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin)

KB-Kat Brzozowski–Editor (Swoon Reads/Feiwel and Friends)

AL-Alvina Ling–VP and Editor in Chief (Little, Brown)

MM-Melissa Manlove–Editor (Chromicle)

NP-Neal Porter–Publisher (Neal Porter Books)

MR-Matt Ringler–Senior Editor (Scholastic)

SS-Sara Sargent–Executive Editor (Harper Collins)

RS-Reka Simonsen–Executive Editor (Atheneum)

KS-Kate Sullivan–Senior Editor (Delacore)

Moderated by: ED-Emma Dryden (Dryden Books, LLC)

Each editor was asked to talk about three books they proudly published and talk about why they were meaningful. They also gave advice to the audience. I missed a few here and there and I can’t possibly effectively duplicate their gushing–but here’s what I can give you…

SB–Firebird, The Lions of Little Rock, A Crack in the Sea

      *Breathe, publishing is a marathon. It teaches patience. Work on your craft.

KB–RL Stein’s Fear Street Series, When the Moon Was Ours

       *Build a strong network of people. Publishing is small. Reciprocal relationships.

AL–Thunder Boy Jr, The Year of the Dog, Daughter of Smoke and Bone

       *Rejection is not personal.

MM–Picture This, President Squid, Josephine

       *Inspiration is electric, but it’s the lightening bolt that hits the person grinding the generator. You have to do the work.

NP–Giant Squid, School’s First Day of School, Ideas Are All Around

       *Do I HAVE to write this book? Is there intense feeling?

MR–Kill the Boy Band, The Hero Two Doors Down, Puppy Place Series (Because you can’t have a bad day picking out puppies for book covers ROTFL!)

          *Rejection can feel personal, but it’s an industry thing. Editors can’t always get what they want.

SS–Cruel Beauty, The Museum of Heartbreak, Last Year’s Mistake

          *Look for the window where you know what an agent/editor likes but then make it different.

RS–Enchanted Air, THE WICKED AND THE JUST (In caps because it’s a fabulous book by my Class of 2k12 sib J. Anderson Coats) and Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal.


        *Write what you love.

KS–Ash, Rapture Practice, Passion Counts


Next up was another Keynote with Jenni Holm: IT TAKES A FAMILY

Jenni shared lots of personal stories but this fact was key…If you’re going to write about your family, write about your mother’s family first LOL!

And then, just when you think you can’t do one more minute of conference, we got to celebrate the Golden Kite Award Winners and have a celebratory dinner.


We even had a display in the lobby of our celebrated books for #LA16SCBWI


And don’t forget the pyramid of chocolate. It was very yummy.

And on that sweet note, I’ll leave you to digest this first day of #LA16SCBWI and I promise I’ll be posting more soon.

 Want to see a little bit more of the Biltmore and it’s Hollywood History? Check out this video…

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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.


Why I may have blocked it from my memory…


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



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…


…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.


Elizabeth Bicknell


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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!


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!



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.


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.


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


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.



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.



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


IMG_5266 2

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.


Yes, the talent and advice this year were incredible.


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…




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.


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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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)


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…


…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.


Lin Oliver, SCBWI Executive Director


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.


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.


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.


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…


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.


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.


Linda Pratt


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.



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.



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!



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.


*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!


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.


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.



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.


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*


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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LA SCBWI 2015 Part 2

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Contests, Publishing, Reading, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, Uncategorized, Wolf Pack, Wolfson Literary, Writing for Children

It’s Day 2 of #LA15SCBWI and I can’t imagine a more inspirational start then hearing Dan Santat speak. Dan was this year’s Caldecott winner with BEEKLE, but what really makes it this keynote special is that Dan “grew up” in the SCBWI. Like many of the speakers I’ve heard over the years, he got his start in this tribe and he made that very clear…ALL IT TAKES IS A LITTLE TASTE: STORIES OF HOW THE SCBWI HELPED ME AND HOW I GREW AS AN AUTHRO WHEN I WASN’T AT THE CONFERENCE



Over the course of Dan’s keynote, he made us laugh and he imparted tons of wisdom and inspiration. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place at the end of his speech. Here was my best take aways from Dan…

*Understand why YOU like–don’t be censored.

*If you have a closed mind, you’re going to miss out on the beauty of things.

*Comic books are soap operas for nerds.

*Learn from others. Ex. BREAKING BAD is a study in character development.

*Read Goodreads reviews with some common sense. You know when someone is giving you useful information that can help you grow. Also read the bad reviews of the classics to gain some perspective.

*Study the fundamentals–when you understand them, you then have the freedom to move around.

*Learn by imitation–don’t become a clone, use it to ADD to your fundamentals.

*If you do something hard once, you know you have it in you to do it again.

*Find your voice–stop imitating and start INNOVATING.

*Do what you love when the work will find you.

*Do it because you are passionate about what you do.

*If you put money in the equation, you’re never going to find it. It’s like chasing a shadow.

*Live and die by your own sword. If you put your faith in yourself you will tread water and survive.

*You don’t want to live with regrets. If I had quit I never would have had the Caldecott Medal. *cue sobs*




JRJodi Reamer (Writer’s House)

APAlexandra Penfold (Upstart Crow Literary)

KNKristin Nelson (Nelson Literary Agency)

BGBarry Goldblatt (Barry Goldblatt Literary)

BBBrenda Bowen (Greenberg Associates)

JBJenny Bent (The Bent Agency)


Here’s the advice and information that I took note of…

AP–You’re not acquiring a book, you’re taking on a life.

BG–Competition to get manuscripts read by editors is immense, so your MS needs to be in the best shape.

BG–9 to 5? WHAT IS THAT?

BG–You are the one in the driver’s seat. You get to choose.

JB–I don’t care who you are–there will be downtime in your career.

JB–Respect and honesty on both sides are key.

AP–Write the book that can get you above the noise.

BG–Editors should have the ability to take a flyer because a great smaller book can become a huge best seller. Ex–WONDER

JR–Social media should be natural. It should be you.

BG–We are colleagues. We’re not out to undercut each other. You’re not competing with anyone in this room.

AP–You never know where the connections are going to come from.

AP–If it makes me feel–I’ll follow you anywhere.

BG–We get jaded, but then we see something that knocks us off our seats and want to sell it!

AP–If you have a rich reading life, you will have a rich writing life.

BB–Best promo for a book is the next one. Keep writing.

JB–Be a mensch–Be kind. Be helpful. Be generous.

JB–I see social media as an opportunity to be kind to people and share.


Next up was my first Workshop of the Day. BONNIE BADER–CHAPTER BOOKS: WHAT’S WORKING AND WHAT’S NOT


Some things that make a book–a chapter book…

-a milestone event

-a protagonist around the age of the reader (7-10 year olds)

-Roughly 80-120 pages

-size of type, density of illustrations

-expand the details of your character to make them unique.

-use a universal theme with a twist


What kinds of chapter books that are successful…

Magic Tree House

Junie B Jones

Princess in Black

George Brown, Class Clown

The Dory Books (Dory Fantasmagory)

Captain Awesome




The next keynote of the day was Jane O’Connor–BORROWING FROM LIFE: CREATING A CHARACTER

Here were some Fancy Nancy style tips to remember…

*Leave out all the stuff that’s boring.

*Eavesdropping is crucial to writing.

*Middles are a bitch.


Jane was followed by Varian Johnson–IF IT WERE EASY, EVERYONE WOULD DO IT

Varian was open and honest and so touching with his ability to share his hard publishing moments with the audience. He had so much inspiration to share…

*The hard is what makes it great.

*We make the time.

*We all deserve to be part of the conversation, but we have to do the work.

*My job is to put words on paper. If the muse shows up that day–BONUS.

*Writing is a job that deserves to be treated as such. Set up a schedule.

*Don’t talk about it. Be about it.

*And while I’m not looking forward to my next failure…I know it’s coming.



My second Workshop of the day was with the lovely Wendy Loggia–FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK

Ia addition to hearing Wendy rave about my fabulous agent Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary and my Wolf Pack Sistah Kiersten White


…I loved learning a little bit more about Delacorte Press. Did you know…

*Delacorte plans their books out way in advance to give them the best marketing attention they can give. If you were to sell a book to Delacorte today (8/15) It would not be slotted for publication until Spring of 2017.

*Delacorte does not have a acquisitions board. Editors can acquire what they choose.

*Delacorte does not compete with other imprints at Random House

*Wendy does all her own editorial reading.

*Why Wendy purchases a manuscript?

-emotional connection

-loves the voice

-thinks it deserves to be published



Sorry–was having an afternoon brain fart or a caffeine low and missed getting a picture of Molly. Just imagine a highly energetic creative teaching us how to use theater to create stronger writing and illustration on the page.

Ummm no pictures here either. I swear I wasn’t sleeping LOL! This was a great panel on DIVERSITY IN CHILDREN’S BOOKS: CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS


NYNicola Yoon

VJVarian Johnson

BCBrandy Colbert

JCJoe Cepeda

IWGIW Gregorio (didn’t attend due to illness)

This may have been my favorite diversity panel I’ve heard yet. Here are some bits from my notes…

VJ–You don’t need permission to write diversely, but you do need to do your due diligence. And remember you aren’t trying to write the experience of ALL the people–just the one that’s your character. Your research is not different than any other research for a character.

JC–I try not to overthink the issue too much.

VJ–I’m not a fan of the term, CASUAL DIVERSITY, but it’s when the characters featured are diverse, but the diversity isn’t the issue. Ex-Lando in Star Wars

NY–I’ve never been sassy a day in my life! (on sassy diverse sidekicks)

JC–Write and illustrate without fear and if you have fear, pretend you don’t.



And then it was time for the Saturday Gala! This year’s theme was Sparkle and Shine. And FYI the sugar cookies were amazing–I ate them before I could get a picture LOL!





I hope all this fabulous information is helping your writing to sparkle and shine. You can catch me first conference blog installment here…LA SCBWI 2015 Part 1 At the end of that blog, you’ll see that I’m still running a contest to win a signed copy of…




So don’t forget to head over there and take advantage of the opportunity. I’ll be back on Thursday with LA SCBWI 2015 Part 3!!!


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LA SCBWI 2015 Part 1

Filed under: Book Signings, Check-it-out, Conferences, Contests, Family, Publishing, Reading, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, Writing for Children

I had the perfect flight lined up for #LA15SCBWI. (The 44th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference) I was leaving NY at 1pm which gave me enough time to get the dog and the boys where they needed to be and plenty of time to get settled in LA before the conference kicked off on Friday morning. That was the plan, anyway. After getting through security I realized I had an hour delay on my Virgin America flight, so I grabbed a sit down lunch. Then that one hour delay turned into a two hour delay.


So I read my magazines–standing up so I’d be ready for that 5+ hour flight.


And I also checked on the puppy. Riley is the 10 month old GSD in the middle. I am the spy LOL!

And of course I checked the #LA15SCBWI twitter feed, where I discovered that @alioop7 (Sky Pony Editor Alison Weiss) was on the same flight. Let’s just say we bonded by the time we arrived in LA–MUCH later than we’d planned. After the 2 hour mechanical delay, this is how it went down…


Everyone is loaded, but it’s starting to drizzle.


Hmmm doesn’t look like we’re getting off the runway. A big storm is rolling in.


The airport closes completely and we are stuck on the runway for over 3 hours. But…is that a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel? Yeah–not so much. It’s back to the gate to fuel up and hear more potential bad news. Now I’ve got my fingers crossed we get off the ground some time tonight. And I’m grateful that I didn’t have my kids stuck on the plane for five hours prior to the five hour flight. All those kiddos were fabulous BTW! And eventually, as the sun was setting, we were finally heading out.



We arrived at the hotel at 11:37pm which was 2:37am EST. *yawn*

I’d like to tell you I went right to bed, but I was in a room with my favorite writing roommate–Jodi Moore and her baby dragon!!!!



I think we both fell asleep mid-sentence. Basically nothing unusual.

After coffee and breakfast and more coffee, the first order of business was finding my RA the fabulous Nancy Castaldo.


I was proud to be her one and only Eastern Upstate NY attendee. We need to at least quadruple that number next year–start your conference fund NOW!


And then we are in conference mode. Poor Lin Oliver, she was suffering with a horrible tooth ache, but you’d never know it. Such a trooper!

Every year the faculty lines up to introduce themselves and they are each responsible for shouting out one word that is representative of them at the LA conference. Here were some of my favorite words…





preparation (the H is silent)






flip flops


These words and my experiences over the conference always help me to come up with my own word or words as a takeaway. So watch for that in my last recap post.

And you can’t forget Lin’s Conference Stats. No Conference is complete without them…

*1173 Attendees

*437 Published

*736 Pre-published

*19 Countries in attendance

*48 States

          -This year we were missing West Virginia and New Hampshire.

There were also 225 different occupations listed on applications…


*car pool coordinator


*VP of transformation

*event planner


*opera singer

*bonsai artist

*incentives manager for Victoria’s Secret

and my personal favorite…

*International small arms dealer–mostly doll arms LOL! 

You’ve got to love us wacky children’s writers.

The first Keynote of the conference was with the legendary Mem Fox: INSIDE THE WRITER’S HEAD–THE WRITERLY THOUGHTS THAT LEAD TO SUCCESS. 



If her rich voice and hilarious expressions weren’t enough, Mem also shared tons of wonderful and inspirational information with us. Here were my favorite bits of advice and encouragement…

*Adults love soggy sentimentality that makes kids want to throw up.

*Timeless books arise from genuine events that touch the author, not necessarily sadness.

*When writing picture books she keeps four children in mind…

          -One on her lap

          -One on the couch

          -One in bed

          -And the rest in the classroom.

*Mem WANTS to write books that kids don’t completely understand. She’s not here to keep kids trapped in familiar language.

*I can kindle a love of language or I can kill it.

*Rhythm is in the marrow of your bones if you’re a picture book writer. Often books are written as if word choice doesn’t matter–rhythm matters.

*Without the right words, the death of a book is imminent, which gives new meaning to the end.

Next up was the Editor’s Panel.

AWAlison Weiss (Sky Pony Press)

SSSara Sargent (HarperCollins)

RMRotem Moscovich (Disney-Hyperion)

AJAllyn Johnston (Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster)

JSGJulie Strauss-Gabel (Dutton/Penguin-Random House)

JBJordan Brown (Balzer+Bray/Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins)

Moderator: WLWendy Loggia (Delacort/Penguin Random House)


I’ve heard MANY editor panels over my years of attending conferences, this one was very, very good. Lots of laughs, information, support and tough love. Here are the highlights…

WL–Dream Submissions?

SS–Fantasy–think escapism, swoony, transportive.

RM–Send me your awesome things.

AJ–Fresh take on universal themes. I want goosebumps. I want to read it again. Lots of room for illustrations.

JB–Character. We are doing our best work when we are expanding the reader’s capacity for empathy.

AW–Something that shakes up my own perspective.

JSG–Sense of humor.

Other bits of wisdom I jotted down…

JSG–I admire risk–even if it falls apart. I’m willing to work with that. It speaks to ambition.

JB–On the flip side, envy can be a powerful and useful emotion.


Time for our first Workshop of the conference. SMALL PRESSES: THOUGH THEY BE SMALL THEY BE FIERCE with Alison Weiss (Sky Pony Press), Rana DiOrio (Little Pickle Press) and Emma Dryden.

This was awesome new information for me. I haven’t had a ton of small press exposure. Here are some of the things I learned…

*Small presses are very collaborative and involved with their authors.

*Accessibility–you know who is touching your book.

*Small presses think outside the box with how they market.

*They are often very involved with unique collaborations that are very helpful for their books.


And now that I’m full, it’s back to work LOL!



And here is some of her random awesome…

*The hilarious writers say they get their ideas from Cleveland.

*A novel is a sort of concentrated version of who a person is. A bullion cube of sensibility.

*We want novels to feel like an approximation of life.

*If you know what preoccupies you, then you know what to write. Write what obsesses you.

*Self censorship is to be avoided–write as if everyone you know is dead.

*Write the book that reflects who you are when no one else is looking.

*The world will whittle your daughter down, but a mother never should.



LOVE THIS…There should be picture books for every age. It’s not a form that people should grow out of.


Next was another workshop with Wendy Loggia–FINDING YOUR YA VOICE

*I think it’s possible to hone a voice that’s authentic to you and captures your reader.

*Voice is the first thing I look for and it’s non-negotiable.

*I know I’m reading something good when I’m swept away and not thinking about the author.


Oh boy–sorry to interrupt this workshop with a critique. This was my first LA crit–I was looking for a little guidance on an unusual project I’ve been messing around with. Just so you know, Bonnie Bader was super awesome and helped me so much.


*Establishing multiple voices is HARD!

*What sets Delacorte apart? We do our own editing.


This was a GREAT panel!!!!



MBMartha Brockenbrough

MCMike Curato

SLStacey Lee

LNLori Nichols

ASAnna Shinoda

Moderator LWLee Wind

Across the board, every single person on this panel was persistent, putting in years of effort and hard work to cross into success. My biggest take away was there are no short cuts. Here are some of their best bits of advice…

SL–On attending an SCBWI conference…I felt as if I owed it to my story to go.

MB–Family comes first, but you shouldn’t be making sandwiches when you can be making stories.

MB–There is always a moving target in publishing–what satisfies us are the meaningful relationships.

MB–Resistance makes you stronger.

LW–The pressure is making us diamonds! #sparkleandshine

MC–It should ultimately be a joyful process.

MB–Just finish the draft–it’s got to be finished.

After a full day of conference fun, there was the PAL bookstore where I adopted a whole bunch of baby dragons!!!


And–because I love you–I bought an extra signed copy of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN by Jodi Moore for a special giveaway.


Coming… September 1, 2015 from Flashlight Press

A dragon friend understands the ups and downs of becoming a big brother

Preparations are in full swing to welcome a new family member in this sequel to the award-winning When a Dragon Moves In. A young boy has become a big brother and he and his beloved dragon dedicate themselves to entertaining the little baby. But when the drooling, crying baby somehow charms the dragon and his attention, the boy decides he’s had enough of this baby business. Adult readers will see the dragon as the boy’s alter ego—eager to cuddle with the new baby before the boy himself feels quite ready, then as a conduit to the boy’s acceptance of the baby, and finally as kindred spirit with whom the boy can commiserate. Younger readers will love the boy’s wonderful, though perhaps invisible, dragon friend who helps him be a good big brother.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please spread the word about the contest if–I’d love to see this dragon find a wonderful new home. And watch for the rest of my conference recap blogs coming next week. 

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The 2015 SCBWI NY Winter Conference Part 1

Filed under: Conferences, SCBWI, Touching the Surface

I dropped the boys at school.

I brought the puppy to Canine Kindergarten.

And then I made the great escape…

I was off to the 2015 SCBWI NY Winter Conference. I was giddy by the time I sat my butt on the train, because with the holidays, and the puppy and the boys and the snow, I was ready to get away. I needed a weekend where I focused on friends, writing and inspiration. Not to mention about 48 hours where the only person I have to clean up after was ME.

Settling into my seat on the train, I glanced out the window, saw a gorgeous American Bald Eagle in the tree, and then cracked open a book. You can all give a pleasurable sigh right along with me. *sigh* And then, as if good karma was touching me on the head with her magic finger, my hotel room was ready and I was off to meet my fabulous agent, Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary for lunch. (In case you’re wondering, Michelle is currently opened to queries, but be sure to follow the guidelines on her website.)


My favorite picture of us <3

And here are some of the treats she brought for me…


Illusions of Fate by Kirsten White.


Two of The Maggie Malone Books by Jenna McCarthy and Carolyn Evans.


The Fire Artist by Daisy Whitney.


And a coveted ARC of The Big Fix by Linda Grimes!!!!


And here’s the new cover in case you’re wondering. OMG! I love it.

*does a happy dance* I can not wait to read them all!!!

Toting my cache, warm from Michelle Wolfson hugs, it was back to the hotel in time to meet up with all my friends. Some had done the Intensives and some were just arriving in NYC.

*Drum roll please* because it’s time to get to the stuff you really want to hear about…


It isn’t a conference if we don’t have Lin Oliver‘s conference statistics:


* 1,032 attendees

* From 47 states. Kansas, Wyoming, Oklahoma and North Dakota were missing–come on people–we need you there!

* There were people in attendance from 16 different countries *fist pump* With NY being the largest chunk of the pie followed by CA, MA and then NJ. Lin called the NJ folks out on their driving skills LOL!

* 32% of attendees are published and 375 folks were our talented illustrators.

* Start planning now so you can be in one of those seats next year!

The first Keynote of the conference was by Anthony Horowitz–Grabbing Young Readers From First Line to Last


Just so you know, Anthony had an amazing British accent, so if I’m going to be truthful, the whole audience would have let him read the phone book and still enjoyed his keynote LOL! But he WAS an amazing speaker. His rapid fire jokes and insights had everyone listening and laughing. Here are some highlights…

* He spent lots of time in the boarding school library because that was the only place he felt safe and secure.

*The end of a chapter should never be an excuse to stop reading.

*At one point in his career he was worried his grave stone would read BIG in Belgium LOL!

*Harry Potter changed EVERYTHING!

*Writers are arsonists–setting the world on fire is their natural default.

*Children don’t just read books–they devour them.

*The first line is the thing the kids will read in the store.

*Write up for kids.

*I am a camera-kids are bombarded with images, your words need to create strong images that keep their attention.

*Writing is telepathy-if you’re excited about what you’re writing, chances are that you’ll have readers excited too.


Next up was the Keynote Editor’s Panel: Children’s Books 2015–Report From the Front Lines

JC–Justin Chanda (VP and Publisher, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

BH–Beverly Horowitz (VP and Publisher, Delacorte Press)

LG–Laura Goodwin (VP and Publisher, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)

SOL–Stephanie Owens Lurie (Associate Publisher, Disney-Hyperion)



Just some highlights from the discussion…

JC–Adult sales are flat and children’s are up! *fist pump* BUT…teen sales are up on a handful of authors, but not the majority. And FYI the movie industry has a lot to do with that.

Ummm anyone want to make a blockbuster movie about TOUCHING THE SURFACE?

JC–Contemporary is not the only thing kids want to read.

JC–The picture book is NOT dead!

JC–Continued upswing in MG.

JC–reminder that the business is cyclical.

JC–Common Core has not killed fiction.

JC–We write and publish good books and let everyone else, especially the media, take care of themselves.

BH–Write a great book and people will talk about it.

LG–There is an ongoing battle with piracy.

LG–Social media has allowed our mouths to reach more people and allowed authors to be advocates for each other’s books. <3

SOL–A Nielsen’s survey says kids prefer physical books.

SOL–Smaller books can easily get elbowed out.

SOL–It’s difficult to break out new authors.

SOL–The biggest disruption to a writer (trying to write) is from the fans seeking their time and attention on social media.

SOL–There is a correlation between and author’s tweets and sales (but that doesn’t mean annoying buy my book tweets. Talking about fan interaction style tweets)

SOL–Think about more than “how do I get my book published” and focus on “how I can get my work to an audience.”

JC–Social media is great, but you have nothing if you don’t have a strong story. Focus on that.

JC–YA and MG have very different social media.

JC–When you’re looking for a publisher, they should be a home–a partnership. They should be someone who shares your vision but isn’t telling you what your vision is.

JC–I don’t really like publishing books–I like publishing authors and illustrators. <3

Time for the AM Workshop! Writing Young Adult Fiction with Liz Tingue (Editor, Razorbill, Penguin Young Readers Group)


Some highlights from the Workshop…

*Read a lot and not just in YA.

*Have a social media presence that’s comfortable for you, but does not interfere with you getting your writing done.

*KNOW your characters inside and out.

*If you’re writing in 1st person it should come to you in a strong and organic way.

*Utilize maps and outlines for plot and  structure but don’t be afraid to stray from them.

*Get a supportive critique group and get comfortable with tough love.

*Persevere when the going gets tough, but don’t be afraid to walk away from a project if it’s just not working.

After a yummy break for lunch, it was time for my afternoon Workshop with Emily Clement (Associate Editor, Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic Inc.) Writing Literary Ficiton.


This was a fabulous workshop. Best I’ve been to for explaining what literary fiction really means. In truth it has different connotations for different people. If you think literary fiction is dense, slow and boring, you’re probably reading writing that is UNSUCCESSFULLY trying to be literary.

Literary fiction is not about content–it’s about quality. It’s entertaining, but it’s also something more.

*Literary fiction needs to be about something that readers want to talk about because it engages them on an intellectual and emotional level.

*Readers of literary fiction crave authentic and original voice.

*Good writing without a plot is BORING not literary.


*Literary books are stories that break the rules and do not fit neatly inside their genres.

Time for another Keynote. This one Beyond Language: Creating Picture Books That are Read and Played by Herve Tullet


I’m going to be honest–it’s hard to explain Herve Tullet. He is not your typical keynote speaker. His favorite word is HA! Which is the reaction he wants from his readers when they explore his books. He believes it’s the most exciting thing when he can illicit that word from someone else.

Ideally I would have videotaped Herve interacting with the audience, as he guided us through his brilliant books, the way he does when he meets with children. But that’s not allowed, so this is the best I can do to capture the magic.


You must go out and buy his books and share them with children. <3


The last Keynote of the day was Kami Garcia talking about The Truth About Writing.


Unfortunately, I didn’t take a lot of notes because I was so caught up in Kami’s speech.. Suffice it to say she’s a hard working, funny lady with a big heart. I adored how her and her writing partner Margaret Stohl filled a void, empowered girls, set a fabulous standard for boys and the whole time stayed super connected to the teens they were writing for. One of the most fascinating parts of the story was their journey to publication. Kami doubts they would have been brave enough to do it the same way if they’d been purposefully trying to publish. And it was also “good” to hear, that despite her incredible success, Kami gets as nervous and insecure as we do every time she’s writing something new.

Kami was also nice enough to sign a copy of her book and make a video message for my friend Jeannie who’s a HUGE fan and couldn’t make the conference. How cool is that?IMG_0299

The rest of the evening included an Art Browse, where everyone had a chance to check out the gorgeous portfolios of the illustrators attending the conference. This was followed by the Gala Dinner where you could find me in my favorite spot…

FullSizeRender 2


After the Gala there was also several socials for LGBTQ, illustrators, new members/first time conference attendees and international attendees. And of course there is always the unofficial group of “Lobby Rats” that hangs out and talks half the night away. This wasn’t all the rats, we’re a large and transitory group, but this pic captured a bunch of us.


The wonderful part of this is that some of the Lobby Rats have been doing this for years and some we just met for the first time that very evening.

If you’re thinking about coming to next year’s conference and you’re worried about not knowing anyone, know you can always contact me and we’ll make sure you have friends to eat with and buddies to hang out with. Worrying about being alone should NEVER be a reason not to come to the NY conference!!!  

I’m kind of thinking we should get Lobby Rats T-shirts. What do you think? SCBWI Lobby Rat? 


And we now have the unofficial and very weird NY SCBWI Lobby Rats mascot, which was dressed up as Harry Potter this year. The costume kind of make it less creepy–but not much ROTFL!


And some Lobby Rats are RA’s who have work to do and missed the photo. Love you, Stacy Mozer and thanks for all you do for the SCBWI. (((((hugs)))))

I’ll be back on Thursday with the second half of the 2015 NY SCBWI Winter Conference recap. But in the mean time, I desperately need to know your favorite toppings on your mashed potatoes. Mine are mushrooms, bacon, cheddar cheese and chives. *grin*

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