Posts Tagged ‘Lobby Rats’




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 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 ūüôĀ

*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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Planning Ahead for NY SCBWI

Filed under: Blogging, Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, SCBWI, Stuff I Love

First of all–I’m gonna brag. Because this post is being written at 11:58 on Sunday morning 2/7 and you’re reading it on Thursday 2/11. Yes, I am ahead of the game! This is a huge accomplishment for me. This year I am systematically attacking my NY SCBWI conference prep with the hopes that this might be the year I get a good night’s sleep the night before. Or maybe I’m simply desperate to get out of the house after the scurvy wee germies invaded our home over the last few weeks. Either way, I vow to be squared away this year, particularly because I’ll be on a very early train for the Friday Author’s Pro Intensive.

I know that quite a few of you will be at the conference and I can’t wait to see you there. Feel free to come be a Lobby Rat. We are always hanging out in the lobby, talking and catching up, if you’re looking for something to do.


Here’s some of the Lobby Rat Faces you can look for.

And for all of you who can’t make it to NY, I’ll be live tweeting about the conference over the weekend along with the SCBWI Conference bloggers


and a whole bunch of other fabulous folks who are inspired by what they are experiencing. It’s the next best thing to being there–everyone shares so much amazing information.

You can follow along with the conference on twitter by using the hash tag #NY16SCBWI.

And of course I’ll be doing my regular recap blogs after the conference, so be sure to watch for those next week.

If I stay this organized and efficient, I’ll be ready to go before you know it!

Now the only question remaining…how do you think the head is going to be decorated this year?


Leave your guess in the comments!

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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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