Posts Tagged ‘Rutgers’




The Truth About Getting an Agent – Part 3

Filed under: Blogging, Conferences, SCBWI, Writing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*K.L. Going’s Workshop

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

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

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

I finished the first draft AND got into Rutgers.  

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

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Rutgers 2009 One-on-One Plus Conference

Filed under: Uncategorized

I had the great fortune of attending the Rutgers One-on-One Plus Conference for the second year in a row. Happy 40th Anniversary!

The fun started with a pre-conference dinner made up of about 10 of Verla Kay’s Blue Boarders. Some of us had met before, but most of us only knew each other through the boards. We had a great time getting to know each other and wondering what our waiter would do next. LOL!

The next morning, I arrived for the conference with a lot less grey hair than the year before. Navigating the campus is much easier when you’re not battling the homecoming football crowds. We arrived with plenty of time to get our packets, research our prey and gorge on bagels and coffee.

Susan, Ellen and Tiffany deep in research.

Laurie, Jodi and Susan gear up for our One-on-One Success Story: Karen Rostoker-Gruber.

Karen Rostoker-Gruber is an award-winning children’s book author and a Conference Council Member. She inspired us with her success story and reminded us what an honor it was to be one of the 83 people chosen out of hundreds of applicants. Yay!

Vivian Grey, author, Council Chair and Founder of the RUCCL One-on-One Plus Conference inspired us with her story of marching past tanks in 1969 to meet with Rutgers’ President Mason Gross. To his credit he responded, “There is no better time for us to have a conference for young readers.” Vivian was honored for her contribution.

After Vivian’s welcome, I met with my sweet and talented mentor Gretchen Hirsch, Associate Editor at Simon & Schuster. She was so helpful that the 45 minutes were gone before I knew it and it was time for a panel discussion. Thank you so much Gretchen. :o)

The Panel Discussion was on: “Staying Power in Children’s Literature.”

Moderator: Rachel Orr, Agent , Prospect Agency

Emily Sylvan Kim, Agent, Prospect Agency
Margery Cuyler, Publisher, Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books
Peter Catalanotto, Author/Illustrator
Colin Hosten, Digital Books Coordinator, Disney Publishing Worldwide

Emily Sylvan Kim and Rachel Orr

The first topic of discussion was about what was the single biggest challenge in creating staying power in an author’s career?

Emily reminded us that the book going out has to be the best it can be. If the first book doesn’t do as well as expected, it will likely make it hard to be successful with the second book.

Margery felt that digital books will increase staying power in the future. She also commented that 50% of sales at Marshall Cavendish come from the backlist, so if you write a good book it will have staying power.

Peter reminded us to be timeless and not write to trends, stressing that we have to write what is important to us. His suggestion for our writing was to return to the feelings of our youth, not what causes the feelings. It is the feelings that are timeless.

Colin also felt that good publishing is good storytelling. The way you do it (digital or print) doesn’t affect the strength of a story. It’s about making an engaging connection with the reader.

Peter Catalanotto and Margery Cuyler

Other bits of wisdom pointed out during the panel discussion:

*Margery told us to know what age our inner writer was. If you know that, then we are more likely to do your best writing for the correct age group.

*Peter said not to forget, when working with books for younger children, we are writing to please two different audiences. Kids don’t buy or review books. The buyer is a wall-they are not the audience.

Colin Hosten

Another component of the discussion was about technology. Margery felt it was very important that she learn everything she can about new media. She is very excited about how it can be used in education with things like links in eBooks. Peter thinks that technology doesn’t have to be your thing. In fact, he’s still amazed that when he pulls a tissue out of the box, another pops up to take its place LOL! He cautioned us to spend your time being the artist that you are. Emily reminded us that the technology is also a plus when searching for an agent. There is lots of info out there. Peter followed up with…”you get an agent so you can have someone else do all that technical stuff.” :o)

Then it was off to lunch with the Editors (agents and awesome published authors too).

I had lunch with Connie Hsu, Assistant Editor at Little Brown Books for Young Readers.
Michele Burke, Associate Editor at Knopf & Crown Books for Young Readers.
Stacy Cantor, Editor at Walker Books for Young Readers.
Gail Carson Levine, author of sixteen books and best known for her Newbery Honor Award book ELLA ENCHANTED.

I also had the pleasure of touching base with some other great people like Tina Wexler, Agent for ICM and Jenne Abramowitz, Editor for Scholastic Trade Paperbacks/Club Originals.

Gail Carson Levine and Me *swoon*

I had to get her picture because the boys are big fans of her books, especially the THE TWO PRINCESSES OF BAMARRE.

After lunch we broke off into our tables for our 5 on 5 sessions. I was delighted to have my table moderated by Courtney Bongiolatti, Associate Editor at Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. She was the the moderator at one of my tables at the Writer’s Intensive in NY last year and she does a fantastic job.

In addition to spending more time with my mentor Gretchen Hirsch, I also was able to take in the advice of…
Karen Chaplin, Editor at Puffin/Speak Books
Diane Landolf, Random House Children’s Books
Elana Roth, Agent at Caren Johnson Literary Agency
Kate Sullivan, Assistant Editor at Poppy, an imprint of Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Lastly, the whole gang got together for the last event of the day (unless you count a bunch of us talking a mile-a-minute in Jodi’s mini-van on our way back to the hotel!) Our Keynote speaker was the lively, funny and thoughtful Judy Freeman. She started off with a quote from the book Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney…”What will you do to make the world a better place?” What a lovely way to start. :o)

Judy led us through a long list of books worth loving and a few that were not. (She has awards for those.) She’s also been working for James Patterson and is creating an amazing website called Be sure to stop by and check it out.

After the conference we all wandered around the lobby a little while, exchanging thoughts and good-byes. It was a wonderful conference, but now it’s time to reap the benefits of a battery recharged. A big thanks to all the wonderful folks at Rutgers, all the mentors who shared and all my fellow mentees…like Judy reminded us…Madeleine L’Engle had 27 rejection letters for A WRINKLE IN TIME.


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