Posts Tagged ‘Sara Sargent’
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!
-47 States. (West Virginia was absent and Vermont. But Lin figures they were still too busy feeling the Bern)
-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…
–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.
DOES THIS KEYNOTE MAKE MY BUTT LOOK BIG?
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.
*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)
THE STATE OF THE STATE OF THE INDUSTRY
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.
And my favorite tip from Don? GO WITH THE FLOW–IT’S NOT ALWAYS GOING TO GO AS PLANNED!
Next up was the Editor Panel: THREE BOOKS I LOVED PUBLISHING AND WHY
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…
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)
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…
*19 Countries in attendance
-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
*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.
AW—Alison Weiss (Sky Pony Press)
SS—Sara Sargent (HarperCollins)
RM—Rotem Moscovich (Disney-Hyperion)
AJ—Allyn Johnston (Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster)
JSG—Julie Strauss-Gabel (Dutton/Penguin-Random House)
JB—Jordan Brown (Balzer+Bray/Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins)
Moderator: WL—Wendy 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…
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!
Time for Meg Wolitzer and SWITCHING HATS: WRITING FOR ADULTS AND YOUNG ADULTS
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.
Next up was Adam Rex–HOW I MAKE PICTURE BOOKS
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.
***NOW BACK TO WENDY***
*Establishing multiple voices is HARD!
*What sets Delacorte apart? We do our own editing.
The last Panel of the day was the SUCCESS STORY PANEL: TIPS ON HOW TO REALIZE YOUR DREAM
This was a GREAT panel!!!!
Moderator LW—Lee 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.
Another successful SCBWI Eastern PA Pocono Mt. Retreat! Every time I attend this conference there is something special going on. This year I was thrilled to spend the weekend with Laurie Halse Anderson and to bring a friend to her first writing conference, but more about that later. First off, everyone celebrated the 20 year anniversary of the conference by exchanging memories. I was still in transit, but my buddy Jodi Moore (author of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN) told the very special story of the Golf Bag Holder. If you haven’t heard this story you can read about it HERE.
Now we have two of our “babies” sitting in the Golf Bag Holder with us. <3
Now that everyone knows the secret of the Golf Bag Holder, everyone wants in on the love. This just makes me smile.
First up was my Workshop Session with Sara Sargent, who talked about Inspiration, World Building and Other Indoor Sports.
My favorite thing she said in this session was that watching a character evolve is fun. Seeing it happen live is exciting, so take your reader on the ride with you instead of giving them so much backstory. I don’t think I can ever be reminded of this too much. Great advice.
The first Keynote speaker of the Conference was New York Times best selling illustrator Amy June Bates…
Here is some of my favorite nuggets from Amy…
*If you wish to be pretty, please be more honest with yourself.”
*One person is a portrait, more is a story.
*Dynamic bodies captured in gestures tell stories.
Later in the evening we had Sweets, Swaps and Shirts. This is where you wear a fun T-shirt (conversation starter), sway books and eat candy. I brought some of my favorite Simon Pulse
books to share. I loved sharing these wonderful authors with my friends.
This is the part of the program where the Friday all-night gab-fest mutates into a dire need for coffee AND the heart thumping anticipation of knowing that Laurie Halse Anderson is going to be the morning’s guest speaker. *SQUEE*
Laurie’s keynote was Writing the life of Your Dreams. Crap! How am I going to pick out just a few choice phrases for you to savor when everything she says resonates with me and makes my heart grow by three sizes? I’ll do my best…
*Never Google your name–You only need to know what YOU think of your work.
*Writing time will not magically appear.
*Having a dedicated writing space opens up a dedicated writing space in your brain.
*Give yourself the gift of art, especially if you’re feeling dry. You need new stuff going into the well.
*”I would rather have a root canal and then chew on aluminum foil that write a first draft.” I LOVE THIS WOMAN!
*Ideal ratio of time spent for writers–10 hours writing : 5 hours reading : 1 hour farting on the internet. *head thunk*
Next up I had the pleasure of having a second Workshop session with the lovely Sara Sargent.
It was a packed house so I pulled up a section of rug, which was actually rather comfortable. This session with Sara was about TENSION and how to take your novel to the next level.
My third Workshop session was outside of my usual box, but I enjoyed it tremendously. YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP: HOW TO USE PRIMARY SOURCES TO CREATE NARRATIVE NON-FICTION by Deborah Heiligman.
As I mentioned, narrative non-fiction is not something I ever plan to write myself. Research makes me break out in hives, but I LOVED hearing about how Deborah created CHARLES AND EMMA and I’m biting at the bit to read it now. Attending this session gave me lots of great take aways that I could translate into my own writing life, but the one thing that really struck a cord was when Deborah said…”It all has to be in service to the love story.” What she meant was that, with an avalanche of facts and interesting information to pick from, the only way to successfully chose what to put in the book came when she reminded herself that her story was a love story and all the information needed to progress that plot line of Darwin’s life. I loved being reminded of that–I know how helpful it is to have that focus in my own writing. So, as a little side note, I highly encourage you to step outside of your box every once in awhile and take a session that you don’t think will be a perfect fit, because you just might find something wonderful in the unexpected.
Now it’s time for Laurie Halse Anderson to get mean about revision in Workshop #4
I’ll share a couple of her secrets with you…
*Everything needs to be on the table to be cut or changed–even the main character.
*It doesn’t matter if it REALLY happened. It’s only good if it informs the story.
*It can always be better.
*The fun of reading is the mystery–don’t weigh down it down with too much back story.
*Make the character’s life hard.
*Kids reach for books to find out how other people deal with situations.
*THE GAP-this magical place between the reader and the story. You want to trust the reader enough to let them fill out some of the places on their own.
At dinner, Taylor and I had our very first knitting lesson. It was so much fun when it stopped being confusing LOL!
This is how I started…
And this is how I ended…
Megan, Carli, Kim, Stephanie and Taylor
After dinner the lovely Kay Winters talked about THE POWER OF PICTURE BOOKS.
BTW–Guess who had an ARC in the Silent Auction?
ME!!!!! I’m very happy that TOUCHING THE SURFACE could help raise funds for next year’s scholarships. And the auction winner was…
My girl and yarn guru, Carli Bandeira. I really hope she loves it. <3
And just when you think that we’d exhausted our sugar rush from the Sweet Inspirations candy bags with writing prompts…
It’s time for a dance party… Twist and Shout!!! Oh, and Mary–we did Jagger LOL!
Heading back in after checking out of our room and putting our bags in the car, Taylor and I were cruelly reminded (by Megan and Jodi) that we had yet to make it to the table with the morning beverages LOL!
Next I got the chance to hear Deb Heiligman speak some more…
*Writing for children is the most important job in the world.
*When I am writing I recognize myself–I know who I am when I’m writing.
And to finish off the conference there was a FIRST PAGES/FIRST LOOKS Panel that evaluated the first pages of picture book, middle grad and young adult manuscripts in addition to a selection of three illustrations by three of our artists. And of course, because the conference was so wonderful, I can’t help but avoid saying goodbye. Here were some more highlights from the weekend…
Friends sharing their books.
I finally was formally introduced to Carli’s tea duck. He totally quacks me up!
A full circle moment for me–getting to share one of my heroes with someone I love very much. Laurie personally welcomed Taylor into our tribe.
We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us…
Laurie and Taylor. This makes my heart squish.
Laurie signing books for the Fishkill Frogs!
Taylor with knotted yarn barf. ROTFL!
Sara Sargent and I have a very similar chocolate addiction. We bonded. Green & Black’s Organic
Yep, I was totally trying to put Angie in my suitcase. I love this lady.
And speaking of love…
I know it’s a little blurry, but the thing is…I can see it clearly and that is all that matters.
Monday is almost here and I’m more than tired. I stayed up too late talking to my friends all weekend, but very moment was a gift I couldn’t pass up, and speaking of presents…
I’m now the proud owner of my very own Time Turner. It feels good to have it–you never know when you might need it. But for now…
I don’t want to go back and change a thing–it was perfect.
I’m taking questions about the conference or the magic of the Golf Bag Holder. Or you can feel free to chime in about the sheer awesomeness of Laurie Halse Anderson or the SCBWI Eastern PA. Wish you all could have been there.