Posts Tagged ‘Jerry Pinkney’




The Eastern NY SCBWI Conference 2013–Sail Into Inspiration

Filed under: Author Events, Book Signings, Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, SCBWI, Touching the Surface

Just this past weekend (September 21-22) I got the chance to sail into inspiration at the Eastern NY SCBWI Regional Conference. It was a fabulous event for multiple reasons…

*This is my local conference and I love supporting my local SCBWI in anyway I can. This was the very first SCBWI conference I ever attended (back in June of 2007) and it was a life changer for me. I am here to tell you I would not be a published author if it were not for the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators)

*Because this was a local conference, I had the good fortune of have more of my Eastern NY buddies able to attend than I do at most conferences. I seriously love this group of writers and I never get to spend as much time with them as I would like. This was a treat.

*The Faculty was INCREDIBLE! And no, I’m not just saying that because this was my first time as conference faculty. LOL! Although, it was an awesome experience.  I’m saying that because it was an incredible line up with speakers who have or who need to grace the SCBWI international stage. But just so you know, this is absolutely an area where I’d like to see some personal growth on my part. I have proposals developed for future SCBWI events so keep your fingers crossed that I get selected.



So, let’s get to the conference recap…

After registration and a warm welcome from the ship’s captain (RA Nancy Castaldo) We had the honor of listening to a Children’s Literature legend–Jerry Pinkney. Seriously, I could stare at his art and listen to his thoughtful stories all day.



Here are some of Jerry’s best thoughts during his Keynote Speech about ENVIRONMENT, TOOLS AND PROCESS

*His mom read him Hans Christian Anderson and it informed his work.

*His parents supported his artistry–in fact he drew on his bedroom walls and when they became full, his dad would repaint them white.

*He uses poetry to interpret our history and to help bring to light the roll people of color played in our past.

*Jerry Pinkney is dyslexic and to compensate, he is very organized with his art.  *fist pump* A big HUG going out to another awesome dyslexic!!!! Yes, you know I hugged him–I do that.


Session #1–An Editor and An Agent Discuss Acquisition (Jennifer Laughran-Agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency and Elise Howard-Editor and Publisher of Algonquin Young Readers)



Here are some of the best take aways from this session…

*When you write a good query/pitch, it will get used in the publishing process.

*In most cases, titles change.

*When submitting a PB manuscript, use illustrator notes sparingly (to explain a visual joke that can not be understood through the text)

*It’s okay to break the querying rules if and only if your manuscript is so fantastic I’m obsessed with it. If it’s that good I’ll read it scribbled on a cocktail napkin. (But yours is not that good.) LOL! Jennifer Laughran


Session #2–PUBLISHING NUTS AND BOLTS with Harold Underdown



I’m a huge fan of Harold to start with. I’ve seen him speak before and he’s written The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Children’s Book PublishingHe’s a fabulous source of information on a broad swath of children’s literature topics and you can’t get better than picking his brain. Here are some great take-aways from his Saturday session…

*Platform: in children’s writing it is not a necessity to come with one–it will develop over time.

*Picture Book writers are going to have a hard time finding an agent. Kids commercial fiction needs an agent.

*Kids have different developmental needs and have diverse tastes. This is a wonderful thing but it makes writing for them challenging.

*Picture Books are not just ONE thing.

*Study what’s on the shelves now, not what is on your shelves–Books are always evolving.

*Study the books on award lists.

*On formatting a manuscript–ALWYAS FOLLOW THE RULES.


Lunch was YUMMY! I have no pictures, I was too busy inhaling it. There was soup and salad with chicken or beef. The rolls were warm and toasty and the cookies were scrumptious. In fact, they were so good, I wasn’t even focused on the DEBUT AUTHOR PANEL right after lunch!!!!!

Ummmm I have no notes for you LOL! I was doing double duty being moderator and panelist along with Lizzie Foley (REMARKABLE) and Lisa Amowitz (BREAKING GLASS) But I do have pictures (Thank you to everyone who shared them with me!!!!!)




1239825_10151883761112402_1809836222_nYeah, I talk with my hands a lot. *giggle*


Next up was an Agent Panel–REPRESENTING OUT WORK with Amy Boggs (Donald Mass), Melissa Turk (Melissa Turk & the Artist Network) and Jennifer Laughran (Andrea Brown)


All three agents gave a ton of insight into how they operate, what they’re looking for and the general ins and outs of working with an agent. Here are some of the highlights…

*Your query should leave out the “it’s a fast paced …” part of the cover flap. (AB)

*Don’t hand any paper (synopsis) to an agent at a conference. It will burn their hand. LOL! Follow submission guidelines and reference the conference. (JL)

*On contracts: Every little word id there because it happened to somebody. (AB)

*Good questions to ask an agent in an interview: What books do you like that you don’t represent? What books do you dislike? (JL)

*PB Writers or Author/Illustrators should query one MS but have 3 or 4 fleshed out MS’s in the wings.


Next there was a book signing!!!!!! I LOVE getting a chance to share TOUCHING THE SURFACE with new people and talking about their projects and aspirations. I made so many new friends this weekend.



Autographing was followed by dinner and then…

A DESSERT CAFE WITH ELIZABETH BIRD (Youth Materials Specialist for the New York Public Library)

Let me just tell you, I was blown away by Betsy’s Keynote and the dessert selection was the bonus!!! YUM!!! But I would have adored her talk even without a HUGE side of chocolate yumminess. But since it was there…BONUS!!!! I apologize because I didn’t take a lot of notes or tweet–I was simply a captive listener. But if you’d like a taste of what Betsy has to offer, I highly encourage you to check out her blog–Fuse #8. It’s amazing!


Kim Sabatini, Betsy Bird, Harold Underdown, Lois Miner-Huey and Nancy Castaldo

On a side note–Betsy incorporated Lois’ fabulous book Ick! Yuck! Eew!: Our Gross American History into her presentation and raved about it, not remembering that Lois would be in the audience. How cool is that??? All my teacher buds, be sure to check this one out because it’s got librarians cheering.


 After such a fabulous day, I  went home completely pumped, totally exhausted and full of too much chocolate. But I needed to get over it quickly because I still had the SUNDAY INTENSIVES!!!!!

There were three choices for the Sunday event…



*Semadar Megged (Art Director, Philomel) PORTFOLIO EXAMINATION AND DISCUSSION


They all sound great, don’t they? I picked the session with Harold. It was a small intimate group and I learned a metric ton of stuff. I didn’t tweet or take pics because I was interactively engaged and that is a great thing. After two hours of intensive we finished off the conference with an amazing presentation from Steve Sheinkin, author of BOMB. Steve is a former text book writer with a passion for history and a drive to turn our past into really honest and interesting stories so that kids can remember and enjoy them. I was also very impressed with the idea that most of out history lives in gray area. The text book writers and those who influence them have created a world of black and white. Steve pointed out that no one wants to hear there is good and bad in everyone, particularly their heroes.But maybe that narrow way of thinking is in the past–because with the accolades that Steve is getting for his writing and research, I think history books are changing for the better.



Let’s face it, no matter how long an SCBWI conference is, it ends too soon. So, before I go, some candids proving how much everyone was enjoying it…



Kim and Linda–your neighborhood Shop Talk Coordinators!!


Jeannie and I met because she almost knows my brother LOL!


Some of our Shop Talkers doing a pile on. <3


I love being a mentor for talented young writers. Kim and Danielle. ((((hugs))))



Kim and Linda hugging on our awesome RA!!!! Thanks for everything, Nancy. <3

And that’s a wrap. Any questions about the conference? Want to know more about our Hudson Valley Shop Talk? We want YOU!!!! Anyone take notes for the debut author panel. I’d love it if you threw a highlight or two from the presentation in the comments. What conference are you planning on doing next? Want more info on the SCBWI??? Just let me know what you need to know. And plan on coming to #EastNYSCBWI next time. <3

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SCBWI LA 40th Anniversary Conference-Part 2

Filed under: Conferences, Cover Art

Yes, I didn’t get far. It’s still Friday morning. But I’m liking how the awesomeness of Bruce Coville is followed by the amazingness of Jerry Pinkney.


What I loved about Jerry Pinkney was learning that he took special care to find the smaller stories, hidden in his own illustrations.  I wish I could show you the art work.  The example he used, that really allowed me to understand what he was saying, was a red wagon.  In the first picture, the wagon, a prized possession of a child, was amongst the things needed to be packed when a family had to leave their home behind.  In a later picture of the house, now vacant, the wagon was left in the yard.  There was no room for it to be taken.  This one little detail, told so much about what was happening in the lives of the characters in the story, yet it was not the story itself.  It was hauntingly sad and beautiful at the same time.  His artistry had amazing depth.

Additionally, I was encouraged to discover that Jerry was dyslexic and a very reluctant reader growing up. As many of you know, my oldest (10) is dyslexic and I love to find positive role models that he can look too. <3  We spent time talking and he was a very gracious and kind person.  I was so proud to bring a signed book home for my son.

I know you’ve been sitting for awhile so it’s time to get up and switch rooms for the first Workshop of the Conference.  I decided to do something I’ve never done  before and attend an illustrators session.  Why?  Well…*squee* My cover is being worked on at this very moment and I’m finding it hard to think about anything else. LOL!!!  Also, this next speaker just happens to be Art Director for Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers AND he was a puppet designer in Jim Henson’s Muppet Workshop.  That is just cool!  It was too tempting of an opportunity to pass up.

This session was a journey of beautiful covers coming to life.  I was fascinated by how one idea after another grew and changed over time.  But the thing that really moved me was recognizing a familiar passion.  It was obvious to me that cover art means as much to the people who create it, as words and stories do to writers.  As someone who is dreaming, waiting, hoping, wondering about her cover–I was reminded that while publishing is a business, it is filled to the brim with people who love and take pride in what they do.  I love that.
Woot!  We’ve made it to lunch!!!  Now if you want the full effect of the lunch experience, fill a tote bag full of books and stand in a l-o-n-g line for a sandwich.  The upside is that you will get to chat with amazing friends while waiting.  And if you’re anything like me, you’ll have at least three chocolate bars stashed in that bag of books.  Chocolate makes everything better.  
When munching turkey on a crusty roll, you can’t go wrong listening to a panel discussion–unless you’re a vegetarian.  *sorry*  
(from left to right)
AJ-Allyn Johnston, VP and Publisher of Beach Lane Books 
JSG-Julie Strauss-Gabel, VP and Publisher of Dutton Children’s Books
JH-Jennifer Hunt, VP of Acquisitions and Development and Editor-at-large for Dial Books for Young Readers 
BH-Beverly Horowitz, V. P.  Publisher of Delacorte Press
DD-Debra Dorfman, VP, Publisher Paperbacks, Non-Fiction & Licensing Publishing at Scholastic

*Moderator-Lin Oliver

Here are the best and most interesting comments that I took from the panel discussion…

BH-Don’t be too tough on the electronic future, it has potential.  It is bringing in new readers.

JSG-There is no one right way to sell a book.  Every path is different.

JH-Kids are always at the forefront of innovation and technology.

JH-No matter what the format, content is key.  Great writing is key.

BH-Sometimes you can be “before” the trend.  A strong back list-repackaging.  Need to be nimble and think in a new way.

JSG-The only time social media works is when it’s genuine to the author.  When it feels natural to the author, they capture their writing voice in their social media voice.

JH-While there is an upside to social media, it can cause a lot of stress and take up writing time.

JSG-I firmly agree in voices finding their way, when publishing doesn’t serve, but at the risk of being unpopular, I firmly believe in publishing.

DD-Adults are buying YA

BH-The teen market has only about 4% of the ebook market.

I know that this was a bit of a mash-up of thoughts from the publishers, but those were the things that jumped out at me.  Before I sign off (until the next installment) I thought you might like a peek at the hotel…

This was the Hyatt Regency and I’m just going to put it out there and say that they had one of the nicest hotel staffs I’ve ever met.  They were really, really sweet and friendly and I LOVED riding the elevator and chatting with them.  My favorite person was the adorable lady helping me get into my room when the key didn’t work.  She didn’t even laugh, when she pointed out that I was trying to break and enter into room 1656, when all of my own personal belongings were clearly in room 1652.  *head thunk*

This was the line of people at Starbucks in the lobby.  Each morning, our eyes propped open with tooth picks, we all descended upon the coffee people.  We picked their barista bones clean, leaving empty shelves and discarded coffee sleeves in our wake.  The whole scene made me want to write.


When the morning sun wakes up,
We writers come to get a cup.
We come from almost all the states
So Starbucks gives us discount rates.
I check my watch, I need to go,
Why is the freaking line so slow?
The staff is nice, they really are,
But god, I wish I had my car.
Should I get a cake pop? NO!
I settle for a cup of Joe.
And perhaps a bagel.  :o)

First up on Monday…Libba Bray!!!!

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