Posts Tagged ‘picture books’




The 2011 NY SCBWI Conference – Part 2

Filed under: Conferences, SCBWI, Writing, Young Adult (YA)

It wouldn’t be a SCBWI Conference if we didn’t start off with this…

The lovely, talented and very funny Lin Oliver.  Lin remarked that there were 35 people at the very first LA conference.  We’ve come a long way baby!  When asked how many people in attendance were first time conference goers-there was a sea of hands raised.  I think that’s soooo wonderful.  Welcome to the SCBWI tribe everyone!!!!  

*drum roll please*  

IT’S LOIS LOWRY!!!!!!!!  Author of my favorite book of all time-the Giver.  I can not adequately express how excited I was to hear her speak. 

Lois used fan letters to show that almost everyone has two burning questions for her…How do you get your ideas and do you have a dog?  *grin*  Yes, she does have a very cute dog, but I have to admit it had never crossed my mind to ask.  On the other hand I’ve always wanted to know where she got her ideas.  I’m going to touch on two…

A SUMMER TO DIE (1st Book)
-Lois had a sister that was her best friend, worst enemy, side-kick and the person who taught her how to read.
-Her sister died leaving her own young children behind.
-In order to cope with the grief, Lois would tell her own 5 year-old the stories of her sister.  After awhile her child was bored with her grief as all young children should be.
-Lois told the stories to herself instead…

She reminded us to "give sorrow words…"

-Lois’ father was suffering from dementia.  One day while looking through pictures together, they came upon a childhood picture of Lois and her sister.  Her father couldn’t remember what her name was and then when reminded, he couldn’t remember what had happened to her.  Lois had to remind him that she had died.  His grief was such that it was like he’d heard the news for the first time.
-They continued to look through pictures and came across another of the two sisters and once again her father couldn’t remember.  Lois told him that her sister had died and once again it was a brand new pain for her father.
-On the way home in the car Lois began to wonder about the idea of removing painful memories from people’s lives.
-She decided she was going to write about a group of people in the future who’d found a way to be happy, comfortable and safe-removed from painful stimuli.
-The book became more complicated as she began to write it, but this is where the story started.

I walked away from Lois Lowry’s keynote speech feeling as if there is no other way to create, than to use writing as a way to explore your own feelings and thoughts.  I know that it’s tempting to try to write to market and trend (and it never hurts to know what is going on) but I do believe that the very best writing comes from that place we aren’t sure we should allow other people to see…

Of course there was an additional moral to her presentation…If you want to be a great writer-you need to get a dog!  ROTFL!

Creating and Recreating the Picture Book: Three Views

*Jane Yolen (JY) Author

(Awesome tidbit-Jane was the first keynote speaker at the very 1st SCBWI Conference and the 2nd member of the SCBWI.  How cool is that?) 

*Mark Teague (MT) Author/Illustrator

*Patricia Lee Gauch (PLG) Editor/Writer/Teacher

This was hands down the best Picture Book Panel I’ve ever heard.  Here are some of the things that resonated with me…

JY-Things that haven’t changed about Picture Books…
     -The amount of work it takes.
     -How dedicated writers are.
     -How much authors/editors need to know.

JY-Picture books need to have lyricism-a musicality of language.

JY-A PB is about compression-words have to do double or triple the work.

JY-Child centeredness does not mean that you have to have a child in the book.

JY-Pick your words as carefully as a poet.
     -Children use big important words too-it just has to be the "right" word.
     -Sometimes you can make up the words-but this is a magical ability so take great care.

JY-Make it illustratable-think in pictures.

MT-Think about if your illustrations will serve the story.

PLG-It doesn’t come from your head.

PLG-Don’t squeeze any idea too hard.

Lin Oliver asked if Picture Books would be better if the author and illustrator collaborated more?

PLG-I’ve learned to keep them apart.  Writers are verbal and artists are not, so they would have trouble winning an argument.  LOL!

MT-It strikes me as a good tradition and cites Lewis Carroll (Alice and Wonderland) being a tyrant to his illustrator.

JY-You have to respect the genius of the illustrator.

Before we leave for our next session, we gave a great big thanks to all the SCBWI RA’s who do so much to make the tribe great.

Of course I yelled really loud for my Eastern NY RA Nancy Castaldo!!!!

Next up was the Pre-Assigned Workshops-What Makes Your Work Publishable: Today’s Market in Children’s Books.

 My first Breakout session was with Alessandra Balzer-Co-Publisher of Balzer & Bray (Harper Collins)

My second Breakout session was with Alexandra Cooper-Senior Editor (Simon & Schuster)  I know the picture is a little blurry, but she was so enthusiastic and fun, this one captured her personality.

At this point in the day, my stomach is yelling for some of that chicken, hand cooked by Lin Oliver *grin*. Unfortunately, my group of rabble rousers was tardy and we ended up in the farthest possible location from the the podium LOL!  The food was still major yummy though.

The upside was that we were in snagging distance of our own pot of coffee LOL!   Go Jeff!

Eileen, Gina, Kim and Jodi

Suzannah, Justin, Jill, Jeff and Scott.

Our Luncheon Keynote…all the way over at the podium was none other than kid-scaring, best-selling children’s author R.L. Stein.  

See him waaaaayyyyy over there?  His speech was on Writing for Fun And Horror but I laughed so much I hardly took any notes.  :o)  He was so fun to listen to.  My favorite part of his speech was when he shared his favorite fan letters.  My two favorites are…

"I’m your biggest fan.  I’ve read your books so much my parents have to escort me to the bathroom."

"I’ve read 40 of your books-and I think they’re really boring."

He also reminded us that we have to be open to everything as a writer-you don’t know what the twists and turns are going to be.  He had planned to write comedy and only wrote horror because he didn’t want to turn down a job.

Lastly, he touched everyone in the room when he got all choked up talking about receiving a compliment from his hero Ray Bradbury.  It is nice to know that no matter how big you become, you still can have heros.  *heart squish*

Breakout session #3 with Lisa Sandell-Editor (Scholastic) and author.

The last keynote speaker of the day is Jules Feiffer.  

This was one of those speeches where you know that you are listening to a legend and every word is important.  The speech is a continuous flow and it is almost impossible to pick out a piece of excellence, because the whole experience is amazing.  

Here are some of my favorite things…

*At the time Jules was illustrating for his friend, Norton Juster, he was poor and did his illustrations for the Phantom Tollbooth on tracing paper.  The originals have not survived and his thoughts on this were…"Norton didn’t tell me he was writing a classic."

*I have a long history of so whats. (meaning wrong turns on the path to success)

*It was spite that got me into children’s books. 

*On entertaining the possibility of failure and letting it get him down–I’m going to make failure work for me.

One of Jules favorite illustrations from the Odious Ogre.  "At my age, it’s a beautiful thing to be able to play like a kid…"

We agree.

Autograph Party!!!!!!

Jules Feiffer picking on me because my kids names are Irish sounding and I’m Polish and my hubby is Italian.  He also wanted to know what the heck a Fishkill Frog was LOL!  But he was lovely and signed the book for the elementary school library with a frog illustration just for the kids.  Lots of fun!

Me and R.L. Stein…he gave me Goosebumps *grin*

The lovely and talented Jane Yolen.

I can’t even begin to tell you what a spaz I was meeting my idol Lois Lowry.  I have no idea what the heck I said, although Nancy Castaldo was at the table and may have things to hang over my head for the rest of my life. All I know is that it was amazing and I’m very very grateful that she doesn’t look too frightened.  Going to hang this one on my bulletin board…motivation for excellence.

I know you can’t even imagine Sunday living up to the sheer awesomeness of Saturday’s Conference, but it does.  I swear.  I’ll prove it to you in my next blog.   

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