Monday, August 2, 2010

Thanks from SCBWI Team Blog!

Pictured in the video Left to right: Alice Pope, Jolie Stekly, Sarah Stern, Lee Wind, Martha Brockenbrough, and Jaime Temairik.

Suzanne Young (in the still photo above) was hard at work blogging a different panel when we shot this video - that's how busy and how hard we all worked to share with you these tastes and sights and sounds of the 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference.

We invite you to go back through the more than 100 SCBWI Team Blog posts from the last four days. If you were forunate enough to be here with us, you can check out the sessions and keynotes you attended, to remember the high points. Look at the posts from the sessions you missed (unless you were able to clone yourself!)

If you weren't able to be here in Los Angeles, you can get a sample of the wealth of information the conference offered on the business, craft and inspiration of writing and illustrating for children!

We hope to see you in New York at the 2011 Winter Conference!

-- Team Blog

Loren Long- Creating Picture Books: My Process

The charming and talented Loren Long is imparting some wisdom about illustrating picture books. He tells the group to try to keep things simple. For him, that means keeping the technological interference in his process to a minimum.

He sketches, uses carbon paper to transfer his blown up sketch onto illustration board (therefore retaining that initial looseness and spontaneity), then paints, adding more detail as he goes on. Whether or not we as illustrators choose to use the computer—and in what way—is up to us, but it is always great advise to keep things simple and not get overwhelmed by the decisions we face when starting work on a book.

Loren advises us to simply start the sketches first, and worry about the format, exact pacing, shape and size of the illustrations once you have the first sketches done. This way you've dealt with the truly important decisions, like mood and tone, first.

An important element to master right at the beginning of the project is developing the character. Long says to give the character "as much heart as possible." This entails posture and mood.

We were lucky enough to get to view the sketches from Drummer Boy, and since Dan Santat was in the session with a copy of the book handy, we viewed the sketches and the final pieces side-by-side.

A great thing to remember when starting work on a picture book: The manuscript needs to resonate with you. And once you've chosen it, OWN IT! You are illustrating it, and you need to make it your own. Long says that an illustrator making a story their own is the highest compliment they can give a writer.

Spot Yourself! Autograph Party Photos Part 2

Author Jill S. Alexander and author/editorial director Diane Muldrow rock summer color
ARA for Western Washington Kim Baker is STILL full of vim and vigor after four days of conferencing
Author/illustrator Richard Jesse Watson, author Ann Whitford Paul and illustrator/author Jesse Joshua Watson are just like family. Wait, Richard and Jesse ARE family.
Our hero, SCBWI dude and debut author Aaron Hartzler, pop and locking in the LOBBY
Author and Utah RA Sydney Salter holds up titles from Gordon Korman and Carolyn Mackler
 Illustrator/Author/Graphic Novel Slayer Dan Santat and author Tammi Sauer are sad the conference is over. Don't worry, you guys, there's the winter conference in New York to look forward to!
That's better.

Spot Yourself! Autograph Party Photos Part 1

Right before the autograph party, Katy Betz and Lauren Gallegos show off their excellent sleuthing abilities. They found the conference CANDY STASH.
E.B. Lewis and E.B. fan/author/Southern Breeze Co-RA Jo Kittinger
Author and Western Washington Co-RA Joni Sensel waits for Loren Long to sign his lovely picture books
Cocoa & Kate author Erica Silverman, nonfiction powerhouse Melissa Stewart, and Simon Bloom author Michael Reisman
It is Mac Barnett. He always looks this happy to see someone. That's why we like him.

Conference Reviews: Award Winning Author Kathleen Duey

I ran into award-winning author Kathleen Duey (her book "Skin Hunger" was a National Book Award Finalist!) and asked her about her SCBWI 2010 Summer Conference experience...

Conference Reviews: Joey Spiotto

I caught up with illustrator and first time Conference Attendee Joey Spiotto outside the hotel just after the wrap-up of the SCBWI 2010 Summer Conference:

Conference Reviews: Annameekee Hesik

I caught up with Annameekee Hesik in the SCBWI 2010 Summer Conference bookstore on Saturday (the conference half-way point) and asked her about her experience. She's a teacher and a writer - wanna know what grade she gave the conference?

Conference Reviews: Attendee Emily Jiang

Find out why Emily Jiang called the SCBWI 2010 Summer Conference "life changing!"

Mac McCool Graphic Novel Premium Workshop

What's totally awesome?

Today was the last day of Mac's workshop. He spent the time critiquing each person's page of panels or page of a graphic novel script. For some, it was their first time drawing a comics page, but all felt it had been a great place to learn and experiment.

For readability, it's all about bubble placement, baby.
Mac critiqued story arc, text, pacing, as well as bubble design, inking, color, panel style, final art, and lettering. He took great care to translate art or comics terms that may be foreign to authors or even some illustrators.

Everyone put their art up and we all had a chance to check stuff out. These were some of my favorites:

Eric Sailer of New York

Elizabeth Oh of Hawaii
Lucy Mara Taylor of California  
Brooke Boynton Hughes of Colorado
And here's Brooke holding another assignment about character silhouettes.
Please, please, let's do this again! And, HEY! Did you spot the celebrity in the first picture?

Debutante Sighting: Kiersten White

Isn't it a great thing to meet a Twitter buddy in real life for the first time? These conferences are full of such moments--and it's especially exciting when that Twitter pal is weeks away from the debut of her novel.

I'll recreate the moment of my first meeting with Kiersten White, author of PARANORMALCY*.

Me: OMG! You look exactly like the girl on the cover of your book. Did they pay you extra for that?

Kiersten: Uh, I didn't shower today. I'm planning to later. But it's early and I'm not a nonfiction writer so I wasn't going to--

Me: Yeah, yeah. Hygiene. So what is PARANORMALCY about?

Kiersten: Well, it's a paranormal with romance and--

Me: Why didn't you call it Paranormalromancy then? Because that would have been more accurate.

Kiersten: I'll keep that in mind for the sequel. [Explains a bunch of stuff about theme and identity and mermaids that I don't totally follow, but mostly because I am still hung up on the fact that she wrote an amazing novel in three weeks. THREE. It sometimes takes me three weeks to decide what kind of sandwich I want.]

Kiersten: You know, I really have to go and take a shower. I'll see you later. Or not. How do you block someone on Twitter? Never mind. I'll just ask Greg Pincus.

See? Taking a relationship from Twitter to real life is amazing. I will be a fan of Kiersten's work for life. And I'm sure the feeling is mutual.

Jolie Stekly interviewed Kiersten for real. Here's the footage:

* Note. Most of this is made up. And that, my friends, is called fiction. Stay tuned for an actual interview with Kiersten on my regular blog.

CLOSING KEY NOTE: Ashley Bryan--A Tender Bridge

Author and illutrator Ashely Bryan is offering the closing keynote. He started off by leading 1,000 plus people in reciting a poem (which was pretty awesome to witness):

"The night is beautiful,
So the faces of my people.

The stars are beautiful,
So the eyes of my people.
Beautiful, also, is the sun.
Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people"
~ Langston Hughes

As he speaks with young readers he helps open up the words for them by using poetry. Poetry, he says, opens up the voice--poetry needs performers. He thinks of the book as a replacement for the oral tradition.

Ahsley Bryan's hard to blog, dear readers.

He's performing.

He's reciting,

He's energetic.


When was the last time you belted out a poem? Give it a try. PERFORM.

Greg Pincus and Alice Pope Hot Tip

Use the same profile photo of yourself across platforms - twitter, your blog, facebook... It makes you more recognizable.

Even at this conference, people have been coming up to Greg and to Alice because they recognized them from their social media profile photos!

What an easy, quick thing we can all do.

Thanks, Greg and Alice!

Alice Pope and Greg Pincus: Moving Your Career Forward With Social Networking & Blogging

Greg Pincus is a poet, author and social media guru who, through the wonders of social media (and his talent as a writer) got into the New York Times and landed a two book deal with Arthur A. Levine.

Alice Pope is the official blogger for SCBWI, Team Captain for SCBWI's Team Blog, and the former editor of the Children's Writers and Illustrator's Market Guide.

Here's a taste of their words of wisdom:

Greg: There's no one way - each person can follow their own path.

Alice: Just like getting published - it's the same with social networking.

Greg: Recognize that it's not always linear, but a good thing is a good thing. In advertising there's a rule of 7 times of being exposed to something before people buy it. If they see you 6 times via social media, and the 7th time they see your book is in a bookstore... that's good!

the effects are cumulative

You are what you say and do - think of ebay, if someone has a 99% rating, then we trust that seller. Similarly we are all building our reputations online.

Be careful not to hurt yourself - be smart. Greg quoted Jenn Bailey who said that "to get something off the internet is like getting pee out of a swimming pool."

Alice reminded us that in all our interactions we want to ADD VALUE - how can you help? how can you further the conversation?

They've started to share examples of how authors and illustrators have been using social media to further their careers, including:

Readergirlz, five authors who created a safe online community for teenage girls - they're offering virtual author visits and a place for girls to talk books.

Lisa Yee's blog has helped her success and the character of Peepy has become a fun funny extension of her personality.

And me, Lee Wind, with my blog "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" - which have given me an expertise in GLBTQ Kid Lit and a platform.

There are so many examples, great points and insights being offered.

Here's an amazing one!

Mitali Perkin's blog, where she talks about multicultural books for kids, even includes a post where she talks about and how through twitter she sold five of her books to India!

They're speaking about blog book tours now... Alice is sharing about author Holly Cupala's book blog tour that she recently hosted one stop for on her SCBWI Blog.

Someone asked how you get Twitter followers, and Alice gave this great advice:

If you participate, people will notice you.

In answering a question about Facebook Fan Pages versus Personal Facebook Pages, Greg says: Everything you say and do online is PUBLIC. And stay active - people want to connect.

Another example of someone doing it right is Cynthea Liu's recent book launch, where she raised money for a local school and adding that selfless focus was very successful for her.

As Greg says about his own 30 poets 30 days project, which highlighted poems of other people on his own poetry blog, you don't want to just talk about yourself all the time.

They're sharing so much beyond what I've been able to blog here - Greg and Alice really are Social Media Gurus!

I'll give Alice the final words here for us to remember:

Social Networking is not rocket science - it's just talking.

And as a bonus, Greg reads his poem "I'm pretty well connected" to the room's applause.

Arthur A. Levine Workshop: Strong Emotions on the Page (Day 4)

The big finale.

Another dramatic start: Arthur has apprently had too much coffee and diet Coke. We still don't know if the missing assignments have been recovered. Perhaps it will all come to an exciting conclusion.

Last night's assignment was to take the same snapshots we used for our first piece of writing, and now use them to create a new piece with a different emotion than was conveyed the first time.

More good, concrete ideas from Arthur as we share our writing:
  • It's important to know who the scene is important to;
  • Watch for stock phrases like, squeal of delight and an exhausted sigh. What does it really sound like?
  • When the words are generic, it can make the reader lose interest. When words are specific, it will make the reader sit up and take notice;
  • Make sure the words you choose are the ones your character would use;
  • When you get nostalgic you must push back to that time to make the writing stronger;
  • The emotion informs how you're telling the story.
It's been a class so good, no one wants to leave.

(As for the exciting conclusion of The Case of the Missing Homework, it was found in the Lost and Found.)

Arthur A. Levine Master Class - Day One
Arthur A. Levine Master Class - Day Two
Arthur A. Levine Master Class - Day Three

Spot yourself! The Autograph Party at Last

Oops! Her nametag is not as legible as we hoped.
But she did say the conference was like Christmas Eve,
two weeks in a row. Indeed!

The lines for M.T. Anderson and Gennifer Choldenko were epic.
Like a Christopher Paolini novel, but without the dragons.
Coleen Paratore chats with a fan.
Gennifer Choldenko and M.T. Anderson get hand cramps.

Volunteers sort boxes of books.

HOPE FOR HAITI author/illustrator Jesse Watson strikes a pose.

PARANORMALCY author Kiersten White makes nice with the camera.

Illustrators Priscilla Burris and Richard Jesse Watson chat with their fans.

Molly Hall and Dawn Simon (just pull on them and their Velcro attachment comes right apart!)

Golden Kite winner Julia Durango autographs her award-winning book.
Marion Dane Bauer signs the book that won her the Golden Kite Award.
Molly Blaisdell (right) and friend wait in the Loren Long line. Which was long.
Tracy Barrett hangs out with SCBWI member of the year Christopher Cheng.
And here's another look at the autograph lines.
Sally Crock and Jolie Stekly chat.
Arthur Levine and Mike Jung are keepin' it real.
Jolie Stekly and Arthur Levine get in one last hug.

Jill Alexander and Michael Bourret: Your Manuscript is Ready, But are You?

I jumped at the chance to come to this breakout! First, I'm a huge fan of Jill Alexander who I met just this weekend. She is LOVELY.

But she's not a chicken. This is the cover of her fabulous book, The Sweetheart of Prosper County.

Then, to make the workshop even better, her agent, Michael Bourret is speaking too. He's okay, I guess.

Kidding! Michael is fantastic with three exclamation points!!!

Before they started, Aaron Hartzler spoke about how Jill and Michael met each other at a conference. The room was laughing and immediately drawn in to listen to these two charismatic speakers.

Jill's tips to prepare for publication:
*Have a web presence.
*Think about your office hours and how much time to dedicate to writing, whether you have an agent or not.
*Get a calendar system because you might need it for school visits, conferences, etc...

Michael says that writers have a lot of work to do even once the book is sold--and it isn't just to write. For example, think about the types of interview questions people will ask.

Jill shared a great story about a speaking engagement. She felt overwhelmed by the jumbotron, the microphone, and the sheer size of the crowd. Jill is so funny! The crowd is just cracking up!

They spoke about edits and how they'll be more than you might expect. You should prepare by studying up on copyediting symbols and get familiar with the process. Expect to read your manuscript ANOTHER 6 to 10 times.

Jill knew that Michael had repped Sara Zarr, so she knew she'd love to work with him. She says to find an agent whose client list is something you're interested in.

There was a great question from the audience, "What happens when it's time for the second book?"

Jill said that with her background as a creative writing major, she's always writing. Plus if she stopped now, her husband and son would throw pencils at her and make her get back to work. Michael said that it's different for every writer. "And for some, like the person in here blogging this, they already have 800 things ready to go." :-)

This was an amazing workshop!! Perfect mix of information and humor!


Conference Reviews: Molly Hall and Dawn Simon

First-time confernece attendees, Molly Hall and Dawn Simon, share their conference highlights.

Conference Reviews: Jesse Joshua Watson

Author and illustrator Jesse Joshua Watson shares his conference highlight.

Gail Carson Levine - Infrequently Asked Questions About Writing Fiction

Gail Carson Levine has written 17 books for children. Her first book was "Ella Enchanted," which won a Newbery honor and was made into a movie. She blogs about writing here and wrote the nonfiction book, "Writing Magic" - with dozens of writing exercises for kids and the rest of us. She has a picture book and a mystery coming out, and she's sharing with us responses to questions she's had from writers and others...

Try thinking of somebody in particular.

When she wrote a character who was trying to keep it's gender a secret, she had the character bow to a Count and then curtsy.

A bow and curtsy are shortcuts, and we need shortcuts because we don't have an eternity to establish a character - but shortcuts can tend towards stereotypes, so use them with care.

Establish your character's gender early - because it's jolting to be reading it wrong.

And she advises to get a guy to read it to make sure the character didn't act in a way that isn't credible.

Find a name that fits but isn't too obvious.

Think of what your character is like, and go to the thesaurus - look at the synonyms. If your character is Moody - Melancholy. Melody? Petulant. Petchula? What about nicknames? The name could be Michael, but his friends could call him "Mope." (He might not like that, and it would just make him mopier!)

Be aware of the dangers of information dumps in the first chapter. (Though it worked in "Tuck Everlasting," she says in general to avoid it.)

Setting can be a tool for character development.

In an action scene, you don't necessarily want to stop to describe what the character is wearing. But if you drop in early that the hero dresses in his usual baggy pants, and then wham! It's a problem when he's riding his bike in that chase scene.

And for what happens:

If a fishtank is going to explode and you need to set up it's there first for the reader when the character enters the living room, think about the character NOT saying "Julia, I see your Dad still has his fishtank."

Consider the character saying "I always think those fish are staring at me."

Or the character thinking, "The room always felt heavy to him, two sofas, fish tank, leaden curtains..." - You drop it in there and when the fish tank explodes, the reader will be surprised but will also accept it.


She looks at pictures and art as inspiration for the details she uses for her characters.

She's also sharing writing prompts throughout this session. Like the idea of taking one of your characters with you when you go somewhere - what does your character notice? miss? react to emotionally? Write it down when you get back.

Lots of great advice!

Jennifer Rees on Your Voice Is Your Voice: Keeping It Real

Jennifer sold books at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati before moving to New York to work at Scholastic Press, the literary imprint of Scholastic. She acquires picture books, middle grade fiction, and young adult fiction. She acquires based on personal love, and pushes something she really wants to work on (like, say THE HUNGER GAMES).

Jennifer's session is standing-room only, and for good reason. Scholastic Press has published many literary favorites, including RULES by Cynthia Lord, THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznick. Their authors include M.T. Anderson and Jon Muth. And of course, there is Suzanne Collins's HUNGER GAMES, which Jennifer edited.

She's sharing an early draft of her talk to demonstrate some of the choices we make when we're working on voice. She's getting lots of laughs, but making a really helpful point.
  • What story are you going to tell?
  • How are you going to tell it?
  • What point do you hope to convey?
Your voice is the glue that holds these things together and makes your story powerful and unique. "Voice is the No. 1 thing I respond to in a piece of writing," she said.

She learned in her years as a bookseller people buy a book because of its first page. If they love it, they buy it. There are lots of deciding factors (age range, subject matter). But voice is overarching. "Give me an interesting voice--give me a good voice--and I'll read anything, regardless of subject matter," she said.

Voice is also the connective tissue and authorial stamp--it unites all the books that you write and enables you to publish more than one book.

"Your voice is you," Jennifer said. "Your writing is a reflection of you. No one will ever write the same story as you."

She's reading the first few paragraphs of THE HUNGER GAMES. Everyone is spellbound. (Except for the one person sneezing in the back. Haymitch!)

"When the HUNGER GAMES landed on my desk, we zipped through it--and we couldn't believe this was what she turned in."

She read it all day at work and left at 4:30 to pick up her two boys. She ended up missing two subways and a bus because she was reading the draft and nothing else existed. (Her husband had to drop everything and go pick up the boys.)

Elements of voice:
  • What does your character notice?
  • What do they say?
  • What they leave out is as important as what they notice.
Some additional observations: 
  • When you're thinking about characters, as yourself this about your character: What is your character's surprise?
  • Voice sets mood and emotional climate of a story. A grim topic can often be treated with humor.
  • Voice changes as your audience changes. The way you'd tell your friends you're going to quit your job is not the way you'd tell your boss you're going to quit your job.
  • Avoid "teenspeak"--going into overdrive with jargon and slang and irritating expressions. It doesn't matter if your character is plugged into the latest lingo. Voice is believable only if it's something your character would say.

Josh Adams: Agent Secrets

 Josh Adams is an agent with boutique agency Adams Literary.

First something that's not a secret: agents take 15% commision (sometimes 20%)

As an agents he's there to provide support for their authors. He's also there to negitiate rights, but that's just one of the many services we provide.

What's their strategy? Do what we know. Do what we love. Do it really well. Do it really really well. "Agenting is not a 9 to 5 job for us. It's out lives."

Agents, he says, don't "sell books" Instead, he sayd, they license an array of rights for clients. 

Josh says it's not always about looking for which publisher offers that highest advance. A publisher offering long-term commitment and support is more valuable. (He gave a great example of a long-term view versus a short-term view.)

Contracts, says Josh, are bot the least interesting and the most important aspect of his job as an agent.

For an agents, it's all about who you know. Josh has (295 editors as contacts in his phone.) Adams Lierary works with a large array of editor on many levels (from associate to VP) to find the right match for their clients.

He reminds writers that agents aren't magicians. Supply and demand affects that they do, and finding a writer-editor match involves a lot of hard work.

TIP: If they get material that is really trendy, they are less likely to consider it. "Timeless will always be timely" when it comes to book. They are not looking for the next TWILIGHT or the next HARRY POTTER. They're looking for the first of something. (They love debuts.)

Last year they got 6,000 submission. It's really important to grab them early with both your pitch letter and your work.