Thursday, December 17, 2009

Exclusive SCBWI TEAM BLOG Interview: Laurent Linn

The latest of our SCBWI TEAM BLOG series of pre-conference interviews with Winter Conference speakers and keynoters is up on Lee Wind's blog.

Lee interviewed the delightful and knowledgeable Laurent Linn, Art Director for Simon & Schuster Books for Young Reader, who will be offering three breakout sessions on THE REAL DEAL ABOUT VISUAL STORY TELLING.

Click here to read the interview with Laurent. We'll continue to direct you to more exclusive TEAM BLOG interviews during the coming weeks leading up the conference!

Click here to register for the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City where you can see Laurent Linn in person.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Exclusive SCBWI TEAM BLOG Interview: Jacqueline Woodson

The latest of our SCBWI TEAM BLOG series of pre-conference interviews with Winter Conference speakers and keynoters is up on Lee Wind's blog.

Lee interviewed amazing, award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson who will be delivering the Saturday luncheon keynote: LOCKING THE DOOR UPON OURSELVES: THE IMPORTANCE OF WRITING IN TODAY’S WORLD.

Click here to read the interview with Jacqueline.
We'll continue to direct you to more exclusive TEAM BLOG interviews during the coming weeks leading up the conference!

Click here to register for the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City where you can see Jacqueline Woodson in person.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Exclusive SCBWI TEAM BLOG Interview: Tina Wexler

The latest of our SCBWI TEAM BLOG series of pre-conference interviews with Winter Conference speakers and keynoters is up on Alice Pope's blog.

Alice interviewed Tina Wexler, literary agent with ICM.

Click here to read the interview with Tina. We'll continue to direct you to more exclusive TEAM BLOG interviews during the coming weeks leading up the conference!

Click here to register for the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City where you can see Tina Wexler (as well as other agents) in person.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Exclusive TEAM BLOG Pre-Conference Interview: Ben Schrank

The first of our SCBWI TEAM BLOG series of pre-conference interviews with Winter Conference speakers and keynoters is up on Suzanne Young's blog.

Suzanne interviewed Ben Schrank, president of Penguin Group, USA.

Click here to read the interview with Ben. We'll direct you to more exclusive TEAM BLOG interviews during the coming weeks leading up the conference!

Click here to register for the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City where you can see Ben Schrank in person.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jane Yolen Added As Winter Conference Closing Keynote Speaker!

Jane Yolen author of children's books, fantasy, and science fiction, including Owl Moon, The Devil's Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? has been added to our conference line-up as a special closing keynote speaker! Jane has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century.

Besides the SCBWI's own Golden Kite Award, her books and stories have won the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Medals, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, the Jewish Book Award, the World Fantasy Association's Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Award among many others.

Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear the wisdom and wit of a legendary voice in the world of literature for young readers!

Click here to register. Early registration ends January 4th!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Details for the 2010 SCBWI International Winter Conference

Preliminary details for the 2010 SCBWI International Winter Conference in NYC have just been posted at! Click here for a print-friendly brochure and all of the info you'll need to start planning!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Farewell and Autograph Party

Farewell & Autograph Party

After Kathleen Duey's inspirational farewell keynote address, conference goers enjoyed the Farewell & Autography Party where they were able to meet and greet the authors and get their autographs! Fresh lemonade, pretzels, and candy treats were provided for everyone as they headed out the door and back to their homes.

It was clear that close friendships had blossomed between conference goers over the past four days and that everyone - from aspiring newbie writers to published veteran authors - were inspired to rush home and WRITE WRITE WRITE.

The room was full of camaraderie and everyone enjoyed the celebration at the farewell shindig. Tonight, the faculty will meet for a final celebratory wrap-up party.

The entire SCBWI TEAM BLOG - Alice Pope, Jolie Stekly, Jaime Temairik, Lee Wind, Paula Yoo, and Suzanne Young - would like to thank SCBWI for giving us this opportunity to share the highlights of the 2009 national conference with everyone. We had a blast attending all these panels - our one regret was that we wish YOU were there! :) If you would like to find out more about SCBWI and join as a member, please go here for more info:

Remember, we are an interactive forum, so please comment away on our blogs. We look forward to the dialogue between SCBWI members about this year's conference.


Conference Take-Aways: Edith Cohn

Edith tells us about the moment from the Conference that she found the most useful:

Posted by Lee Wind

Conference Take-Aways: Nathalie Mvondo

I spoke with Nathalie about her LA Summer conference experience - and she had some good news to share!

Posted by Lee Wind

Conference Take-Away: Chris Rylander

I asked debut novelist (THE FOURTH STALL) Chris Rylander about his conference highlights.


Conference Take-Aways: Kimberly Shumay

First Time Conference Attendee talks about what she got out of the LA Summer Conference:

Posted by Lee Wind

Conference Take-Aways: Sandi Greene

I asked first-time conference attendee Sandi Greene about her conference highlights.


Conference Take Away: Greg Pincus

I asked Greg Pincus about his conference highlights. You can find Greg HERE and HERE.


Conference Take-Aways: Stephen Bramucci

I asked 2nd time Conference Attendee Stephen what was his biggest take-away from the 4 day Los Angeles event-a-palooza:

Posted by Lee Wind

Autograph Party! - Jaime's Pics

(L to R) Ingrid Law! Ellen Hopkins! Karen Cushman! Kathleen Duey!

(L to R) Jim Averbeck! Chris Eboch! Marla Frazee!

RA and author Sydney Salter with a big ol' stack of books to get autographed!

Nancy Sanders!

Dan Santat start his own unadvertised line he's so good!

Kathleen Duey--Transmutation: Books That Matter

Kathleen Duey on the benefits of SCBWI...

The give-and-take of SCBWI is epic, and it has grown. It's gone from a family to more like a small village. It's given us a place to send all the people to ask us how they can publish. Membership in SCBWI makes editors know you're serious about writing. You can make connections.


Kathleen Duey--Transmutation: Books That Matter

Kathleen is telling us that the first thing she does after a conference is write down her conversations.

Next, she goes over and annotates her notes--you'll never remember more about this than you will in the next two days.

Then she goes through her business card. When she accepts then she writes a note on them saying why she took them. If you haven't, go home and write notes on them.

Contact everyone you took a card from. Send a thank-you to editors and agents who took the time to talk to you.

She asks, how many of us are not on Facebook. To everyone who raised their hands, she says: "Shame on you."

Kathleen is talking about the marvels of Twitter, that people were tweeting on the streets of Iran after the election. That there are writers chats on Twitter. And that she's writing a Twitter novel.

Kathleen Duey--Transmutation: Books That Matter

The amazing Kathleen Duey is offering the final keynote session of the 2009 SCBWI Summer Conference.

Lin Oliver says she'll "Send us out on wings of inspiration."

Kathleen has published more than 70 book and was nominated for a National Book Award last year for Skin Hunger.

Kathleen starts out by saying how much SCBWI has done for her. SCBWI, she says, raised the bar and changed the business.


Books Come from Being at SCBWI Conferences: An Interview with Two Success Stories

Yes, success comes from being a member of SCBWI and attending conference. Check out this interview from the conference with Ann Leal, author of ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER, and Jill S. Alexander, author of THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY.


OOOooo! NEW SCBWI website bits!

Aaron Hartzler's taken the stage.

He's unveiling some really amazing stuff that you'll soon see on the SCBWI website:

A searchable speakers bureau will soon be launched -- you'll be able to upload a short video of yourself and a bio.

Teachers and librarians will be able to search by name, book title AND location!

An Illustrators Gallery!

With the price of membership will come the ability to have images and unique links living at the SCBWI site that you can send to art directors and editors.


SCBWI Team Blog - Hard At Work, for YOU!

From Right to Left: Alice Pope, Team Captain! Lee Wind, Paula Yoo, Jolie Stekly, Jaime Temairik, and Suzanne Young!

Kelly Sonnack: How to Avoid Childish Mistakes When Writing for Children

Kelly Sonnack, agent with Andrea Brown Literary is offers 15 tips in this session. Here are a few:

  • Beware of lessons and morals. (“And Gator never misbehaved again.” “I guess veggie shakes are so bad after all.”) If you want to incorporate one, it has to be almost invisible and fun to learn.
  • Avoid writing to trends and copying bestsellers. This does not mean you can’t write a vampire book, but you have to realize that the bar is higher for you.
  • Don’t let an adult solve the problem or come to the rescue. (And of course, she says, every children’s book needs to have a problem or conflict the character must overcome.)
  • Don’t list character spec (“Gregory had sturdy broad shoulders, handsome hazel eyes and short thick reddish hair. He was a good-looking 18-year-old.”)
  • Avoid stereotypical teen dialogue (“Oh my gawd, could my life be any more embarrassing? I mean come on. That was so over, like two years ago.”) and overdone teen angst (Arguments, rolling eyes, sighing, dialogue like: “You don’t understand me.”).


Steven Malk - What to Expect When You're Expecting: An Agent's Guide from Query Letter to Published Book

Workshop attendees and HALF of the Oregon contingent,

Steven urged the packed room to stop looking at their Amazon rankings.

Steven believes (and he says this is the Californian coming out in him) that the more you're out there putting good things into the world the more good things will come back to you.

In the children's book world, a great example of this is bookstore visits/author tours. It may not seem a success at the time and it is true they are lots of hard work, but the point of a tour or store visit isn't always immediate sales. Steven believes the power of a book tour is not quantifiable and hopes authors and illustrators will make the effort to be nice to everyone they meet on a tour. Because you never know, the dorky kid behind the counter may turn into tomorrow's power agent.

He asked everyone in the room to please read DEAR GENIUS if they haven't already.

Steven shared a few anecdotes -- Nikki McClure and Cynthia Rylant's book ALL IN A DAY was rejected by quite a few places and one complaint was that it looked like 'something they'd sell at Whole Foods,' and Steven wondered what on earth was wrong with having a book that appeals to people with as much disposable income as Whole Foods shoppers?

Steven mentioned that client Chris Rylander, who was in the room, had sent Steven a novel for adults (a no no) BUT Chris had also included the funniest query letter Steven had ever read. Steven let Chris know that he had no idea why he sent the adult book, but if Chris ever wrote anything for kids as funny as that query letter he'd be interested.

Someone then asked what happens to your manuscript after it has been requested by Steven and Steven said it is sent to a machine/room a lot like this:



Linda Joy Singleton, author of the DEAD GIRL series with Flux, has an autographed copy of her brand new book DEAD GIRL IN LOVE to give to you! So if you're here at the conference, the first person to find Linda and tell her you'd love to read her book will get it!

Jenn Bailey: Sweet Tweet con't

Discussing TweetDeck with @JennBailey. #scbwi09

We don't have to keep refreshing with TweetDeck. #scbwi09

Guess what else is on TweetDeck? Facebook. #scbwi09

Here's where we get down and dirty @JennBailey...groups. scbwi#09

#kidlit chat is every Tuesday 9:00 eastern, 6:00 pacific #scbwi09

Singing the praises of TweetChat! @JennBailey #scbwi09

Sad to leave Sweet Tweet. #scbwi09

Crossover Writing: Linda Sue Park, Lisa Yee, and Arthur A. Levine, part 2

L to R, Arthur, Linda Sue, Lisa

Lisa Yee gems:

If you've ever been to Red Lobster, I wrote the menu. Crispy Golden Fries? That's me.


Hey, a menu is a story: beginning, middle, and end.

Lisa said that she was working on a book, sure that the main character was 11. She morphed into being 12. And ultimately, telling the story that needed to be told, the character ended up being 17, and the book was a YA.

Arthur's advice to Lisa back then (and now):

Just write the story it needs to be.


In all the genres, the difficulty is letting go of the anxiety of what you percieve to be the rules of the form.

Lisa chimed in on that - she had a character who was a run-away, and her first instinct was that the character would swear a lot - the percieved rules of the form. But then she realized that her character DIDN'T swear a lot.

Linda Sue:

I want to write a story, and the best story I absolutely can. When she wrote "A Single Shard," she thought it would be an adult book.

When I write my novels, I don't know where it's going to be shelved when it's out.

And they shared so much more great advice and insight!

CHRIS EBOCH: "What I Learned From Nancy Drew: Tools for Fast-Paced Plotting"

CHRIS EBOCH: "What I Learned From Nancy Drew: Tools for Fast-Paced Plotting"

It LITERALLY was a packed room for Chris Eboch's "Fast-Paced Plotting" lecture. So packed that (NO exaggeration), about a couple dozen people sat in the AISLES, taking copious notes.

Chris provided a handout with extremely detailed notes on plotting plus book recommendations. Some highlights from her handout and from the lecture:

-- She showed the original ending for a Nancy Drew cliffhanger followed by the extensive revision and discussed the reasons behind those changes. Her editor said, "I would like to see more of a slow build-up toward the intense action. In horror movies, it's always the ominous music and the main character slowly opening the closet door that scares us the most, not the moment right after she opens the door."

-- Some books she recommended included her 2009 book, "Haunted: The Ghost on the Stairs" and "Haunted" The Riverboat Phantom" from Aladdin. She also recommended Louise Spiegler's "The Amethyst Road" and "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave King."

-- Add subplot: "If you can't pack your main plot any fuller, try using subplots to add complexity and length to your manuscript. A subplot may be only loosely related to your main plot, but still add complications."

-- Chris also advised, "To keep tensions high, make sure your characters are struggling enough." She mentioned the "Rule of Three" where a character tries and fails a first time, tries and fails a second time, and then tries and succeeds, achieving the goal by the third time. "If the character succeeds on the first tyr, then we don't believe the problem was that difficult for that character." She said it's "satisfying" when the character finally achieves the goal by the third time and proves the problem was a "worthy challenge." Although the "Rule of Three" is used in picture books, Chris advises that in novels, there are often many steps beyond just three tries, and writers must make sure these many complications always push the story forward.

Overall, Chris had a very detailed and extensive lecture with many great tips on how to improve the plot of your novel and to make sure the pacing never drags. The handout she distributed among the standing-room-only crowd was especially valuable with her meticulous notes. Another fantastic example of the wonderful information you can learn at this conference!

Posted by Paula Yoo

Barbara Fisch & Sarah Shealy-Publicity 101

Barbara Fisch and Sarah Shealy are offering a great workshop for new authors. It's basically Publicity 101. Some of my favorite parts:

All reviews of your book will be good. Kidding. When you have a good review, use it. Mention it on your blog or website. BUT when you quote, you're only allowed to pull 10% of the review. Interesting, right?

Also, blogs and blog tours are a great way for exposure. You can have giveaways and contests.

And finally, the children's lit world has a longer build than other genres. So if you don't see a review right away, don't panic.

Posted by Suzanne Young

Crossover Writing: Linda Sue Park, Lisa Yee, and Arthur A. Levine

Lisa Yee (far right), Linda Sue Park (center),
and Arthur A. Levine (speaking as Sid Fleischman)

Since Sid wasn't able to attend, Arthur A. Levine graciously stepped in. Arthur read Sid's contribution for this panel, including these gems:

Most our lives are sequences of scenes - and in this respect, art is like life.

Emotion is common to all genres.

Without emotion to touch us, one is left with typing paper.

Linda Sue Park:
Still, today, when revising my novels, there are several run throughs on the language level, in which I revise my novels like a poem.

She even goes through the draft one time during revisions, focusing solely on where the period falls - like in poetry!

She writes poetry in the fallow times between novels.

Her first picture book was adapted from a poem she had written thinking it would be for an adult poetry collection.

More on this great panel to come! Hey, people keep coming in - it's standing room only now!

Posted by Lee Wind

Jenn Bailey - Sweet Tweet: Maximize Your Online Presence with Twitter

The entire live blog post will be composed of tweets: all 140 characters or less. #scbwi09

We've been finding ways to stay in touch for a long time. This is just a new way to do it. #scbwi09

Twitter is joining the gang for a drink. #scbwi09

Messages spread like crazy on this network. #scbwi09

Then you have to find people. And you have to participate. Participating is very fast. #scbwi09

Share the love. It’s how things go viral. Be generous. #scbwi09

Be accessible. Be relevant. Be informative, inspiring, or entertaining. #scbwi09

This is a great time to jump on the Twitter bus. #scbwi09

You need to be a friend to get a friend. #scbwi09

Be aware of TMI (too much information). #scbwi09

Great people to follow: @egmontgal #scbwi09

Great people to follow: @jonbard #scbwi09

Who’s doing it right: @cynthea #scbwi09

or on twitter...

Sarah Davies: A Recipe for Writing the Breakout Novel: 5 Ingredients for Success

Sara Davies is an agent with Greenhouse Literary. They see 150 per week.

Sarah is a lover a language. “When I discovered language it gave me the path for my whole life.”

She mentions that publishers make 90% of their revenues form 10% of their books, there is great dependence on those 10%.

There are certain common denominators for a great story, certain ingredients.

1. An inspired concept
2. Larger than life characters
3. A high-stake story
4. A deeply felt theme
5. A vivid setting

Oh, no…she’s forgotten. There’s a number 6.


Davies says writing is a craft. It’s like cooking or playing the violin. Then she poses the question, “Would get up and play a huge venue when you’ve just learned A and C?”

“I think it takes a long time to master this craft. But I say persevere.”

Bonnie Bader: Pitch-A-Thon HOT TIP!

A great exercise, even if your book is NOT written in 1st person, is to re-write your pitch in first person - try having your character speaking the pitch of their own story.

You can learn alot from this about character and voice! (This doesn't mean you should pitch a 3rd person book in 1st person!)

DONNA GEPHART: "12 3/4 Ways to Tickle Young Readers' Funny Bones"

DONNA GEPHART: "12 3/4 Ways to Tickle Young Readers' Funny Bones"

Some hilarious higlights from 2009 Sid Fleischman Humor Award winner Donna Gephart's panel:

-- She provided handouts for everyone with a list of techniques and details to hone one's humor skills.

-- She advises taking risks. "Mine your embarrassment," she said, discussing how writers should not be afraid to talk about real life embarrassing moments.

-- "Embarrassment is funny but humiliation is not," she said. "You want to empathize with your character. Readers want to laugh, not cringe."

-- She gave a writing exercise in which conference goers had to do: List embarrassing things that happened to you or list things that embarrassed you as a kid.

-- She suggested paying attention to the "sound of language" as another tool to write humor. For example, the "K" sound is funny, such as "Chicken is funny. Roast beef is not. Pickle is funny. Cucubmer is not. Twinkie is funny. Pie is not."

-- She also advised using exaggeration and understatement as tools for writing humor. Examples included "Exaggeration: referring to a tropical breeze as a hurricane" and "Understatement: referring to a hurricane as a tropical breeze."

-- Ultimately, she says writers should not TRY to be funny. "Forced humor is no fun for anyone."

-- She also gave a handout listing funny picture books, early readers, chapter books, and MG/YA novels.

It was a packed room where people participated with a lot of enthusiasm to Donna's writing exercises. And yes, there was much laughter!

Yet another shining example of great lectures provided by award-winning writers at the SCBWI national conference.

Posted by Paula Yoo

MICHAEL REISMAN: "What Hollywood Wants With Your Book"

MICHAEL REISMAN: "What Hollywood Wants With Your Book"

(Pictured above: Michael preps for his lecture by providing not one, not two, but THREE handouts!)

Michael Reisman, author of the bestselling SIMON BLOOM middle grade novel series, discussed the behind-the-scenes tips on why and how Hollywood options books, based on his own experience for more than ten years as a story analyst for movie studios and television networks, including Nickelodeon. His own SIMON BLOOM book was recently optioned as a movie.

He provided three handouts that were extremely helpful. They were:

-- A sample of "script coverage" on Lisa Yee's novel, MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS. This showed Michael's synopsis and analysis of her novel and whether or not he considered potential movie/TV material. He wrote "CONSIDER," which means "Worth a serious look; needs varying degrees of changes."

-- A handout explaining what points story analysts consider while reading and covering book properties. (Examples include "Characterization: Asks how realistic and multi-dimensional the characters are. Will audiences identify with them? Will they care about them?")

-- A handout explaining coverage "jargon." ("CONSIDER" was just defined above, but another example includes: "CONSIDER CONCEPT: Too many problems to adapt directly, but may be worth purchase for core ideas or key elements" and "RECOMMEND: Buy; needs no or almost no changing.")

Some highlights from Michael's extremely informative talk:

-- "Don't write what will make a movie deal. Write what makes a good book." He emphasized how different these genres are and you should simply concentrate on writing the best book possible, period.

-- Retain your movie and TV rights. "I'm a happier man because of my movie deal" given that he retained his own rights.

-- Get a movie agent or manager to help navigate through the Hollywood world.

Overall, Michael delivered a very thorough lecture on how Hollywood approaches book properties and why they option or do not option books. But the information he provided in the handouts and in his advice/examples during the lecture were both applicable not only to published authors interested in trying to get their works optioned but also for aspiring writers because the points brought up about how Hollywood story analysts critique premise, dialogue, storyline and premise ideas was very helpful. Another example of the excellent informative lectures provided for writers at SCBWI's national conference!

Posted by Paula Yoo

Bonnie Bader: Pitch-A-Thon!

Bonnie Bader listens to a Pitch in Progress

You know you have to be able to pitch your book. To agents. To editors.

Your agent pitches your book to editors.

Your editor pitches your book to their colleagues, to get them all excited about reading and working on your book.

And once your book is published, to sell your book it is pitched to readers!

So, how the heck DO you pitch your book?

Bonnie Bader, Editor-in-Chief of Grosset & Dunlap and Price Stern Sloan (Penguin Young Readers) offered an incredible hands-on, interactive opportunity to work on your pitch.

In 6 sessions of 10 particpants each, Bonnie helped attendees learn HOW to pitch their projects!

Here's a great Bonnie quote from today's session:

"Create a Log Line. You should be able to boil down your premise and the hook of your book in less than three sentences."

Here's how it worked: Each writer presented their pitch, and then Bonnie did a critique.

compliments: What worked well about the pitch.

constructive suggestions: Seeking clarity, helping shape the pitch, fine-tuning. Wanting more tone and voice.

And then Bonnie opened it up to discussion, and all the other pitch-ees shared their insights.

And after that Bonnie shared an encouraging appraisal.

The session's only half through, and I've already learned so much!

Posted by Lee Wind

Bonny Becker: Be Wise, Revise--Endings

By now, Bonny knew more than her premise (the what happens); she knew her theme (the why it happens).

She revised her ending, had been through five or six big revisions, and she brought her manuscript to her critique group. She showed us a list of a dozen bullet points outlining what her critique group thought what was wrong with her manuscript.

At that point she went back for the fine tuning, line by line, punching up that language and the conflict, cutting, thinking in terms of images, making sure she's using vivid verbs, and always being willing to "kill her darlings."

Ann Paul - Starting Strong

Well, for those of you not lucky enough to be in the room with Ann Whitford Paul right now, I have a small consolation prize at the bottom of this post.

One of Ann's rules for a strong beginning: Let the reader know right away what the tone of your story is - sad, silly, scary, serious, etc. Imagine reading a story that has a happy title and starts off sounding cheerful and finding out a few pages in that the characters beloved PET dies!

Ann then provides examples of differently toned stories.

A good example of a sad story done well: THE TENTH GOOD THING ABOUT BARNEY by Judith Viorst (and the fantastic illustrations of Erik Blevgad).

First page text:

My cat Barney died last Friday.
I was very sad.

I cried, and I didn't watch television.
I cried and I didn't eat my chicken or even the chocolate pudding.
I went to bed and I cried.

The first line of the story sets up the tone. The two first lines are 'telling' lines, yes, says Ann, but then we go on to be 'shown' how sad the main character is in the next three lines. We also get a little taste of humor with the line about chocolate pudding. A very strong start to a wonderful picture book.

Ann gives other examples of strong story beginnings. She tells the audience about her 'W's (one of which is 'Wow') and Ann provides the workshoppers with some, pardon my French, freaking awesome handouts.

Would you like to find the WHO WHAT WHERE WHEN WANT and WOW of your story?

Lucky you, Ann has a great new book out:

Read about it here and here and check out the book trailer below.


Bonny Becker: Be Wise, Revise--Middles

Bonny continues through her manuscript, realizing there's something wrong with the middle. She again realizes her middle is too far from the core action of her premise.

A couple of rules from Bonny:

Pay attention to that tiny voice that tells you something is wrong.

Look to condense, compress, distill. Eliminate the good for the great.


Bonny Becker: Be Wise, Revise--Beginnings

The first things picture book writers need is a premise, she says.

Then she gets into her first draft of the story. She's reading an early draft of a Bear and Mouse story in which she had problems with the middle. When that happens, Bonny says, you probably have a problem with the beginning.

In the draft she's reading she realized that her story started too far back from the premise.

Bonny quotes Ursula Le Guin:

"In revision, as a rough rule, if the beginning can be cut, cut it."

She revisited and tweaked her premise, and went back and revised her beginning, starting closer to the action of the story.


Bonny Becker: Be Wise, Revise

Golden Kite winner (A Visitor for Bear) Bonny Becker is walking us through a revision one of her picture books.

Write your story knowing you're going to revise it many many times. This is something Bonny didn't know when she started out as a writer, but now that's her mindset going into her projects. Jane Yolen told her says she does up to 40 revisions on a picture book she's writing.


Ingrid Law - Writing Magic: From the Head to the Heart continued

Hints at her story:

Main character is a boy who mucks stables (a job which has medical benefits) but dreams of being an enchanter making potions.

Boy's first potions fall flat (not having a clear theme or plot driver) but he keeps working late at night and early in the morning on his magic (and luckily, stable mucking is a mindless task.)

Boy makes a lovely potion, divides it into four vials and leaves family, heading to the city of glass and towers -- the city of the enchanters -- where he'll need to face one of the four Gatekeepers to get in (and sadly, the boy hasn't been able to afford a subscription to Gatekeeper's Weekly so he's not sure exactly what each Gatekeeper is looking for in a potion.)

On the way, he meets a baker, a milliner, and a minstrel who add things to three of the vials.

The boy submits the adulterated potions to the East, West, and South Gatekeepers all of whom send back a printed rejection note: "Dear Potion Maker..."

The boy submits his last vial to the North Potion Maker who also sends back a printed potion rejection note. But, 'Flop and Floption!' there's a handwritten note scrawled at the bottom:

Keep working, the trope of this magic is overdone, but your plot construction shows promise


Ingrid Law - Writing Magic: From the Head to the Heart

A reminder of Ingrid's story: her first book published, SAVVY, went on the NYT Bestseller list, ALA and Hornbook say it is one of the ten best books of the year, Newbery Honor!, etc.

"The last writers's workshop/conference I went to was 8 or 9 years ago at BYU."

Tim Wynne-Jones and Eve Bunting were at that conference and Ingrid was too shy to share her manuscript even though Tim wanted to see more. She was very shy. She says she is still shy and just asked us if we wouldn't all mind turning around for the rest of her presentation. :)

Ingrid's keynote will be in story form! She's calling it 'Ingrid Unedited' and asks us not to hold it against her.

Monday Morning in LA, No big deal...

They are filming at the hotel!!!
The X Bar and pool are closed all day today.
Rumors say filming something for this show.
If I see Tim Roth in person I will probably pee my pants.

And Steve is asking everybody to come in, we are about to have a door prize drawing!

Wish you were here.

Dinah Stevenson: May the 4 C's Be With You: An Editor Suggest Strategies for Hard Times

Dinah Stevenson is vice president and publisher of Clarion Books.
"I lied!" Dinah tells us. She'll do a bit of bait and switch on her talk.

She let's us all know up front, "Coffee is not one of the four C's." (Although, I've got mine right within reach.)

Today Dinah will talk about writing, and she wants to start with looking at hard times right in the eye. Dinah is up front saying that she is looking at everything more closely than ever before.

Her four C's are:

1. Creativity

2. Craft

3. Community

"You already know the fourth C isn't coffee, nor is it critique group or California. My fourth C is chocolate!" (Nice laughter!)

"Yours could be an anything that feels like a treat, a reward or a celebration...The writing is what you do. Writing work that’s good enough to be published is hard.

4. What's your fourth C?

SCBWI Master Class

A clip of the SCBWI Master Class with Richard Peck is being shown as conference goers filter into the ball room, on this, our last day of the conference.

Master Class DVDs can be ordered soon through the SCBWI MARKETPLACE. There are two: Richard Peck and Tomie dePaola, two men who could be listened to all day long. But, if you are lucky enough to be here, you can pick them up in the bookstore.


Monday Morning Jokes and Opening Remarks

Dinah Stevenson getting ready to take the stage. She's sitting next to her posse of power, Karen Cushman, Linda Sue Park, David Wiesner.

Some of the jokes the audience has entered in the joke contest:

The Three Little Pigs
by Chris P. Bacon

by Rich Azhell

The Door Prize #5 will be drawn after Dinah's speech (which is awesome) so get your patooties down here!


Early Morning Stars with your coffee

Every other morning I've gone down to Starbucks for my room coffee. And each time I've found myself in line next to a star.

Yes, I am in my yoga pants and pjs. Yes, I have kitten breath and remarkable bed hair. So no, I DO NOT HAVE MY CAMERA.

This morning, a delightful slice of Illinois got in line behind me. She's really charming -- fist bumps with all the Starbucks employees (and she got a free drink.) Meet fellow conference goer Patty J Murphy. I will look for her books!


And YESTERDAY, I couldn't believe my living undead luck -- Marlene Perez got in line behind me! I am a big fan of Marlene's and I hope I see her again when I'm cleaned and coiffed and caffeinated to have a proper conversation. Also, if Linda Johns is reading this, I am going to hug you when I get home on behalf of Marlene (they've been in a critique group for TEN years and met for the first time at an LA Conference.) And Linda, I promise I will shower first.


One morning Cecilia Yung got behind me in line. And then on the way to the elevator I walked by Brenda Bowen. Too nervous to make eye contact with either, but if you are attending the LA Conference you never know who you'll see at 7:00 am!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Peer Critiques!

One of the super-cool things you can do at the LA Summer Conference is that on both Friday and Sunday night there are two hours of peer critiques!

Led by the able Jim Averbeck, attendees broke into groups of 3-5 people, and, following Jim's great advice on HOW to critique constructively and with kindness, we read and critiqued the night away!

Fresh eyes, new perspectives about our work, and encouragement filled the room and the hallways as each group settled in to work on our craft.

Peer Critiques. Just another one of the amazing benefits of attending the LA Summer Conference!

Posted by Lee Wind

SCBWI Regional Advisors Word Parade

SCBWI is great not just because of all its resources for writers and book lovers, but it's also a wonderful professional organization because of all its AMAZING REGIONAL ADVISORS!!!

These hard-working men and women work tirelessly day and night to make sure the SCBWI organization runs smoothly. From offering regional newsletters with helpful articles on the craft of writing, to hosting parties, to lots and lots of xeroxing, emailing, and arranging events... these brave Regional Advisors keep SCBWI moving!

As Aaron Hartzler, SCBWI Director of Communications and Creative Director likes to say:

"That's how we roll..."

These RAs hail from all over the country and from as far away as Spain, Russia, and Australia!

Some inspirational words uttered at this year's RA Word Parade included "Success," "Newbie," "Chocolate - because you can never have enough chocolate," "Kick-awesome" (inspired by American Idol), "Embrace," "Percolating," and "Horizon."

LA regional advisor Claudia Harrington wanted to say "klutz" because her arm is in a cast, but instead, she decided her word would be "Bravery." Brava, Claudia!

Here's some live video of the RA Word Parade!

On behalf of all the members of SCBWI, Thank you, awesome SCBWI Regional Advisors for all that you do for us!

Posted by Paula Yoo and Lee Wind

Elizabeth Law Color Commentary, Part 5 - taking it home

Lee: Biggest mistake writers make according to ELaw is following a trend.

Paula: Oh, she's sharing some great books that she loves that came out recently. "Hunger Games." "Wintergirls."

Lee: I'm adding them to my To-Read pile right now.

Paula: She's also talking about knowing your book's hook.

Lee: You've gotta be able to hook your book.

Paula: You're rhyming, aren't you?

Lee: Thank you for noticing.

Paula: She's giving a good pitch example - not 2 minutes long, but for Egmont's "Leaving the Bellweathers," she's saying it's "The Addams Family meets Cheaper by the dozen."

Lee: That's really interesting that those aren't book references - they're TV series and movies!

Paula: Cheaper by the Dozen was originally a book. Often, using TV and movies is an effective way of getting across a high-concept idea.

Lee: And I certainly have an idea of what tone is of "Leaving the Bellweathers" from that.

Paula: Oh, now she's saying how she relies on agents to screen for her. They're weaning out a whole level of stuff before it gets to them. You know, she could go on the road doing a one-woman show.

Lee: ELaw. On Twitter. @EgmontGal. Get her while she's HOT!

Paula: And we're finishing with a huge round of applause for ELaw!

Lee: She has a motto! "No Nonsense!"


Posted by Paula Yoo and Lee Wind

Elizabeth Law Color Commentary, Pt. 4

And here's Pt. 4 of ELaw's keynote with more colorful commentary!

PAULA: ELaw says "I really encourage you to be up to your elbows in this area when you're not writing." She's referring to reading and keeping up with the books in today's YA and children's literature. She's praising THE HUNGER GAMES and Suzanne Collins as "an incredibly economical writer." "Really read in the genre," she says.

LEE: (Silence)

PAULA: Uh Lee? Any color commentary?

LEE: Oh sorry. I was busy writing down ELaw's jewels of wisdom in my notebook. I want to remember every. single. word.

PAULA: I agree. ELaw is captivating the standing-room only ballroom with her incisive and insightful advice.

LEE: Uh, they're all sitting, Paula.

PAULA: Sorry, I got carried away.

LEE: Uh oh, she's now talking about the "bad news."

PAULA: Don't worry, she's just saying the bad news is that she can't tell us HOW to write a good book. She says that's up to us because we're the writers. Instead, it's her job to help get those good books out there.

LEE: You know, she's also having a really good hair day.

PAULA: I know! How does she stay so poised on Day 3 of this exhausting conference? What's her secret?

LEE: Could it be a Bumpit? Stay Tuned (click here!) for the final installment, Part 5 of our color commentary to find out!

Posted by Paula Yoo

Elizabeth Law Color Commentary, Part 3

Lee: ELaw just said, Competition is stiff, so the writing has to be great. Oh, she reads on kindle - and just re-read "A Wrinkle In Time."

Paula: Is that a kindle in time?

Lee: You're Funny. Make that Punny.

Paula: Now here's a quote, "Man, I thought these books were so hot when I was a teenager..."

Lee: And she's saying that Now, for her to look back on them, the passion is there, but those books seem so chaste.

Paula: She's saying that the passion is the same, (even if we're a little more candid about it now.)

Lee: I love that she just admitted "I sort of am, kind of an eleven year old." That goes with my whole theory of we all write the age we arrested in our development. What age did you stop, Paula?

Paula: 15. No, actually, make it 12.

Lee: But wait a minute. You write picture books AND YA. Do you have two ages of arrested development?

Paula: That's my evil twin.

Lee: Oh, that explains it.

Paula: Stop - she's giving us some information now!

Lee: Well, let's go to a commercial break - we'll be right back for Elizabeth Law Color Commentary, Part 4

Disembodied Voice Over: Do you miss the moments of insight and laughter that actually attending an SCBWI conference can deliver to you? Do you follow our twitter feed, #SCBWI09, yet long for the one-on-one awkwardness of pitching ELaw while she's taking the up escalator? Are you reading this post with the hope that you'll get every single wonderful detail of being here, but you know there's 90 percent of the experience that can never be translated digitally?

Well then, get yourself to the next SCBWI conference. It's a career-changing, life-changing, tribal experience. And we hope to see you at the next one.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming (our color commentary, part 4).

Posted by Paula Yoo and Lee Wind

Color Commentary on Elizabeth Law's Keynote!

Hello! I'm Lee Wind, and welcome to this special edition of the S, C, B, W, I Team Blog coverage of Elizabeth Law's Keynote address to the multitudes. I'm joined here by the effervescent and insightful Paula Yoo. Paula, can you tell us what the official title of the speech will be?

Paula: From Johnny Tremain to Edward Cullen: How Children's Publishing is Changing, and how to meet the challenges head on.

Lee: While we're waiting for the crowd to simmer down, and for Lin's intro, what are some fun facts that our audience might not know about Elizabeth?

Paula: She was a girl scout leader. She was also a life guard.

Lee: Good skill set for her current gig, huh?

Paula: She's certainly keeping her head above water. She's really able to dive into her work.

Lee: And I bet she's a wiz at selling cookies!

Paula: I wonder what her favorite cookies are?

Lee: Hmmm... Rubber chicken cookies, perhaps?

Paula: With mushroom sauce.

Lee: lovely. Lin's taking the stage, let's tune in. Oh, the new joke category's being announced.

Lin: For this contest, think of a funny or hilarious psuedonym to go with a classic i.e. The Harry Potter series by Paige Turner.

Paula: I have a new nickname for her. "ELaw" Like JLo. Get it?

Lee: Okie-dokie then. Here's the ELaw intro. Let's listen in.

Click here for our Color Commentary, part 2

Posted by Paula Yoo and Lee Wind

Elizabeth Law Color Commentary, Pt. 2

And... we're off! Elizabeth Law is now speaking. (I have nicknamed her "ELaw," like JLo.)

LEE: I like the pink sweater and the chunky jewelry. It's a nice touch.

PAULA: I agree. The pink really shows off her lovely complexion.

LEE: Oh, she's now talking about Egmont. Did you know their profits go to a children's charity? She's feisty, fashion savvy, AND generous. Talk about fabulous!

PAULA: Only eight people in their company? Wow. I thought WE had a tough job. SCBWI TEAM BLOG is a picnic compared to the hard work ELaw and her staff does!

LEE: I like that she doesn't whine or complain. She's very positive. She says YA hardcover is growing and children's publishing is the growth area of publishing. Oh, and she's seeing better manuscript submissions now. That's awesome! But she says we have to up our game because the competition is stiff.

PAULA: Hey Lee! Where are you going?

LEE: (Running away) I have to go revise my manuscript!

PAULA: You have plenty of time for that! Come back for more ELaw jewels of wisdom!

LEE returns... click here for Part 3

Posted by Paula Yoo

Elizabeth Parisi - Book Dummy Smarts

Rockstar Elizabeth Parisi, Executive Art Director for Scholastic trade hard covers

Some of the attendees

Kelly Dupen and Cammen Lowstuter

Frank Hansen (who was in the Portfolio Show last night and coincidentally, was one of my faves I tweeted about yesterday) and Kate Barsotti

Elizabeth's slide show mapped out the different stages of several picture books from manuscript to thumbnail to sketch dummy to printed book. BUT! Not all illustrators go through every stage:

Bell Hooks and Chris Raschka's HAPPY TO BE NAPPY, for example, went from a striking color thumbnail dummy straight to finished art. The editor of that book keeps Raschka's color thumbnail up in his office like a piece of framed art -- it is such a good example already of the energetic illustration and lovely page design that Raschka is known for. Elizabeth says though thumbnails, the dummy's color palette, rhythm, and sensibility are all there and all of this energy carries through to the final art.

Let whatever you submit, whether dummy or art sample, be as finished as it needs to be to reflect all of the things you believe your dream, finished book would have so you may catch the eye of that art director or editor.

Steven Malk, Krista Marino, Frank Portman - From Idea To Book: The Writer-Agent-Editor Team

Steven Malk discovered Frank Portman (a musician) at a Mr. T Experience show and thought his music would translate well into young adult literature.

Frank Portman performs his song Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend. (If you're not hear to experience it...find it on iTunes!)

Malk invited several editors to see one of Portman’s shows and Marino went. As an editor building her own list, she saw the potential.

Over lunch, Marino asked Portman if there were any songs he could turn into a story. Portman took that as an assignment and his first book came out of his song, King Dork.

Portman performs his song King Dork. (again...find it on iTunes!)

Portman sat down and wrote thirty pages…all voice and attitude. From that, the book was sold to Random House.

Malk says those fist thirty pages were so amazing, with a voice that you’ve never heard before: such a strong voice, such great humor.

Every word counts in a song, the same as with a picture book. And Frank has a mastery of language.

Important take-aways:
-you need to take from everywhere in your life for a story idea
-read a ton of YA, the classics and the new stuff
-your publisher wants to sell your books but they can’t do it without your help
-blogging is important, it’s a way to reach out to readers
-use all of your connections…networking is so, so important
-expect the book writing and revising process to be a collaboration
-find an editor who gets your project

Frank Portman's second book ANDROMEDIA KLEIN is out later this month.