Saturday, January 31, 2009

No More Speakers Today

Richard Jackson was the last keynote of the day--now joke contest winners and wine and cheese (if I can get past the Scott Treimel line).

I'll be blogging all the sessions again tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm going to rest my weary fingers, schmooze, then, eventually, get some sleep. Hope you enjoyed the play by play today.

More From Richard Jackson

Richard read from a couple more books and articles. It's really not material I can sum up well on a blog post. You have really have to be here and experience his talk.

He urges readers to go on journeys, give yourselves challenges. You are artists, he says. Delete at will but make copies of your work. You never know what gem you'll find in your drawer down the road.

Richard Jackson

After a glowing introduction by Lin Oliver (talking about his 46 years of publishing experience), Richard Jackson started his keynote address with:

Are we all crazy?

He talks about the days of pulling writers from the slush pile. He's happy, he said, to be retired from publishing, but not being retired from literature. (He's still shepherding books.)

His mentor Susan Hirschman, he says, hoped to publish books that would last. And there are quite a number of them. He quotes Ken Kesey in the New York Times: The worst thing a writer can do is write what you know, because what you know is boring.

Richard said to prepare for the afternoon, he read through two years worth of emails for a book he's worked on, Moonshot, by Brian Floca, talking about all he learned in the process of putting working on this nonfiction project. (After 46 years, he's still learning from his authors.)

More From Scott Piehl Including Q&A

Scott recommends getting illustration work in magazine like Cricket. He's worked at publishers who use magazines for referencing artists.

Q: Do you look at email samples?

A: It's tricky because he gets so much of email and he needs time to look at and organize it.

(Note: Disney doesn't accept unsolicited manuscripts. It's their policy not to open them.)

Here's his process for reviewing a manuscript: He doesn't want to see any samples or noted when he first gets a manuscript. He just wants a clean copy. He reads it, paginates it, and then begins his illustrator search, considering the characters and the setting and consistencies. He looks for the illustrator he feels would best represent that text.

Q: How should writer-illustrators submit?

A: He'd prefer to see a clean manuscript with a few samples to go with it. Reading a dummy can be difficult and interferes with his process.

Q: How would you submit an alphabet or counting book, that doesn't have a narrative?

A: He'd recommend working up just a few samples for a project like that.

Q: Is there room for traditional art at Hyperion?

A: Certainly.

Q: What kind of control does a writer have over picture book art?

A: Some authors see everything and can chime in; some do not. At a minimum, he shows a few sample pieces to authors at different stages of the production process.

More From Scott Piehl

Disney editors work in New York City; most of the rest of the company is in White Plains, so once a week the editors take a train to the White Plains offices to meet and talk about projects. The have both acquisitions meetings and cover concept meetings.

He's talking about a meeting room called the creative suite with ever-rotating art from Disney projects (covers, etc.) and much comfy furniture.

Scott likes many different kinds of art. He's really interested in quality--work that can compete with the level of quality he's seeing face out in a bookstore.

How to submit? He prefers postcards. He recommends picking 3, 5, 7 samples of your best work and sending those pieces to art directors--but research first. Pick a publishers to target who would be a good fit for your work. Get catalogs, attend the BookExpo America if you can manage to get into it.

More From Scott Piehl

Scott is describing some of the amazing projects put out by Disney, some pulled from their extensive archives. (Wouldn't you love to explore those!)

Stephanie Lurie is editorial director at Disney, overseeing seven editors at Hyperion and Jump at the Sun. He's got a group of 14 designers working on about 40 titles per season, 3 seasons a year (so about 120 titles per year).

They're acquiring a little bit of everything--picture books, novels, graphic novels.

The Inside Scoop: Scott Piehl, Disney Group

Scott Piehl, current Director, Design, Disney Book Group, is going over his career path. He has extensive experience at a number of publishers including Harcourt and Sterling (owned by Barnes & Noble). The B&N connection helped him learn about what book stars are looking for in terms of covers.

He then moved to Disney (imprints include Hyperion, Jump at the Sun, Disney Press, Disney Editions)

Impromptu Agent Pitches With Scott Treimel

It was just announced that agent Scott Treimel stopped by and is going to take pitches from writers. This was an unscheduled surprise. You never know what will happen when you attend a conference!

Jay Keeps Winning (and Dressing Up)

But he got sidetracked by another idea (which I will not describe in this space--you really have to see it in person).

He submitted to another contest, for which Chris Crutcher was the judge. And he won (and ended up later getting a blurb from him for his book cover).

Were moving up a couple of years. He was getting discouraged. It was getting not fun anymore. So he started his blog, with his writer friends Robin and Eve, Disco Mermaids--and again he getting noticed.

He was finishing up Thirteen Reasons Why, and feeling like he the world's most successful unpublished writer. He almost quit.

Finally, he got not one, but two offers on the same day. The rest is New York Times Bestseller List History. He encourages everyone to not give up on their dreams.

Jay Asher: Dressing Up for Agent Number Three

Jay attended another LA conference and went all out on his costume for the party. He felt silly, but, soon, editors were coming up to him and asking him about his work. The attention he got led him to meet and sign on with yet another agent.

(Side note: Jay is funny and engaging. I'm so not doing him justice. Wish you were hearing him in person.)

We soon started reading a lot of YA, books that deal with difficult issues. He started to work on Thirteen Reasons Why. He was driving home late at night while driving home--he pulled into a gas station parking lot, and jotted down notes, and later wrote some pages and used those pages to apply for an SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant.

Jay Asher: The Timeline Continues

In 2000, Jay Asher won the Sue Alexander Award as a result of his SCBWI conference critique. He got to take a trip to New York to meet with editors and talk about his book. He thought, finally, 2000 would be the year he'd sell a book. But everyone said they loved his manuscript, but they weren't going to take it. Despite that, he realized that editors really are champions of books--he had a great feeling about the industry despite the rejections.

Soon he lost agent number two.

But he was learning about the industry. He was obsessed with the business.

More Jay Asher: Agent Numbers One and Two

When Jay attended his first SCBWI conference, he had a roommate who turned out to be an agent. He showed him picture books and the agent took him on. That was his first agent, who soon stopped agenting.

Jay attended the SCBWI LA conference next, where he heard Chris Crutcher talk, introducing him to the world of young adult books. He also found his second agent, as a result of his critique and (winning lots of prizes in the conference joke contest.

More Jay Asher

Jay also wrote middle grade, and, like the picture books manuscripts, he felt like what he was writing were the types of books he would have liked to read as a young reader. (He told us that's not the case with Thirteen Reasons Why.

Jay continues his timeline: In 1996, he got a bite from an editor, which gave him a lot of encouragement. In 1998 he was working at a shoe store in a mall. He wrote a story about a kid who works in the mall and has to dress like a cow. In 1999 he joined a critique group and started taking writing classes and started looking into going to conferences. He attened the first New York SCBWI conference and joined SCBWI. He attended and was determined to let the editors know he was there, handing editors laminated bookmarks he'd made for a book he hadn't finished writing (not a practice he recommends).

Lunchtime Keynote Speaker Jay Asher

Lin Oliver just introduced longtime SCBWI member (and Disco Mermaid) Jay Asher (Thirteen Reasons Why) on how to get a book published in 12 years (or less).

He's funny, talking about writing a positive review of Vanilla Ice as a student music reviewer and how that led him to like fiction.

Jay's describing his book, Thirteen Reasons Why (which, take it from this blogger, is amazing. You should all read it).

Jay wrote humorous picture books before Thirteen Reasons Why, but they never sold. He started submitting in 1994 (and had his first book accepted 12 years later).

More Q&A With Jennifer Rees

Q: Is she competitive with other editors? Do they pass manuscripts to other editors.

A: She's says there are a reason that there are different at publishers--they have their own flavors. Considering other editors' workloads, she would actually pass a manuscript along to someone else, but she's mention to the writer that they should consider subbing to someone else at Scholastic who may be more appropriate.

Q: Can I submit more than one picture book manuscript at a time.

A: no.

Q: Will she accept electronic submissions?

A: She will not. It's a lot more work for her and she's got limited time to devote to submissions, so having a printed manuscript is more efficient.

Q: What percentage of submissions does she contract?

A: She edits 10-15 a year out of--a lot--that comes in.

Q: Does she prefer working with agents?

A: She says working with an agents allows her to get you response faster.

Q: Why does she do conference?

A: She loves to connect with writers. It inspires her to do a better job and reminds her how important SCBWI is. A lot of newer agents and editors do a higher volume.

Q: Can you submit the same manuscript to two imprints at the same house at the same time?

A: No.

Jennifer Rees Q&A

Q: What's the market for picture books?

A: Like Kathy Dawson, Jennifer said picture books are tough to get published in today's climate.

Q: Do you like rhyme?

A: She says don't be sing-songy and don't force rhyme. If it's done well, she's for it.

Q: What if what you're doing is too similar to what an editor has already worked on. Where's that line?

A: If it's a very similar plot, she would not look at it. If it's similar generally (like distopian, for example) but a different twist on that than what the are doing, that would be considered.

Note: Jennifer doesn't take unsolicited manuscripts. She time frame on submissions is at least 8 months.

Some Books Edited by Jennifer Rees

11 Birthdays, by Wendy Mass (a mid-grade)
Chicken and Cat, by Sara Varon (which is a wordless picture book)
The Wedding Planner's Daughter series, by Colleen Murtagh Paratore
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

While the above authors Jennifer mentioned were published prior to working with her, she has found a few choice manuscripts through her slush pile and had worked on uncontracted revisions.

The Inside Scoop: Jennifer Rees, Scholastic

Says Jennifer Rees, Scholastic Press editor, her press loves the irreverent and the humorous as well as the commercial successes. As an editor, she loves variety—fiction, nonfiction, his, romance, teen fiction, history, humor, almost anything.

She loves genre and genre blending. After grad school she worked at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati (yay!) and took great joy in recommending books that her customers loved.

Here are a few things she wished she would find in every manuscript:

  • A distinctive, fresh voice. Don’t hold back on your voice and writing style.
  • Great characters. Let them speak to you as you’re writing.
  • Something that aims to set his own trend. She wants something new, not knock-offs.
  • A story that keeps me guessing. She doesn’t want predictable.
  • A story that is out of the box.Write the story that keeps you awake at night. Your writing should be set to the music of its own song.
  • A professional package. She wants a manuscript that is readable. She needs SASE.
  • A writer who knows about the market.

More Q&A With Kathy Dawson

Q: Do you have a preference when it comes to point of view?

A: She's favors a single point of view within one book. She gravitates toward first person POV in the manuscripts she works on.

Q: When you're passionate about a book, how many times out of 10 do you get that book contrated.

A: 10

Q: How can a first-time author can promote a first book?

A: An the very least, have a website. Talk to marketing department for tips on promotion. Go on facebook. Visit local bookstore and sign copies. Those are the basics. Beyond that, keep in communication with your marketing department to let them know you'll do whatever it takes. School visits are imporatant for a lot of authors as well.

Q: Are simultaneous submission OK?

A: She's fine with sim subs. It generally depends on the editor. You should mention in your cover letter that you've sent it to other houses.

Kathy Dawson: Summing Up and Q&A

She told the audience of writers that editors really don't know what they're looking for until they see it.

She was asked what she looks for in picture books. Wordplay, humor, new perspectives.

She was asked about the effect of the economic downturn in her experience in publishing. She just left Harcourt after it's takeover from Houghton Mifflin. What it means is that there are a smaller number of people to do the same amount of work. But, she says, people working in publishing are passionate about it and will ride out the storm. She feels it's tougher on picture books than MG and YA. She says the pace of change in how the publishing industry works is more rapid than ever. There are things happening now. she says, that are changing the way publishing works. A lot of what happening is the industry correcting itself.

More From Kathy Dawson

Something else that appeals to her is intrigue. Great books often have a "gasp factor," she says.

She also looks for adventure in a manuscript. Which really means a great plot. A great book doesn't have to be a deep character study if there's a really exciting plot.

More From Kathy Dawson

Kathy's talking about using details as a way to establish voice. She's looking for passages that use detail masterfully.

She looks for action, rhythm, intrigue and adventure.

Action, for her, really means perfect pacing. Too keep up the pace of your novel, she suggests, go through a draft and delete everything you can. Young readers must be hooked, hooked fast, and stay hooked until the end.

Rhythm, she says, is another way to refer to voice. This is important whether you write from frist or third person point of view. It's just as critical in novels as in picture books.

She's reading from Pretties by Scott Westerfeld as an example of effective use of repetition.
She's also reading from My Last Best Friend by Julie Bowe, and Saint Iggy by K.L. Going, also as examples of good use of rhythm.

The Inside Scoop: Kathy Dawson, Dial

Kathy Dawson, Associate Publisher, Dial Books for Young Readers works on mostly middle grade and YA, and will do a few picture books.

She's got four pieces of advice to share:

First, instead of write what you know, instead write what you don't know. Challenge yourself. Learn something new.

Second, it's all in the details. It's how you show and don't tell. But using detail is a way to get readers inside your characters. She's reading from K.L Going's Fat Kid Rules the World as an example of an author writing from a perspective she hasn't personally experienced--being an obese teenage boy--and using details to help readers relate to the main character.

Jarrett's Advice from Paul Newman

When it comes to reviews, Paul Newman advised Jarrett to not pay attention them.

He's finished his speech. I'll find out if his Making of a Monkey Boy video is available online anywhere and post a link if it it.

We're off to breakout sessions with editors on what they acquire.

We're Watching Jarrett's New Video

It features a star-studded cast, among them, Jane Yolen, Tomie dePaola, Mo Willems, Jon Scieszka, Adam Rex. It's at once hysterically funny and inspiring.

Jarrett's Graphic Novel Process

Jarrett approached working up his graphi novel similar to the way he does picture books--he created a dummy, then a thumbnail, then tighter sketches. Finally he creates a script, then it all goes off to his publisher. It's very cool to see the images of his process with the illustrations, which are 2-color--black and yellow.

Jarrett Working Through Ideas

Jarrett got the idea for lunch lady, but initially didn't know where to go with it. He started as a picture book, but it was too much story. He starting working is on as a chapter book, but decided it was too visual. He even began developing it as a TV series, but decided he didn't want to lose control over what happens to his characters. Then he found a comic book he made when he was 9 that he recreated for Guys Write for Guys Read. This inspired him to make a dummy for a Lunch Lady comic book and sent if off to his publisher.

Jarrett's Graphic Novels

His upcoming series, Lunch Lady, is about a lunch lady who solves crimes (and foils wrong doers with sloppy joe's). He's doing quite the dramatic reading--with visuals of course.

Jarrett's Keynote

He's has a lot of changes in his life since his last conference gig--he's gotten married, had a baby who is 7 weeks old today (and right next to me and so cute), started a new graphic novel series, found out his Punk Farm movie deal fell through. His theme dealing with change.

Opening Speaker Jarrett Krosoczka

Jarrett Krosoczka (who Lin Oliver called "one of the new stars of our field") is taking the podium.

SCBWI Master Class

Lin is talking about the new SCBWI series, Master Class, their new video offerings, one featuring Tomie dePaola and one featuring Richard Peck. They're available on DVD and we'll get a sneak peek later at the conference.

More Conference Stats

Almost half of the conference-goers are published writers or illustrators.

Lin Oliver Has Taken the Podium

She got her first laugh in her first two seconds of speaking. She's always so delightful and entertaining.

Here's her conference breakdown: 1056 people! 890 women, 166 men from 15 countries.

All but four states are represented.

We're Starting...

There's a definite buzz in the air, and energy in the room. And lots of people.

Steve Mooser has just taken the podium. He said there is a near-record turnout at the event.

The Festivities Are About to Begin

In about 15 minutes, SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver will welcome the conference goers (which I overheard is about 900 people).

In the meantime, the registration table is abuzz.

Friday, January 30, 2009

I Have Finally Made It To New York

And let me tell you--it wasn't easy. Delayed flight. Airplane tire changes. Not one, but two, malfunctioning jetways.

I'm on my way to the Hyatt to attend the VIP Party.

Tomorrow--full conference blogging mode!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

SCBWI Conference Posts Kick Off Friday

The SCBWI conference in New York doesn't start until Friday, but this unpopulated blog space looked so sad without any words in it so I'm offering a kick-off post.

Who am I, you say? I'm Alice Pope, long-time editor of Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market and member of SCBWI. I've attended and spoken at countless conferences.

How did I get this gig? I am an experienced blogger and an experienced conference-goer (see above). I've been offering conference reports from the SCBWI LA conference on my own blog for several years. And I also blog for fun on a couple of other blogs (about shopping and about shoes). All of these things make me highly qualified to be the Official SCBWI Conference Blogger. So when they asked me--of course I said yes!

What will you find here? I'll be offering snippets from all sessions and panels I attend to give all of you who weren't able to make the event a chance to experience it from my perspective. I'll be taking photos, too, and popping them up on the blog.

Here's what I ask of you: Bookmark the blog, stop by frequently over the weekend and please leave comments if you are so inclined. I'd love to hear what you think of my udates and any suggestions or questions you have related to the conference.

Thanks for stopping by...