Sunday, January 31, 2010

SCBWI 2010 Winter Conference: Team Blog Signing Off

Well it's the end of another conference, and we're all tired and at the same time jazzed.

Thanks for following along and sharing these tastes of the SCBWI 2010 Winter Conference...

And here's hoping we see you (in person!) at this Summer's SCBWI Summer Conference, in Los Angeles. In the summer. (Hey, it was 9 degrees out this morning!)

Write On. Draw On. Dream On!

--Alice, Jaime, Jolie, Suzanne and Lee
SCBWI Team Blog

First Time Conference Goer Kekla Magoon

Kekla Magoon spoke with me about attending the conference for the first time. She's recently published (her novel "The Rock and the River" came out a year ago!) and had a great perspective to share:

--Posted by Lee Wind

First Time Conference Goer: Carol Barreyre

I spoke with Carol as she came out of the book signing with a huge grin on her face. Here's what she had to say about her experience at the conference:

--Posted by Lee Wind

Autograph Party Encore

A couple shots of the Autograph Party winding down.

Our own TEAM BLOGGER Suzanne Young sold out her new NAUGHTY LIST at the bookstore

Jim Benton signing it up sans platypus and blender family

Jacqueline Woodson talking to Florida RA Linda Rodgriguez Bernfeld and friend

Libba Bray signing for the peeps. Libba has on the cutest jacket which you can get here!

Our Dear Genius Jane Yolen and her fans

Autograph Party

After a hearty goodbye from Jane Yolen, conference attendees made their way out of the ballroom to nosh and reflect on a great conference weekend. Books by the amazing faculty flew off the bookstore tables all weekend and book lovers stood in line, waiting for their copies to be signed.

Here are some photos of the wonderful after party.

--Posted by Jolie

First Time Conference Goers: Glenn the Hyatt's Videographer Guy

Who better to assess the merits of our conference than a chap who sees ALL the Hyatt's shindigs? I spoke with Glenn as he was breaking down his equipment, clearing the room for tonight's Bar Mitzvah.

--Posted by Jaime

Conference Goer Jane Makuch

Jane Makuch shares her conference take-away.

You can also find a post she wrote for Alice's CWIM Blog HERE.

First Time Conference Goer: Joe Nusbaum

Here Joe shares about his pre-conference jitters and how it all worked out for him!

--Posted by Lee Wind

First Time Conference Goers: Lynsey Erin

I asked anyone who would make eye contact with me if they'd like to talk about their conference experience. Here's first time conference goer and author/illustrator Lynsey Erin:

--Posted by Jaime

First Time Conference Goers: Jennifer Mann

I asked some first time SCBWI conference attendees to share what were the highlights for them from their attending the NY conference.

Here, Jennifer Mann has already said Hi...

--Posted by Lee Wind

Jane Yolen: I Still Heart Books (cont.)

On Networking:
If you have not joined SCBWI, then why not.

Why network?
-You won't make any of the mistakes that most writers and illustrators make in their lives.
-You will keep current with the who, what, where of children's literature.
-You will make very good friends in the business, on your own level and above.
-When you reach a certain a level of competence, publication, credibility-it's important to give back to the system. Pay it forward.

You must have an ability to never give up.
Jane Yolen has 20 rules. Here are a few:
-Anchor your characters with some sort of action
-B-I-C (Butt-in-Chair) and H-O-P (Heart-on the-Page)
-Find the right word
-Money flows toward the author, not away from the author. (Jane believes in this mantra!)

--Posted by Jolie

Jane Yolen Keynote Hot Tip!

"The Assistant Editor of today is the Publisher of tomorrow."

-Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen: I Still Heart Books

What we need these days is less of a rouser, but a cautioner.

The book business is struggling, and yet, even if the business of publishing is struggling, the business of storytelling is not.

There are so many ways to tell a story.

I'm a book person, so that's where I go when I talk to writers and illustrators.

On winning the big awards and becoming famous:

Winning the big prize is like being showered with fairy dust. All we can count on in the world is the joy of the process.

--Posted by Jolie

Agent Panel: George Nicholson answers some of Lin's Questions

Art by one of George's clients, the always amazing Alice Provensen

Do you believe in trends?

Fashion has always been part of the publishing world, but when you take on a client, it is so personal.

Always have faith in your own judgments and instincts.

You MUST read adult books. you can't consider yourself a good writer for children if you don't read the books out there in the world.

More and more publishers are listed as not taking unsolicited proposals, but agents seem to be saying they are looking for new clients with some publishing credits. What screen do you put new clients through?

Debut, beautifully crafted novels and works are out there, just be flexible.

You all rep both authors and illustrators, yes?

I do very few picture books except with established illustrator clients. I don't do new artists, I don't know how to help them make a living outside of trade books (educational, licensing, etc.)

--Posted by Jaime

Agent Panel: Tina Wexler

Tina says: There's always going to room for a great story, but it's going to be hard for me to call an editor and say, "I know you have 10 vampire stories, but you really should take a look at this one." As a writer you need to be aware of what's out there, aware of the competition. Otherwise you're giving an editor a reason to reject you.

The novels she's sold in this market have come about because the writer had interests beyond their story. She suggest cultivating not only writing, but other hobbies or interests that can somehow inform your writing and making it richer.

About 75% of her authors are first-timers. She loves working new authors and she accepts e-queries.

Hot Tip: Tina Wexler is really into bee keeping. (If you have a manuscript involving bee keeping, work up that query.)

Agents Panel: Rosemary Stimola

Rosemary Stimola, Literary Agent, Stimola Literary Studio

"We look to build careers and not just sell a particular project."

"An agent is an important person to have on your team, so that you can do what you wish to do..."

"Everything is changing at break-neck speed...Every day there is some new change."

The lines are all blurring between audio, visual, electronic, etc. So a question agents are now asking themselves is, how do we agents look to protect you writers not only now but in the future?

Stimola Literary is considered a boutique agency. Rosemary has a lot of flexibility in her schedule because she doesn't go to an office from 9 to 5. She as a group of office mates that are elsewhere that she is able to work with via electronics.

"What you need to do as a writer, is write a kick-ass story!"

Q & A:

Lin: Do each of you believe in trends?

Rosemary: I like to set trends.

Rosemary represents Suzanne Collins who wrote the HUNGER GAMES, a dystopian story.

Lin: We have more and more publishers who don't accept unagented manuscripts, so people turn to agents but are being told agents aren't accepting new authors. Are you willing to look at people who don't have a previous track record? And what are the criteria?

Rosemary: There's nothing more exciting than finding a new and fabulous voice out there. ...Along with that, there's the knowledge that every person is deserving of your time, so it has to be thought about carefully. Can I give this person the time s/he needs and deserves?

Linn: If someone were considering working with you, what is the best way for them to inquire about that, and what questions should each of you ask each other?

Rosemary: The e-query.

(Rosemary gets an average 25-50 e-queries a day.)

In terms of making selections, it's difficult. We're looking for something that stands out somehow.

--Posted by Jolie

Ask the Agents: George Nicholson

George Nicholson started the panel by saying "We are in desperate times when our authors and illustrators are considered merely 'content providers.'"

A little bit of background, George began on the publishing side many years ago. As a young editor, he took part in all aspects of book production, eventually founding Delacorte and Yearling.

He transitioned to being an agent about 15 years ago just as the corporatization of publishing was starting to happen and credits his former wife for helping him make the decision:

"For heaven's sake, George, the only reason you're in this job is because you care about people."

"Have a raging sense of humor for every turn [in this business] if you can."

Some of George's clients include: Barbara Bader, Joan Bauer, Kevin Emerson, Leonard Marcus, Alice Provensen, and Susan Goldman Rubin

George says the most important thing is to be willing to reinvent yourself and be continually willing to do so. Not just your style or genre, but think about new digital platforms and media opportunities.

Agent Panel: Tina Wexler

Tina Stared with a confession: She did want to work at ICM--she pictured an Entourage-type environment. But she was pleasantly surprised at the book-y atmosphere she discovered instead.

Remember why we're in this room: because we love books,


Agent Panel: 3 Agents Analyze the Market

Up next, agents share their insights on the market. The panel includes:

  • Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio
  • George Nicholson, Sterling Lord Literistic
  • Tina Wexler, Director, ICM

(left to right, Stimola, Nicholson, Wexler)


Jim Benton Keynote: Final Points He Was Told to Mention

Jim asked if there was anything he should be sure to tell the audience and this is it:
  • Your editor makes you better and they are rooting for you. Don't pout.
  • Books do not platform well into licensing, the money goes to already established media/TV characters
  • Licensing only exists to engender covetousness in people
  • If you want to do it well you need to be devoted to the discipline of licensing or try to gear your book work to entertainment first. But that has some bad news/hard lessons that accompany it
  • This beats the hell out of real work
NOW Jim is doing a live drawing/story writing experiment on a big pad o' paper! So far its a cartoon/story about a platypus in love with a blender.... Wish you were here.

-- Posted by Jaime

Jim Benton more advice and some naughty bits

"Hi, my name is Jim and I have an ink dependency problem."

Jim says, if you are an illustrator you should be drawing for fun every day. If you aren't, start now. If you are a writer, you should be writing for fun every day.

Here's one of his cartoons. He also showed us a sketch of his 'Trailer Park Geishas' and a unicorn pooping cupcakes...

--Posted by Jaime

Jim Benton Keynote

Jim did the cartoons for Writer's Digest and has read every article for the last twelve years, so he's distilled all the major themes of the magazine down to two. He still recommends the magazine, but here you go:

  • Re-writing. There are no first drafts on the best sellers list.
  • You are not your work. Don't climb into the whisky bottle for two weeks if someone doesn't like your work.

Jim talks a bit about licensing, his cartoon series THE SECRET FILES OF THE SPY DOGS.

Jim talks about the rush of getting a new GREAT idea that you drop all other projects for to work on RIGHT NOW. And then... once you've worked on it a bit you realize it is AWFUL. Don't be paralyzed by your stupid ideas, you won't know they're stupid at first, just let all ideas in and eventually the good ones will make themselves known.

Jim wrote Franny K Stein for his daughter who liked pink and ponies, but also creepy stuff and he hadn't seen any books like that for girls. The National Enquirer named Franny one of their "Top 10 Hotties of the Year."

Compulsively creating: the whole time Jim is working on animation and books, he's still doing licensing for his Bunny character...

Jim was approached to do pieces for Partnership for a Drug Free America:

--Posted by Jaime

Next Keynote is Jim Benton!

Author/Illustrator Jim Benton is up next after our quick break of coffee and filling yogurt pretzels.

Lin says Jim is in the tradition of cartoonists like Jules Feiffer. Funny.

The DEAR DUMB DIARIES series creator will speak about creating compulsively.

He opened with:

"Hi, my name is Jim, and I'm a Compulsive Creator."

And we all replied, "Hi Jim!"

Sheldon Fogelman Keynote: Shaping a Career in Children's Books

Sheldon Fogelman started his literary agency in 1975 - this guy has the chops! Before becoming an agent he was the attorney representing Maurice Sendak, and still represents him today. He also reps a ton of children's literature luminaries, like Mo Willems! Check out this list of Newbery and Caldecott and National Book Awards and more won by his clients.

As Lin said in her intro, he's not just an agent of his clients, he's also a friend and a guide...

What he's said to the other agents at his company since he started:

"Our agency does NOT represent books.

We represent authors and illustrators."

He's sharing stories, with great inspirational moments.

"If you're a writer, don't stop at book one. Or book two. Keep writing... If you're going to choose this very difficult profession, your job is to go ahead and write..."

Don't give up too easily. It may not be the first book you write that gets published.

His advice, if you're trying to break in and get published:

Keep writing

Try to get an agent

Get a critique group

Read as many books in your genre as you possibly can

Be open to editorial input

For illustrators: consider writing your own book, or maybe illustrating a picture book of a story in the public domain. (twice the royalties!) Like his advice to Jerry Pinkney, 2010 Caldecott Winner for "The Lion and the Mouse!"

Overall, for everyone:

"In order to proceed, you have to have a plan - you have to know where you're going."

-- Posted by Lee Wind

Susan Raab-What's Selling, What's Not

Susan Raab--President of Raab Associates Inc, specializing in marketing and promoting children’s books and products--has been speakng about what publishers and bookstores are looking for in children's books. After talking with people in the industry across the genres, she's come up with an extensive list of topics and predictions.

A couple of points spoke to book clubs and book fairs. But all over children’s books have held up extremely well in the face of the economy. In fact, there was even an 11% increase in hardcover sales in 2009.

Some of the things affecting publishers are changes in where and how people get their books. So now publishers are careful about what they're publishing and the kind of formats.
What I found interesting was that her predictions were that ghost and mystery stories would grow in strength, along with books for reluctant readers. Also, inspirational and spirtual books are becoming very powerful.
Authors and illustrators can help themselves by develping a relationship with book sellers. Blogging and social networking is also a great tool.
Looks like we have some writing and tweeting to do...
(write from your heart!)
-Suzanne Young

Lin Oliver introduces the SCBWI staff that makes it all happen, and here they are!

From Left to Right, Lin Oliver introduces Gee Cee Addison, Aaron Hartzler, Kim Turrisi, Sara Ruttenberg, Graham Bradley, Jeff Miller, Brandon Clarke, Sally Crock, and Liz Brown.

To find out more about the amazing SCBWI Staff, go to

--Posted by Lee Wind

Everybody but STEVE

Say hi to the best conference staff in the Universe:

Left to Right the SCBWI staff: Lin telling a naughty joke, Gee Cee, Aaron, Kim, Sara, Graham, Jeff, Brandon, Sally and Liz

Portfolio Winners!

Check out their links!

Grand Prize
Portfolio Honors

Sunday Starts Out With AWARDS!!!

Here are the winners of the portfolio contest:

Honorable Mentions:

Jen Hill


Anna Raff

and the Grand Prize Winner:

You Byun

and then, Martha Rago announced the winner of the Tomie DePaola Illustrator Award, and it was (drumroll...)

You Byun!

Yes, she won BOTH top illustrator portfolio prizes!

Wow! Go, You!


--Posted by Lee Wind

The SCBWI Gay (GLBTQ) Mixer Pulls In A Crowd!

25 of us - published, pre-published, and supporters, gathered at Uncle Charley's Bar to talk with Simon And Schuster Art Director Laurent Linn, Scholastic Associate Editor Jody Corbett, and T.S. Ferguson (a former editor at Little Brown) to mix and mingle and meet as a sort of professional Gay-Straight Alliance of the kid lit world.

After a round of introductions and some schmoozing, we got our drinks, settled down in a big circle, and took over the bar!

We spoke about the distinction between writing books that were all about a character's being Queer (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and/or Questioning) and books where GLBTQ characters were just part of the fabric of the world of the story - just as GLBTQ teens are part of the fabric of our real world.

Questions we tackled included "how do I handle dealing with my main character's being gay if I'm not?" (short answer: read what's out there as a starting point, with the ALA's Rainbow List and my blog both mentioned as resources.)

"How can I introduce books with GLBTQ content in my middle school to support the kids that need it, without getting slammed for it?" (short answer: Books like James Howe's "The Misfits" that have ensemble casts of main characters where one of them is Gay offer an opportunity to start the discussion of GLBTQ identity within the larger discussion of "otherness" and "us versus them." And the sequel, "Totally Joe" focuses on the gay character, which gives kids who are interested in reading more about him the opportunity to do so.)

And many questions about "Is this kind of book out there?"

We spoke about illustration and the special opportunities in illustrations to represent diversity - and celebrated Marla Frazee's recent Caldecott Honor for her illustration of "All The World" (written by Liz Garton Scanlon.)

We talked about the courage it takes to include GLBTQ characters and themes in your work, and also about how so few submissions (agented and non agented) that editors receive have any GLBTQ content. (Which led to the realization that including GLBTQ content might actually HELP your work stand out!)

We discussed the recent whitewashing controversy (where publishers put white representations of the main character on the cover of books where the character is a person of color) and how the voices raised outside the specific disenfranchised group can help effect change.

We spoke of allies and success stories, upcoming releases, and the emotional truth that all characters need to have - gay or straight!

It was a lively discussion of passionate people, and talk of future sessions on craft had the room pumped up and excited for the future.

Thanks to everyone who attended!

--Posted by Lee Wind

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Find the GLBTQ in SCBWI

Our Mixer/Discussion is about to start!

People are coming in now, so come by Uncle Charlie's Bar and join us!

Saturday, Jan 31, 2009

139 E. 45th Street

--Posted by Lee Wind

Peter Sis

Peter is telling jokes and amazing stories about 10 anecdotes every 5 seconds. I am only getting the tip of the iceberg, sorry:

As a child, Peter's parents encouraged him to paint and draw, his father was a film maker.

When Peter was four, his father was drafted into military service for 19 months where he met the young Dalai Lama! He had a photo up of him on the slide show, but I am too slow with my camera.

Here's a picture of a light switch in Peter's childhood home in Prague. He painted the chairs and the refrigerator, too! Except he forgot to tell his mother and her friends that had just come over to visit that the chair was not yet dry...

In school, Peter learned how to do illustration, film posters, costume design, animation, Communist-era album covers, basically any practical application of the arts.

In his early twenties, Peter wanted to be an animator and focused on building his career in that direction. In Eastern Europe at that time, animation didn't mean Tom & Jerry, but more like arty short films. Here's a shot of Peter's first short film. Peter did the 1984 Olympics commercial animations and was soon tapped by MTV in Los Angeles to do some animations.

That MTV work didn't go well, and Peter was stuck in America without a paying job, so he started teaching art. Peter didn't last as a teacher very long as his mantra for his students was, "You want to do art, you will have to suffer for your art." (He'd give them an assignment the day before it was due so they'd have to stay up all night working on it in proper Czech Art School Fashion.)

He ended up painting eggs in LA until he got a collect phone call from Maurice Sendak who convinced him to move to the East Coast, get into children's books, and attend things like ALA.

With the money Peter made for doing the AMADEUS poster he bought an old Mustang and WITHOUT A MAP started driving cross country from LA.

Peter says, when he got to San Antonio he thought he should turn left and asked a patrol car there for directions.


He finally did get to New York and started doing editorial illustration work. He wanted his work to stand out to companies like the NYT and so that is how he came up with the fine, dotted style he's famous for.

Peter says, twenty-five years later and with a pinched nerve, that that style idea was the wrong life move. I'm sure we all disagree with that, but do feel bad about the pinched nerve.

Peter used Tomi Ungerer as a career path model and hoped to, like Tomi, be earning a living as an illustrator in seven years (not knowing that Tomi had actually made some of that money in real estate...)

Peter referenced Jacqueline Woodson's comments earlier today echoing her feelings about work and life after 9/11. He showed a slide of this beautiful whale image he was commissioned to make by the New York Transit for subway cars in the spring of 2001. The image stayed in trains for two years and a quote from Peter:

The whale was absolutely one of my favorite works. It was created out of my love for Manhattan and was the most patriotic and heartfelt project I ever did. And the reaction of the public was amazing. I got phone calls and letters from all over the country,"

He calls THE WALL the most difficult book he's ever made in his life.

Check out more of Peter's work and his upcoming book about young Pablo Neruda, THE DREAMER, by Pam Munoz Ryan here.

-- Posted by Jaime