Monday, August 6, 2012

Farewell from Team Blog!

Lee Wind juggles heads! (Not pictured: the Team Blog kitten,
which Lee has juggled out of the frame.)

Wow! Was that a great conference or what? On behalf of all 1,234 attendees, Team Blog wants to thank the SCBWI staff, all the incredible faculty, and every volunteer who made this an inspirational, educational and fun weekend.

Please do look over the blog for coverage of sessions you'd hoped to attend but couldn't.

And start saving up for the next conference, Feb. 1-3 at the Hyatt Regency Grand Central in New York City.

More ways to connect with SCBWI
  • All year long, you can follow Lee Wind's SCBWI blog here.
  • You can follow SCBWI on Twitter here.
  • The Facebook fan page
  • The official SCBWI site, with info about regions, conferences, grants, and more
Thank you for reading!

Team Blog

Lee Wind, Jolie Stekly, Jaime Temairik, Suzanne Young, and Martha Brockenbrough

Autograph Party

At the end of the conference, those attending take the time to get books signed by the fantastic faculty.

A packed room, with a line out the door.

Jon Klassen

Dan Santat

Dan Gutman

Eugene Yelchin and a happy Ann Haywood Leal

Clare Vanderpool

Linda Sue Park

Patricia Maclachlan continues to delight

Lin Oliver

Bryan Collier

Gary Schmidt

Ruta Sepetys

Tony Diterlizzi

Dan Gutman and Jill Corcoran

Sunday, August 5, 2012

My Conference Experience: Nikki Grimes

New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include ALA Notable book What is Goodbye?, Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade, the novels Jazmin's Notebook, Dark Sons,and The Road to Paris (Coretta Scott King Author Honor Books).Creator of the popular Meet Danitra Brown, Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California.

At the end of the Conference, I caught up with Nikki and she shared with us her conference experience...

Thanks, Nikki!

My Conference Experience: David Carpenter

Writer-Illustrator David Carpenter, attending the SCBWI Summer Conference for the first time, tells us about his experience.

Isn't it great how his Freudian slip is calling 'breakout' sessions 'break-through' sessions?

Thanks, David!

My Conference Experience: Jenny Howard

Jennie Howard tells us about her experience...

Thanks, Jennie!

My Conference Experience: Natalie Lehman

First time conference attendee Natalie "Grace" Lehman tells us about her experience...

Thanks, Natalie!

My Conference Experience: Donn Delson

First time conference attendee Donn Delson shares with us his experience...

Thanks, Donn!

My Conference Experience: Richard Jesse Watson

Richard Jesse Watson (who has been on faculty) attended the summer conference without an official position - just to attend.  We talked about why he keeps coming back and what he got out of the experience...

Thanks, Richard!

Most Enthusiastic Author Signing Attendee: Carolyn Dee Flores

Check out Carolyn's twist on getting her books signed...

We'll call it "sign my iPad"

But that's not at the expense of physical books.  After all, Carolyn's so enthusiastic and has so many hard cover and paperback books for our faculty authors and illustrators to sign, she carries them around in a novel way...

Yes.  That's a suitcase.  FULL of books!

Go Carolyn!

Our thanks to Carol Barreyre, Assistant Regional Advisor from NC/NE Texas for the photos!

Jennifer Bosworth Inspires Us At The Autograph Party!

Author and faculty member Jennifer Bosworth, author of the YA novel "Struck," was doing things a bit differently than everyone else at the Author signing that concluded the three main days of the conference...

Final Conference Keynote: Gary Schmidt

Gary holding us in the palm of his hand

Gary Schmidt is the author of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, which won Newbery and Printz Honors--and The Wednesday Wars, which won another Newbery Honor, among other books.

Gary's keynote was both moving and hilarious--a perfect combination. He started off talking about Border Collies, and how these dogs can show you a lot about life (and herding). Basically they tell you to pay attention to everything. Surprise is a gift that we should treasure.

Gary went on to talk about his schooling, how he developed his love for reading--and then had us all cracking up with his middle school tales of reading Shakespeare.

But when Gary told us all a story, he moved the room to tears. It was something he'd heard in middle school about a master violinist in Auschwitz. And when he was done, we understood why he said that that story changed him and made him devour books. 

Gary didn't decide to become a writer until a fated museum visit where the words of an art teacher inspired him to "see" Monet in a different way--not easy for someone who is colorblind.

The keynote then turned back to the funny as Gary read to us from letters he received from kids. The audience was roaring with laughter, and then of course, Gary started reading the letters from kids who his stories affected in deeper ways.

Gary Schmidt told the audience that if there was one thing he wanted us to take away from this conference, it was this:

"Write the stories and poems and drama that will give your readers more to be human with."

What beautiful advice.

Steve Malk: How to Make Toast

Quick correction! Steve Malk of Writers House's talk is actually titled How To Make The Most of Your Picture Book Career in Today's Market: Writing, Revising, Submitting, Promoting, and Everything in Between.

Steve has a couple of big

boxes of books that he’s giving away to attendees of this session! And handouts, including the Picture Book Proclamation.

Questions Steve gets asked on a daily basis: Is the picture book market okay? Can I have a viable career as a picture book maker? Is it okay to drink apple cider vinegar?

Steve says the answer to all of the above is a resounding YES.

"If I call 15 editors tomorrow and tell them I have the next great picture book, they’re not going to say no thanks, they’re going to be chomping at the bit to see it."

But the above market worries, those are all beside the point, says Steve, this is all about passion.

"You must feel compelled to create children's books, it’s not a passing fancy for you, you’re not doing it to make some quick cash."

Steve says making books that will impact and shape the rest of a child’s life is a big responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Steve is getting fired up now, and asks the audience to give him an AMEN.

We do! He moves on to his next slide:

The L Word

Steve's talking about LUCK. No one knows, it’s impossible to know, which picture books are going to sell and be great successes, and which ones are going to plop like the things that cats leave in litter boxes.

You can’t control luck, so don’t focus on that, says Steve, make your own luck by working hard, being patient, and working straight from the heart.

Raise the bar on yourself, says Steve. And rock your OWN world, I’m sure he would add.

SLOW DOWN, says Steve, follow Cynthia Rylant’s advice of making every word sing, and Marla Frazee’s practice of making a dummy over and over again until it is perfect.

I'll leave you with one final Malkism: "Control your work, don’t let the work control you." This is especially important for ventriloquist dummies and exorcists to remember, too.

Kate Messner Workshop: Picture Books: The Magical Unexpected

Kate Messner talking about the magic of the Unexpected

Kate Messner's picture book Over and Under the Snow, is a New York Times and ALSC Notable book, E.B. White Read Aloud Award finalist, and winner of the 2012 Golden Kite Award for picture book text.

Kate won the 2012 Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Text for this!

Kate shared a beautiful poem in her Golden Kite Acceptance speech earlier, "What Happened To Your Book Today," in which the final line was a child responding to your book (even if you haven't gotten it published yet) in their hands and saying,

"It feels like it was written just for me."

and it was.

It's a moment of magic that still resonates, and the room is packed for Kate's session, all of us wanting to learn how to bring that kind of magic into our picture books.

She's telling us how her different picture books sparked for her, and how she's learned how to make them spark.  We're putting that into action, as Kate gives us exercises and activities, sharing her favorite "magic bullet" brainstorming technique and challenging us to try it.

Kate believes that

"As human beings, we are hard wired to be delighted by the unexpected."
Kate has us consider nine kinds of unexpected (talking about them and giving us examples.) Here are three:

Unexpected characters,

like in her own Sea Monster's First Day (a first day of school story with an unexpected Sea Monster character.)

Unexpected glimpses of hidden worlds,

like in her Over And Under The Snow


Unexpected endings,

like in Ugly Fish by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Scott Magoon

And now Kate challenges us to come up with our own kinds of unexpected unexpected techniques to harness the magic of "unexpected" ourselves.

Clare Vanderpool: Writers Stew: Ingredients: Memory, Research, Imagination

There are many things, within the writing process, that come together to create a story.

Clare's recipe for this talk has altered, the ingredients have changed a bit.

Along with memory, research, and imagination, Clare adds: openness, curiosity and living life. It all goes into the writing process.

Clare was asked if having children delayed her writing process and publication, but she believes that if she would have had one to two years straight to write the book, it wouldn't have been the same. The story needed to simmer, and she needed all that happened during that time to write the book.

Clare came across this quote from Moby Dick:

"It is not down in any map; True places never are."

It was the launch of inspiration for MOON OVER MANIFEST. Then began the research.

Some inspiration and research came from her own family photos, some of which she shares with the those of us here.

When commenting on imagination, Clare says, "Sometimes you have those moments when something comes to you and it's like they came from somewhere else."

Serendipity and synergy are a couple more ingredients to throw into the writers stew.When you start working on something, suddenly information and things start to come your way.

There are two sides of the story pot. There are all the ingredients that we bring to the pot as the writer, and the reader brings their own ingredients to the pot.

Antoinette Portis: The Picture Book: Why It's a Unique Art Form

A small sliver below of a great big talk from Antoinette Portis on ways to improve your picture book. I loved what she had to say about page turns:

"Page turns give you comic timing, dramatic reveals, mood shifts, movement in time..."

Maurice Sendak helped Antoinette gain a better understanding and admiration of James Marshall. Especially his use of the page turn and economy on the page. "Marshall has the restraint to know the joke is visual... and with one line of dialogue, can establish an entire character..." (Antoinette thinks Martha is very Midwestern (I think Antoinette is very darling).

In her books, Antoinette likes to set up a joke with the text and pay it off in the pictures, just look at Not A Box for examples of this on pretty much every spread. 

And some thoughts on balance: 

"Picture books... are a fine balance, the balance of words and pictures, geared toward the understanding of children, but that balance is always changing."

Antoinette uses William Steig as an example of a balance typical a few decades ago—lots more words on those pages than most of the books coming out today. She cautions us to be aware of what the word count zeitgeist is for today’s market. Antoinette thinks of it like levels in your car stereo.

And Owl Moon an instance of where less is more, illustrators are often told to think about adding visual subplots to their art, but that should only be done when appropriate to the story. For Owl Moon, the book doesn’t need that, the poetry of the text is amping up all sorts of subplots, so the art can be understated in that area.

But a wordless picture book, like Tao Nyeu’s Wonder Bear, is at the opposite end of such a balance spectrum.

Ruta Sepetys on Selling, Self-Promoting, and Touring in Foreign Markets

Ruta Sepetys dazzled us all weekend with her stories about the researching and writing of her bestselling, award-winning BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, the story of Stalin's abuse, oppression, and murder of Lithuanians.

In her final conference presentation, she discussed ways to sell foreign rights of your manuscript and assorted other details of becoming an internationally published author. She sold world rights of her novel to Penguin, which went on to sell the book in 40 territories. 

Foreign-rights sales is a fascinating topic. Depending on whether you hold your rights for sale by your agent, or whether you sell them to your publisher, what you earn can vary greatly. What's more, a book that sells as a YA novel here might be published elsewhere for adults.

In general, foreign publishers employ freelance book scouts in the United States. Their scout sends a weekly report of what the buzz book is. The scouts troll publishing-industry publications, Twitter, and blogs for word about new books. That's made Ruta realize how important it is to publicize news about your own book.

"Sometimes a scout in Serbia might pick up on your blog beforehand."

(Strange fact: Italians love books that are set in bookstores. This is the sort of thing a foreign scout knows.)

Ruta said sometimes publishers will pick up a self-published book for international distribution. (They wish they'd found FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, for example.)

She polled her publishers on advances. Some pay 100 percent on signing. Some are half on signing, half on publication. The size of the advance is all over the board. The royalty rate also varies. Germany has more money, for example. Her smallest advance came from Lithuania, but that was the most important one to her.

Foreign publishers REALLY want video content. It's helpful to them (because they can't fly you over). With this content, provide a script so they can translate. They don't want a stock trailer; they want to see you talking about your book. It should be two to four minutes long, longer if your book has a complicated history.

Another funny tidbit: the photos American authors use aren't appealing to Italians. They want authors to do "sexytime" photos in fur coats. REALLY.  Ruta, whose U.S. photo has a certain librarian charm, got a Vanity Fair photo shoot in Italy because she sent ahead a sexytime photo. So have an indoor, outdoor, and "sexytime" photo. (The Spanish encouraged her to lie on her belly in the grass. Rrowr!)

Ruta Sepetys discusses her upcoming novel, Between Shades of Gray from Penguin Young Readers Group on Vimeo.

A Golden Kite for Kate Messner

Kate Messner is the award-winning author of over a dozen current and forthcoming books for young readers. Her titles include picture books like Over and Under the Snow--winner of the 2012 Golden Kite Award for picture book text.

Kate opened her acceptance speech with a story of going to her first conference. It was seven years later when she submitted her first book, and she thanked her agent, Jennifer Laughran, who believed in her and vowed to find just the right editor for it.

Indie booksellers have been a huge support for Kate, and she stressed the importance of our supporting them back.Kate then said that although she was receiving an award, something incredible was happening to all of us. And that if just stick with it, we will succeed.

Kate read a lovely poem she'd written for authors, something to make us think about the beauty of writing, and more importantly, the meaning of writing.

"Somewhere a kid who has never read a book on his own... turned a page, and another. Then one more." 

Then that special moment where a child reads your book and thinks, "This was written just for me." And it was.

A Sid Fleischman Award for Chris Rylander

"If the land of children's literature were a treasure island, Sid Fleischman would have been a treasure chest of gems all by himself," said Cheryl Zach, as she introduced the winner of the award named for the late Newbery Award-winning author.

The 2012 award went to Chris Rylander, the author of THE FOURTH STALL, a Godfather-esque tale for the middle school set. Think more toilets and fewer horse heads.

"The irony of this award is that everything I've ever written is intended to be serious," Chris said. "I never expected to be on stage accepting any award."

Chris thanked the many people who supported him, starting with his parents, who traveled from North Dakota and raised him "with books in my hands ... so that I learned to love to read on my own at a young age."

He thanked his agent Steve Malk, whom he queried in 2006 for an adult book--which Steve does not represent. (He read his query letter to Steve Malk, which included fake endorsements from Steven King, Dr. Seuss and other real authors.)

He thanked his editor Jordan Brown, who helped him transform the book and find its heart, despite the fact that he is a Yankees fan. And he thanked his team at WaldenBooks, and his wife Amanda "for giving me the best feedback I ever got about The Fourth Stall.

"It's really funny. It's really wonderful. But you made one major, major mistake."

"What's that?" he asked.

"Chris, you can't put the F-word in a middle grade book. Especially not 37 times."

"Turns out she was right."

A Golden Kite for Melissa Sweet

Taking home the Golden Kite for Picture Book Illustration for Balloons Over Broadway, the dazzling-in-fuschia, Melissa Sweet!

Better than our Hyatt ravioli, below are a few choice amuse bouche from her acceptance speech:

This award is judged by illustrators, and that Balloons won fills Melissa with immense gratitude.

A little bit on the evolution of Balloons—only four days after hearing about the creative whirlwind known as Tony Sarge, Melissa was in his home town of Nantucket looking at the collection of his toys and projects housed there.

She worked on BOB for five years, the more she researched, the more enamored she became of Sarge. He does sound like one hot tamale.

Melissa's publisher encouraged her to do any sort of art she wanted to do to make the book its best.

With support like that, it's easy to believe Melissa when she says the pleasure and privilege Melissa has in working with editor Ann Rider is immeasurable.

"Art is the big yes," Melissa leaves us with a few words from Marvin Bell.

A Golden Kite for Ruta Sepetys

The Golden Kite Award for fiction goes to Ruta Sepetys for her debut novel BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY.

Ruta considers herself an SCBWI success story, and now she is accepting the Golden Kite for her debut novel. 

Ruta needed more than luck. She needed an agent and an editor that believed that history matters. She found just that. 

Ruta says she had the worst critique in SCBWI history, her first critique. She was told her story was obnoxious, annoying, that her narrative voice was grating, and if the person would have had to read one more word she would have hung herself.

She picked herself up with the help of our SCBWI community, and then sent an exclusion query for her middle grade novel to an agent and was asked to send along the full. At the last minute she decided to include the first five pages of BETWEEN SHADES GRAY, which started it all. 

Ruta's husband has joked with her that one day she will receive a letter that reads:

Dear Ruta, 
You owe the SCBWI everything. 

A Golden Kite for Candace Fleming

Candace Fleming gets her 2012 Golden Kite statuette for "Amelia Lost: The Life And Disappearance Of Amelia Earhart"

"I have been blessed to be part of this community for 17 years."

Candace shares the story of how she knew Amelia being lost was a story she had to tell, the personal connection to her and her insight into what makes a book.

She's regaling us with some of the challenges she faced writing this non-fiction book, how she overcame them, and her goal to:

"Give readers a story that doesn't just show them their world, but shows them what their world can be."

Portfolio Winners

At the Golden Kite Luncheon, the portfolio winners were announced. With so much great talent, it was a tough choice. 

Grand Prize Winner
Juana was selected for the mentorship program last year, and she returned with a new portfolio. As the grand prize winner, Juana will be flown to NY where she will meet with several art directors.

The other awards went to:

Honor Award

Mary Jo Scott

Honor Award 

Honorable Mention

SCBWI Member of the Year

Each year SCBWI honors a member who gives of their time and heart to this wonderful organization and community in extraordinary ways. This year's SCBWI Member of the Year is:

Suzanne Morgan Williams

Congratulations, Suzy! This is a most deserved honor.

Mentorship Winners

At the portfolio showcase, SCBWI selects several promising members for their mentorship program. Here are this year's selections:

Karyn Raz

Lisa Anchin

Brian Won

Jen Betton

Maple Lam

Congratulations to all!