Sunday, July 9, 2017

Thank You! (And Save The Dates For #NY18SCBWI and #LA18SCBWI

Thank you for following along for #LA17SCBWI with us!

Team Blog #LA17SCBWI: from left, Sona Charaipotra, Jaime Temairik, Lee Wind, Jolie Stekly, and Susie Ghahremani.

And here are the dates for the 19th Annual Winter Conference in New York City: February 2-4, 2018.

With full-day intensives for both writers and illustrators
Juried Portfolio Showcase with grand prize
Network with top editors, agents, and publishers
Be in the center of the children's publishing industry
Workshops, Keynotes, networking, and much more!

Online conference registration will be posted in October at

And for the 47th Annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles: August 3-6, 2018.

With over 75 workshops and 15 keynote speakers
Monday post-conference intensives
Special hands-on workshops for illustrators, Craft intensives for published, self-published, and pre-published authors
Individual manuscript or portfolio critiques
Juried portfolio showcase with grand prize and mentorship opportunities

Online conference registration will be posted in March 2018 at

Autograph Party

Vanessa Brantley Newton: Digital Art, Best Practices.

This session is so much more than best digital art tips!

Vanessa talks a bit about how she started to learn how to illustrate. She followed every possible illustrator and animator blog, did all of the Illustration Friday prompts. She copied her favorite artists like Sasek and Blair, but then adding her Vanessa interpretation. She works both traditionally and digitally, and is a perennial student in both. Vanessa stalks Youtube and still enrolls in things like Lilla Rogers classes. She tells us to make a lab for yourself, take a day to learn how to do something on Youtube and improve all your illustration weaknesses in this customized fashion. Paint your own textures and papers so you have your flavor in those textures and also so you don't need to rely on stock sites or worry about copyright.

To Vanessa, the ideal is: You want to get to that point where people can't tell, even art directors, if it's digital or traditional.

Dyslexia made Photoshop and Illustrator's complicated workspaces too difficult for her to work in, but Vanessa found that Corel Painter had a simpler tool panel that she was able to master quickly. One of Corel's drawbacks is the inability to add texture to those digital drawings, so after all of the drawing and flat color is done in Corel, Vanessa brings that art into Photoshop to add her texture and collage elements.

She uses Photoshop to put together her sketch dummies, too.

She collects all kinds of fabric, paper, she makes her own paper, too. You can buy textures, but Vanessa recommends taking your camera outside and taking photos of textures and building your own digital library. You can add photographs to your work to add dimension, too. Photos from flea markets!

MARY HAD A LITTLE GLAM was hand drawn first, scanned, and then colored digitally.

For her Hallmark work, she used the Corel Draw airbrush tool.

She shares art made just a few weeks ago, it's made with a scanned piece of linen fabric with multiple layers of color overlayed over the linen layer and then she uses the Photoshop scissor tool to cut out shapes on that color layer. Amazing! Here is my terrible screenshot of it, I'm sorry I can't do it justice here.

Vanessa asks us to all bring diversity into your art, we are all different colors, we have all different hairstyles, don't go for stereotypes.

Laurie Halse Anderson Closing Keynote

Laurie Halse Anderson closes our conference by giving a shout out to her fellow introverts. Especially if this was your first conference, it's hard just to sign up, but you came here, and you aren't in your hotel room right now, so that's all a great job.

She thanks Lin and Steve for all they do, for changing the face of the children's book industry around the world.

Laurie asks us to take a moment to feel all the feels right now and in the next 24 hours take a chance to write or draw about this weekend so you can turn this into a touchstone moment you can take home with you.

Because, Laurie says, we have to go home, back to reality now. In the space we're in right now we feel like we can do anything.

The doubt and fear of our everyday life, of the current political situation, the fear of being found a fraud even if you are already published is what stops us from making the work we are so excited to make during weekends like these.

Laurie's giving us three ways to take all this love and energy home with us.

1. Laurie says, "You are the boss of your brain, and your brain is the boss of your emotional states. I know this to be true, I've done the research." When you start to spiral down into anxiety and fear, your lizard brain thinks you are about to be eaten, and all of your creativity shuts down.

Laurie's secret weapon for combatting this is the country of Denmark. She wants you to learn the word hygge. A warm, pleasant, and comfortable atmosphere, it's an interior coziness that extends to your external surroundings. A lot of it has to do with being surrounded by friendship and supportive, kindred spirits, too.

2. GET STARTED. Laurie blames our educational system for teaching us that the first draft is what we get judged or tested on. We don't get tested on our first drafts in the real world, first drafts are hot messes, the only way we can fix it is to let that mess be made and then revise it. You have to give yourself permission to suck. Revision is about clarifying, just like when you are getting your eyes examined and the doctor is trying out lens after lens. Lower your expectations to the basement and make a hot mess, you can clean it up later.

3. We are saving #3 for the conference goers, but we hope you have enjoyed all the posts on this conference blog and we would love to see you at a regional or international SCBWI conference in person some time soon, so you, too, can share in this bubble of love.

Kelly Barnhill's Keynote

Kelly Barnhill is the author of four novels, most recently The Girl Who Drank the Moon, winner of this year’s Newbery Medal. The Witch’s Boy received four starred reviews and was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards. Kelly Barnhill has been awarded writing fellowships from the Jerome Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the McKnight Foundation. Visit her online at or on Twitter: @kellybarnhill.

Kelly quotes Emily Dickinson "Tell all the truth, but tell it slant…" and lets us know that

"I'm here to talk about Fairy Tales."

She shares her own journey of reading and discovering fairy tales from childhood. And how she discovered that the yearning for a slanted entry into truth is a universal one.

"It covers the pages like moss"

"Sharp sharp talons"

"A creature made of story"

"With the gift and burden of mind"

"Princes who would wed you and behead you"

"Dark woods, crooked paths, slanted light"

Every phrase Kelly uses feels like she's weaving a fairy tale for us, a meta-tale of discovering how fairy  tales can impact our selves, our minds, our journeys through childhood, adulthood, and the wider, wilder world.

"When we write for middle grade kids, we're not just writing for the kids they are, but we're writing for the adults they will be. And we're writing for our selves, at the age we were."

It's a remarkable speech, delivered with passion and artistry. One more moment to share...
"Sometimes you have to see the world as it isn't to see the world as it is."

Stacy Innerst: School Visits as an Illustrator

Stacy Innerst’s picture books have earned numerous honors including the BCCB Blue Ribbon, two Parents’ Choice Gold Medals, and a Smithsonian Notable Book Citation. His illustrations for The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, written by Suzanne Slade (Boyds Mills), received the 2017 Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Illustration. Visit

Stacy Innerst's breakout session at the Los Angeles SCBWI Summer Conference was absolutely packed with information about school visits for illustrators.

He walked us through his personal school visit slideshow, beginning with the images he uses to introduce himself. In lieu of a typical biographical slideshow (Here's where I went to school; here are the books I made), Stacy shares images from home, of his son, of books he loved and read as a kid, and things he did as a kid (like scribble in books when he shouldn't have) -- something almost any kid can relate to. He then explains the process of making a book from researching and creating characters to showing images of his studio space and art materials.

Finally, he concludes with information about specific books he's made, the materials he used to make them, his art making process and background, and an interactive drawing demonstration that shows kids that drawing is something they can do, too.

  • I particularly loved hearing his practical tips. As an illustrator who has never made a picture book school visit, it was incredibly helpful to learn about:
  • What to include in your contract.
  • Asking teachers for assistance prior to your visit: making sure they've read your book and their students will be familiar with your book; asking for their help calling on kids when it comes to Q&A; learning the school hand signal for "quiet please", etc.
  • How to tactful bring up your visit fee, and what to do if a schools doesn't have the budget for it
  • Planning your visit and making sure you and the school are on the same page -- i.e. materials that you're bringing or you need them to provide; how many sessions you'll be doing, how many kids you'll be presenting to, etc.
  • How to handle book signings (and/or sales) during school visits.

After this session, I feel so much more prepared for my first school visit. Thank you to Stacy for so eloquently distilling his experiences into such helpful, specific, and actionable info.

Catch more of the conference highlights this year through blog posts tagged #LA17SCBWI or as-it-happens on Twitter.

Kate Testerman and Arianne Lewin's Workshop: Why Does Publishing Take So Long?

Kate Testerman founded KT Literary in early 2008, after more than a decade in New York publishing. While she concentrates on middle grade and young adult fiction, the agency also represents adult genre fiction, including romance, science fiction, and fantasy, as well as some select narrative nonfiction for teens. Her clients include Maureen Johnson, Stephanie Perkins, Amy Spalding, Trish Doller, Ellen Booraem, Susan Adrian and Matthew Cody. Kate’s interests range from contemporary drama, urban fantasy and magical realism, to adventure stories and romantic comedies. KT Literary is committed to finding diverse stories and Own Voices. Kate is an active member of the SCBWI and AAR, and blessed (or cursed) with a surfeit of optimism.

Arianne Lewin is an Executive Editor at G. P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House. She edits picture books, middle grade novels and young adult fiction. Her recent projects include Rachel Hawkins’s novel for middle-graders, Journey’s End, and the New York Times bestselling 5th Wave series by Rick Yancey.

Kate and Arianne share about the balance for an editor between notes for projects underway and looking at new submissions, from both the editor's and the submitting agent's perspective.

Arianne describes the different acquisitions process from her days at Disney and Putnam.

There are lots of audience questions, with lots of smart and very honest answers.

Ari shares about her different in-house strategies for different books.

Walking us through an imaginary book acquisition, Arianne and Kate discuss the process month-by-month, including negotiating territories, the need to get others at a publisher on-board with interest in a book, how the time from submission to offer can be overnight or can be six months, on the difference between publishing seasons, Launch meetings, and so much more...

What a great insider's view!

Kwame Alexander: Business Tips for Writers

Newbery winning author Kwame Alexander answered business questions along with his agent Arielle Eckstut. 

Some generated tips
  • Build relationships with your local independent bookstore even before you sell a book. 
  • Have a plan that has reach. 
  • Know what you don't know and surround yourself with people who know.
  • When you are searching for an agent, you need to identify all that you want in an agent.
  • You've got to make the hard decisions that are going to impact your career positively. 
  • With his books, Kwame never mentions poetry. 
  • Consider putting some money aside from an advance for promotion or travel to help promote your book. 
  • Make connections with librarians and booksellers. 
  • Marketing energy should all depend on your book, and you know your book better than anyone else. 
  • Figure out a desired mechanism to engage with your audience when presenting your book. Do it in a way that is you. 
  • To get love, you have to give love. To give love you have to have it. 
  • If you don't have the passion driving you, it makes the challenges harder to sustain. 

Kendra Levin: The Hero Is You -- Tools from the Hero's Journey to Illuminate Your Writing and Life

Kendra Levin is an executive editor at Viking Children’s Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, where since 2005 she has worked on a wide range of children’s literature from picture books to young adult novels. She has edited the New York Times bestseller Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, Printz Honor winner The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry, Theodor Seuss Geisel award winner Don’t Throw It to Mo! by David A. Adler, Society of Illustrators Gold Medal winner The Lost House by B.B. Cronin, and the work of authors including Janet Fox, Deborah Freedman, and others. Kendra also helps writers as a teacher and certified life coach, and is the author of The Hero Is You, a grounded self-help guide to a healthier writing process. Visit her at and follow her @kendralevin.

Kendra Levin is an editor at Viking Children's Books and the author of The Hero Is You, a book that uses The Hero's Journey to help writers find the right path and process for themselves. Because there is no one right way. "If it works for you, then it works," Levin says. "And if it doesn't, don't do it." 

1) MAKE A MAP: The number one way that you can be a hero in your creative process is by creating a plan for yourself, a map for what you are going to do. Figure out your goal -- and give yourself a deadline. Then figure out what you need to accomplish that goal by that deadline. 

2) KNOW YOURSELF: Specifically, know your own strengths and weaknesses -- and be honest about acknowledging them. What do you excel at? What is it that you're not really strong in, and how can you improve? Work on your craft muscles but also work on your process muscles. "There are all these ways that self-awareness can be a very solid tool. If you can predict where you'll likely struggle, you can do things to address that." 

3) ASK YOURSELF WHY: Ask yourself the question: "Why am I doing this?" What's your greater mission and purpose? What do you want to say, what do you want to share with the world? Figure out two things: a) What is your mission statement as a writer? b) What is your vision for this specific project? 

4) FIND A MENTOR: Or turn yourself into one by focusing and studying. Writing is a craft, and Levin compares it to any athletic pursuit. "Work that muscle." Study books that you love, study craft, ground yourself in the work of others to take your own writing to the next level. Explore all kinds of story. And talk to people. "Everyone around us has something to teach us." 

5) FIND ALLIES: Writing can be a very solitary experience. But you don't have to do this alone. "It's so vital to have a support system," Levin says. "You need people who understand what you're doing and why and will support you through that process -- and let them support them, too." Look for critique partners or a writers' group. 

6) CHANGE IT UP. Levin notes: what (and who!) works for you now may not in the future as your writing experience, path and circumstances change. Don't be afraid to revisit and rework the process. Change is scary, but can lead to breakthroughs. 

Ruta Sepetys Wins The 2017 Golden Kite Award For YA

Salt to the Sea win the 2017 Golden Kite Award for YA

Ruta Sepetys is an internationally acclaimed author of historical fiction published in over fifty countries and thirty-six languages. Sepetys is considered a “crossover” novelist as her books are read by both students and adults worldwide. Her novels, Between Shades of Gray, Out of the Easy, and Salt to the Sea are all New York Times bestsellers and are currently in development for film and television. Ruta is an SCBWI success story and two-time recipient of the Golden Kite Award.

Ruta tells us that while "Salt to the Sea" is her third published novel, it's not the third book she's written. She relates the very funny story about her first book written, the one she wrote when she was nine years old – and the whole conference room is laughing at how that first book of hers was banned. And how that experience "stole my courage" and she didn't write again for over 20 years.

12 years ago she came to this conference with a Middle Grade mystery, got a critique, and it didn't go well. And Ruta was devastated. And she went to a session with Steven Malk, and he spoke about career guidance, and he said, "creative people have a lot of options… and I like to work with an author and help them find the right road."

Steven became her agent, and helped her choose the road to take, and that's what set her on this path.

And Ruta says to us all,

"Our very best work, it's up the road. It's in front of us."

Stacy Innerst wins the 2017 Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Illustration

Winner of the 2017 SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Illustration: 
The Music in George's Head, illustrated by Stacy Innerst

The Music in George's Head, illustrated by Stacy Innerst (written by Suzanne Slade, published by Calkins Creek), was honored at the 2017 SCBWI Golden Kite Ceremony for Excellence in Picture Book Illustration. Stacy's dream-like paintings accompany the story of how George Gershwin composed his masterpiece Rhapsody in Blue.

In his acceptance speech, Stacy credited his achievement to the harmony of his collaborative partners:  George Gershwin's music and author Suzanne Slade's manuscript which "illustrated itself, and read like a piece of music."
"My mother used to play the piano. My twin brother and I used to sit on either side of her while she played the music of Gershwin. I still remember the music resonating through the wood of the piano. Suzanne's manuscript brought me right back to that place."
Stacy's artwork for The Music in George's Head also reads like a piece of music (or maybe like a beautiful, unforgettable melody stuck in your head). As Sarah Baker (Director of Illustration and Artist Programs at SCBWI) stated in her introduction, his visual interpretation -- rendered in indigo and sepia-toned illustrations -- invites readers to feel the liveliness of Gershwin's music, and the sights and sounds of New York in the 1920's that inspired his work.

Stacy Innerst’s picture books have earned numerous honors including the BCCB Blue Ribbon, two Parents’ Choice Gold Medals, and a Smithsonian Notable Book Citation. His illustrations for The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, written by Suzanne Slade (Boyds Mills), received the 2017 Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Illustration. Visit

Russell Freedman Wins The 2017 Golden Kite Award For Nonfiction

"We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler" 

Russell's editor Dinah Stevenson accepts on Russell's behalf, sharing Russell's written remarks, a poignant memory of a train ride in California to visit his father in Hollywood contrasted with a boy his own age taking a different train ride at the very same time on the other side of the world, a train ride to a Nazi extermination camp.

"The ghostly image of that doomed boy haunted my thoughts. I wondered if he collected comic books, like I did… We might have been friends."

Wanting to write about the Holocaust but from a unique angle,

"I searched for an approach that would reveal… some hope amid the ruins of history."

And then, quite movingly,

"I would like to dedicate this particular golden kite award to that boy on a train ride to oblivion. He might have grown up to become one of us."

Golden Kite Awards: Lisa Wheeler for Picture Book Text

The Golden Kite honors two for best picture book text -- a winner and an honoree.

And the winners are....

Winner: The Christmas Boot by Lisa Wheeler
Publisher: Dial
A touching Yuletide story about a lonely woman who finds a mysterious boot in the snow.

Honor: Time for Earth School, Dewey Dew by Leslie Staub
Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
A nervous alien deals with being the only non-human at his new school.

Golden Kite award winner for best picture book text Lisa Wheeler shared the inspiring, nearly 20-year journey she took to the SCBWI Golden Kite stage.

"Let me just take a breath because this is the year I've decided I get to enjoy moments, and this a moment I've enjoyed," Wheeler said. "The story behind the Christmas Boot is very inspiring -- especially for those of us who have been in the trenches for years."

"It was December of 1998. I was working at Toys R Us in the children's book department," she recalls. "As I left work one day, it was snowing outside. And as I was pulling out of the parking space, I saw a black boot sitting in the snow. I got out and retraced my steps, but it wasn't there. But there was a story there, somewhere. That's how it all began." 

But the road to publication was long and winding. "I sent the manuscript to my agent, and he loved it, so we sent it out," she says. "It went to acquisitions at one house, and was turned down. I think what happened was, it just wasn't right for that time. So I put it away. In 2005, I met an editor at a small press. I sent it to her. She made an offer the next day, and it was published regionally but the imprint went out of business. So the book was gone. I let it go."

But that was hardly the end of it. Cut to: "Summer of 2014, Steve calls me and says Laurie Hornik at Dial is looking for a Christmas story," Lisa said with a laugh. "So my agent was thinking about that book for nearly 20 years -- that's the kind of agent you want."

It landed at Dial, and to Wheeler's joy, it was illustrated by the amazing Jerry Pinkney. "And I am thrilled beyond thrilled to hear that it won the Golden Kite," she said. "Twenty years later, I'm an overnight success. So if you really believe in a story, don't give up on it." 

The Emerging Voices Winners!

Congratulations to Collette Childers and Sindhu Vijayasarathy! 

From right to left:
and members of the Schmitt family whose 455 Foundation supports the SCBWI On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award!

Judy Blume: Golden Kite Luncheon Special Guest

Judy Blume needs no introduction, and this is a room full of children's book creators who are so very thrilled to be having coffee and dessert with her.

Judy is a master of transformation. She says we have to go back a 100 years to hear the start of her journey. As a young wife and mom, Judy was a creative who found herself stir crazy at home with her children. She needed to be creating.

Even Judy Blume started by writing rhyming picture books that she illustrated badly.

Fun tidbit: Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was unagented book.

After 50 years of writing books, Judy and her husband George have now opened a bookstore in Key West, FL. 15,000 books and 5,000 titles. Books & Books @ The Studios of Key West is a locally-owned, nonprofit, independently-minded neighborhood bookstore.

"I have always believed that writers never retire," Judy says. Lin asks if Judy has retired from writing. Judy expresses that she's written everything she wanted to say, but then she adds, "But there's this one little thing..."

These words set the room abuzz...I think she's sharing a little something she didn't anticipate sharing with hundreds of fans.

"Writing changed my life. Writing saved my life. Writing made my life."

Now that she is a bookseller, Judy only hands sells a book she's read, and she loves to read first novels. I think I speak for pretty much all of us, how much we would love to have Judy Blume hand sell us a book at her bookstore. And, she's invited us all to come and see her at Books & Books, but slowly please.

Judy doesn't have any regrets, but she has had a lot of challenges. "Haven't we all?" If she would have shared one word at the opening of the conference it would have been: DETERMINATION.

"You can have all the talent in the world and if you're not determined you're going to let something stop you from doing it."

Judy has been a major supporter of the SCBWI from early on, and she is a member of the board. Lin asks her why she is here with us today, why she continues to be such a wonderful supporter.

Judy shares that it's first because she fell in love with Lin and Steve. She also shares how much it would have meant to her as a new writer to have a group like this, to have her peeps. She didn't have that when she started.

"I love it," Judy says.

And we love Judy Blume.

Denise Deegan and Kara Levin's Workshop: The Unique Opportunities and Challenges of Self-Publishing

Denise Deegan is a hybrid author with novels both traditionally and self-published. Denise’s coming-of-age, historical novel, Through the Barricades won the 2016 SCBWI Spark Award, an annual award that recognizes excellence in children’s books published through non-traditional publishing platforms. Denise’s novels have been published by Penguin, Random House, Hachette and Lake Union Publishing. The three novels in her contemporary young adult series, The Butterfly Novels, published by Hachette, were bestsellers in Ireland. Denise has just self-published the trilogy in territories where she retains rights.

Kara Levin is a first time children’s book author and clinical psychologist. Dr. Levin’s debut picture book, Soldier, won the 2016 SCBWI Spark Award, an annual award that recognizes excellence in children’s books published through non-traditional publishing platforms. Kara juggles being a psychologist, writer, and mother of twin seven-year-old sons. Visit

Among the things Denise tells us is the journey of one of her titles. It was traditionally published, and then eventually she got the rights back. She then self-published it with a new title and cover and pen name, and it started to do really well… And then Amazon approached her to publish it under their imprint, and with another new cover:

It rose to be the #1 title on Kindle!

On the choice between self-publishing or traditionally-publishing, Denise advises,

"It doesn't have to be either or, it can be both."

She has an agent and has projects out on submission to traditional publishers, and at the same time is self-publishing, including "Through the Barricades," which has won the 2017 SCBWI Spark Award.

Kara shares about the journey of her picture book Solider, how her illustrator and designer was able to get the book published in the Ukraine which brought down the cost and enabled the print-run to happen, and how it won the SCBWI Spark Award.

The interest from the award has resulted in her being approached by agents, and she's excited to see where it goes next.

Kara says, "Self-publishing made us more sympathetic to the process" of traditional publishing, and the risks involved in taking on each book.

About Solider opening from the top (rather than the side,) saying, "that's one of the joys of self-publishing, there's no one to tell you 'no.'"

They speak about the speed of self-publishing compared to traditional publishing, online store platforms, the challenge of distribution, the opportunity of book fairs, and the power of winning the Spark Award… As Kara put it, "It helps to have that seal!"

"Entrepreneurship. That's the difference here." - Kara Levin

The session is filled with questions from the fascinated attendees, and great answers!

Lisa Wheeler: Creating Picture Book Characters

Lisa Wheeler is the award-winning author of over 35 children’s books including Even Monsters Need to Sleep and the popular Dino-Sports series. Lisa's book, The Christmas Boot, is the 2017 SCBWI Golden Kite Award winner for Picture Book Text. Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum is the 2017 Michigan Reads! One Book, One State Children’s Book Program recipient. Her other awards include The Michigan Mitten, Texas Bluebonnet, and the Theodore Geisel Honor given by the American Library Association. Check out Lisa’s website at:

Packed house for Lisa Wheeler's session at the SCBWI Summer Conference.

Lisa breaks down what she sees some of the important ingredients that form a picture book character:
dialogue, the author's voice, description (or, more importantly, minimalism with description); the character's name (make sure not to pick a name so limiting that nothing else can be remembered or said about him); internal monologue; the character's relationship to secondary characters; his ability to solve his own problems.

She cautions authors to allow the illustrator to interpret details about your character instead of providing descriptive passages. "You don't know what you're going to get from the illustrator -- and that's fine." She shared how Molly Idle illustrated their forthcoming book People Don't Bite People by not once illustrating a person biting another person. Lisa says she could never have envisioned her book that way -- that's part of the magic of the partnership between author and illustrator.

From People Don't Bite People by Lisa Wheeler, Illustrated by Molly Idle

Jennifer Laughran: Best Practices to Maximize Your Book's Success

Jennifer Laughran joined Andrea Brown Literary Agency in 2007 after a long career as a bookseller, buyer and event coordinator. Always on the lookout for sparkling YA and middle grade fiction with unusual and unforgettable characters and vivid settings, she loves funny books, thrilling books, romantic books, books that make her cry, and all-around un-put-downable books… and her true favorites are all of the above. Some clients include author-illustrators like Giselle Potter, Don Brown, Raul the Third and Phoebe Wahl; middle grade authors like Daniel Pinkwater, Kate Messner, Alex Gino and Linda Urban; YA authors like Erin Jade Lange, Paula Stokes, Karen Rivers and Ellen Emerson White, among others. Visit

Prolific agent extraordinaire Jennifer Laughran, an actively acquiring agent at Andrea Brown Literary, has an awesome, engaging presence, online and off. And you can, too. Here are some of her kickass tips about how to prime your book for success. 

1) Be easy to find. If you're not published, have a simple site with social media links, a bio, and contact information for yourself (and your agent when you have one). When you are published, add relevant book information -- including your buy links (don't forget an indie!), ISBN, pull quotes from reviews, blurbs, a press kit and publicist information. If you're an illustrator, include an easy-to-navigate portfolio with a variety of samples. 

2) Social Media! You don't have to be everywhere. "Don't do it if you hate it." If you don't enjoy it, no one else will either. Figure out what you enjoy and focus on that. Use it chat and interact, not to promote yourself all the time. 90 percent of your social should not be about your books. Boost and promote others, join conversations. And be positive and professional. "Nobody like an Eeyore."

3) (And most other reviews/blogs.) As an author, do not engage. In fact, "treat Good Reads like a porn site." Do not go there. Block if necessary.

4) Find Community. Go to your local bookstore or library, ask for advice. Buy and read books. Engage as a reader. While you're chatting, tell them you're an author, too. If you are already friends, they will be happy to support you and your books. 

5) Be gracious. Publishing is a small world. These people are your colleagues, they know each other -- and they talk. A little kindness goes a really long way.