Sunday, August 5, 2018

Thank you from all of us on SCBWI Team Blog - #LA18SCBWI Edition! (Save the Dates for #NY19SCBWI and #LA18SCBWI)

Thanks for joining us on this virtual adventure—a highlights reel of the inspiration, craft, business, opportunity, and community that make up the SCBWI Summer Conference.

From left to right, your #LA18SCBWI Team Bloggers:
Lee Wind, Jaime Temairik, Jolie Stekly, Martha Brockenbrough, Adria Quiñones, and Don Tate.

And we hope you'll save the dates for the upcoming:
SCBWI 20th Annual Winter Conference
New York City, Feb 8-10, 2019
Online conference registration posted in October at
SCBWI 48th Annual Summer Conference
Los Angeles, Aug 9-12, 2019
Online conference registration post in March at
Until then, keep writing and illustrating!

Photoshop Tips for Illustrators: Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Oh, boy!—what an abundance of information Debbie Ridpath Ohi offered to illustrators. Debbie is a social media guru, but she's also a successful illustrator and an SCBWI success story. She won the portfolio showcase at the 2010 SCBWI LA Conference, and has gone on to illustrate several books, including Sam & Eva and Where Are My Books? (Simon & Schuster), more.

Fortunately, most of what Debbie offered in her workshop is also available on her website, including BONUS MATERIALS!

The Autograph Party!

The finale of the 2018 SCBWI Summer Conference is a celebration of the whole three past days, full of inspiration and community, and chances to meet and have books signed by the amazing conference faculty!

The Roller-Coaster Line for Lois Lowry...

And all the authors and illustrators at this Sunday end-of-conference signing...

Keynote Bruce Coville

We are so sorry to miss Marc Brown due to a family emergency and are sending him every good thought and wish. In his stead, Bruce Coville has graciously stepped in to give us a closing keynote. As you may know, Bruce Coville has published over 100 books for children and young adults, including the international bestseller My Teacher is an Alien, the four book “Unicorn Chronicles” series, and Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher. Before becoming a full time writer in 1986, Bruce was a teacher, a toymaker, a magazine editor, a gravedigger, and a cookware salesman. In 2001 he created FULL CAST AUDIO, an audiobook company devoted to producing full cast, unabridged recordings of material for family listening. He has produced over 120 audiobooks, directing and/or acting in most of them. 

Here is a taste of his keynote:

Bruce knows most of us are here because we have this crazy belief that children are worth our best efforts. Crazy because society seems to be saying one thing but doing another.

“…How can we not call ourselves crazy to believe kids matter when our society seems to believe it’s more important to give bankers their bonuses than children their books in school?”

Take a look at why our craft matters, what you do as children’s book creators has the opportunity to reach out far into the future.

“Our children are in crisis, and not just the ones at the border in cages… Children are told they're important as consumers, that they should buy things, but we’re not giving them anything that feeds their hearts.”

Bruce reads a fan letter to us, from a boy who'd read all of Bruce’s books as a kid, and the thoughts and themes that Bruce shared in those books shaped the way the boy looked at the world, ultimately informing what he did with his life which was to go into medicine, saving people all over the world in its most needy locales.

Bruce saved this letter in a folder he calls ‘To Look at on Bad Days’.

Think about what you write or draw as perhaps having a Butterfly Effect on future generations.

The ripples of stories through generations fascinate Bruce, one thing you write or one picture you paint can change a person’s heart forever. “That is what we have a chance to do every time we create our art. Bring to that creative effort your full heart.”

You cannot know all the effects your work will have on the world or how.

You don’t need to be an earnest angel, you can be ironic, silly, a little naughty, but no matter what, do it with your best heart.

Bruce’s last word of advice is do not start your story with a message.

Start instead with your own good heart: Fabulous characters, intriguing situations and out of that will come what needs to come.

"The right story at the right moment is like an arrow to the heart, it can catch and hold a hurt and bring it to the surface."

You will change the world, you can’t help but do so simply by being here, and you won’t know how you did. Every creative action is a pebble making ripples that will spread out to places you can’t even imagine, and from there, those ripples will set other waves in motion, and on and on.

Every act of courage, moment of compassion, every kindness matters.

Go home, get busy, drop some pebbles in the pond, says Bruce.

Dashka Slater: Reviving Your Stalled Career

Dashka Slater is the author of many fabulous picture books as well as the much lauded 2017 YA true crime novel, THE 57 BUS. But between these latest titles and her first few, Dashka felt stalled in her career for years. During that time, she bravely reached out to a fellow author she thought might be in a similar position, Marsha Diane Arnold. They became complaining buddies—Dashka highly recommends this as a coping strategy.

As she looks back on those formative seven years of not selling, Dashka sees now it made her a much better writer and author, and that reflecting on that stalled time will help her the next time this happens because she has also learned this career is not a straight road.

Dashka shares some goals for this session:

Goal #1: Diagnose the stall
Goal #2: Get your mojo back
Goal #3: Know that you are not alone
Goal #4: Protect yourself against future stalls

Dashka contacted other writers besides Marsha that also had seemed to stall. Here are a few of those stall examples and ways in which they got themselves out of there (note: you may be stalled in one or all of these ways, and that's okay!).

  • Personnel changes with your publisher
  • Mergers
  • Recessions
  • Legislation (budget cuts at local or national levels)
  • Personal life
  • Creative blocks
  • Technological Changes (the internet is free! Wikipedia is just as good as a book?!)
  • Market fads
  • Changes in taste + style
  • Losing your mojo
The Sputter Stall: Everything is going along fine, until it doesn't. Lisa Wheeler sold ten books and then... she didn't sell anymore. Her publishing contacts changed or left the industry, the recession crept in, all of her new work was being rejected.

The Market Change Stall: Melissa Stewart says 21 of her books were cancelled after the contracts were signed (Education budget cuts led to drastic library budget cuts. And the Internet became an alternate source for science facts that may have once only been available in physical books).

So what do you do when all of these stalls happen? And look! They happened to amazing people we think are stall-proof!

Dashka's partial Do and Don't list for getting out of stalls:

Do: Fight for your career. It's worth it.
Don't: Beat yourself up. Most of the reasons the stalls happened are out of your control.
Do: Stay connected.
Don't: Believe what you see on social media, it's much better to meet a peer in person and not just via their highlight reel on Facebook.

Do: Cultivate beginner's mind. This is the most important key to ending a stall to Dashka.

The breakout session attendees partner up and discuss what stalls they are feeling and do some brief commiserating. They then help each other brainstorm ideas for getting out of their stall(s).

Here are some of the things Lisa, Melissa, Marsha, and Dashka did to get out of their stalls, think about how that might work for you, too:

Diversify, embrace every new opportunity like: Apps, Educational Materials, Books for Hire, New Genres, Social media platform development, or Teaching. Be doing things to make some money on the side related to your field if not exactly selling a manuscript.

Representation. Either for the first time or as a change up with your existing agent.

Eliza Wheeler Keynote

Eliza Wheeler
Eliza Wheeler is the extraordinary author-illustrator of Miss Maple's Seeds, which debuted as a New York Times best seller list. She's illustrated many picture books, including Wherever You Go by Pat Zietlow Miller (an SCBWI member who just hit the NYT list this week!)

And she's illustrated several novels, including the Newbery Honor-winning Doll Bones by Holly Bolack, The Left-Hnaded Fate by Kate Milford, and the Cody series by Tricia Springstubb.

A SCBWI suc cess story, she won the National Grand Prize for best portfolio in 2011, and was a Sendak Fellowship recipient in 2017.

Here are some of her very beautiful books.

Eliza's keynote took us on a journey through her process, through the human brain, through JRR Tolkien's creation of a language and the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series, which took 18 years to be published in three volumes when Tolkien was 63 years old.

Eliza identified 7 stages of creativity (with 1/2 stages for checking in)

  • Dig
  • Inspire 
  • Collage
  • Runner
  • Ignite
  • Refine
  • Assess

She deliberately breaks her work into phases to keep productive and happy. It's vital that she not try for perfection in initial stages, she said.

A lot of her process involves deep focus on her brain and its state. Your mood affects your work.

  • In an anxious mode you're less likely to take a chance on creativity. 
  • In a positive mood, dopamine floods into the brain and makes you do two things. 
  • When it comes to getting great ideas, the farther and more freely your thoughts can roam, the better.
She shared with us how we can best prime our brains—and it's a delightful surprise. Pick a familiar chore and do it in a state of enjoyment. So, for example: 

  • do the dishes
  • take a walk
  • take a shower
  • nap

Eliza recommends we keep a notebook or phone within reach so we can document flashes of inspiration wherever you are. This ignite phase often comes in short bursts. Don't try to push it.

And if you're feeling frustrated with how your work is going, remind yourself that the marks you make aren't you. The marks are a map to where you need to go next, and they will guide you to the better marks. (And you can always go take a nap and come back to them later.)

She talked about some of the feelings we can get, and what they mean, including:

Anxiety: You're judging yourself
Boredom:  you haven't spent enough time saturating yourself in your ideas
Stress: you're trying to consider too many pieces at once
Fried: you've pushed it too far. Go refresh yourself and come back later.

Learn more about Eliza Wheeler
Eliza Wheeler on Facebook

From Wherever You Go by Pat Zietlow Miller and Eliza Wheeler

Panel: The Secret of Crafting Engaging Nonfiction - Candace Fleming

SCBWI Golden Kite Award Winner Candace Fleming writes nonfiction and fiction (more than 40 books!). Most of her nonfiction is historical YA, but she has recently taking a foray into science picture book nonfiction.

How is writing nonfiction different from writing fiction?

Candace says, "I always think of everything I write in terms of cake. As a writer it's my job to create a cake that all of you want to gobble up in three minutes. When I write fiction I get to buy all the ingredients I want to put in a cake that I pick out myself, like coconut and chocolate chips and maple syrup. When I write nonfiction the goal is exactly the same, but I didn't get to go to the grocery store, I have to use the ingredients my partner Eric brings home, like flax seed and pepto bismol, and find a way to make that into a gobble-able cake."

What's your favorite part of writing nonfiction? 

The biggest part of nonfiction is figuring out how to take all the research you do and turn it into a compelling story for readers. Candace says you do three years of research and travel, if you can, because it's the amount of research that determines the variety of ingredients available to your 'cake'.

"You don't want me to tell you everything I learned in three years, you want me to tell you a story. And it's a story the way I see it. [Anyone up here on this panel] could take that same research and make a completely different book."

How do you pick your stories?

"... My book needs a Vital Idea. I'm not going to write this book just because it's a cool piece of history, there has to be something more, something bigger, something that connects to readers."

"The vital idea of the giant squid book is mystery. We know more about dinosaurs than we do about giant squid yet there are still 100,000 of them swimming around us today."

"When I know the vital idea, then I know what's going to go into my book. Only after I do enough research do I know what my story is truly about."

"The Romanov family book, the original thought was it would be about Anastasia, the book now is not that, it's not just her life, it's about what 3% of the population with 90% of the wealth do to a society... What's the ultimate result when rulers don't pay attention to the people they are governing or take their wellbeing into account..."

"I xerox everything, I tab everything I research for three years, that whole time I'm searching for my vital idea." And with that vital idea figured out finally, Candace will go back and re-review this research with vital idea goggles on. She tells us she has 60 pages of research on faberge eggs, but you won't find one mention of those eggs in her Romanov book.

What's Candace working on now?

"I'm in the throes of a book I'm working on, a biography on Charles Lindbergh. We think about him as being the first to conquer transatlantic flight, but he had a secret research facility about wanting to conquer death, to replace organs like you replace airplane parts..."

And Charles Lindbergh was America First, he wanted us to join the Nazis, he was on the board of the eugenics society until 1974 at his death and just recently we discovered he had three other families in Germany! Candace thinks a lot of where we are in America today politically and racially was propogated from exactly the sort of mindset and culture that a person like Lindbergh represented.

Meg Flemming: Nurturing Productivity: Strategies for the Highs...and the Sighs

Meg Flemming is an award-winning children's book author include: I Heart You; Ready, Set, Sail; and Ready, Set, Build. Her forthcoming book is Sometimes Rain.

Meg is going old school with paper and pencil to take the room through a workshop to get toward a greater place of productivity.

Spill the Tea...Meg asks us to write down any gossip, things that have happened, things we need to get off our minds. This is one way we can get started, by having a bit of a routine to get your mind to that place where it's time to write.

"Artists are people who have learned to live with doubt and do the work anyway." -Julia Cameron

Meg reminds us that it is a choice to do this, and that we have the courage to do this work. Yay, us!

You're not here to keep your stories in the drawer. You're here because you have something you want to share. Get it out. Work on it.

Know the difference between who's in your field and who's in your court. Meg asks everyone to make two lists (two columns): industry people and non-industry people. Then separate them out between those that give you positive feedback and negative feedback. From the non-industry positives, are friends and family who don't know the business but they are encouraging. Great. Eliminate the non-industry negatives for feedback. Gone. With those in the industry, feedback can be tricky, that feedback that might feel negative needs to be weighed. Helpful feedback should ring true, if it doesn't, ignore it. Continue to turn to those in the industry who provide positive and helpful feedback.

We should also ask ourselves how social media is serving us. Write it down. Is it helping you? Or is it distracting you?

Ask yourself if you're using your creativity in the right space.

Be kind to your creative self.

Ammi-Joan Paquette: Unusual Story Structures: Strategies, Options, and Ideas to Twist Your Narrative

Ammi-Joan Paquette is a senior agent with Erin Murphy Literary Agency, representing all types of children’s and young adult literature. She is also the author of The Train of Lost Things, the Princess Juniper series, and picture books including Ghost in the House, Elf in the House, Bunny Bus, and The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies. With acclaimed author Laurie Ann Thompson, she is also the co-author of the ‘nonfiction with a twist’ series, Two Truths and a Lie. In her agent acquisitions, Joan is particularly drawn to richly voiced, unforgettable characters and settings, as well as tightly paced, well-plotted stories with twists and turns that keep you guessing right until the end. Visit her on the web at


Ammi-Joan's focus in this session is mostly on longer form projects (i.e., novels) but she advises that many of the concepts discussed could also work for picture books.

Defining story structure as the framing point, looking through the lens at your story. How are you going to tell this particular story in the way most meaningful to you? A quote she shares:
"Every story demands a different structure. No universal structure exists. It's why that mopey old saw about there being only seven plots or some bullshit is, well, bullshit. If you distill them down to their barest (and in many ways most meaningless) essencce, sure, that's true. But the art is in the arrangement. The structure you build around the plot to support the story is where the elegance lies. - Chuck Wendig
Ammi-Joan divided up the different kinds of out-of-the-box books into six categories:

1. Structure by Narrator
Out of the box examples include: Ibi Zoboi's American Street, R. J. Palacio's Wonder

2. Structure by Mosaic (smaller stories that add up to a larger whole)
Out of the box examples include: though mostly this is in adult books so far - And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini and The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell.

3. Structure by Device
Out of the box examples include: Monster by Walter Dean Meyers (in the form of a screenplay) and Regarding the Fountain: A Tale, in Letters, of Liars and Leaks byKate Klise, Illustrated by M. Sarah Klise

4. Structure by Time
Out of the box examples include: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (time looping) and One Day by David Nicholls

5. Structure by Deception (unreliable narrators)
Out of the box examples include: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

6. "Meta" structure (a book within a book)
Out of the box examples include: The French Lieutenant's Woman by Vintage Fowles, The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Ammi-Joan speaks of so much more, including" the tussle between craft and magic" and how the reader needs "a logical and clearly visible path through the madness" (of a complicated structure.)

final take-away:

Your structure needs to add something to the story. Otherwise it's just showing off.

Lunch with Lois

Lunch with... this is a new tradition at the LA conference.

This year it's Lunch with Lois, and by Lois I mean "the" Lois Lowry.

"And my next guest needs no introduction," Lin says. But Lin then shares that Lois is the author of over 40 books of all kinds, including The Giver. Lois has been a great friend to SCBWI over the years.

Lois arrives on stage ready to tell us a story. There's nothing better than listening to Lin chit-chat with another children's literature luminary. Almost instantly the room erupts in laughter. Join us!

Lin asks Lois how her journey in writing for kids began. Lois majored in writing and studied photography in grad school. Lois also had four kids before the age of 26. What she always wanted to do was write fiction for adults. She wrote a short story that was published in Redbook. It was for adults but it was seen through the eyes of a child. After it was published an editor reached out to Lois and asked if her if she was interested in writing for children. It had never occurred to her even though she had four young kids. But Lois did have a story she'd been wanting to write having lost a sister at a young age, so she did. Two things transpired to change her trajectory from writing for adults to writing for kids. One was the reaction of kids to that first book. The second was that she divorced and she needed to make a living.

Lois enjoys different sorts of writing. Just like she doesn't want to come to the same dinner every night, she doesn't write the same thing over and over.

"I wonder how you see your voice as a writer?" Lin asks.

"A tough questions," Lois answers.

"We didn't bring you here for good time," Lin says.

"If I had to choose one word it would be intimacy...Me flowing through the character. Me connecting with the reader."

Lin asks if there is a theme running through each of Lois' books. Lois believes it's the element of human connection.

Lin asks Lois to tell us about the origination of The Giver.

The Giver was published in 1993. Lois had a son who was a fighter pilot in the Gulf War and at the same time her father was very old. In a particular visit with her father they were paging through a photo album and came to a photo of Lois and the sister who died. Her dad couldn't remember the name of Lois' sister and she had to tell him that she died.  Coming to another photo when the sisters were teens, Lois' father again asked, "What ever happened to her?" And she had to tell him again that she died. This made her start to think about manipulating the mind to forget, and the idea for the The Giver was to manipulate the mind of a community. She knew that would mean it had to be set in the future. This brought another question to her: What if...when you did that, what else would you eliminate? That set her off into story.

Lois never knows how her stories will end. She boldly moves forth and then boldly goes back and takes it all apart.

A perk of being here: getting to hear a bit about Lois' next book. Gripped! That's the room right now. And the gasp that just exploded--wow! Lois says this new book is more about human connection than any has ever been. I'm certain 1200 people are now waiting for its publication. The title is on the horizon but it won't be published until 2020.

Following a final poem from Lois, the entire room is on their feet, cheering! 

Panel: The Secret of Crafting Engaging Nonfiction: Barbara Kerley

Barbara Kerley is the award-winning author of numerous books for young people, including The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, What to do About Alice?, A Home for Mr. Emerson, many others.

Kerley brings to the table a vast knowledge of writing nonfiction, research the most important aspect. While researching the life of a person, Kerley keeps an eye out for the themes that reappear in their life. Themes that she can use to make a statement about, and work to build an arc around.

Friendship and family are common themes in Kerley's work. But she also considers what she wants to say on a particular topic or subject. For example, With a Friend By Your Side, Kerley strives to convey the importance of all children doing small things to make the world more peaceful place.

A most important takeaway: while researching, strive to find the "vital idea," or the theme of a person's life. That will help you to focus the abundance of research you will collect.

Libba Bray: Digging for the Truth

Libba Bray is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of the Gemma Doyle trilogy; the Michael L. Printz Award-winning Going Bovine; Beauty Queens (a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist); and the Diviners series.

Libba, for many years, attended a writing workshop where the group wrote to from prompts, uncensored. Writers could then share but then only receive positive feedback because it was all new writing.

Libba takes this room of writers on that same journey.

Libba reads a poem titled: Where I'm From

The first prompt starts with the line: "Where I'm from..."

Set your own timer now and write for 10 minutes.

"I love to see all of your heads bent in concentration. That is amazing."

Brave readers share with the room.
Ready for one more? 

Write a piece that begins with the words, "Have you forgotten me?"

I'm going to be honest with you, Blog Friends, I'm not sure...scratch that, I know I can't do this one without falling to pieces. This is a clear indication that Libba is getting this room of writers to get to the truth, because when you feel it viscerally, in the question alone without even putting one word on the page, something powerful is happening. 

Libba listens intently.
Illustrator Katherine A Taylor approached this prompt through illustration.

Sometimes just setting a timer for ten minutes and writing and telling yourself that you're not going to sensor yourself allows you to create amazingly powerful work. Trust me, we heard the power in the room. Just wow! 

Sangeeta Mehta: Self-Publish Like a Traditional Publisher

Sangeeta Mehta

Sangeeta Mehta was an acquiring editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Simon Pulse before starting her own editorial services company, which focuses on middle grade and young adult fiction. She has written several articles about self-publishing for Jane Friedman Media, including “The Business of Self-Publishing Children’s Picture Books,” “Shepherding a Self-Published Picture Book to Success,” and “Should Children’s Book Authors Self-Publish?” A Member-at-Large of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Sangeeta founded the organization’s Diversity Initiative. She also serves on the board of The Word, a nonprofit working to build a more inclusive publishing community. Follow her on Twitter @sangeeta_editor or visit


Sangeeta starts out by sharing self-publishing success stories, how to determine your publishing goal, answers the question/offers us the mantra "What would a traditional publisher do?", shares resources, and fields questions from the attendees.

Success stories:

Edgar Allen Poe and Virginia Woolf and Beatrix Potter who took matters into their own hands.

More recent examples of break-out self publishing success include The Martian by Andy Weir, Still Alice by Lisa Genova, Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur.

In children's books,

Amanda Hocking's Watersong
Beth Reekles' The Kissing Booth (published as a teenager on Wattpad and won an award there.)
Christopher Paolini's Eragon
Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin's The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep
John and Jennifer Churchman's The SheepOver

She cautions that it's very hard to make it the way these authors have. One of the ways to help make it happen for you is to figure out your self-publishing goal.

Some of the goals for self-publishing Sangeeta shares that we might consider:

-to hone your craft
-to be part of a writing community
-undertake a project that may or may not be lucrative
-create a family keepsake
-become an entrepreneur or leverage your position as an entrepreneur
- promote your backlist
- get "discovered"

Sangeeta shares about WattPad, InkedVoices (an online critique forum), and cites Beth Revis and Cassandra Claire as examples of hybrid authors, who do both traditional publishing and self-publishing.

The heart of the session is this:
If you have a traditional deal, it's the editor who is the center of everything. If you're self-publishing, YOU'RE the center of everything.

She breaks down what the different departments at a traditional publisher do, including the:

editorial department (developmental edits, etc...)

managing editorial department (scheduling everything, copyediting, proofreading, etc...)

design department (interior and cover, etc...)

contracts department (consider if you're hiring professionals i.e,, an illustrator, etc...)

marketing department (including setting publication date, price, advanced reader copies, trades shows, etc...)

publicity department (submit book for review and award consideration, etc.... Shout out to SCBWI's Spark Award for books published in non-traditional ways.)

Hot tip: Pitch articles that tie into your book but aren't necessarily about your book.

subsidiary rights department sells or licenses your book (foreign, translation, audio, etc...)

sales departments (gets your book into bookstores, etc...)

Where to focus first when all this responsibility is on you? Sangeeta suggests we focus on our goals, and let those guide us.

She shares lots of resources, talks about the value of paying for a Kirkus review, being the local hero where you live, shares checklists, discusses how much to invest in your book, "series potential," and so much more!

A few articles Sangeeta recommends:

Check out this article Sangeeta wrote where she interviewed Zetta Elliott, Brent Hartinger, Cheryl Klein, and Stephen Mooser about their experiences and advice self-publishing children's books.

And this article on Reedsy, How much does self publishing really cost? 

(Another resource for authors self-publishing is the nonprofit Independent Book Publishers Association.)

Candace Fleming: Six Quick Fixes for Your Nonfiction Picture Books

Candace Fleming
Candace Fleming is the author of many wonderful nonfiction books for young readers about a wide range of subjects, from the family Romanov to giant squids.

She talked to us about six things she does when she's approaching her own revisio

There are six steps she takes:

1) What's the vital idea? If you cannot express what the vital idea of your picture book is, then you need to rethink it. She has an idea before she writes, one that comes from the research. But if she can't express it after the first draft, she knows she has more thinking to do.

Does everything in the manuscript speak to the vital idea? If it does not, it has to go. She's amazed by what can go from a first draft of a manuscript when viewed through this lens. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is your story really about? What's your concept? What's the idea? What is the "something more"? For example: giant squid are fascinating. But what does she really want to say to kids about them? She wants readers to know they're mysterious and elusive. Scientists estimate there are 100,000 giant squid--school-bus-size creatures. And we rarely ever see them. Good facts can be bad storytelling. 
2) Have you remembered your fence? PB writers have a fence. We have a form that we have to stick to. Here's a reminder: My fence is 32 pages. But it really means we have 26 pages. The story really starts on page 5, on the right-hand side. How will your first page look in that little space? Does it promise the ending on the first paragraph? Then, ta-da! You have a page turn. It's the single most important thing in a PB. Some stories need a bit of setup—that's the first few pages (6-7, 8-9). She knows that if her story doesn't start by page 10, she needs to rethink it. Page 32 is the last page of her PB. That is the Ahhh page, where she gets a little extra something, a moment of satisfaction. (She calls it the haunt. It makes you want to come back. It makes you want to think. It makes you want to know more.

3) Look at every single word. She circles all the verbs and adjectives to see if there is a better one. There almost always is. Every word choice must speak to the vital idea. She makes lists of words, trying to find ones that are authentic to her story and her voice.  

4) Attempt to get all 5 senses into your book. ("Taste is a bitch.") Actively searching for it forces you to think about your nonfiction in different ways. Remember, we are not fact-tellers. We are storytellers. We have to tell true stories.

5) Count the number of words in your sentences. This helps her vary her sentence structure and use fragments. This makes her more aware of what she's doing—and that's really what revision is about. 

6) End when it ends. When your story is done, exit quickly. Don't say goodbye. Don't wave. Don't blow a kiss. Get out of there!