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1. Pre-#NY16SCBWI Interview: Agent Sarah Davies Talks to Team Blog's Martha Brockenbrough

And the first of our pre-conference faculty interviews is in (and it's awesome!)

Agent Sarah Davies talks with Martha Brockenbrough about middle grade fiction, what makes books "saleable," and when a writer can know their book is ready to submit.

Their interview is packed with great advice and suggestions, like,

"focus on developing the two big ‘C’ words — Concept and Craft." 


"Don’t be frightened to be radical — rewriting can be far more powerful than tweaking, as it allows you to pull in fresh thinking in the strongest possible way so the new draft feels fully coherent."

Sarah Davies will be on faculty at the #NY16SCBWI conference, giving a breakout workshop Saturday morning and afternoon, "Saleable and Memorable Middle Grade Fiction," and participating in the Sunday main stage panel, "Acquisitions Today: Opportunities and Challenges."

You can see Sarah in person and learn from all the amazing faculty (and fellow writer and illustrator attendees) by joining us at the 17th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference in New York. Registration and details here.

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2. Registration for #NY16SCBWI Is OPEN!

Inspiring Keynotes! Informative Panels with Publishers, Editors and Agents! The Portfolio Showcase! The Art Browse! The Saturday Night Party! The Autograph Party!

And this breaking news from the main office:

We have just added two Young Adult Fiction Workshop which will be taught by Kristen Pettit, executive editor at Harper Collins Children's Books. This is a great opportunity for everyone interested in this genre.

Don't miss out on this and the rest of the great program. Go to www.scbwi.org and register now!

if you have already registered and are interested in the new workshops, please call our office at 323-782-1010 to have the change made.

The YA workshops with editor Kristen Pettit join an impressive list of options, designed so you can learn more about just what you need to know. Here's just the morning workshops for Saturday:

Writing Picture Book Text
Elizabeth Bicknell – EVP, Executive Editorial Director & Associate Publisher Candlewick Press

Building An Effective Portfolio
Guiseppe Castellano – Senior Art Director, Penguin Random House

Picture Book Art
Patrick Collins - Creative Director, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers

Saleable and Memorable Middle Grade Fiction
Sarah Davies - Agent, Greenhouse Literary

Writing a Great Query Letter
Susan Hawk - Agent, the Bent Agency

Cheryl Klein – Executive Editor, Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic

Writing for a Diverse Audience
Alvina Ling - VP and Editor-in-Chief, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Illustrating for Middle Grade, Graphic Novels, and YA
Laurent Linn – Art Director, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

How to Wow an Editor: You Have Three Pages to Win Me Over
Jacquelyn Mitchard - Author, Editor-in-Chief, Merit Press

Creating Teen Characters
Sara Goodman/Rainbow Rowell - Editor, St. Martin’s Press/Author

Finding Your Unique Voice
Nancy Siscoe – Senior Executive Editor, Alfred A. Knopf BFYR

Writing Young Adult Fiction
Kristen Pettit - Executive Editor, HarperCollins Children's Books

Check out all the details and register here.

Illustrate and Write On,


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3. Mark Your Calendars, Set Your Alarms: Registratoin for #NY16SCBWI Opens at 10am PDT on Monday October 19, 2015

It's the 17th Annual Winter Conference, held February 12-14, 2016 in New York City!

With keynotes from

2 Keynote Panels featuring leading Publishers, Editors and Agents:

The Presidents' Panel: The Big Picture with Jon Anderson (President and Publisher, Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing Division), Jean Feiwel (Senior VP and Director, Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan Children's Publishing Group), Mallory Loehr (Vice President, Publishing Director, Random House/Golden/Doubleday Books for Young Readers), and Adrea Pappenheimer (SVP, Director of Sales/Associate Publisher HarperCollins Publishers.)


Acquisitions Today: Opportunities and Challenges with Alessandra Balzer (Balzer + Bray), Liz Bicknell (Candlewick), Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown LTD), Sarah Davies (Greenhouse Literary) and Alvina Ling (Little, Brown Books.)

There will also be:

22 interactive breakout sessions with Editors, Art Directors and Agents!

The Portfolio Showcase

The Art Browse

The Saturday Night Party

The Autograph Party

and A full Friday of optional pre-conference activities, with your choice of:

I. Writers' Roundtables

II. Writers' Intensive: The Big and the Small: A Novel Revision Intensive

III. Published Authors' Discussion

IV. Illustrators' Intensive: Work Long and Prosper: Career Longevity for Illustrators

Keep in mind, the Friday pre-conference activities always sell out fast, and the conference itself has sold out for the last four years running. Visit http://www.scbwi.org/ for registration and all the conference information.

It's going to be amazing, and we hope you will join us!

Illustrate and Write On,


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4. Thank You And We'll See You In New York For #NY16SCBWI

From left to right: Lee Wind, Martha Brockenbrough, Jolie Stekly, Jaime Temairik and Don Tate

From all of us at SCBWI Team Blog, thanks for following along!

We hope you'll join us for the 17th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, February 12-14, 2016.


Full-day intensives for both writers and illustrators,
The juried portfolio showcase with Grand Prize,
The opportunity to network with top editors, agents and publishers
and much more!

Craft. Business. Inspiration. Opportunity. Community.
We're your SCBWI.

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5. Autograph Party

Martha Brockenbrough & Arthur Levine

Shannon Hale & Stacey Lee

Brandy Colbert

Paul Fleischman & Molly Idle

Greg Pincus & Varian Johnson

Mike Curato & John Rocco

Lin Oliver & Bonnie Bader

Mem Fox

Kwame Alexander

Dan Santat & Michelle Knudsen

Meg Wolitzer & Anna Shinoda

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6. Kwame Alexander: #LA15SCBWI Final Keynote

Newbery-winning author of THE CROSSOVER, Kwame Alexander, delivered a riveting final keynote for #LA15SCBWI. Using a poetry-slam style of call-and-response, he had the audience bopping along with him, interactively, throughout. His keynote, appropriately entitled, #Basketball rules, ended with an uproarious standing ovation. What a way to end #LA15SCBWI!

hustle dig
grind push
run fast
change pivot
chase pull
aim shoot
play hard
practice harder
work hardest!

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7. This Year's Illustrator Mentees

The mentors and mentees

Hand picked from the portfolios submitted for review at this summer's conference, these illustrators are clearly up-and-coming! Here's examples of their work along with links to their websites:

K-Fai Steele

Meridth Gimbel

Nicholas Hong

Anne Berry

 Kisoo Chai


Molly Ruttan

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8. Rachelle Meyer: #LA15SCBWI Conference Illustrator Journal

Rachelle Meyer

Rachelle wrote this about herself:
Rachelle Meyer was born in the state of Texas and spent most of her childhood with her nose in a book. Reading became the wellspring for her continuing passions in life: drawing, storytelling and traveling. She graduated with a degree in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin and then spent eight years in New York City working as a graphic artist and designer. She has since moved to Europe and launched a successful career as an illustrator, specializing in children's books and editorial interpretations. Her talents have been used to interpret the work of contemporary best-selling authors such as Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler's Wife) and Nick Ortner (The Tapping Solution). She also writes and illustrates her own picture books and graphic novels. She volunteers as the International Illustrator Coordinator for SCBWI. She now lives in Amsterdam with her English husband, her Dutch son, and her cranky old New York cat.

You can visit Rachelle online at her website http://www.rachellemeyer.com/
and check out more of her sketches on instagram https://instagram.com/rachellemeyer/

One of Rachelle's illustrated books:

Some finished art:

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9. Jordan Brown: Five Principles For Revision

One of the coolest things about attending the SCBWI Summer Conference is that when you're wowed by a faculty member's breakout session – if you time it right – you can go to their other session as well. To dig deeper. To learn more.

So, after being wowed by Jordan's breakout session on Voice, I attended (and here blog) his second breakout session, on Revision...

Jordan Brown is an executive editor with the imprints Walden Pond Press and Balzer + Bray at HarperCollins Children's Books.

The room is packed, every seat filled, people sitting on the floor.

Jordan starts us out the way he starts out when creating an editorial letter for a book he's editing. He aims to define the core of the manuscript.

The core is three important qualities:
1. A central element of the story to which all readers can ideally relate - the universal.
2. What is the most formative experience of your young character's life? That's what your book should be about.
3. Something your character chooses, or has agency.

He illustrates the core of the manuscript with Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games":
1. The concept is survival.
2. The most formative experience of Katniss's life is being in the Hunger Games.
3. It's her choice. She volunteers to save her sister.

It's these core concepts that Jordan uses to ground his revision notes, to make sure he and the author share a vision of what the book is.

He walks us through his five principles of revision. I'll share one of them.

Character Drives Plot

You want your plot to ask the right questions of your character:
1. What does my character want?
2. What are the stakes for my character? What happens if she doesn't get what she wants?
3. What complicates things. Why can't the character get what they want?

As full as the room is, Jordan's speech is still more full of great content, tips and examples. He ends with his explaining how to know if your book is ready... or if it's not ready.

A final note:

Jordan reminds us that our manuscripts don't have to be perfect, that

"As editors, we're not acquiring your pages. We're acquiring the vision they represent."

And revision is the way to get our books to match our vision.

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10. Deborah Wiles: Structuring Your Novel: Providing a Scaffold for Your Plot

Deborah Wiles is the award-winning writer of picture books to young adult novels, including REVOLUTION, this year's Crystal Kite award for fiction.

Story is about connections.
There are many ways of telling. Traditionally novels were entirely told in words. This is changing.

 We now have different readers and different writers. 

Dialogue can be a source of structure.

Look at other books that play with structure:

Learn from these different structures.

Who would have ever know that what you were reading when you were ten, and how you read it could end up in your work later.

How do you read?

 Think of your own personal narrative. When you are stuck, start here:
  • Moments (What you know)
  • Memory (What you feel)
  • Meaning (What you can imagine)

There is an outside story and an inside story, which creates an inside structure and an outside structure.

Deborah shares about her own life, and the structure for REVOLUTION. 

Outside structure: when the president tells the country to prepare for  World War III. 

Inside structure: Deborah, after going downstairs to see the canned goods, etc. felt scared, knowing, for the first time, her parents might not be able to take care of her.

We all have a rich treasure trove of both internal and external experiences with which to tell stories.

The story is paramount. It’s a living, breathing thing that works and becomes as you create it. Trust what emerges.

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11. Research Tool: Writing Outside of your Diversity

We Need Diverse Books™team members Miranda Paul and Nicola Yoon presented an enormously informational session on writing outside of your own diversity. Paul, who is married to a black African man, wished for more books featuring characters that looked like her biracial family—particularly when her daugher questioned why so many books featuring characters that looked like her were about slavery. Yoon also comes from a biracial family and shared her concern. Here are a few things to think about when writing outside of your own race, background, experience:

• Honest Reflection. 
Consider your own motivations, biases, ignorances for writing a particular story. What is your connection to the topic?

• Collaborate
Identity experts with whom you might work with or co-author a book. They can help you to realize things you didn't realize you don't know. 

• Observe
Make research trips, take notes, watch, listen (Cavet: You are still an outsider at this phase)

Be honest with your reader, explain literary choices, share your research process, extend beyond the book

• Tell the truth
Write characters, not caricatures. If you’re writing a stereotype, you’re not telling the truth. All Asians are not good with math. All black girls aren’t sassy. People are complicated, create complex characters. Know what makes your character tick— What do they love? What do they want

• Diversify your life
Include more types of people in your own life, it will not only make you a better writer, it will make you a better person.

For more information, see the We Need Diverse Books™ website.

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12. Michelle Knudsen Accepts the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor

Michelle Knudsen is a New York Times best-selling author of more than 40 books for young readers, including the picture book Library Lion (illustrated by Kevin Hawkes), the middle-grade fantasy novels The Dragon of Trelian and The Princess of Trelian, and the young adult novel Evil Librarian.

This book earned her the 2015 Sid Fleischman Award for Humor.

"For writers of humorous fiction, life is a tough room," Paul Fleischman said in presenting the award. "Sense of humor varies as wildly as taste in food."

He called Michelle's book a "frothy delight" that has entranced readers. And then he presented her with a set of keys to an alternate universe where humor is as respected as it should be.

She spoke of how much it meant to her to hear from former Sid Fleischman Award winner Alan Silberberg, who reassured her she didn't need to be funny onstage (she was, though—wonderfully so).

When she started EVIL LIBRARIAN it was as a break from another book, and she didn't know it would be funny. "Once I realized I had the start of a story that was funny, I started to panic that it had to be funny all the way through."

Her mentor Tim Wynne Jones told her to stop trying to think about being funny, and just to write the story, which is about friendships and musical theater and demons (and an evil librarian). 

Michelle expressed thanks to the SCBWI and a large crew of supportive family, friends, and professional colleagues—as well as to Stephen Sondheim and his hilarious disturbing musical "Sweeney Todd." 


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13. Deborah Wiles Accepts the Golden Kite Award for Fiction

In introducing Deborah Wiles, winner of the 2015 Golden Kite Award for Fiction, for her book Revolution, Lin Oliver thanked Wiles for "...her ability to put a human face on history."

Wiles spoke about trying to sell her editors on a whole new creation, a type of book that had not existed before, a documentary novel. 

Her advice to writers: 

• Never ever give up. 

• Always believe in yourself. 

• Find your people, your professional organization is important. 

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14. Candace Fleming Accept the Golden Kite for Nonfiction

Candace Fleming is the author of over thirty-two books for children, ranging from picture books to middle grade fiction to award-winning biographies. Her most recent, THE FAMILY ROMANOV, is the winner of the Golden Kite for nonfiction.

If it was up to Steve Mooser next year's major blockbuster would be this book.

SCBWI is an organization that changed Candace's life. She joined twenty years ago. After joining she headed to her first conference, unpublished and with manuscripts in hand. There she met Anne Schwartz who she has now had a long working relationship with.

With THE FAMILY ROMANOVCandace had many challenges which included the time and setting, a whole lot to tell, Russian history, characters who seemed boring. How would she make it all work? After more than seven drafts, she finished the book. With the need to escape, she went to see the movie Philomena, and in that film her biggest doubt about her own book was highlight:

Russian history, who is interested in that?

Candace thanks the SCBWI for acknowledging the book with Golden Kite for nonfiction and affirming, that yes, people are interesting.

A well deserved win. Congratulations, Candace.

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15. The winners of the 3rd Annual Student Scholarship are announced

Bonnie Bader announces the winners of this year's Student Writer Scholarship, a grant of conference tuition for full-time university students in an English or Creative Writing program.

For undergraduate: Katherine Kendall from Brigham Young University, for her YA fantasy thriller


for graduate: Courtney Warren from the MFA program at Hollins University, for her MG novel set in 1955 Mississippi Delta.

Bonnie has the winners stand, and the room enthusiastically applauds.

Congratulations, Katherine and Courtney!

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Our lovely and fantastic Melissa Sweet, author and illustrator of many award-winning picture books, is here accepting the Golden Kite for her illustrations of Peter Mark Roget's life and world in The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus.

The research for this book began not far from here in Santa Barbara, where Melissa got to see one of Roget's original word books in a private collection. Melissa has illustrated word-centric biographies before, but unlike being able to pull from the imagery evoked in the words of William Carlos Williams, Melissa had to figure out how to visualize Roget's lists of words. 

For the better part of two weeks, Melissa handlettered Roget's original word list in sepia and had a jolly old time doing it. 
Melissa got to handle original Roget pages
like these—without gloves!

Melissa thanks her publisher Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, her author Jen Bryant, and the SCBWI/Golden Kite committee.

"My hope with this book is that readers will be delighted and informed, but most importantly, always find the right word when they need it."

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17. Kristy Dempsey Accepts the Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Text

Kristy Dempsey (left) accepts her Golden Kite Statuette from SCBWI's Sara Rutenberg

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream is beautiful.

In her acceptance speech, Kristy speaks of joining SCBWI in 2005. Of the connections and community, "kite dreams, if you will" that have helped her on the journey so far.

Moments of her speech that touched and resonated:

"...deep joy is only found in fulfilling our purpose."


"I write to discover my own empathy. Or perhaps, more honestly, to work my way toward it."

Congratulations, Kristy!

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18. Lee Wind is Honored as Member of the Year

Each year the SCBWI awards Member of the Year to one person who has made a significant contribution to the organization. Lee Wind has done just that in generous ways over many years. He has served as a Regional Advisor, he's advocated and led LGBTQ sessions within the conferences, and he leads SCBWI Team Blog.

Congratulations to our blog team's leader, Lee Wind!

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19. Candace Fleming: Five Secrets to Writing Narrative Fiction

Candace Fleming is a true youth literature rock star. She is the author of over thirty-two books for children—picture books, middle grade fiction, and biographies. Her most recent book, The Family Romanov, is the 2015 SCBWI Golden Kite winner for Nonfiction.

In her breakout session today, she offered some tips for writing great narrative fiction (longer pieces of work, middle grade, YA):

1. Vital idea. Consider what it is that you have to say with your story, and not just the facts. As writers, we are storytellers (or bakers, as Fleming used a great metaphor to illustrate the concept). Writing is like baking so create a great cake—bake a great piece of fiction. 

What do you want to tell your readers? What are you showing them about their current world? What do you want to add to the conversation? Fleming used her book, The Family Romanovas an example of what happened when people of power didn't pay attention to their job of focusing on the people. It was her personal opinion, but that's okay, "insert your bias, make a statemen" she said.

Think in scenes and bridges. All nonfiction is written in scenes connected by bridges (or summary). A scene shows the reader what is happening, while a bridge adds context and helps the reader understand and push the story forward. Bridges help the reader know what they need to know in order to understand the next scene. Scenes should be dramatic, as should all nonfiction.

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20. Martha Brockenbrough: Jumpstart Your Social Media... Ten Best Tips

@mbrockenbrough is Martha's
Twitter handle. Magnum Blackbeard
is her CB radio handle.
Author Martha Brockenbrough shares some fantastic and salient social media marketing gems. Spoiler alert: It's all about relationships!

Your strategy for social media, says Martha, is not to be on there to sell books, it's to build relationships. It is not about the technology/particular media platform, either, that is totally secondary to the connections you make on whatever platform you are comfortable being in or on.

You wouldn't start an in-real-life friendship by telling someone to buy your book, that's not how you should approach social media either. It's fine to make people aware that you write or illustrate, but Martha's hope is that you instead focus your efforts on being friendly, interacting online, and adding something to the conversations.

Give them reasons to interact with you: you can show snippets of your life, your family, vacations, things that inspire you.

Who are you building these social media relationships with? Five-year-olds don't tweet, but booksellers, librarians, teachers and parents do! All of these people are potential gatekeepers to your intended audience of your published book.

If you aren't published? Well, your fellow industry professionals, fellow authors and illustrators and agents and editors are on social media, and you can start building these relationships now and support authors and illustrators you are fans of and herald their work.

Martha's Core Principles for Online Social Media (and Martha can do an 8-minute plank, so she knows about core strength)

1. Be Positive
2. Focus on the long term
3. Build an authentic community (Martha admits it is difficult to be careful and professional while also being authentic, but hold both of these things in mind when you do broadcast yourself/opinions online)

Martha provides some platform-tailored tips and hints for how to interact on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and more, for both your personal and professional pages.

One Facebook hint: Images are often more popular than text-only posts for views and shares, consider making a quote from your book or a new, glowing review you want to share as word art or an image. Or consider using pictures to promote your event, like one of Martha's most popular booktour event info posts was this one:

See some great social media in action by using Martha as a case study:

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21. Paul Fleischman: Writing Picture Book Text

Paul Fleischman's novels, poetry, picture books, and nonfiction are known for their breadth, innovation, and lyrical language. He's won the Newbery Medal for Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, a Newbery Honor for Graven Images, the California Young Reader Medal for Weslandia, and was a National Book Award finalist for Breakout. His book Seedfolks has been used in citywide reads across the country. In 2012 he was the United States' nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award for the body of his work. Visit www.paulfleischman.net.

Paul has written wordless books and he's written an opera, but he always comes back to picture books.

He touches on length, age level, and how picture books are mediated by an adult and what that means – and doesn't mean – in terms of vocabulary and subject matter.
"The best picture books can be enjoyed by all ages."

Models to consider: ballads, songs, lyrics - and how they leave out a lot.
"Does your idea require art? If you can imagine your story without art, a picture book might not be the way to tell it."

"Weigh every word." And then he adds that that is "good advice for all genres."

And when he has things that happen in his story that aren't in the text? Like the moment in his own "Time Train" when the text says, "some passengers got on in Pittsburgh" but it's Civil War Soldiers who are walking into the train car?

He puts it in brackets. (But urges us to keep them to a minimum, "just what is required.")

Paul finishes the session with questions, and his answers cover so much more.

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22. The SCBWI Emerging Voices Awards

The Emerging Voices Award was established with funding from Martin and Sue Schmitt of the 455 Foundation to foster the emergence of diverse voices in children’s books.

This year's winners are Heidi Kim and Adria Quinones...


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23. Portfolio Showcase Winners!

Honor Awards go to:

Amy Heron (send us your website link!)


and the 

Congratulations, Illustrators!

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24. SCBWI 2015 Student Illustrator Scholarship Winners (Summer)

Each year, the SCBWI sponsors four conference scholarships for full-time graduate or undergraduate students studying illustration. (Two for the New York conference, two for the Los Angeles conference). Many of our SIS winners have gone on to be represented by agents, get illustration work, and publish books. 

Congratulations to these 2015 Summer Conference SIS winners! 

Nicole Rheingans, Pratt Institute

 Nityanshu Sharma,  Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art 

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25. The Golden Kite Luncheon Gets Underway!

Stage... set

Tables... filled

Forks... poised.

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