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1. Welcoming Don Tate to Team Blog for #NY15SCBWI

Lee Wind: We’re so excited you'll be joining us as part of SCBWI team blog for the upcoming winter conference!

Don Tate: If you all are excited then I am ecstatic! I attended a national conference in LA a few years back. It was a blast. I can’t wait to attend the New York conference, covering it as a blogger. I take this job to heart; I may even wear the hat.

Lee: You’re an author/illustrator or should I say, an illustrator/author. Which came first, and how did the second evolve?

Don: I’ve been an illustrator of children’s books and educational products for more than 30 years. But it took writing a book before anyone began to notice me. I started writing about 10 years ago, when I wrote the first draft for It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw. I guess that makes me an illustrator-author. Thing is, I love writing as much as illustrating. As a matter of fact, I just finished writing a short story that will be included in a middle grade anthology. I. Loved. Writing. That. Story! Longterm, I’d like to focus more of my career on telling stories with words—a chapter book, novel, graphic novel.

Lee: What do you want people to know about you?

Don: That I like hamburgers. And Twizzlers. I’m a newly converted chocolate lover, too. But really. I think most people who follow me on social networks think I’m an outgoing guy—the life of the party. I am not. I can’t emphasize that enough. I’m an introvert to the nth degree. But I love the children’s book business. It’s the one thing that seems to draw me out of my shell.

Lee: What don't you want us to know?wait! don't tell us!

Don: I’m a kidlit author and illustrator fanboy. Children’s book authors and illustrators and editors
Don Tate stealing a selfie with "Bad Kitty" Nick Bruel
are my heroes. When I attend conferences where I am a featured book creator, I spend a lot of time chasing down my favorite authors and illustrators. I once cornered a famous author hero in the men’s restroom at a big library conference and ask for a selfie. Don’t believe me, just ask Nick Bruel.

Lee: What are you most looking forward to about the conference and about being part of team blog?

Don: Well again, I’m a kidlit guy so I look forward to meeting and mingling with my tribe, as Lin Oliver would say. As far as the blog, I’m gonna be like one of those annoying red carpet reports (that everyone enjoys following). I plan to bring the Who, What, Where, When and Why. The conference will be fun, and so I hope to make it an enjoyable experience for those who won’t be in attendance, but who want to follow along.

Oh, and by the way, you can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Lee: Okay, That's it. quick and easy! See you there!

For more or information about Don, see his website!
Don Tate is an award-winning author, and the illustrator of numerous critically acclaimed books for children, including The Cart That Carried Martin, (Charlesbridge); Hope’s Gift, (Penguin); Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite (Charlesbridge); and Ron’s Big Mission, (Penguin). He is also the author of It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started To Draw (Lee & Low Books, 2102), an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor winner. His upcoming titles include The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (Illustrator, Eerdmans, 2015), and Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton (Author and illustrator, Peachtree, 2015). Don is a founding host of the The Brown Bookshelf –a blog dedicated to books for African American young readers; and a member of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his family.

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2. Ben Rosenthal: The Pre-#NY15SCBWI Interview

Ben Rosenthal is a senior editor at Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books. He acquires middle grade and YA fiction but also loves fresh and surprising nonfiction.

I connected with Ben to find out more about his two breakout sessions at the Winter Conference, one on "Creating Nonfiction" and the other on "Thrillers and Mysteries." It was a great discussion, covering the lessons to be learned from fiction to nonfiction and vice-versa, the lines between MG, YA and Adult, and much more!

If you'd like to attend Ben's sessions and be part of all the craft, opportunity, inspiration, business and community of SCBWI's Winter Conference, we hope you'll join us in New York City, February 6-8, 2015.

You can find out all the details and register here.

Illustrate and Write On,

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3. Martha Brockbrough Shares The Scoop on The Writers' Roundtable Intensive

Check out this very informative post, The Benefits of A Writers' Roundtable, by author and team blog member Martha Brockenbrough. In it, Martha tells us about the Writers Roundtable Intensive at the upcoming 2015 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, February 6-8.

In addition to sharing what happened to her four years ago at the roundtable, Martha is now the intensive's moderator, and shares her thoughts on how to maximize this remarkable opportunity.

Illustrate and Write On,

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4. Jessica Garrison: The Pre-#NY15SCBWI Interview

Jessica Dandino Garrison is senior editor at Dial Books for Young Readers and edits picture books, middle grade and young adult novels.

In our interview, we discuss the upcoming 2015 SCBWI Winter conference, her take on writers trying to do it all, got the scoop on her rule-breaking picture book breakout sessions, and learned more about the process of selecting an illustrator for a picture book manuscript. She even shares some of her favorite childhood books!

If you'd like to attend Jessica's session and be part of all the craft, opportunity, inspiration, business and community of SCBWI's Winter Conference, we hope you'll join us in New York City, February 6-8, 2015.

You can find out all the details and register here.

Illustrate and Write On,

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5. Emma Dryden: The Pre-#NY15SCBWI Interview

Emma Dryden has edited over a thousand books for children and young readers and many of her titles hit bestseller lists in USA Today, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Publishers Weekly. Books published under Emma’s guidance have received numerous awards and medals, including but not limited to, the Newbery Medal, Newbery Honor, and Caldecott Honor.

Check out the great interview with Emma Dryden at Jolie Stekly's blog!

Team Blogger Jolie Stekly chatted with Emma to get the scoop on the World Building Writer's Intensive at the upcoming 2015 SCBWI Winter Conference, Feb 6-8!

It's a great discussion, and I'm more excited than ever to attend...

We hope you join us. You can find out all the intensive and conference information, and register, here.

Illustrate and Write On,

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6. Stephanie Lurie: The Pre-#NY15SCBWI Interview

Stephanie Lurie is the associate publisher of Disney-Hyperion, an imprint that publishes approximately eighty titles a year, for preschoolers through young adults. Stephanie manages a team of eighteen people and also edits picture books and novels.

In our interview, I asked Stephanie to tell us what she's most looking forward to hearing from her fellow panelists on the Saturday morning Keynote Editors' panel, "Children's Books 2015: Report from the Front Lines." Her fellow panlists will be Justin Chanda (Simon & Schuster), Laura Godwin (Henry Holt) and Beverly Horowitz (Delacorte)!

We also discussed writers writing for more than one age category, diversity as a reflection of modern life, and Stephanie shared some surprising advice. (We even find out her favorite ice cream flavor!)

Check out the full interview here.

And to find out more about the upcoming SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, February 6-8, 2015, you can find out all the details and register here.

Illustrate and Write On,

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7. #NY15SCBWI - The 2015 SCBWI Winter Conference Registration Opens October 7, 10:00 am PDT

SCBWI's spectacular 16th Annual winter conference, held February 6-8, 2015 in New York has an amazing line up of keynote speakers, panels, breakout sessions and intensive workshops.

Here's the faculty,

And here's the conference schedule.

Note: The Conference promises to sell out as it has in the past several years.

So set your calendars and cell phone alarms to register online at http://www.scbwi.org/ Tuesday October 7 at 10am pacific time!

We look forward to seeing you there!

Illustrate and Write On,


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8. Thank You and We'll See You In New York for #NY15SCBWI Jan 30 - Feb 1, 2015

Thanks for sharing the last three days of conference blogging, tweeting, insights and merriment with us!

Team Blog (minus Suzanne Young this time 'round.) Left to Right: Lee Wind, Martha Brockenbrough, Jaime Temairik and Jolie Stekly

We hope you'll be able to join in all the craft, business, opportunity, inspiration and community of SCBWI's 16th Annual Winter Conference in New York City, January 30 - February 1, 2015.

It will feature:

Full-day Intensives for both Writers and Illustrators

The New York Art Showcase

Networking with top Editors, Agents and Publishers

Workshops, Keynotes and much more (all in the center of the children's publishing industry!)

Online conference registration will be posted in October of 2014 at scbwi.org

Illustrate and Write On,

Martha Brockenbrough

Jolie Stekly

Jaime Temairik

and Lee Wind

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9. Autograph Party

Autograph Party (aka: a bit more time to chat with new and old friends while waiting in line)!

Packed rooms and lines to get books signed.

Maggie Stiefvater

Peter Brown

Bruce Coville

David Meissner & Linda Sue Park

Martha Brockenbrough & Lisa Yee

Judy Schachner

Still chatting as we wait.

Marla Frazee

Bill Konigsberg

Tim Federle & Cynthia Kadohata

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10. Judy Blume Inspires...

Judy Blume has more than 82 million copies of her books in print. Books like

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret



Just as Long as We're Together.

There's even a new movie out - based on her book - that she wrote the screenplay for: Tiger Eyes.

Judy gets a standing ovation as she takes the stage.

Every eye (and camera) on Judy Blume

Judy is full of joy and emotion and warmth.

She shares with us a few thoughts Tomie dePaola offered that resonated for her, like


When it came to Judy's writing, she never thought twice about it.

"I was brave in my writing in a way that I wasn't in my life."

Courage to create. Courage to imagine.

Judy speaks about the value of the safe space, the community SCBWI offers us all. She talks about Focus and Determination, and tells us stories...

She offers us some tweets she's designed for us, like this one

"Do not let anyone discourage you. If they try, get angry, not depressed."

Judy Blume has us laughing and thinking and feeling. And she tells us that while she was supposed to inspire us, being at this conference inspired her. She's fired up. And she's going to go home. And she's going to do it.

And we can, too.

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11. By the power of Skype! Tomie de Paola's Virtual Keynote!

We miss him but Lin's Skype interview with Tomie was fantastic! Hardly any technical difficulties!

Lin starts by telling us Tomie has published 250 or so books over fifty years, she asks him the secret of sustaining a lifelong career.

Tomie: Courage!

Lin: Courage to...

Tomie: Just courage! I get up in the morning and I have to face a blank piece of paper and my brushes all clean and ready to go. I panic, I freeze, I know I'm going to make a mistake... By then it's the afternoon! 

Without scaring anybody, I think it gets worse! The more you know. You know, fools rush in, now it's all of these pressures that come from the outside, it's really hard to put them in their place. I'm so aware of the responsibility I have for creating something for young people.

Lin: When you were starting out were you aware of that responsibility? Or did you just really want to make picture books and felt your art was suitable?

Tomie: It was a bit of both. You know, the 'fame mosquito' buzzes around for a while, and you want that in the early days. 

And eventually you will have a HUGE disappointment in your career, and you ask yourself why you are doing this?

Why are you doing books for children?

And I realized it was because they'd been important to me, in my life as a child, and I wanted to be that for new generations. I was lucky to have this epiphany early on.

Lin: Is there something you hope your books say to kids? Or is it that you want to create an atmosphere of something beautiful for them. 

Tomie: All of that. I want kids to fall in love color and line and character, I want to make people laugh and cry...

Lin: Your books have such a present sense of childhood, what you do you think gives you that fresh sense?

Tomie: I'm blessed to have a very good memory. And the more I remember of my childhood, the more I remember. I really cherished those memories, and I had some help, I have home movies of me as a child and that helps me remember the experiences. What's important is I remember how I felt. It's not important what color the car was or what color the socks were. It's the feeling.

I also come from families of great storytellers.

Lin: Many artists are asked to write an artistic statement, how would you write your statement?

Tomie: My first response is I want to say 'Why do YOU want to know?!?!' I don't think it's a bad idea to write what your purpose is. But write it twice, write the first one very honestly and don't let anybody see it.

I was trained in the middle fifties at Pratt, a very fine art school, by very fine professionals. We were told not to be afraid, to try everything, you're just students—don't take yourself seriously—yet.

I look at curriculums today and I frankly don't recognize them, I remember when I bought a rapid-o-graph pen and everybody said, Oh my god! There is an emphasis on computers/technology today, and if I was in school today I would want to take advantage of all of that, of everything that's on offer. What bothers me most is the lack of history. People forget that Giotto and Fra Angelico were illustrators. They were visual storytellers and that's what illustrators have to be. I worry that young people today aren't given enough time to develop and flower. If they don't come out of the gate winning awards, the industry just says, "Next!"

It's like that Thornton Wilder quote, "Money is like manureit's not worth a thing unless it's spread around encouraging young things to grow..."

Some Tomie laws:

  • Don't ever try to illustrate something you don't like.

  • You and your art director speak the same foreign language.

  • Don't get so busy with your work (Tomie's speaking to artists and art directors here) that you stop looking at others' art and going to shows. Have your household gods, surround yourself with images you love.

  • You should be able to tell the story of a picture book just by looking at the pictures.

  • Try reading The Courage To Create, modern society almost doesn't understand the creative act. So know you'll probably be misunderstood and try to make something anyway.

Lin's Lightning Round of questions for Tomie! His FAVORITE...

Classical artist: Piero della Francesca 

Musical : Gypsy

Play: Glass Menagerie

Saint: Francis of Assissi

Pizza: margherita

Color: white
Flower: anemone

Paint brand: Golden Acrylics

Icon/Household god: Virgin of Guadalupe

Piece of Advice: 

Be brave.

Thanks, Tomie!!

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12. Diandra Mae: Conference Illustrator Journal #LA14SCBWI

Say hello to Diandra Mae!

She's not only SCBWI Houston's Illustrator Coordinator, she's also a darn tootin' illustrator in her own right. Here's her sketch from Aaron Becker's Sunday session on creating wordless picture books:

Thanks, Diandra!

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13. On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award

The SCBWI established the On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award in 2012 with funding from Martin and Sue Schmitt of the 455 Foundation. The grant was created to foster the emergence of diverse voices in children’s books.

Writers and writer/illustrators from an ethnic and/or cultural background that is traditionally under-represented in children’s literature in America are eligible to enter a complete manuscript.

Two winners receive an all-expense trip to next year's summer conference and an intensive, a manuscript consultation with an industry professional, an additional meeting with an industry professional, as well as a press release.

The winners of the 2014 On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award are Jennifer Baker and Tiemdow Phumiruk.

"We have to change the world, and we have to do it one book at a time," Lin Oliver said. "We are looking forward to seeing your books."


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14. Laura Rennert: The Building Blocks of a Successful Career - How To Start And Position Yourself Successfully

Executive Agent Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency has clients who write books that are best-sellers, books that win awards.

She represents literary stars like Ellen Hopkins, Jay Asher, Lauren Kate, Maggie Stiefvater, Kathleen Duey and Catherine Ryan Hyde,

And Laura also represents first-time authors.

Laura Rennert conducts her breakout session

With separate handouts for picture book authors and fiction writers, Laura suggests we

"reverse-engineer our approach by thinking like an agent or editor."

Laura walks us through her formula to create a pitch.

Just as we writers need to pitch agents to get them excited to read our book (towards getting representation), agents pitch editors to get them excited to read our book (towards selling it!)

And then, once our book is sold and published, consider that book sellers, publicity people, marketing people and you, the author (once again!) will pitch gatekeepers and readers to get them excited to buy and read your book!

So a pitch for your book is really important.

It should include:

What - what sets story in motion irrevocably 
Where - the world it's in
and Why Should I Care? - that's the stakes
and the bonus,
What is The Special Ingredient that makes this story stand out from all other works in that category?

And Comps help give a context, saying that your work is in the same space as X...

She shares with us her full pitch (that she used to sell the book to its editor) for her client Maggie Steifvater's "Shiver." It's impressive.

Laura answers attendee questions, giving us loads of additional advice on next-steps-in-our-career strategies, speaks of some of her authors pursuing hybrid careers (pursuing both traditional and self-publishing), and much, much more.

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15. Tim Federle: The 10 Things Nobody Tells You About Being a Debut Novelist

Tim Federle is the author of this year's Golden Kite for Fiction, Better Nate Than Ever.

Tim has 10 suggestions for debut novelists.

1. Bring your publisher good news. Limit your requests, instead send lots of gratitude and good news.

2. Everyone is always starting over. Whether a writer is a Newbery winner or writing their second book, we all still look at the blank page when we start a new book.

3. You can't please everyone so try to please a small group a lot.

4. Pretend the day your novel sells is the biggest day for your novel. Maybe even better, the day you write The End after finishing the manuscript. You own the process of writing the book even if you don't sell the book.

5. Form a community of peers but don't listen to them too closely.

6. Use good moments to spark other good moments.

7. Don't talk smack about other writers.

8. Send handwritten cards to assistants and interns.

9. Calm down.

10. Nobody knows anything. Tim advises that after this weekend only take those things that give you confidence. Forget the things that freak you out, because nobody knows.

Bonus: Love your characters.

Here's the good news, blog readers: This is a "taste" of Tim's talk, but he has provided all the meaty bits on his website. Check it out. Amazing!

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16. Lamar Giles: Stay Tuned - Using TV Techniques to Keep Readers Hooked

Lamar Giles writes for adults and teens, and in several genres. His YA debut mystery, FAKE ID, is about a teen in witness protection investigating his best friend's murder. A thriller called ENDANGERED will come out next spring from HarperCollins.

He talked to us about the art of the cliffhangers at the ends of chapters and scenes, and how we can use a television technique to keep readers turning pages.

When he was growing up, he loved television. "I was probably the only fourth grader in Hopewell, Virginia with a subscription to TV guide."

TV when he was a kid wasn't like TV today. There was no on-demand, and you couldn't always record what you wanted to watch. Lamar never wanted to miss a moment of a show, and a few times, he got burned by leaving the TV during commercial breaks. The experience left him with anxiety.

"I realized that anxiety was being manufactured," he said.

Something enticing happened at a commercial break. In a half-hour show, the creators would generate 3 of these (and more for longer shows). He tries to use this sort of manipulation with his stories.

"This is how I try to keep people reading even if they're tired, even if they have something else to do."
Shows take longer to read than a TV show does to watch, so we're asking people for a lot.

He gave us six techniques to use, and showed examples of books and TV shows that them.

Here are three of his techniques:

1) The Ned: Blindside the Audience 
In this technique, you lead the reader in a certain direction. They think they know what's going to happen. In GAME OF THRONES, for example, an unexpected death occurs in the ninth episode. In MOCKINGJAY, Prim dies unexpectedly when a brace of parachutes full of explosives detonate.

"Having that situation go down the way it did, there was no telling what would come next. But there's no way in the world you're not going to hang in there and find out what happens next."

Use The Ned in pivotal scenes. If you want to do this in a three-act structure, use it around inciting incidents or going into Act II.

2) The Winchester: Making a Vow or Accepting a Mission
In Supernatural, Sam and Dean lose their mother. Their father trains them to lose the same. Sam wants a regular life, but Dean becomes a hunter. In the season premier, their father is missing. Sam's girlfriend was killed in the same way his mother was. So they make a vow to hunt the demon down and find their missing father.

A novel called RED RISING by Pierce Brown uses a similar technique. It's set on Mars. The society is broken into classes. The ruling class punishes the hero by killing his wife. He leaves home with terrorists.

When you accept a vow, you're implying or stating there is a difficult, possibly insurmountable goal. If you use this, do it early in the book, because it sets the tone for the entire novel.

3) The Clark - Tell a Secret
This technique delivers information to a pivotal character. The effects of this secret keep people hooked. Laini Taylor's DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE uses this when Akiva kills Karou's family. This relationship and this moment drive two more books. So, it's a technique to use later in the manuscript because it pays off threads you laid earlier.

His approach to story structure and its emotional influence was really smart and helpful. And anything that lets you you justify delicious television viewing as work is OK by me.

Learn more about Lamar Giles
Follow Lamar Giles on Twitter

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17. Lisa Yee: First and Sentences

Lisa Yee is the the award-winning author of many novels for children, including Millicent Min, Girl Genius, which won the first Sid Fleischman Humor Award in 2004.

You might also know her because of her famous pal, Peepy.

Lee Yee works the room.

The crowd is playing a game with Lisa Yee: Name That Line. After reading through well-known first lines and trying to name the title, the room now goes through, choosing their favorite three, and thinking about why they chose them.

Here's a sampling:

"All children, except one, grow up." ~ Peter Pan

"There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife." ~ The Graveyard Book

"If your teacher has to die, August isn't a bad time of year for it."~ The Teacher's Funeral

First lines are very personal. They sets the tone for your story. With that line you're giving a clue as to who is telling the story.

There's no formula for the perfect first line. Lisa likes to think of first lines like food. They can be an appetizer (a bit of a taste or a tease), an entree (nice and meaty), or dessert (really lovely and delicious). A first line needs to wet the appetite.

Check out Nancy Pearl's Book Crush to find lists of things in books for kids/teen, like great first lines. You'll find the first line of Millicent Min, Girl Genius included in that list of great first lines.

Here it is:

"I've been accused of being anal retentive, an overachiever and a compulsive perfectionist, like that's a bad thing."

Definitely worth of that list.

What makes a great last line?

If your first line is the promise of the story, your last line is the payoff.

When you write your last line it can be helpful to know what you are writing towards as your draft.

Don't ignore that your you have first and last lines within a book. Pay attention to those too, like the first and last lines of a chapter.

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18. Bill Konigsburg: The Seven Deadly Sins in Young Adult Fiction

Bill Konigsburg won the 2014 Sid Fleischman Award for his funny, heartfelt, and unexpected book OPENLY STRAIGHT. He also wrote OUT OF POCKET, and his book THE PORCUPINE OF TRUTH comes out next summer from Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books.
He also teaches an 18-month online program for children's authors called Your Novel Year.

He spoke to us about errors to avoid in dialogue.

"I have a really good ear," he said. "I hear stuff all the time."

He started off the program with a dramatic reading of bad dialogue, to uproarious laughter. Here's a somewhat accurate sample (it's hard to type while giggling).
Bonnie: "A truck just ran over our dog,"

Joe: "Oh no!"

Bonnie: "If you hadn't lost our money gambling, none of this would have happened."
What made Bill's dialogue spectacularly bad were the data dumps, the literal articulation of emotions ("I'm angry," she said.) The characters said each other's names repeatedly, and they told each other things they already knew.

Here are some of his very entertaining sins. 

(Also! You're not allowed to use the word ejaculated (as a synonym for said, dirtybird). "Said. That's it. You say things," Bill ejaculated said. The word said becomes invisible, and that's really good. People are allowed to scream once every 80 pages.

Deadly Sin 1: Overuse of slang. When he uses slang, he tries to use words that last. So, expressions such as "This happened" will sound very strange soon.

Deadly Sin 2: Movie Speak. There is life and there are movies. He reads manuscripts that swerve into melodrama really fast. Beware using TV and movies as your source material for dialogue. Go eavesdrop on real people. "Go to a coffee house or a cafe or Burger King. Take out your phone and quietly press record. Record people speaking for 30 seconds. Go home and transcribe it word for word."

You'll notice that people mostly speak in unfinished thoughts and sentences. They do not stay on topic. "I want my novel to be more coherent than that," he said.

Deadly Sin 3: Backstorying. Characters who know each other don't drop a lot of backstory into dialogue. TV sitcoms do, but books aren't sitcoms. 

He had some really sharp observations: When people know each other well, they get less polite. They also have shorthand for things, and tend to refer to past events in as few words as possible.

Also, he's a fan of quirky dialogue: "I want to read a lot of scenes where people say weird stuff. I want [the emotional content] all to be in the subtext."

Learn more about Bill Konigsburg
Follow Bill on Twitter

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19. Shanta Newlin: Marketing and Sales Panel

Shanta Newlin is Executive Director of Publicity at Penguin Young Readers Group., a division of Penguin Random House.

Her goal is to demystify publicity for us.

She starts with explaining that every author at Penguin gets a publicist.

What does the publicist do?

They are an advocate

They help you craft your message

They pitch you for media

They connect you with your audience at book festivals and schools

"You must see, hear or read about a book at least five times before you make a purchase."

How do you accomplish that in such a crowded marketplace?

They know the media - consumer, trade, parenting, genre and more…

and they reach out to festivals and schools to create events "so you can meet your fans."

It's great information!

The clincher that made her know being a publicist was the job for her?

Shanta was with Tamora Pierce at an event when a woman walked up with her young daughter and said to Tamora, "I'd like to introduce you to my daughter, Alanna." She had named her child after the main character in Tamora's "Song of the Lioness" books!

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20. Marketing and Sales Panel: Felicia Frazier

Felicia Frazier
Felicia Frazier is the senior vice president of children's sales at Penguin Random House, where she's worked in a variety of roles.

As she gave her overview of how sales works, she confessed she thinks it's the best job in the industry.

"I love sales. It's so much fun," she said. And her mantra with her team of sales reps, no matter how great a year they've had, is "We think we can do better."

Children's publishing is the growth segment of the industry. Penguin publishes 650 new titles a year, on top of a 5,000-title backlist.

Penguin Random House wants their books to sell more copies today than they did previously. And they're doing it. The unstoppable 13 REASONS WHY by Jay Asher has sold more copies this year than it did seven years ago, she said.

Thirty-five percent of their list is debut authors, so as much as they love their back list, they're also passionate about debuts.

The numbers look good for those of us in the industry, Felicia said. The top 100 children's books are selling three times the physical unit sales today that they were 10 years ago. And compared to 2013, which was a good year, 2014 is 14 points better. She thinks children's books will exceed $4 billion in 2014.

One great thing about kids: There are new ones born every year.

"Every year, the book is new to somebody," she said (an observation people really loved hearing because her delivery was so passionate).

Her job is making sure that their books are wherever there are cash registers. She has identified more than 50,000 places where she can sell books. "And I love my job." 

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21. Sharon Flake keynote: Walking Wounded - How to Keep Writing after You've Hit the Wall

Sharon Flake
Sharon Flake has written award-winning books that have been published in several languages: THE SKIN I'M IN, MONEY HUNGRY, BEGGING FOR CHANGE, WHO AM I WITHOUT HIM, and more. This fall, she releases her first murder mystery, UNSTOPPABLE OCTOBIA MAY.

She talked to us about coping strategies to use when we hit the wall creatively. When her career started, with THE SKIN I'M IN, she'd only racked up three rejection slips, and the first editor who saw the book bought it. She called it a "magical" entry into the marketplace. (The book sold 1.5 million copies.)

The Disney imprint Jump at the Sun was being launched in New York with champagne, a performance of the Lion King cast, and a talk from then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner.

"These were really good times."  

For the next six books, she had open contracts with Disney, which meant they didn't need to know what she was working on. She just got to write what she wanted. 

The headiness of the experience gave her a false sense of confidence that it would always be this way, and that she'd always have ideas and the support of editors and publishers.

"One day your cozy life as a writer or an author just may shift, and you most likely will not like it one little bit," she said. She hit this point with her sixth book. There was a lot of turnover with her publisher.

The foundation beneath her feet started to shift. Relationships with a couple of editors didn't work out. A third editor sent her feedback—and Sharon felt the tremors.

"For the first time, I felt like an editor did not like my work." Her heart sank. She went back to work rewriting. She worried that she'd lost her gift. She felt that she'd lost touch with that feeling in her gut that had guided her through her novels.

She heard loud rumbles of self doubt. Having a big advance put a lot of pressure on her. She'd spent her advance, but she didn't yet have a book to hand in. She had to work through it. (And her ego was wrapped up in it.)

Her editor liked a revision, but she kept on working on it and doubled the size of the book, and she thought it was the best thing she'd ever written.

"I waited and I waited and I waited for them to marvel in my brilliance."

The letter from the editor let her know she'd taken a really good manuscript and crucified it. It was a wreck of a novel. She'd been overly ambitious with it. And then there were more editor departures. She wasn't sure she could face another novel, so she set out to write a collection of short stories.

"One story at a time," she said. "I could do one story at a time."

She kept at it, as painful as it was, learning some valuable things.  "Your creativity isn't a genie in a bottle you can pull up anytime you want to," she said. "Remember sometimes that blood is required. Sometimes everything you are and everything you have is being called on the line."

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22. Portfolio Showcase and Reception

Oh! The humanity!

Former Illustration Mentee Arree Chung and friend checking out the lovely portfiolios

Illustrator Mary Jo Scott holding up my favorite spread from her portfolio

One of the portfolios I loved last night was Sharon Vargo's

Our darling Sarah Baker with Grand Prize Winner Cindy Derby!
And it's not just portfolio show awards that happen at this show, congrats to the new crop of Mentees! The Mentorship Awards are such an amazing thing SCBWI and the Illustration Committee does, check it out here.

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23. Linda Sue Park: The How of It: Making Every Word Count

Here's a fun fact about Linda Sue Park: She once was a contestant on jeopardy. Yes, she is that smart. Which is why this room is packed and ready to soak up her brilliance.

Linda Sue has written novels, picture books, and poetry for younger readers, including A Single Shard, winner of the 2002 Newbery Medal, and the New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water. Lin Oliver also introduces her as adorable, fun, and full of energy.

Stealing a note from Tim Gunn (from Project Runway), Linda Sue tells us, "Don't bore the editor."

We need to make every word count. But how do we do it? By using the tools of the writer's craft.

Linda Sue shows us photos of the many illustrators tools: brushes, paints, pencils, etc.

What do writers have?


As writers, we all use the exact same tool. That's all we've got so we have to use those words to the their maximum potential.

Linda Sue speaks to those in the room who believe they have a submission-ready manuscript. When you think your work is submission ready, Linda Sue suggests putting it away. Not for hours, but for a month. Or even two.

When you pull it back out you can make it better still, but how?

Linda Sue shares many practical way to examine the words you're choosing. Here are a few:

  • Choose a scene in your manuscript that has a lot of dialogue in it. Rewrite it entirely in dialogue alone. Then go back in and reinsert only the narrative that is completely necessary. 
  • Choose a small section of your manuscript and put it all caps. Doing this can make you examine the words differently. 
  • Read your manuscript out loud. Linda Sue reads each manuscript (even novels) at least two times before she submits. Have someone read it out loud for you, especially if it's a picture book.

Words are everywhere right now. They have become one of our cheapest currencies, which makes it even more important for the words in our stories to be special.

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24. Deborah Halverson's Market Report

Deborah Halverson

Editor and Author Deborah Halverson - who writes both fiction and craft books about writing, is SCBWI's market reporter. As Lin Oliver says in her introduction to this keynote, this promises to be:

"The most practical and useful session you will attend in the next twelve months"

In every attendee's folder, there's a copy of the "2014 SCBWI Market Survey: Publishers of Books for Young Readers"

(The Market Survey is also available for SCBWI members at the scbwi.org website.)

Deborah created this "market snapshot" based on interviews with 17 industry insiders - agents, editors, sales managers and independent market experts.

She starts by explaining to us where the market is today (now we all know that if you take out the "Hunger Games bump," the market has been pretty consistent since 2012.)

Deborah is highlighting the new opportunities for attendees (new publishing houses and imprints) and the submission changes.

Then she shares what the experts are telling her is going on, for picture books, chapter books, nonfiction, middle grade and young adult fiction.

She goes into the impact of the Common Core curriculum, the penetration of ebooks and digital by category, and reports on how the submissions editors are seeing sync with what they want.

A few highlights:

There's an upswing in picture book sales and market demand - Young picture books.

Re: diversity in picture books, editors prefer projects that aren't heavy handed. Books that include cultural elements that aren't about the diversity.

Editors and Agents tell her that they eagerly seek middle grade concepts.

One area of cautious interest is realistic contemporary YA… the challenge is "finding stories about normal kids in normal school environments that stand out from other stories about normal kids in normal school environments."

With all this scoop about trends, Deborah cautions us to not write for the trend!

And the final take-away:

One editor told her "I'm not looking to reject. I'm looking to find."

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25. James Burks: Conference Illustrator Journal #LA14SCBWI

About James:

James Burks is the author-illustrator of several children's books, including Beep and Bah, the Bird and Squirrel graphic novel series, and Gabby and Gator, a Junior Library Guild selection. Most recently, he illustrated The Monstore by Tara Lazar. He lives in Valencia, California. You can visit him online at www.jamesburks.com

Author-Illustrator James Burks

A piece of James' finished art - the cover for his "Bird & Squirrel On Ice"

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