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ALICE POPE BLOGS LIVE FROM THE CONVENTION FLOOR AT THE HYATT GRAND CENTRAL, JANUARY 30-FEBRUARY 1
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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.orgIllustrate and Write On,Martha BrockenbroughJolie SteklyJaime Temairik
and Lee Wind
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.|
|David Meissner & Linda Sue Park|
|Martha Brockenbrough & Lisa Yee|
|Still chatting as we wait.|
|Tim Federle & Cynthia Kadohata|
Judy Blume has more than 82 million copies of her books in print. Books likeBlubber
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
andJust 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, likeCourage
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.
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.
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 manure; it'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
Paint brand: Golden Acrylics
Icon/Household god: Virgin of Guadalupe
Piece of Advice:
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:
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."
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:Who 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.
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.
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 GilesFollow Lamar Giles on Twitter
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.
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
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 KonigsburgFollow Bill on Twitter
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."
|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|
|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
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.
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
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
Re: diversity in picture books, editors prefer projects that aren't heavy handed. Books that include cultural elements that aren't about
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."
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"|
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."
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!
Emily Romero is the vice president of marketing for the Penguin Young Readers Group, a division of Penguin Random House, where she has spent over fourteen years working on a wide range of children's literature, from picture books to young adult novels.
Children's books are permeating entertainment, TV, movies, etc. Emily thinks Stephen Colbert said it best.
"A young adult novel is a regular novel that people actually read."
Most book buyers actively discover books by asking friends, browsing in bookstores, and reading reviews online. This is the seed of what the marketing team does; they take word-of-mouth and build it.
Building support with booksellers is key.
Penguin still prints catalogs, they create F&Gs/ARCs, as well as create a catalog of their backlog. They do trade advertising, as well as special mailings.
Penguin attends Book Expo America (BEA), which give them a chance to put their best foot forward. "We represent our books and get support." Face-to-face opportunities where they as the publisher get to represent their books.
On getting their books notice: People have to find your book. Penguin works with their sales reps and get promotions (displays, posters, etc.) so that the book is noticed.
The teacher and librarian market is powerful because it gets books in the hands of readers. Penguin is sure to get their books on state list. They also attend conferences that teachers and librarians attend (like ALA), as well as provide teachers with material they need to use their books in the classroom.
Reaching consumers is now heavily done through social and digital means. They've invested in all the platforms to be certain they have a reach and build the many communities who might buy their books.
Advertising is done through print, digital/search, broadcast.
Sale. Marketing. Publicity. They all work together.
Meg Rosoff is the award-winning author of many books for children and teens. Her novel How I Live Now won the Printz Award in 2005, and her sixth and latest novel, Picture Me Gone, was a National Book Award Finalist.
In this session, Meg has given us a wee peek into her little, dark brain. It's wildly fascinating.
Meg didn’t start writing until she was 46.
She was always a writer and an avid reader but she wasn’t going to write a book unless it was as good as the books she was reading. It had to hold up to A Wrinkle In Time
Basically, she had a lot of fear.
After losing one a sister to breast cancer, and second who also had it, fear of own funeral (basically how pathetic it would be) pushed her to finally write a book.
She landed on writing a horse book. She wrote it rather quickly and through some connections sent it to an agent. The agent saw potential in her writing but she told her that she probably couldn’t sell it because it had too much sex. You know, because she has a dark, little brain. Horse books were not going to be what she wrote, they were always going to turn into something much, much darker.
Meg thinks of our brains as a colander. Many things that happen to us trickle through and are soon forgotten, but every once in a while there’s something that really sticks in your brain. It doesn’t have to be something big. It could be something someone said. Those things that get stuck in our “colander" start to compost down, and that’s what you can tap into with the subconscious.
What's often missing from books is the right voice. We all have to figure out what that voice is for us. The only real block is being unable to access what’s in your head and in your heart.
|Meg Rosoff's illustration of the conscious and unconscious mind, and the passage between.|
Meg illustrates for us her conscious and unconscious mind. The small green circle above is the conscious mind, and the blue is the unconscious. There exists a passage between the two.
The more you go back and forth between your conscious and unconscious mind, the bigger the passage becomes.
"You want to be following your book, not dragging it up a hill."
Write a book as honestly, truthfully, deeply, sometimes painfully as possible. If nobody likes it, then you write another one.
Jim Averbeck is an author, illustrator and author/illustrator of picture books (including the Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book, In a Blue Room) and novels. His first novel is just out, A Hitch at the Fairmont, and it has been positioned for use with Core Curriculum State Standards.
Ed Porter is a former superintendent of schools in Long Island. Currently, he is an educational consultant who, among other things, coaches schools in understanding and implementing the Common Core Standards.
|Jim Averbeck (left) and Ed Porter|
Ed and Jim start with explaining that The Common Core is evolving. "Call it Common Core 1.0
You can check the standards out at corestandards.org
The handout packet is hefty, and its cover is a map of which U.S. states have adopted Common Core (most), which have similar standards (a handful), and which have rejected it (four.)
Ed gives us an overview of the evolution of Common Core so far.
Today, we're asking students to have skills and attributes beyond what the old K-12 standards could offer them. Things like self-regulation, critical thinking and problem-solving, effective oral and written communication and resilience.
And Common Core is one of many responses to this. Another response is "The 4 C's in STEM: Collaboration, Creativity, Communication and Critical Thinking."
Jim and Ed also share a metric called "Webb's Depth of Knowledge" that breaks down knowledge about a book into four levels. Here are examples of text questions at each level:
1st level of knowledge: What are the names of the characters?
2nd level of knowledge: What happened?
3rd level of knowledge: Why did something happen?
4th level of knowledge: What would happen if…?
Common Core aims to have students go deeper, into those 3rd and 4th levels.
Jim aims to have his book and Common Core tie-in
"Easy for teachers to choose, easy for teachers to use."
Jim explains how texts are evaluated to be used in classrooms, based on "text complexity." It's a mix of Quantitative (like Lexile scores determined by computer - Jim's Hitch
book was a Lexile 770, recommended for grades 3 and 4), Qualitative (like judging the complexity of the story, an evaluation performed by educators, and based on this analysis by teachers, Hitch
moved up to 4th through 6th grades) and Reader & Task measures (individual teachers choosing things for individual classes and students.)
So what might we do to help teachers choose our books to use in the classroom?
There are group exercises through, like one that demonstrate to attendees how contemporary and speculative fiction can tie into the common core, and also tap into those 3rd and 4th levels of knowledge.
Jim shares his advice on what to do before the writing, during the writing, and after the book is published.
Here's one example for each:
Before: connect your fiction to research
During: Include appendices and author notes that surfaces research where appropriate
After: Create a "Common Core Selection Guide" that summaries the text complexity
They walk us through a page from the actual "Common Core Activity Guide" Ed created for Hitch
! You can see and download the entire guide at Jim's website here
And they even share a giant list of where to distribute your supplemental materials.
So much great information!
|The magical Maggie Stiefvater|
is nothing short of astonishing. She's the author of many YA novels, including the bestselling Raven Boys series and the Printz Honor Award-winning SCORPIO RACES.
She talked to us about her life as a writer—which has more dimensions than that single word contains.
"I'm not sure if my job description is actually writer," she said. "It should be thief. Or maybe, if I'm being kind, artist."
"I used to think that my ideal job was to write. To make up stories. To lie for a living." Now that she's a professional writer, knows that she observes, steals, and stylizes for a living.
When she writes, it's not so much that she is creating new things out of nothing, but that she steals from the world and makes it her own. She used to be a professional portrait artist, something she had to practice a lot (much like writing). One challenge of being a portrait artist was that people would move. She learned to look for people being still.
She found one once in a window seat on an airplane—the seat she wanted—and she sketched him with delight. And then she found out he was watching her draw. She teased his life story out of him, or at least part. Specifically the hand part. He had an oddly shaped hand, so he told her the story of how he broke it. On someone's face.
He said he was defending his sister's honor, and she listened to him with her mind on record, as she planned to steal him and his soft southern accent.
Over the years, her thefts have gone from the surface much deeper. Faithful, accurate renderings aren't what she wants. These are mere copies. She wants the essence. The soul. Why that guy threw that punch, or why he never threw one earlier. His broken hand was broken for a reason. He could have been, and probably was, lying.
The truth: A boy had once lost his temper, much to his shame. He had to look at the memory of that moment every single day. Everything else was just details. Just noise. "That was the soul," she said. "And that was what I stole."
He became Adam Parrish in THE RAVEN BOYS.
She talked to us about what the old writing advice "write what you know" really means, charming us with the stories of her childhood horse, a former racehorse that wasn't ready to retire and very well could have killed her. This fed into THE SCORPIO RACES, a book about vicious horses that are very likely to eat anyone who tries to ride them.
The thief then hands the job over to the artist, who understands what details to keep, and what details to cut. "If I do my thievery well, if I steal the truth and not the details, and then I add the details back in, then I end up with a book that is not just true, but specific, and in only the way I can write it," she said.
She said her most Maggie book of all is THE RAVEN BOYS, one rich with things she's pilfered from her childhood, and literally about someone who can summon things from his dreams, just as she summons from her own.
|Arthur Levine and |
started off with a song.
Arthur Levine is something of a legend in the children's publishing industry. He's published many beloved books, including Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, and the comic novels of Lisa Yee.
He founded his own imprint at Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books
, in 1997. The imprint publishes everything from picture books through young adult novels. His authors and illustrators include Shaun Tan, Dan Santat, Markus Zusak, Francisco Stork, Erin Bow, Mike Jung, and Jaclyn Moriarty.
What's more, Arthur is the author of several picture books—A VERY BEARY TOOTH FAIRY, illustrated by Sarah Brannen, is the latest. So he knows about communicating from both sides of the email server.
He talked to us about things that can derail communication between editors and authors, using principles that work in critique groups (and in real life).
Here are three of the thoughtful, helpful tips he shared.1. Don't leave anything out.
The person you're writing to doesn't necessarily already agree with what you're trying to say. For example, if you describe something as a "circular story shape," does everyone know what you mean?
"The narrative was hurt by Jordan's snide remarks" might not be the best feedback, for example. The writer might not feel the remarks were snide. The writer might feel attacked.
A better way to say that might be to give a specific example, perhaps like this: When Jordan says his mother's kindergarten class is full of party poopers, he was less sympathetic. Did you intend for that to be the case?
The shorthand might feel insulting. The more specific reaction, built off positive reactions, is more clear and ultimately more helpful.
2. Leave some things out.
He shared an exchange from a cover discussion where an author tactfully expressed preference for an earlier sketch, where an agent chimed in with something that sounded harsh and critical.
Don't assume everyone agrees with you. Inflammatory political commentary on Facebook can be off-putting, for example.
3. Be respectful of people's boundaries.
A fellow editor told him the story of someone showing up with a manuscript at her home office. (Yikes!)
If you sense someone getting defensive or upset, back off, or apologize, or find a different way of communicating. When someone gets upset, it's natural to want to respond with equal anger. But the anger is a someone setting a boundary. Instead of charging the boundary, try retreating and apologizing, he said.
He talked also a bit about email, which gets a bad rap as a communication medium, but isn't always bad. Calling people when you're angry is a bad idea. Taking the time to think and compose a thoughtful email can be very effective.
Follow Arthur A. Levine Books on Twitter
.Like the imprint on Facebook
Megan McDonald, author of that beloved Judy Moody series and more, shares with us some stories of her life and career.
Megan tells us about growing up the youngest of five sisters and gives a delightful anecdote concerning one her favorite books growing up, a wrestler and rabies (and for those of you not here you can read the story IF you have a Horn Book subscription and get the awesome issue that's the recent HARRIET THE SPY anniversary/tribute issue! Or borrow it online...
It's Harriet that started Megan on her path to being a writer and finding her own voice at the ripe old age of eight. But then she lost that voice for a while...Read the Horn Book link before you look at the image below, which Martha Brockenbrough found and is making me include, the wrestler Bruno Sanmartino.
After some traumatic college writing courses and lots of self doubt, Megan began finding her own voice again, which happened to be that of eight-year-old Megan. Megan shares a Jung quote with us: No matter how isolated you are and how lonely you feel, if you listen to your own voice, unknown friends will come and seek you.
And that's when she started finding those characters like Judy and Stink and Amanda Frankenstien.
What it's like to work with editor Mary Lee Donovan: "With every book she helps me to see the true story in that mess of first drafts... and second... and third drafts. She helps me see through the fog to the story in my heart.
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won the Newbery Award for Kira-Kira,
She won the Jane Addams Peace Award and Pen USA Award for Weedflower,
and she won the National Book Award for her recent novel, The Thing About Luck
She knows how to write!
Cynthia starts by telling us that there's a revolving door between her non-writing life and her writing life.
And then she tells us these beautiful, moving stories from her personal life, like about the dog who came into her life and died eight years later. She was distraught at the loss, and her husband suggested she write down notes on everything she was feeling. She thought she had finished the manuscript for Kira-Kira, but after the death of her beloved pet, she went back into the story, inserting ALL that material into the book. It was the book that needed the least amount of revision. And it won the Newbery Award!
She tells us about needing to touch an elephant (an assignment from her editor!), and the adoption of her son from Kazakstan… tying the stories from her life into the creative process of creating her books.
"No matter what problem I'm having with my writing, the answer is always there, somewhere in my life."