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1. Adam Rex: How I Make Picture Books

Adam Rex illustrates.



He writes.


He writes AND illustrates.


He does Board Books,


He does Picture Books,


He Does Chapter books,



He Does Novels,




He even made his own bio laugh-out loud funny:

Adam Rex wrote and/or illustrated all the books you like including the New York Times best-selling Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, the New York Times best-selling Chu’s Day, and also a number of titles about which the New York Times has been strangely coy. His first novel, The True Meaning of Smekday, was adapted this past spring into the DreamWorks feature film “Home.” Having your book get turned into a movie is like that section in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz where the woodsman systematically chops off all his body parts one by one and replaces them with tin. But in a good way? Like maybe with the heart still intact? This isn’t one of Adam Rex’s better metaphors. Visit www.adamrex.com.

We're in for a treat!

Adam starts by sharing how it took him ten years of re-writing his "Moonday" story until he got it to work. From setting out to write something that made him feel the way a dream did to the book that was just published.

How he told a joke at a gathering about a school being afraid of its first day of children, and telling his agent the next morning. And having his agent insist that would be his next picture book. And Adam wrote that in an afternoon. (Here he riffs on the old Picasso quote: 20 years of learning and working and failing most of the time and succeeding more and more and eventually sitting down on one afternoon to write the book. So one afternoon plus twenty years.) "School's First Day of School" which he's written and was illustrated by Christian Robinson.

He talks about the combinations of images with text, and how we've imagined that less pictures means something is more for adults.

"In a mature society... we would have picture books for every age. ...It's not really a form that someone should grow out of."

He shares one of the best books he wrote that he says will never be published, "The Robot That Moe Bought." And tells us how doing that book dummy and one finished spread led to his being hired to illustrate his first picture book.

Adam shares his process for a number of his picture books, even showing us the sculptures he created to be able to draw the same characters, settings, and set pieces numerous times.

"My drawings are always better if I have something real to look at."

So if he doesn't have the ability to photograph a character (like he didn't for Frankenstein) then he sculpts it!

It's a fascinating window into what's similar about his process across books (breaking down the text, figuring out what's going where, thumbnails where he solves problems, sketching where he figures out the characters) and then what's different. And a lot is different – Adam changes styles and mediums seemingly for every book, trying to figure out the perfect way to tell each story.

The slides and Adam's repartee give us a behind-the-scenes look into how it all comes together, and it's so cool.

He finishes with a rap song, having us all snap along.

Great stuff!


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2. Answering questions about THE BOOK OF DARES FOR LOST FRIENDS

I'm honored to be posting on Kirby Larson's FRIEND FRIDAY

AND

DARLENE BECK-JACOBSON's blog "Gold From The Dust"

Darlene is also hosting a give away for the novel.

Follow this link for more information about  THE BOOK OF DARES FOR LOST FRIENDS. 

Please visit both sites to find out some back story for the novel -- and also to be introduced to two wonderful novelists, Kirby and Darlene.




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3. Hachette’s Revenues Down 7.8% in First Half of the Year

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4. ‘Behind the Trees’ by Amanda Palmer and Avi Ofer

A found voice memo animation.

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5. Will the Pink Panther Affect Argentina’s Presidential Election?

See how an Argentinian candidate is using a Pink Panther cartoon as part of her political campaign.

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6. Lunch time chat: Let’s talk diversity

We need diverse books—of course we do! So during a lunch time chat,  a group of #LA15SCBWI conference goers discussed that topic. We Need Diverse Books™ team members, Miranda PaulJim Averbeck, and Don Tate led group discussions. 

Pictured below, writers discuss why it is important for children to see themselves in books.




From left to right:

A. E. Marling spoke to the importance of all people from every background seeing themselves included in fantasy, which is why he includes characters of color in his stories. "Books can portray that everyone has a place," Marling says.

Judy Goldman spoke about how seeing yourself in a book generates self respect, and she lamented the fact that most of the  people seen in books are white and surbarban. "If you don’t recognize youself in a book, you won’t identify. You won't know that you are important." 

Cassie Gustafson writes books for teenage adolescent girls. "The more you know about someone else, the less they are other," she says.

Michelle deBaroncelli spoke about the importance of white readers seeing diverse characters in books, "to help remove seperation and otherness."

Far right, writer Liz Pratt was a bit quiet. Totally understandable. Expressing youself on the topic of diversity is not an easy, especially when you are in the minority. 
Miranda Paul discusses the We Need Diverse Books initiative and goals.


Jim Averbeck leads an enthusiastic discussion 

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7. Allyn Johnston: Editors Panel—What Hooks Me

Following Mem Fox's charming and entertaining keynote, #LA15SCBWI offered a dazzling editors panel, which included Allyn Johnston of Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. 

Johnston's passion for compelling picture books shines through clearly as she speaks. For her, a compelling picture book is one that she will want to read again and over again when finished—"a fresh voice with an irrestible readaloud quality."


If you want to capture her attention, send a manuscript with a fresh take on a universal theme—something that will give her goosebumps, cause an emotional reaction. And be sure to leave room for a lot of illustrations. "Most manuscipts that I receive don't do that," Johnston says.

Almost choked up, Johnston recalled receiving an amazing manuscript from Liz Garton ScanlonALL THE WORLD. The book stopped Johnston in her tracks, and she immediately called upon illustrator Marla Frazee


Manuscripts that turn her off, "books that are so-what, ho-hum." 




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8. July Reflections

In July, I reviewed 60 books.

Board books:

  1. Board Book: Five Little Monkeys: A finger & toes nursery rhyme book. Natalie Marshall. Scholastic. 2015. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Board Books: Picture This: Homes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. 42 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Board books: Picture This: Shapes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Board book: Little Blue Truck's Beep-Along Book. Alice Schertle. Illustrated by Jill McElmurry. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 8 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Board book: Carry and Learn Numbers. Illustrated by Sarah Ward. 2015. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Picture books:
  1. Gingerbread for Liberty: How A German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution. Mara Rockliff. Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Poppy's Best Paper. Susan Eaddy. Illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet. 2015. Charlesbridge. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  3. How To Catch a Mouse. Philippa Leathers. 2015. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Alphabet Trains. Samantha R. Vamos. Illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke. 2015. Charlesbridge. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  5. Funny Face, Sunny Face. Sally Symes. Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. The Big Princess. Taro Miura. 2015. Candlewick Press. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  7. Mom School. Rebecca Van Slyke. Illustrated by Priscilla Burris. 2015. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. The Foot Book. Dr. Seuss. 1968. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library] 
  9. I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today And Other Stories. Dr. Seuss. 1969. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Library] 
  10. Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? Dr. Seuss. 1970. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. The Lorax. Dr. Seuss. 1971. Random House. 72 pages. [Library]  
  12. Out and About: A First Book of Poems. Shirley Hughes. 1988/2015. Candlewick Press. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  13. Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Edited by Elizabeth Hammill. 2015. Candlewick. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Early readers/early chapter books:
  1. Pete The Cat's Train Trip (I Can Read) James Dean. 2015. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]  
  2. Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat. (Henry and Mudge #8) Cynthia Rylant. Sucie Stevenson. 1990. Simon & Schuster. 48 pages. [Source: Bought]
Middle grade:
  1. Sarah, Plain and Tall. Patricia MacLachlan. 1985. Houghton Mifflin. 64 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. Hatchet. Gary Paulsen. 1986. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. On My Honor. Marion Dane Bauer. 1986. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Cinderella Smith. Stephanie Barden. Illustrated by Diane Goode. 2011. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. At The Back of the North Wind. George MacDonald. 1871. 346 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. Miss Patch's Learn-to-Sew Book. Carolyn Meyer. 1969/2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Close to the Wind. Jon Walter. 2015. Scholastic. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. First Flight Around The World: The Adventures of the American Fliers Who Won The Race. Tim Grove. 2015. Abrams. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  9. The Polar Bear Scientists. Peter Lourie. 2012/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. Wish Girl. Nikki Loftin. 2015. Penguin. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. Lost in the Sun. Lisa Graff. 2015. Penguin. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. The Great Good Summer. Liz Garton Scanlon. 2015. Simon & Schuster. 224 pages. [Source: Library]  
  13. My Brother's Secret. Dan Smith. 2015. Scholastic. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Young adult:
  1. Phantoms in the Snow. Kathleen Benner Duble. 2011. Scholastic. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. To All The Boys I've Loved Before. Jenny Han. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. All We Have Is Now. Lisa Schroeder. 2015. Scholastic. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Fat Cat. Robin Brande. 2009. Random House. 330 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. The Messengers. Edward Hogan. 2015. Candlewick Press. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. Apple and Rain. Sarah Crossan. 2015. Bloomsbury. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Adult fiction:
  1. The Daughter of Time. Josephine Tey. 1951/1995. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  2. The Children of Hurin. J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien. 2007. HarperCollins. 313 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. The Book of Lost Tales. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1983/1992. 345 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. A Duty To The Dead. (Bess Crawford #1) Charles Todd. 2009. HarperCollins. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. An Impartial Witness. Charles Todd. 2010. HarperCollins. 352 pages. [Source: Library] 
  6. Ross Poldark. (Poldark #1) Winston Graham. 1945/2015. Sourcebooks. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. The Truth According to Us. Annie Barrows. 2015. Dial. 512 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. The Prestige. Christopher Priest. 1995/1997. Tor. 360 pages. [Source: Library] 
Adult Nonfiction:
  1. The Armstrong Girl: A Child for Sale: The Battle Against the Victorian Sex Trade. Cathy Le Feuvre. 2015. Lion. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Christian fiction:
  1. To Capture Her Heart. Rebecca DeMarino. 2015. Revell. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. The Innocent. Ann H. Gabhart. 2015. Revell. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Christian nonfiction:
  1. Stronger. Clayton King. 2015. Baker Books. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  2.  Knowing God. J.I. Packer. 1973/1993. Intervarsity Press. 286 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. Pass It On. Jim Burns & Jeremy Lee. David C. Cook. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. The Shaping of a Christian Family. Elisabeth Elliot. 1992/2000. Revell. 240 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  5. Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace. Iain M. Duguid. 2015. P&R. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. The End of Me. Kyle Idleman. 2015. David C. Cook. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Transforming Grace. Jerry Bridges. 1991. NavPress. 207 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  8. Embracing Obscurity. Anonymous. 2012. B&H. 192 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  9. Humility. C.J. Mahaney. 2005. Multnomah. 176 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  10. Uncensored: Daring to Embrace the Entire Bible. Brian Cosby. 2015. David C. Cook. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Walden Award Winner Announced for 2015--Yay, A.S.!

I was thrilled (as many of you no doubt were as well) to see that A.S. King's latest Glory O'Brien's History of the Future was announced as this year's winner of the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award. There were some pretty amazing finalists, too:... Read the rest of this post

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10. Debutante {2015}

If you've been following this blog for a while, or have had the temerity to read back to the very first blog post {you gutsy thing you} you've probably noticed that I've {hopefully} gotten better over the years.

There's one piece I keep going back to, and it's this li'l French girl.  I drew the original version in 2006 for Ryan Woodward's character design class:


It was one of the few pieces my classmates posted on the "good" wall...my other artwork always got put on the "medium" and "bad" walls. {Yes, this really was a thing--our homework was judged by our classmates and taped on the walls accordingly and I'm a better artist for it, by george!}

A few years back, in 2010, I decided to revisit the thing again:



I'd gotten much better at digital media and Illustrator at that point, and it definitely has a lot more motion, but it feels a lot less appealing to me.  The design lost its cuteness.

A couple weeks ago, I decided to give it another ol' college try:


D'aaaaaaw.  I think she's definitely more appealing this time around.  

I'm looking forward to trying her again in a few years.  ^_^

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11. The Three-footed Squirrel

True story: a few weeks ago I was picking up medicine for my cat and on the way back to the car I saw a three-footed squirrel. One of its hind feet had been severed; the wound where it used to be was kind of scabbed over and the squirrel was making do, hobbling along, gathering scraps of food from an overflowing garbage can, watching the world more warily than most squirrels do, but not especially tragic.

I knew I wanted to write about this plucky rodent. I thought of allusions that might tie in: the famous poem about the Scot and the field mouse; a squirrel that was an ironic icon of traffic safety when I was a child living in England. I recalled a crippled beggar I saw in Rome at age seven, how I bawled later, and how my parents yelled at me… one of my most palpable memories, but one I’ve written about futilely so many times it no longer has heat.

I never did write about it because I failed to come up with a narrative frame, something the squirrel would be “about” in the grand scheme of things. I gave fleeting glances in subsequent days as I drove by that building (used to be a grocery store, now vacant and fenced off), but gradually forgot.

Such is the plight of the bush-league memoirist, of which the blogger is a kind. I want to make meaning of my experiences, but fail sometimes to see theme lurking behind a scene.

I thought of that squirrel today because there’s a conversation about what people choose to think and write about. Here is an example of something trivial that I nevertheless cared about, and wanted to write about, no doubt in a week of mudslides and mass shootings that I received with tragedy-saturated numbness. Squirrels are less significant than humans, I know, and not even an endangered species. But God forgive me, I briefly gave a damn about a small thing.


Filed under: Miscellaneous

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12. Ex-Nick Exec Rich Magallanes Rebounds At Saban Brands

Magallanes will oversee properties like "Popples," "Luna Petunia," and "Emojiville" in his new role.

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13. Typos

It's so easy to make a typo in your manuscript and so difficult to find them all.

http://blog.janicehardy.com/2015/05/tricks-tips-for-catching-all-those.html

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14. The World's Most Wonderful Rotem Moscovich: Editors Panel

<3 rotemmers="" td="">
Rotem is a senior editor at Disney Hyperion and the bee's knees.

Her answer to the question, what makes a compelling book is: "Emotional connection, whether picture book or novel. And how is this book different? A new voice, or point of view? Does it impress me?

Dream project? Rotem says: Really want to find a middle grade novel that makes you cry... and is happy, like Anne of Green Gables. For picture books it has to be AWESOME.

Wendy asks if there was a book that hooked you from the beginning and went on to do well in the market/critically?

Hook's Revenge by Heidi Schulz is the book that comes to mind first for Rotem, and she's happy to announce the sequel will be out in September.


What's the difference to you in a project where you acquire it, but it needs a lot of work, vs. a project you don't accept?

"It's having the vision of how to help the author make a book sing. The book has to go to the right editor and the right house, it's an alchemy."

A book you wish you could have worked on? Rotem says, Dory Fantasmagory, it's hilarious.



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15. Alison Weiss: Ten Things You're Doing Wrong in MG

Alison Weiss is an editor at Sky Pony Press. She was previously at Egmont for 6 and half years.

Missing the Middle Grade Mark: Common Mistakes to Avoid


  • Your character is too young or to too old.
  • Your voice isn't authentic. 
  • Your dialogue doesn't sound natural or natural to your characters. 
  • Your vocabulary is too sophisticated. 
  • You're putting characters in situations that don't make sense.
  • You're writing what you think is a middle grade experience, not what's actually a middle grade experience. 
  • Your book lacks conflict.
  • Your making choices that will date your book.
  • Your book is too long.
  • You don't know the market.
  • Sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
  • You aren't asking your questions when you have the chance.

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16. Audiobooks.com Is Now in Cars

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17. Small Presses: Though They Be Small They Be Fierce (Emma Dryden Interviews Rana DiOrio and Alison Weiss)

The room filling up to hear Emma Dryden (right) talk with Rana DiOrio (center) and Alison Weiss (left)


Legendary editor Emma Dryden is the founder of drydenbks, a premier children’s editorial and publishing consultancy firm. Calling herself a "big advocate of exploring your publishing options," she introduces Rana DiOrio, the publisher of Little Pickle Press and Alison Weiss, an editor at Sky Pony Press.

Some highlights of the session

On success,

Alison cites a fascinating perception difference: If a book is expected to sell 100,000 copies but only sells 20,000 copies, versus a book that's expected to sell 10,000 copies and sells 20,000. Both books sold the same number of copies, but the perception of success is completely different.

Emma asks Alison and Rana what arguments they'd use to convince an author whose work might be being considered by both their small press and a major house.

For Alison, the benefits of a smaller house include:

• The degree of accessibility. Being able to reach and talk to almost anyone at the small press, versus how at big houses you often don't even know who's touching your book.

• She cautions how at a big house, if you're very very lucky, your book is chosen as the big book they're going to feature and push. But, sometimes (most of the time) your book won't be chosen. A book can sort of get lost... At a smaller house, it's a lot easier to stand out and shine.

• Smaller presses have "a lot more room for experimentation."


For Rana, the argument for Little Pickle starts with:

• "Together, the author and Little Pickle become parents of your child, your work. It's that important. The success of your book is so important to us." She describes it as "intimate."

• Rana cites the process being much more collaborative than at a major house. For example, picture book authors get to weigh in on who the illustrator is, and get input on the art direction. "It's an amazing process and you're being a participant."

• "We work much more quickly." A picture book can happen in a year. (Versus three years at a big press.)

• Opportunity to serve a social mission - not just Little Pickle's, but yours. (They have a lot of cross-marketing relationships.)

• Flexibility in business models, where contracted relationships can look more like joint ventures. She sites one of her authors whose deal was no advance and 30% of revenue, versus a traditional publishing deal of an advance with a royalty rate of between 5-7%.


Additionally, both Alison and Rana describe the acquisitions process at their small presses. They discuss marketing, trade shows, publicity and marketing, their business models (advances, royalties, profit sharing versus revenue sharing) and so much more.

The last ten minutes of the session Emma opens the floor to questions from the attendees (some of whom didn't get a chair and are sitting on the floor and standing against the back wall!)

Visit their websites at these links to find out more about Little Pickle Press and Sky Pony Press.


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18. Meg Wolitzer Keynote - Switching Hats: Writing for Adults and Young Adults

Meg Wolitzer has written novels that blow the minds of adult and young readers alike. Her adult work includes The Interestings, The Ten Year Nap, The Position, and The Wife.

Her YA novel is Belzhar, and for middle grade readers she has The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman.

She talked to us about writing for both adults and younger readers.

She started by describing a horrible question people ask writers at parties: "Would I have heard of you?"

The right answer ... "In a more just world, yes."

Her world involves going back and forth from one literary world to another.

"Being a writer is really about freedom," she said. "All of you should have the freedom to say I want to write the next Hunger Games. Then switch and say I want to write the AARP games. A scary tale."

Meg had a secret weapon in the fight to become a writer: her mother, an 85-year-old writer who is still publishing books.

"My mother was the only writer in town, and the exciting thing for me was that the checkout person would let us take out as many books as we wanted."


People often ask what's going to happen to books, but Meg feels encouraged. It's natural to see narrative all around in the world (including in one-celled amoebas). And the stories we tell are very reflective of us.

"A novel is a sort of concentrated version of who a person is," she said, "a boullion cube of concentrated sensibility."

She gave us great advice about how we should approach our writing.

"Be who you are, but much more so on the page. That's how a book starts to take shape. That's how a writer develops," she said. "Write what obsesses you." 

Another way to do this is to write the book you would have loved to read as a teen. She once had a book taken from her because it was for older kids, and it suddenly became irresistibly alluring.

She also had the help of others when she first started writing stories, which she'd dictate. One was about truckers, and included the dialogue, "Get on the rig, Mac." 

Meg's mother also wrote for adults and for children, and began her work around the time the women's movement started. Meg also became a feminist. (One of her mother's first published stories was titled "Today a Women Went Mad in the Supermarket.") 

Writing tortured Meg's mother, who typed on a quivering Smith Corona. But it showed Meg writing was something you could do. She did have to get over the sex scene her mother wrote in her first book—something she was teased for by the neighborhood toughs, who went into the store and bought something from the literary fiction section, which makes her laugh now. 

She encouraged us not to be afraid of what we write, and not to avoid something that makes us feel uncomfortable. When she writes her adult novels, she doesn't think about audience, except that she's the ideal reader for her kind of books. She doesn't have to worry about any of the content or emotional complexity. All her adult editor wants is to know that the book is meeting the expectations Meg had when she set out. 

When you write, you should be able to do it freely without fear of being judged or found lacking. And in one sense, she writes adult work for herself today, and kid lit for the person she used to be. She is mindful of making her work have a rhythm that will work for her readers. 

With "Belzhar," she was looking to create what obsessed 15-year-old Meg, not just the arty summer camp girl, but someone who was waking up to an emotional world for the first time. It's inspired by Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar," which struck her hard when she read it. 

It's about a girl who was sent to a school for emotionally fragile, highly intelligent teenagers. The students there are all reunited with the things they've lost, taking the short view of their sorrows. The characters she creates are filtered through her own humanness. It's taking them and making them us. We're all different, and every novel has lots of ways in. Points of view can vary. 

But we should only write about what's important to us, she said.

Switching hats means we have a lot of roles. The one we occupy among our friends and family. The one you wear when you write autobiographically. The one you wear when you're writing about about growing up in the 12th century.

"Write about what obsesses you because that is the one that people will identify with," she said, "and that will be one I definitely want to read. 




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19. Julie Strauss-Gabel: Editors' Panel

Julie Strauss-Gabel is the vice president and publisher of Dutton Children's Books, a boutique imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group specializing in middle grade and young adult novels.

What makes a compelling hook?

It comes down to voice for Julie. It's the only thing that's going to push her forward from page to page. She's looking to be surprised, and for something that she never thought possible but then a writer pulls off beautifully.

Have you ever been hooked by a voice but there's not a lot of plot going on?

There's a difference between a plot that's not working and a plot that doesn't exist. If there's something about the plot that's not working, it's a problem Julie can work on with the writer. If there's voice but nothing else, she'll likely pass but still be interested in seeing more from the writer.

What is your dream submission (the qualities)?

Julie only works on middle grade and young adult books.

A sense of subversive humor will often keep Julie reading, especially if the story is personal and difficult. She also can't resist a book that she can't help but think and talk about.

Is there a book that hooked you on page one and it all ended well?

Julie says she admires when she sees someone taking a risk on the page, and even if it's not working, it often makes her want to work with them in order to make it work.

"Ambition and risk in a project are going to always invest me in being a better editor..."

When Julie is considering a manuscript she also looks at the books on her shelf, and asks herself it belongs on the shelf. Does live up to the titles? Does it add to them?

What's one of your most recent acquisitions that you are excited about?

Aaron Starmer's latest is his debut into young adult, and it's a book that Julie wanted nothing more than to get it. It's a book that's blackly funny with the true essence of being at that last point before everything changes in your life.

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20. Dan Santat: Don't Draw Better, Design Smarter

In a breakout session with author and illustrator, Dan Santat, illustrators did a lot of laughing. And squinting. Yes, squinting. We'll get to that later.

For illustrators seeking to perfect their style, Santat offered this advice: "Don't try to find a style. To be a better illustrator, you have to be a better designer." 

Sure, easy for Santat to say, huh, but he broke it down a bit more by explaining how an illustrator's interpretation of design equals their style. "Good communication is understanding the symbology of things."

Santat also spoke about "the curse of photo reference." For many illustrators, photo reference is a crutch—and a rickety one at that, because photos can cause rigidity, which "sucks the life out of a drawing." If drawing a train, he explained, use a photo to understand it's components, and then "draw the train that is in your mind." Don't copy a photo, use it as reference.

Now, about "The Power of Squinting." Santat explained that squinting at a painting creates contrast that allows an illustrator to see the blocks of shapes that come forward or receed, something that he learned from studying the artwork of Bill Joyce. Contrast creates depth of field and seperation of forms.

It was a great session, one that covered more than style but color theroy and composition and limiting your color palette, which will "make amazing colors that harmonize with each other."






His art school training came through


Was both artistically academic. Took us back basics of art school. 

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21. Jordan Brown and Sara Sargent: Editors' Panel

What Hooks Jordan and Sara?



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

Highlights from Jordan:

He asks himself, "What kind of books do kids need?" and "What kinds of things are desperately important to kids growing up today?"

Jordan is looking for books that "expand a kid's capacity for empathy." Characters who aren't all white, cis-gendered, characters who are different from readers.

Questions to ask ourselves as writers: "What does our character lack? What's their wound?"

He advises that "plot is intrinsically tied to character."

And he's looking for a narrator telling him a story, "a story that needs to get out."

Jordan also explains how the decision process works for him, and much more...




Sara Sargent is an executive editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, where she acquires picture book, middle grade, and young adult fiction.

Highlights from Sara:

Sara edits books for the same reason she reads them: "escapism"

She's excited about re-imagined fairy tales, is really into fantasy and likes stories that are

romantic

fantastical, and

transportive.

She's looking, for even on the first page, a "feeling of being well taken care of." That the author has a mastery of language. An atmosphere that immediately envelopes her in the world.

Sara also speaks of the challenge of not editing something into the familiar, allowing projects to keep the unique thing about them that captured her in the first place.





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22. Barry Goldblatt: the Difference between Being a Writer & Being an Author

Barry Goldblatt has been an agent since 2000. His agency focuses mostly on children's literature, but has expanded to include some adult fiction as well.


His client list is sterling: Christopher Barzak, Holly Black, Angela Johnson, Jo Knowles, Lauren Myracle, Genevieve Valentine, Colleen AF Venable, Ed Vere, Charles Vess, and Stephanie Yue.

He talked to us about being a writer, being an author, and how the two are sometimes distinct and sometimes overlap.

A writer is being creative. An author is doing business. The two can feed each other.  If you're doing research, you're not putting words on the page, but you're writing. If you go to a conference, it's a mix of writing and being an author. Your task is to know what you're doing so you can best work out how to do it.

Some key bits of advice:  

Part of the process is figuring out the things that click for you individually. There's no one size fits all solution. But strategies to consider:

Be disciplined. The Freedom app, which turns off the Internet, can help. But you can't do it when you're reading. So, maybe setting goals and designing your day is a good strategy. Discipline your brain to know not to deal with dishes/laundry/day job. It's writing time.

Train your family. One of his clients works on the basement. Her six (six!) kids know that if the door is closed, they're not suppose to enter it unless their heads have fallen off.

Make goals. For some, having a 1,000-word daily goal is effective. For some, that's daunting. For picture book writers, that's two-and-a-half books.

Reward yourself. "We are monkeys. The best way to make something happen is to reward yourself." If you meet your writing goals, you get to eat the ice cream sundae. Or watch TV. Whatever goals make you want to work better--this is you figuring out what works for you.

Make attainable goals that suit you. You're not going to write a novel in a day. You can also change goals--2,000 words a day might not work for you, and failing and failing will put you in a bad mind space. So find goals that work for you.

(Barry likes Habit RPG, a role-playing game that rewards you for achieving goals.)

What don't authors need?

A social media presence. Do it if you're good at it. You do need an updated website.

Cassandra Clare is good at it, on both Twitter and Tumblr.

What do you need to do? 

Whatever works for you that stretches your work's availability and visibility.

Barry Goldblatt Literary
Follow Barry Goldblatt on Twitter


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23. Varian Johnson: Using Extended Metaphor to Layer Your Novel

Varian Johnson is the author of both middle grade and young adult novels, including THE GREAT GREEN HEIST, an ALA Notable Children's Selection.


Varian mentions that we often times don't even know we are using metaphor, it's ingrained into our psyche.

In writing, the tone of the metaphor must fit the style of the work. You can't use a metaphor that either the reader of the book or the character in the book couldn't understand.  For example, a medieval character couldn't reference something contemporary.




Some rules for extended metaphor:

1. The metaphor should be established early.

2. The metaphor should build upon itself.

3. It should make sense in both tenor (the original idea of the metaphor) and vehicle (the borrowed idea of the metaphor).

4. It should carry through the entire piece.

Varian shared several examples of books that use extended metaphor.

In Marcus Zusak's GETTING THE GIRL, Zusak uses words to create an implied metaphor, comparing man to the sea, that he carries through the book.





In Laurie Halse Anderson's SPEAK, a tree metaphor is established and carried throughout. Varian also notes that nothing should be unintentional in a novel, including the names of the characters. The names in speak are a great example of this.





In EVERY TIME A RAINBOW DIES, Rita Williams Garcia uses a skirt to represent Ysa.



Advice: Don't feel so overwhelmed to get all the symbolism down in the first draft, even second and third.

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24. New Footage: Disney XD’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Series

A series of mini-shorts will debut on Disney XD tomorrow.

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25. Alison Weiss: Editors' Panel

Alison Weiss of Sky Pony Press
Alison Weiss is an editor at Sky Pony Press (and was for six-and-a-half years before that was an editor at Egmont). She focuses on chapter books through YA. Her authors include Jessica Verday, the bestselling author of Of Monsters and Madness; Agatha Award winner Penny Warner; YALSA-award-winner Sarah Cross; Micol Ostow, and many more wonderful authors.

A fun fact about Alison: She comes from Sleepy Hollow (for real!).

Voice is essential to projects she takes on, but it's easier to sell a book if it has a killer plot.

What would be your dream submission?

She's looking for books that change her perspective on the world. It can be big or it can be small and subtle. This is the kind of book that has a long-lasting impact of readers.

What she admires: 

The best writing is effortless. It looks like it's so simple, and you can't see all of the hard work that's behind it all. She wants to be sucked into a world and feel lost in it.

What tips the balance on submissions: 

Editors get a lot of submissions. When she sees a problem and knows how she would fix it, that's more likely to be a project she'll take to acquisitions. If she loves it and sees problems that baffle her, it's less likely to go through.

The relationship between writers and editors is vital, and writers shouldn't fear talking to their editor to work through manuscript challenges.

The book she wishes she'd published:

Ruta Sepetys's Out of the Easy.

Follow her on twitter at @alioop7. 

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