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1. KidLit Author Events & Happy Book Birthday

Happy September! This is the month that always makes me want to buy boots and sweaters, even though in my part of Texas neither of those things is really necessary more than one or two weeks out of the year, and then not until January. Being the first of the month, I’ve added a slew of September book babies to the slider on my conference pages. Check it out to get a peek at all the delicious new reads!

Happy book Birthday!

Happy book Birthday!

Happy Book Birthday

this week to

Linda Joy Singelton’s Cinderella-inspired YA, NEVER BEEN TEXTED,

to Dax Varley’s YA horror novel, BLEED,

and to Josh Funk’s LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST, illustrated by Brendan Kearney.

 

NEVER BEEN TEXTED by Linda Joy SingletonNEVER BEEN TEXTED: When Ashlee’s stepdad completely forgets her birthday she takes matters into her own hands to get the one thing she really wants: her own cell phone. But text messages start rolling in from a broken-hearted boy, and though Ashlee knows not all stories end happily, she’s determined to make hers the best it can be. Balancing a bit of magic, the love of a pet dog, the support of a well-meaning and meddling friend, and the dream of a sweet romance, Ashlee must decide whether or not to pursue a boy who’s been recently entangled with her high school’s most vicious girl.

BLEED by Dax VarleyBLEED: Life is a nightmare for Miranda Murphy. Without knowing when or why, blood oozes from her palms—an anomaly that makes her feel like a freak. But her abnormality is now the least of her worries. She’s just enrolled at “Suicide High.” Three deaths in three months—one occurring just days before her arrival. When she bumps into a cute boy named Jake, things don’t appear so glum. Especially since Jake’s a psychic who can predict the immediate future. But his gift of sight can’t prepare her for the horrors that await. Through Jake, Miranda meets three other extraordinary students: Topher, who can heal by touch; Sam, who eats the sins of the dead; and Xyan, who speaks and understands all languages. It’s then that Miranda learns the secret behind why she bleeds. When it becomes evident that supernatural forces are at play, the five determined friends team up. Now it’s up to them to destroy the evil infecting their school. Head over to Dax’s website to read an excerpt!

LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST: A thoroughly delicious picture book about the funniest “food fight!” ever! Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast have a beautiful friendship—until they discover that there’s ONLY ONE DROP of maple syrup left. Off they go, racing past the Orange Juice Fountain, skiing through Sauerkraut Peak, and reeling down the linguini. But who will enjoy the sweet taste of victory? And could working together be better than tearing each other apart? The action-packed rhyme makes for an adrenaline-filled breakfast . . . even without a drop of coffee!

Now for this week’s Greater Houston Area events:

WritespaceSEPTEMBER 5, SATURDAY, 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM
Writespace
Writers’ Workshop with K.J. Russell
COST: $30 Members, $45 Non-members

Dialogue: Let Your Characters’ Words Bring Your Story to Life! Tell your exposition to take a break and let your characters do some of the talking for you! There’s no better tool to give your fiction and nonfiction a unique new voice and grounded perspective than well-crafted dialogue. Cut back on static narration and character description by letting the characters demonstrate themselves and the world around them. In this workshop, K.J. Russell will discuss the many uses of dialogue, what craft problems dialogue can solve, and how to execute it with a confidence that will lend your story the kind of life that readers are looking for.

SEPTEMBER 8, MONDAY, 7:00-9:00 PMSCBWI
SCBWI Houston
Tracy Gee Community Center, 3599 Westcenter Drive
Cost: FREE

A panel of local SCBWI members will discuss the topics covered in the recent annual SCBWI International Conference in Los Angeles.

 

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2. Jo’s Journey 2015 and Welcome Back to the Fall Blog Schedule

“Traveling is never a matter of money, but of courage.”—Paulo Coelho Sometimes it’s financial security that holds us back, other times it’s emotional security, but it takes courage to step outside your front door and head out into the world. … Continue reading

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3. KidLit Author Events Aug. 25-Sept. 1

We have a quiet week to slip into the back to school routine, but there are a few things coming up that you may want to either mark on your calendars or go ahead and register. An event I am particularly excited about is a one-day workshop:

DISNEY FAIRIES: TINK, NORTH OF NEVERLANDThe Essentials Workshop for Fiction Writers

with Kimberly Morris

Kimberly Morris is the author of over 60 books for children and young adults, many of them for popular series including Disney Fairies, That’s So Raven, Mary-Kate and Ashley, Animorphs, Sweet Valley, and Generation Girl. Her credits include read-aloud stories for the Muppets, Muppet Babies, and Fraggle Rock, and animated television scripts for the classic ThunderCats.

THAT'S SO RAVEN: BE MINEANIMORPHS: THE ARRIVALSWEET VALLEY TWINS: THE HAUNTED BURIAL GROUNDMARY KATE & ASHLEY SWEET 16: CALIFORNIA DREAMSMOLLY IN THE MIDDLE

This workshop is for writers of any genre of fiction; chapter books, middle grade, young adult and adult. You can read an interview with Kimberly about her writing career on the blog, 7 Magic Islands. This workshop is limited to 40 people, so don’t wait to register. I’ve already booked my spot! Go here for more information and to register.

Another event on the horizon is the Houston Writer’s Guild conference for self-publishing writers, INDIEPALOOZA. Registration is open! Registration is also open for the Houston Bay Area RWA Starfish Conference, and SCBWI Brazos Valley’s Connections and Craft: Novel Workshop.

And if you haven’t gotten your ticket to see Rick Riordan on his MAGNUS CHASE Tour, call Blue Willow Bookshop right away to get your book and secure your seat!

Here’s this week’s event in Houston:

AUGUST 25, TUESDAY, 6:30-8:30 PMHouston Writers Guild
The Houston Writers’ Guild
Trini Mendenhall Community Center, 1414 Wirt Rd.
Julian Kindred: Growing the Architectural Writer: Helping “Plotters” Breathe Life into their Plots
Cost:$10 Members; $20 Nonmembers; $5 Students w/ID.

Writers tend to fall into one of two categories: gardeners and architects. The latter group is also called “plotters” for their meticulous plotting and careful structural setup. This workshop is for the second group, and will examine methods and techniques for helping these writers grow their characters into their plots so that they come to life and feel like more than pieces of the plot-machine.

 

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4. SCBWI Retreat 2015: Workshops with Grown-Ups (and FOOD!)



Last weekend I was away from home for 4 days in the historic village of Evesham, near Worcester, doing another of my dream jobs. It involved enormous amounts of eating (best rhubarb crumble I ever tasted), sketching in the sunshine, listening to stories, chatting into the night over glasses of wine... oh, and also delivering workshops and portfolio advice for members of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

I knew the SCBWI retreat was to be held in a lovely old house with pretty grounds, but I was completely gob-smacked when my taxi stopped outside a long, Tudor house, all timbers and thatch. I was shown up a big, wooden staircase into a lovely old room, whose floorboards sloped down into one corner. I unpacked with a smile.


We kicked off about an hour later, with a brilliant getting-to-know-you exercise run by fellow author/illustrators, Loretta Schauer and Alexis Deacon. We paired up and had to draw or describe events from each other's past, stimulated by silly questions like: When have you injured yourself as a result of your own stupidity?

Then I ran my first session of the weekend: teaching people how to make concertina sketchbooks. 




SCBWI had provided a big pile of watercolour paper. We set to, cutting and sticking. We cut up old cardboard boxes for the covers - it worked a treat. Then we all filed into the dining room for the first feast of many.



After dinner, we had a book review cum storytelling session, where we each read a favourite picture book to the rest of the group. There were 30 of us, so it took a while, but was a lovely way to spend the evening.

Next morning was a workshop by Alexis. He taught us techniques for making narratives more interesting, looking at the potential for using dishonest characters with hidden motivations. We all tried to create a story, though mine ran out of steam half way through. After coffee and biccies, we had a bit of free time, so I took my newly-minted sketchbook into the grounds:


Then it was lunch (yum), followed by an interesting talk by Andrea MacDonald, Senior Editor at Random House, about what makes a good picture book:


I did a couple of one-to-one advice sessions next. I found a lovely little summer house tucked away at the foot of the garden, which was perfect for a cost chat. people had booked appointments with me and I did my best to be wise and helpful with first an illustrator, then an author:


My 2nd workshop used the sketchbooks we made earlier. I wanted to explore the idea of finding a narrative in a place, of capturing the essence of a particular period of time using words and pictures, but doing it through close observation, recording what we could see, hear and smell. This is of course something which I am very used to doing in my sketchbooks, and I thought it might make a good source of inspiration.

I sat under a big tree and rang a bell. People gathered from around the grounds. Some had been playing croquet on the lawn!


We had expected mostly illustrators to take up the challenge, but a few authors went for it too. I showed the work I'd done since I arrived, as an example, and talked through easy techniques for getting instant results with watercolour (it was a revelation to most people that you could paint with clear water first, to control the colour), then everyone dispersed for an hour or so of experimentation.


After dinner (yum), we gathered in the conference room and, in small groups, talked though our work-in-progress. Each group then chose the strongest 3 pieces of work for each person - a great idea, as your own favourite bits of work are not necessarily your best and a fresh perspective is very useful. All the work was then displayed for everyone to browse and the next thing I knew, it was midnight!


Sunday began with my main workshop (after breakfast of course - yum). I devised a technique for drawing a journey, one piece at a time, to build up the elements of a story. Only, to put a fly in the ointment and get people out of their comfort-zone, many of the components were chosen randomly, by a neighbour. For me, the challenge was making it work, when about a third of the delegates were not illustrators. Still, it seemed to go extremely well. After coffee (and biccies) people took it in turns to pin up their drawing and tell their story.


Some ideas were hilarious, some were quite dark, some narratives were in a bit of a tangle, which the group helped to sort out: the brainstorming of 30 creative minds, all focussed on progressing one story idea was fantastic to watch.


The 'house cat' decided he wanted to join in. He demanded to be let in from the rain through the French windows, jumped up on the tables, walked across people's work, then took at seat near the front to listen:


After this of course, it was time for lunch (yum). Then we had another talk, this time by Emily Lamm, once my editor at Gullane (who worked with me on Swap!), now working as Commissioning Editor at Hachette. She gave some excellent advice on what editors are looking for and things to try / avoid in your writing. I tried to capture her and highlights from what she was saying in the concertina sketchbook:


I had two more mentoring sessions during the afternoon, sadly in the house this time, as rain was still bouncing around outside. Then Alexis did a demo session, showing how he draws with ink, using different kinds of brushes (in various stages of decay): 


I had my final one-to-one session, then at 7pm the gong sounded and it was time for another glorious dinner. I was impressed with the fact that the veggie choice for every meal was just as adventurous and delicious as its meat counterpart. We were all so impressed as a group that we asked for the chef and kitchen staff to come out and gave them a huge round of applause.

After dinner, we took a group photo in the garden:


Then we were all given a postcard, onto which we had to write three achievable goals for the next 3 months. The illustrators decorated the front of their cards. We stuck stamps on and handed them back to Loretta, whose job it was to post them all back to us in three months time. Good idea, or what?

We stayed up chatting and drinking and taking photos of each other until late, a gradually dwindling group. Finally, at 1am, the last dregs gave up the ghost and headed for bed.

Next morning, I packed my suitcase then luxuriated over my final breakfast (yum):


Then gradually, a few at a time, people had to leave (cue hugging...). It had been such a rich weekend, we all felt rather sad to be on our way. I was so sad that I had to buy myself a present from the gift shop (a VERY funky necklace).


Thank you to Loretta and all the team at SCBWI for inviting me to take part. It was a joy. Thanks as well to Sue Eves and Paul Morton, for the photos.

It was lovely to meet everyone, including the rather amazing Alexis Deacon, who's head is just stuffed with crazy story-stuff. And you know the really good news? I get to do it all again next year, as it's a 2-year invitation!

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5. 3 things I've learned About Conferences & Me

.
Howdy, Campers--and happy Poetry Friday!
(See below for a poem about being a writer by Richard Wilbur and for today's PF host.)

We're in the middle of TeachingAuthors' series on Summer Learning Opportunities.

So far we've heard from JoAnn--who, through her own fascinating Summer Science Experiments, is learning more about hatching monarchs in her backyard; Esther--who's learning about authors from her own fair city (Chicago), discovered four "eye-openingly insightful" blogs, learned about the "3-paragraph query," and how to "attend" the National SCBWI conference if you can't be there in person. Carla shares what she's learned about the unexpected benefits from attending an SCBWI conference, and Mary Ann inspires us with her summer Young Writer's Camp.

As for me, I'm looking forward to being on the faculty of the National SCBWI Conference from July 31 through August 2nd (with intensive workshops available for an additional fee on Monday, August 3rd). Once again I'll be critiquing manuscripts submitted by conference attendees who've paid extra for written and face-to-face critiques.

My very smart friend, author and poet Greg Pincus (who blogs at GottaBook) posted the link to this fabulous blog post on attending an SCBWI conference by art director Giuseppe Castellano...and our own Esther has written what is by now a classic essay on attending an SCBWI conference.

Esther and I come at conferences from two very different perspectives. Basically, She jumps into the fray carrying a bunch of balloons; I get overwhelmed by more than 10 people at a party.

So, here are three things I've learned about conferences (how they affect me and how I cope) in the 24 years I've attended SCBWI in Los Angeles:

1) Be kind to yourself.  This conference can be overwhelming. No--I take that back: this conference is overwhelming. This summer 1000 people are attending from around the world.

A few of the attendees at this year's SCBWI Conference
(from morguefile.com)

We crowd into a posh hotel over a long summer weekend. The excited, anxious, ecstatic, frightened, enthusiastic, vibrating energy of 1000 friendly/shy/talkative/mute children's book professionals and pre-professionals (thanks for that term, Carla!) can be paralyzing.  The air in any hotel over that many days with that many people gets used up. And so do I.

2) Take breaks. I usually stand in the back because there's simply TOO MUCH SITTING!  That's one way I've learned to give my body a break. I've also learned (to my astonishment) that it's okay not to attend every single session. I can actually go outside and gulp fresh air...sit on the grass with my eyes closed for a few minutes. It's amazing how so simple an action as breathing can change my body chemistry.  Ahhhhhh....

No--not me.
(from morguefile.com)

3) And I've learned that some years I just need to be VELCRO®.

from morguefile.com

Although there have been many years I couldn't wait to sign up for the conference, couldn't wait to bond with new peeps, couldn't wait to find out what everyone was doing and share what I was up to, there have been other years, too.

Years when I couldn't figure out how to write that book--the one that was going to put me on the map, years when no one had invited me to submit a poem since the Ice Age, years when I was raw, raw, raw from rejection, Those are the years when I did NOT want to attend that stupid conference.  Nope.  Not gonna do it. And you can't make me.

It's about the shame, of course. I'm judging my insides against everyone else's outsides. It's like that false fog which hovers over FaceBook where I see those sparkling photos and know that every one of my FB friends are completely fulfilled, are always at goal weight, and have (just yesterday) signed a three-book deal.  (It's true--they have, you know.)

That's when I've learned I need to VELCRO® myself to real-life friends at the conference.  Hang with them. Go into the hall with them. Choose whatever breakout session they choose--it doesn't matter. They're my peeps. My buds. The ones who believe in me...and I believe in them. They save me from the darkness every time.

So, if you're coming to the SCBWI conference, please come up and say hello!We can VELCRO® together for awhile.

And Campers--if you are going to any gathering this summer that makes you a teensy bit uneasy, a little bit insecure, maybe the following quote will help. It's helped me.

Just for today, be open to the possibility
that there is nothing wrong with you.

Finally, here is a poem to inspire you:

THE WRITER
by Richard Wilbur

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.
click here for the rest of this poem

The poetry gods and goddesses bring Poetry Friday to Keri Recommends today. Thanks for hosting, Keri!

posted live from the floor of SCBWI's National Conference in living color and with love by April Halprin Wayland


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6. Nowadays...

You may have been wondering why it's so quiet around here lately…


The answer is I've been hard at work! Above are my new postcards (created with my agents, ABLA). They're designed and printed in time for the SCBWI conference (aka #LA15scbwi), which kicks off tomorrow morning bright and early. It takes a good bit of preparation — new portfolio art, new postcards, new dummies or manuscripts.  New shoes!

Some people begin to prepare months in advance, but I couldn't. I have another project on the go, also demanding my 1000% attention. I'm working on my picture book for Nord Süd (North South Books): getting to know the characters ...

and playing around with the hero...
 ...with his eponymous green umbrella…

And above all, trying to get the visual narrative to work:
Here is the famous storyboard clothesline, with earlier versions of many of the spreads. Of course, by the time the book gets into print there will be more changes, revisions and endless effing tweaks.

So that's where I have been lately. This blog will probably stay quiet for a little while longer, but nowadays I can also be found on Instagram and even tweeting on Twitter.

See you all later — enjoy the summer!




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7. KidLit Author Events July 28-August 4, 2015

Right now, high school juniors all over the world are battling their way through college application essays. Some view this as a great way to ruin a good summer, but for others, it’s the excuse they’ve been waiting for to spend days curled around their laptops or notebooks, pouring their hearts onto the page. For these young writers, there are some exciting opportunities to delve deeper into their passion. If you are one of these writers, or if you know a teen who is passionate about writing, take a look at the events coming up this fall and in 2016 and mark your calendars!

Aside from the longer events in the link above, many communities have short writing workshops for teens through libraries, schools, or local writers’ organizations. Here in Houston, we have many such events. One organization here that offers the most classes for teens is Writespace. For instance, on August 6 & 13 from 12:30-3:00 PM, Writespace will be offering a class in two parts: Young Writers Fiction Workshop (Ages 14-19) with Sara Rolater.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve added a new section to my website to highlight writing conferences and camps for teens. While researching this, I came across a website devoted to teen writers, Teens Can Write, Too. These innovative young writers have teamed up with Chapter One to host their own one-day conference in Illinois. I won’t usually be posting one-day events that occur outside the Houston area; there are just too many! But I had to share this one. Here’s the deets:

ECHOES OF US by Kat ZhangAugust 8: The Chapter One Young Writers Conference 2015, Arlington Heights, IL
Currently, the cost of admission is $49.99, but beginning August 1, the cost will rise to $74.99.

Keynote Address: Kat Zhang, author of the YA series THE HYBRID CHRONICLES (HarperCollins). She started writing the first book in the series, WHAT’S LEFT OF ME, during her senior year of high school and sold the trilogy when she was nineteen. Workshop Leaders will be Taryn Albright and Karen Bao. Read more…

Soon, I will be adding another page to my website that focuses on writing workshops for younger kids. Meanwhile, I will be adding local events of this sort to my regular Tuesday events post. And we have one this week!

August 1, Saturday, 10:30-11:30 AMWriters In The Schools
Writers In the Schools
Houston Public Library Express Library at Discovery Green Park
WITS Childrens’ Writing Workshop for Students Grade 2-8
Cost: FREE; No registration required

In partnership with the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance and Houston Public Libraries, WITS offers the Discovery Green Workshops—For one hour WITS writers explore imaginative writing exercises. WITS provides all necessary materials. No registration is required, and walk-ins are welcome.

And for adult writers  this week:

JULY 29, AUGUST 5 & 12, WEDNESDAYS, 6:00-9:00 PMWritespace
Writespace
Cassandra Rose Clarke: Science Fiction and Fantasy
Cost: $120-$155

Do you take your fiction with a side of aliens, superheroes, dragons, or witches? Then this is the workshop for you! This course will provide an overview of the SFF genre. Together we will consider those elements of writing which are crucial to crafting compelling speculative stories, such as building our own worlds, extrapolating the fantastic from reality, and creating compelling non-human characters. In addition to discussing classic and contemporary SFF works, you will participate in writing exercises and bring in your own work for critique. Come to class prepared to write and discuss, and by the end of the four weeks, you will have completed at least one SFF short story.

JULY 28, TUESDAY, 6:30-8:30 PMHouston Writers Guild
The Houston Writers’ Guild
Trini Mendenhall Community Center, 1414 Wirt Rd.
Julian Kindred: World Building Beyond Genre: Your Characters and the World Around Them
Cost:$10 Members; $20 Nonmembers; $5 Students w/ID.

World Building is often classified as something exclusive to authors of speculative fiction but the truth is that every time a work of fiction is crafted, an entire world is written into being. While writers of fantasy and science fiction will also benefit from this workshop, writers of any genre stand to gain from examining the world in which their characters live and how they interact with it. Futurists look to tomorrow by examining society, technology, economics, environment, and politics, and in this workshop we shall look at the relationship between these topics as they relate to your plot and characters.

AUGUST 3, MONDAY, 7:00-9:00 PM SCBWI
SCBWI Houston
Tracy Gee Community Center
Kate Pentecost discusses “Using the Uncanny: Creating Horror that Packs a Punch”.
Cost: FREE; All are welcome!

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8. Tips for SCBWI-LA conference newbies, second-timers, plus a CHALLENGE for the many-timers

(Updated version of a post I made earlier this year before the SCBWI-NYC conference)

I'm leaving this week for the SCBWI Summer Conference! If you haven't yet registered, you're out of luck....the conference is sold out. However, you can follow along virtually via the #LA15SCBWI hashtag on Twitter as well as the SCBWI conference blog.

Here's my updated SCBWI Conference Advice post for first-timers (as well as a challenge for the many-timers):

If you're a conference newbie who is nervous, I encourage you to browse my SCBWI Conference Newbie comics. I created these when I was a nervous newbie as well! So many people think I'm an extrovert, but I'm actually very much an introvert and was terrified (to the point of sweating palms, pounding heart, hating the idea of having go up and introduce myself over and over) about attending my first regular SCBWI conference back in 2009.

(Edit re: above comic: I did end up meeting Jay at the conference and he was really nice! And he didn't mention his Amazon ranking EVEN ONCE! Heh.)

I've posted advice for first-timers before and will post it again at the end of this piece, but now that I've attended other SCBWI annual conferences (and had my career jumpstarted because of the 2010 SCBWI-LA Conference), here is some additional advice I have for those who have attended more than once:

Don't get offended or disheartened if people you've met before don't remember you.

This is something I've learned from both sides. As a 2nd- and 3rd-timer (and so on), I've sometimes gone up to a person or group I've met and had my confidence deflated when it becomes clear they don't remember me at ALL from the previous year. My inner reactions ranged from embarrassment, humiliation, irritation, frustration and even brief anger ("I guess I'm just NOT IMPORTANT enough for xxx to remember!! Hmph.").

Having attended many times now, I've learned the following:

- I'm terrible at remembering people unless I've had multiple conversations or interactions with the same person.

- Even then, especially if I'm tired or am in a noisy crowd (remember what I said earlier about being an introvert?) or have met many new people in a row just before, I may still forget having met someone before.

I still accidentally re-introduce myself to people whom I've met before, sometimes whom I've met EARLIER IN THE CONVENTION. I'm always horribly embarrassed when this happens. 

Make sure your name badge is easily visible.

As Lee Wind points out in his helpful SCBWI blog post, having your name badge visible even at dinner or drinks afterward is an obvious visual clue to others that you're part of the tribe, and helps them remember your name as well. You can stash a few business cards in the back so they're handy.

Also, when I approach someone whom I've met before but with whom I don't have constant contact, I usually try saying something that will help remind them of our mutual context, or remind them of having met at xxx. Until I'm sure they actually do remember me, I try very hard NOT to put them on the spot (e.g. I don't say, "So, what did you think of my most recent post?" etc.).

When someone does this to me (subtly or unsubtly :-) setting the context and helping me remember), I immediately feel more at ease with them and am more likely to want to chat with them in the future.

Another tip: if someone DOES remember you, never assume that they're up-to-date on all your exciting news. I've had the occasional person react badly when they realize I'm not aware of their new book ("?? But I posted it all over Facebook!") I never assume anyone reads all my posts or keeps up with all my news. People have busy lives and different priorities.

Something else I've learned: even so-called Big Name authors, illustrators, editors, art directors and agents can be insecure. I am faaaar from being a Big Name, but having had a bit more experience at conference-going now, I also realize how some of the Big Name types who seemed standoffish to me actually weren't.

Be gracious, be forgiving and try very hard to assume the best about a person rather than the worst.

And I apologize ahead of time if I don't remember your name or re-introduce myself. :-\

And here some tips for first-timers who feel nervous about attending for the first time, or are normally very shy or introverted and dread the idea of having to meet a lot of new people:

1. Be brave and make the first move. You'd be surprised at how many other attendees feel exactly the same way as you do. Introduce yourself to people you sit beside, stand in line with, notice standing alone.

2. TAKE BUSINESS CARDS. Yes, even if you aren't published yet. We're all going to meet a lot of people over the weekend, and taking away a business card from an encounter or introduction will help the people you meet remember you. If you're an illustrator, take postcards or make sure a sample of illustration style is on your business card.

3. Be sociable. Don't just attend the keynotes and scheduled workshops. Check out the informal activities listed in your program, like Yoga with Lori Snyder, the LGBTQ Q&A, the Illustrator Social, Nonfiction Social, International Member Social, Peer Group Critiques with Jim Averbeck, and Saturday night "Sparkle & Shine" gala. Also keep an eye on conference Twitter chat, where some meetup planning might happen ("Hey, who wants to chat? I'm in the lobby").

4. Have realistic expectations. Don't expect to be "discovered" at the conference. Instead, set achievable goals. These can be as specific as "I'm going to introduce myself to agent xxxx sometime during the weekend" or as vague as "I'm looking for inspiration to get back on track with my book" or even just "To try having some fun at the conference and then see what happens." I think of this type of event as planting seeds. There's no guaranteed outcome, but you never know what might come out of all those seeds you're planting as you meet people, attend talks, watching and listening and chatting. 

My own conference seeds have blossomed, directly or indirectly, into: friendships, invitations to speak at events, book contracts, publishing industry info that helped guide my career decisions, learning about new techniques and tools, helping others get published, and SO much more. I continue to plant seeds, because I want to keep growing as a writer and illustrator, plus I'm also well aware how quickly the industry can change.

5. In my experience, you're much more likely to meet new people if you're alone. If you're always chatting and hanging out with the same person or people, you're not as approachable. I'm not saying that you SHOULDN'T hang out with people you like, of course! Just keep in mind that as a group, you're probably not going to meet as many new people as someone who is by themselves.

6. If you're on Twitter, write your Twitter handle on your name badge somewhere.

But most of all: TRY TO HAVE FUN. 

***** A CHALLENGE TO THE "MANY-TIMERS" OUT THERE ****

Try to remember what it was like when you attended your very first event, or how insecure you felt in the beginning. Then make it a personal challenge to find at least one lost-looking or nervous conference newbie who is sitting or standing alone. Introduce yourself, chat with them, find out what they're working on, perhaps (if appropriate) offer some advice.

Give good karma and it WILL come back to you.

RELATED POSTS AND RESOURCES:

Are You Entering The SCBWI-LA Illustration Portfolio Showcase? Here Are Tips For Before And During The Conference: my post on KidLitArtists.com last month

On SCBWI, Advice For Authors and Illustrators: from art director, Giuseppe Castellano.

Your Conference THRIVE-al Guide: A Dozen Tips For Four Days Made Of Awesome: by Lee Wind, on the SCBWI blog. 

Tips For Attending A Writing Conference: from YA writer, Valerie Lawson.

SCBWI Conference Tips For Newbies: from children's book illustrator, Heather Powers

Surviving Your First SCBWI Conference - by A.J. Cosmo

Tips For First-Time Conference-Goers: Children's Writers Edition: from McIntosh and Otis agent, Christa Heschke.

 

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9. What Writing Conferences Can Do For You


The topic of a few TA blog posts this summer will deal with conferences and other types of summer learning experiences.  JoAnn Early Macken has a fascinating post about tending monarch butterflies in her garden, Summer Science Experiments.  Since I live in an area through which monarchs migrate, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe JoAnn’s butterflies will flutter by my house and land on the blooms in my flower bed.   
 

Esther Hershenhorn detailed some of the great blog posts she is working on this summer in One Writer’s Nuggets from Her Summer… So Far.  Not only does she give lots of wonderful details about Chicago, Esther also talks about SCBWI conferences.   

I attended several national conferences while I was a SCBWI Regional Advisor.  They are an exciting adventure.  It’s great to meet the authors whose books you admire, hear them speak, and buy an autographed copy.   Conferences give writers the opportunity to meet others who share their passion of writing for young readers.   The world of children’s book authors is a friendly place and conferences give you the chance to get to know people from all over the county and the world.  Writers find themselves in the midst of a crowd of people who understand the joy and the rejection of writing to publish. 

Nearly every pre published writer at an SCBWI conference hopes they will make a connection with an editor who will publish their book.  And that is always possible.  But when I look back to my early years as a writer, I see now that the most important lessons I learned at SCBWI conferences did not result in a published book.   One clear benefit is the wonderful friends I made, including Esther Hershenhorn.  For me, another benefit was that I began to see how the creative side of writing must coexists with the business of publishing.   

Conferences teach writers about the craft and the business of writing.  What can be learned at SCBWI conferences can speed up the process of both sides.   Like Joann’s butterflies, change happens and pre published writers change into published authors.   

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10. One Writer's Nuggets from Her Summer...So Far


Chicago’s June through July rains and cold temps marked Summer as it’s supposed to be a Very Late Arrival.
Still, I found sunshine aplenty to keep me on task in the golden opportunities that kept me writing, reading and connecting.
So first, the writing.
I was honored to be invited to contribute 3 blog posts to the Newsletter of the American Writers Museum – a national museum celebrating American writers, opening in Chicago in 2016.
Early word about this museum quickly captured my attention.  You can read all about it here.
Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the home page so you can subscribe to the Newsletter and learn about its soon-to-be-announced location.
I chose to focus my blogs on Chicago children’s book authors.
My first, titled “Somewhere, Over Lake Michigan,” shares L. Frank Baum’s Chicago connection to THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ.
Few know the author wrote the book while living on the northwest side of Chicago – and – that his visits in 1893 to the Columbian Exposition’s White City led to his imagining the Emerald City.
Next on deck:  a blog about Chicago-born Shel Silverstein’s sidewalks and attics.


As for my reading,
this summer, thanks to my Newberry Library’s “Write Place” workshop students, I’ve been checking out all sorts of early chapter books and all sorts of relevant Kidlitosphere blogs, especially those that present diverse cultures.
Here are 4 blogs I found eye-openingly insightful:
As always, my best connecting opportunities arrived courtesy of SCBWI, THE Connection Vehicle for children’s book creators.  

In June I was lucky enough to hear Andrea Brown Literary Agent Kelly Sonnack present to the Illinois SCBWI Chapter’s City Network on How to Write a Query Letter.
Kelly recommends a 3-paragraph query: the first paragraph is personal, sharing why the writer seeks representation from the particular agent and the second paragraph offers an overview of the story, comparisons to similar titles and never gives away the ending. It was Kelly’s suggestion for the third paragraph that struck me as brilliant: the inspiration for the writer’s work!  Just how and why did this book come to be?
What a clever way to get a true sense of the writer.
Kelly represents illustrators and writers for all age groups within children’s literature, though she is currently not accepting queries.
Alas, I’m unable to attend the July 31-August 3 44th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, at least in Real Time.
I do plan to attend vicariouslyvia SCBWI's Team Blog.
Click here now to read the pre-conference interviews and learn  about the 25 editors and agents, the Golden Kite Winners and a host of authors who’ll be presenting workshops. 
Of course, besides writing, reading and connecting, writers dream.
This summer, I began each workshop session with the inspirational words of ALA-award-winning authors.
My students took heart and hope from Sid Fleishman, Christopher Paul Curtis, Greg Pizzoli and John Green via their past acceptance speeches. 
They were also able to do the same via the June, 2015 acceptance speeches of Newbery medalist Kwame Alexander, Coretta Scott King medalist Jaclyn Woodson and Pura Belpre medalist Marjorie Algosin.
FYI: The Horn Book Magazine publishes a special July/August 2015 Special Awards issue that includes the above speeches in print.

Confidentially, I love getting lost in these speechifying moments. 
Whenever despair descended upon my very first Writer’s Group, we’d take turns sharing what we planned to wear when we accepted our particular awards, be they Newbery, Dr. Gesell, Prinz or Siburt.
I’m not so sure now about that navy blue gab pencil skirt with the front slit, or even the white silk blouse, long-sleeved, Georgette neckline.  My ankle-strapped heels are still in the running, though. J

Here’s hoping the golden nuggets I shared from my Summer so far will keep you writing, reading, connecting and dreaming.

Esther Hershenhorn



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11. some updates

I've just been updating my website Events page (do have a peek!), and SCBWI have just announced that Philip Reeve and I will be keynote speakers at November's conference!



In fact, there will be four keynote speakers, including Jonny Duddle and David Fickling, and there are about twenty other people speaking (some more famous than us) who could easily have stepped in!



SCBWI Conference is such a great opportunity for anyone who's starting out in children's books and wants to find out how to get in deeper, or who's been in the business for awhile and fancies mixing with company, learning some new things and sharing experiences. Here's the programme. The cost of a packed weekend is £220 for SCBWI members, £250 for non-members and you can book here. I've been to several of these conferences and they're a big part of how I got into the business.

Sometimes my books with Philip are called 'middle grade' and Philip hates that term, for good reason. So he's written a new blog post about it, and you can leave comments or tweet your thoughts to him on the subject at @philipreeve1 or leave a comment on our Reeve & McIntyre Facebook page.


Keep reading...

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12. Gratitude Post: David Diaz, mentoring, found object art inspiration

Many thanks to my friend David Diaz for his friendship and mentorship. I got to know David through the SCBWI, when I was chosen for the SCBWI-LA Illustration Mentorship program in 2010. David has been recently touching base with many of the Mentees, past and present, to find out how they're doing...he is doing this on his own time and volition, not because it's an official part of the program. He and I chatted yesterday, and I had the chance to thank him again for his early advice. I also told him how my venture into found object doodles started because of HIM, at one of his Lost Weekends.

You can find out more about David on Wikipedia, Facebook and an Illustrator Spotlight via Kidlit411.

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13. Martha Brockenbrough Summer Bulletin

As writers and illustrators of children’s books, we have the cutest fantasies. Who else dreams that their work will someday be decorated by a sticker?

And then there’s the conference fantasy, where the agent or editor of your dreams holds your manuscript overhead and says, “This is brilliant!” and she just happens to have a contract in her pocket, which you sign on the spot. It’s almost better than the sticker.

But here’s the thing. People are sometimes asked to send off stories or art, and there are similarly wonderful career-transforming moments. Usually, though, nothing quite so dramatic happens.

And yet… conferences are magic. Truly. Every picture book I’ve ever sold has come directly from my time at an SCBWI conference, specifically the one in Los Angeles. I’ve sold four picture books and have interest in a fifth; each one sprang from an idea or conversation I had at that summer conference, starting with my first one in 2008.

My future editor, Arthur A. Levine, had been in Seattle that spring for a conference, and through a happy accident of seating, we’d chatted through the evening, and he invited me to submit something to him someday. At the time, I was writing an epic novel about a pirate in part because I’d given up on picture books, and in part because, well, I can’t really remember why, which was ultimately the problem with that novel.

At our local spring conference, Arthur had offered sage advice from his then four-year-old son. “When in doubt, write about dinosaurs.” At the time, this didn’t strike me as anything other than adorable. (Who was I to write about dinosaurs, anyway? At the time, I was merely thirty-seven.)

When registration opened for the summer conference in Los Angeles, I really wanted to go. But I couldn’t. We had a family reunion that weekend. And what kind of jerk puts anything in front of family? As it turns out, I am that kind of jerk.

In Los Angeles, Arthur reassured us about the picture book market, which at the time was feeling kind of battered. On the flight home, I resolved to send him a thank-you note for being so encouraging. I looked out the window, and I thought about dinosaurs, and specifically their teeth, and even more fantastically, about who might love their teeth most of all.

Arthur ended up publishing the answer to that question—The Dinosaur Tooth Fairy—five years later. A year or two after I sold The DTF, I mentioned to Arthur at another Los Angeles conference a letter I’d written to my daughter when she asked for the truth about Santa. He said he thought it sounded like a picture book as well. A dear friend I’d met at the Los Angeles conference, Samantha Berger, gave me an idea for how it might be done. I wrote it. Arthur bought it.

Last summer, Samantha and I came up with an idea at the conference while we were eating pizza poolside. So far that has turned into a two picture book deal with Arthur.

These aren’t the sort of things you can predict when you’re thinking about going to a conference. The standard fantasy—that someone might love your work and buy it on the spot—pales in comparison to what really can happen. You go to these conferences and meet people who inspire you. You make friends. You hear words you didn’t know you needed to hear, things that make you laugh and cry, things that feed your mind in ways your everyday routine might not. All of this becomes the fuel of story.

I’d never thought to dream about what comes from inspiration and connection and friendship. And yet this combination is so much better than any contract, and why I’ll go to every SCBWI conference I can.

Fantasies are great and all. But real life? It’s better.

 

Martha Brockenbrough is the author of the YA novels The Game of Love and Death and Devine Intervention, and The Dinosaur Tooth Fairy, a picture book. Both are with Arthur A. Levine at Scholastic, as is her forthcoming picture book, Love, Santa, as well as two Bigfoot picture books written jointly with Samantha Berger. Martha also wrote the nonfiction middle grade Finding Bigfoot for Feiwel & Friends. In addition to her work on SCBWI's Team Blog, she is the founder of National Grammar Day and author of Things That Make Us [Sic]. Visit www.marthabrockenbrough.squarespace.com and on Twitter @mbrockenbrough.

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14. KidLit Author Events June 30-July 6 (And PUPPY!)

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This has been such an exciting week around my house! Because this happened:

Puppy Coming Home Puppy SofaPuppy lge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She’s a 3 month old, German Shepherd/Husky (Gerberian Shepsky) mix. I saw her at Ace Hardware last weekend, and was bewitched by her sweet little face. I resisted the urge to take her home with me, because I still had some sanity left. But she stayed in my thoughts all week, so Saturday morning when my husband and son said they had to go to the hardware store, I chirped up that I wanted to go, too. Now, this isn’t unusual; I love hardware stores. But something in my tone of voice immediately tipped off my husband that something was up. I admitted it; I wanted to see if the beautiful little black dog had been adopted. She hadn’t, but now she has! We haven’t reached a decision on her name yet, so I’ll add that here next time.

Last week I introduced a new page on this blog, Houston Writer & Illustrator Events. This week, I’m introducing another new page, Workshops: Young Writers. There are many writing workshops for teens that range from an hour to a full day, but for young people who are serious about writing, that isn’t enough. This list will help serious young writers find events in time to meet the often rigorous application requirements and early registration dates. If you know a teen (and occasionally younger kids) who has a keen interest in writing, please share this list with them. Like all my other conference lists, I will update this page on a weekly basis, so check back often!

Also, tomorrow is the first full month of my new website theme, and so will be the first full month to feature books launching in July. These children’s and young adult books will be shown on the sidebar on all the conference pages. Clicking on these images will open a page about that book. Throughout July, please take a moment to visit these books and spread the word!

We have another quiet week for author bookstore events, but we have two writers’ events this week:

JUNE 30, TUESDAY, 6:30-8:30 PMHouston Writers Guild
The Houston Writers’ Guild
Trini Mendenhall Community Center, 1414 Wirt Rd.
Julian Kindred: Finishing Your Novel: Bringing Your Ideas to Fruition
Cost:$10 Members; $20 Nonmembers; $5 Students w/ID.

Staying the course once you’ve started writing your novel is difficult. How do you manage the distractions of daily life or the temptation to quit and chase the next new idea? And once the manuscript is complete, then what? This workshop will examine methods for holding yourself accountable for writing your novel and examine when it is time to start, or finally finish, revisions, as well as what you should be doing in the meantime.

JULY 6, MONDAY, 7:00-9:00 PMSCBWI
SCBWI Houston
Tracy Gee Community Center
Holly Walrath: Writing Culturally Relevant YA: War, Politics, Violence and Gender
Cost: FREE! All are welcome!

Children’s literature is entering a new era – one that embraces the dark lens of postmodern literature. Picture books deal with increasingly more disturbing topics from abortion to personal violence. Four themes have emerged in Children’s Literature that reflect these changes: War, Politics, Violence, and Gender. In discussing these themes, we’ll look at new trends in children’s literature and what they might mean for us as writers. We’ll explore how to approach these themes in our writing. We’ll discuss how children view these events and how they affect children’s personal lives.

 

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15. How NOT to Publish a Picture Book.

Author/illustrator Val Jones's first picture book, Who Wants Broccoli? was released earlier this month. She tells us about her path to publication in today's Author Spotlight post.

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16. 2015 Martha Weston Grant Winner Announced

Lindsey Carmichael from Lewis Lake, Nova Scotia, is the recipient of the 2015 Martha Weston Grant. She  received $1,500 to cover her expenses to attend the annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles. 
Grant coordinator Lissa Rovetch noted the judges, consisting of herself, Ashley Wolff, Julie Downing, Susan McCombs and Dory Weston, received many outstanding applications all of which reflected Martha Weston’s generous spirit.
 
After publishing more than 50 picture books and easy readers as an illustrator and/or author, Martha (Hairston) Weston published her first middle grade novel shortly before her death. Martha always took time to encourage others, and the Hairston family established the Martha Weston Grant to honor and continue her efforts. The SCBWI wishes to thank the Hairston family for making the grant possible, to the judges for volunteering their time, and to Lissa Rovetch who served again this year as Grant Coordinator. Applications will again be accepted in early spring. Rules and procedures can be found under the Awards and Grants section of the website. If you are interested in applying for this very special grant, please mark your calendars for early next year when the application process opens.

 

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17. When Good Things Happen to Good People

Several years ago I attended the SCBWI summer conference and one of the wonderful people I met was Rachel Marks. Super talented as both a writer and an artist, she had an incredible joy for life, due in part to being a cancer survivor. Rachel was rooming with Paige Britt and both of them had […]

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18. KidLit Author Events, May 26-June 9

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Well, my neck of the woods got a lot of rain this weekend, but we are fortunate to have made it through with no damage. The news over the rest of Texas and parts of Oklahoma is very sad, though. I hope all of you can stay safe through this rough weather.

We are getting into the summer slow-down on autor events, but the local Houston arts organizations are stepping up!

May 27, 10:00 AMlogo-scbwi
Gentle Critique, 9:30 AM
Barnes & Noble, College Station
Glows and Grows: Tips on Giving and Receiving Constructive Critiques

Join the Brazos Valley chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for discussion, news, and encouragement. The topic is “Glows and Grows: Tips on Giving and Receiving Constructive Critiques” with Alyson Greene and Candilynn Fite. Gentle critique begins at 9:30 a.m. Bring copies of 5 double-spaced pages of your work in progress. Those who have time stay for lunch at a local restaurant. Members and friends welcome!

May 30, Saturday, 4:30 PMWritespace
Writespace
Marian Szczepanski, Writing Workshop for All Genres
Using Object and Memory as Springboards into the Past
Cost: $30-$45

Objects and memories can carry significant resonance for literary explorations into the past – from personal experiences to collective histories. Learn how to use objects and/or memories, both personal and those shared by family members or history, as prompts for imaginative rumination and writing. We’ll consider examples in fiction (“Mortality” by Pablo Medina), poetry (“Mauches” by Angele Ellis), and creative nonfiction (an excerpt from Virgin Time by Patricia Hampl). This highly interactive class also will include joint exercises in creating meaning and exploring literary possibility from a provided object and historical event. As a prompt for individual writing, each participant will be encouraged to bring his/her own object – personal memento, family keepsake, or any item (or image) that interests or intrigues. I’ll have an assortment of new and vintage objects on hand for participants who prefer to consider something unfamiliar. This workshop is intended for writers of all genres, including writers of fiction, short story, personal essay, creative nonfiction, memoir, and poetry.

May 30, Saturday, 4:30 PMTHE DEATH CODE BY LINDSAY CUMMINGS
Murder By The Book
Lindsay Cummings, YA Author

Young Adult author Lindsay Cummings will discuss and sign MURDER COMPLEX #2: THE DEATH CODE, the action-packed, chilling sequel to her bestselling The Murder Complex. With short, fast-paced, alternating point-of-view chapters, The Death Code starts several weeks after The Murder Complex ends. Zephyr keeps the secret about Meadow close that if she dies, The Murder Complex will be destroyed, too. Meadow, desperate to find her brother, father, and little sister, is determined to fight fearlessly to the end, even if it means sacrificing herself and her friends, new and old. The Death Code introduces a memorable cast of secondary characters and delivers a vivid and scary thrill ride read. For fans of La Femme Nikita, Legend, and Hanna.

June 1, Monday, 7:00 PMlogo-scbwi
Tracy Gee Community Center, 3599 Westcenter Dr.
SCBWI Houston: Author Workshop
FREE

Join us for the Houston SCBWI monthly meeting where YA authors Rachel Harris & Kristin Rae will discuss Agents: Pros & Cons. Members and non-members alike are welcome to attend!

Now through June 30Houston Writers Guild Press
Houston Writers Guild
Short Story Contest
Entry fee: $25 HWG members / $35 non-members / $20 students or seniors over 65
Multiple entries: $15 for subsequent entries for members / $25 for nonmembers / $10 for students and seniors over 65

DIVE INTO MYSTERY Short Story Mystery Contest:

HWG is looking for original unpublished mystery short stories; stand-alone adaptations from a longer manuscript are welcome. Authors may submit up to 3 short stories for consideration in the contest. Please see their website for more information.

And a heads up for this event:

June 5, Friday, 6:00 p.m.
Blue Willow Bookshop
Joey Graceffa, YA Memoir Author

Star of TV and YouTube Joey Graceffa will meet and greet fans as they receive pre-signed copies of his book, IN REAL LIFE. Your book purchased from Blue Willow Bookshop is your ticket to this event. You may purchase IN REAL LIFE in-store, online or over the phone. At the time of your purchase, Blue Willow Bookshop will make a color line card that indicates your place in line.

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19. Happy 5th Anniversary, drydenbks – Interview with Emma D. Dryden

Emma D. Dryden is a children’s editorial & publishing consultant with drydenbks LLC, a company she established 5 years ago today, after 25 years as a publisher and editor with major publishing houses. I had the privilege of working with … Continue reading

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20. Moira Swiatkowski – Illustrator Interview

While I haven’t managed to attend the SCBWI winter conference the past few years I have schmoozed and managed to be invited to several gatherings/parties. It was at one of these I first had the pleasure of meeting Moira. Aside … Continue reading

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21. NESCBWI Whispering Pines 2015

The time had come… after a pleasant drive through the backroads of RI through the snow drifts and pines…
DSCN0067

…so began the 2015 edition of the Whispering Pines Writers Retreat at the Alton Jones campus! This was a special year, though- the 20th anniversary of it’s beginning. I have been coming since I was the illustrator mentor in 2007. Every year is full of inspiration, bonding, and renewed vigor for our writing careers. It is also full of cake. SO MUCH CAKE. And food that magically appears. It is another world, to be sure.

Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Mary Pierce have been the co-directors for many years, and have decided to step down this year. There’s no way they would go out without a bang, and it started right away! KidLit Jeopardy was a great way to kick it off andstart on that bonding I was talking about. It’s always a laugh fest. My team came in 3rd place (pretty decent)!

DSCN0030My favorite category is BUNNIES. :)

 

DSCN0031Hayley Barrett gives Lynda a going-away present…

 

DSCN0032…and it was fascinating! “Embrace the journey” was a good theme for the whole weekend.   
DSCN0034Mary Pierce and Kristin Russo got mini trophies for being a driving force (literally) for the retreat.

 

julie sally

NESCBWI RA Sally Riley and incoming retreat director Julie Kingsley  get commemorative staplers, for holding things together. Julie will be joined by Cameron Kelly Rosenblum as co-director of next year’s Whispering Pines retreat.

 

DSCN0041Co-director Mary receives a superhero cape for going up, up, and away above the usual requirements! 

 

DSCN0042Some of the mentors: agents Erin Murphy and Ammi-Joan Paquette, and editors Sylvie Frank, Kendra Levin, and Mallory Kass.
DSCN0045Laurie Murphy and Linda Crotta Brennan were recognized as the originators of the retreat 20 years ago.

 

DSCN0046Greenhouse Literary agent John Cusick gave great tips on ignoring the nagging voice that tells you you can’t write, and how to carve out legit writing time in your life. As both a writer and an agent, he knows intimately what he’s talking about.
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Lynda and Mary pulled off a pretty incredible surprise by bringing back SIX previous mentors just to be on a panel about “what I wished I knew when I was starting out”. She had asked me casually to weigh in on this subject, but I didn’t know it would become a full-out panel discussion with all these fantastic writers and illustrators. Color me humbled. It was a real high point of the event!

 

WPMentors, past and present: Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Kim Newton Fusco, Leslie Connor, Jennifer Thermes, Kelly Murphy, Erin Dionne, Ammi-Joan Paquette, Carlyn Beccia, Me, Barbara O’Connor, and Brian Lies. Thanks Pam Vaughan for this photo!

 

DSCN0056Agents Ammi-Joan Paquette and Erin Murphy turned the tables asked each other questions. Erin looks for things she didn’t know she liked until she read them; it’s the exceptions to the rules that grab her. Ammi-Joan is open to any genre and concedes that there is no one-size-fits-all path in a career.

 

DSCN0058First pages in the cozy lodge. The mentors really went above and beyond this year is their discussions of the first pages, giving us meaty and useful critiques.

 

DSCN0061Mallory Kass, Sylvie Frank, Kendra Levin, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Ammi-Joan Paquette, John Cusick, and Erin Murphy.
DSCN0063Carlyn, bringin’ the glamour and spreading it around. “Give me more zhush!”

 

DSCN0066Food. So much food. Food that we didn’t have to prepare, and dishes that magically disappeared after, only to be replaced by cake. Such is the way of Whispering Pines.

 

DSCN0073Writer girls Sandy Smith Budiansky and Brook Gideon. The smiles say it all.

 

DSCN0075Senior Editor Kendra Levin, from Viking, is not only a great editor, but a life coach. It was excellent to hear how she blends these ingredients to bring out the best in each book. I won’t think of elevators the same way again!

 

DSCN0077Jennifer O’Keefe has the uncanny ability to paint gorgeous watercolors during the retreat! 

 

DSCN0078Editor Sylvie Frank from Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books gave a great inside look at the editorial process. I loved how she makes her own dummies of manuscripts just to become one with the flow of each story. That’s dedication!

 

DSCN0082Kristin Russo stepping up and sharing her writing exercise.

 

malloryMallory Kass  from Scholastic looks for books that transport the reader, and immerse them in a new world. She seeks characters that have such a unique world view that it colors the reader’s view, too. She was quite a character herself, relating publishing to the dating world in a disturbingly accurate way!

 

Adieu, Whispering Pines, for another year. You never fail to bring out the best in everyone.

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22. Nevada Mentor Program

I am thrilled to have been asked to mentor on the celebrated Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program this year. I was part of the program as a mentee back in 2010/2011. It's pretty special to be asked back and to work with 2-3 mentees myself. The program was probably the one thing I did that really set my career on it's way. The friends and contacts I made are still strong and very much part of my life. Ellen Hopkins and Suzanne Morgan Williams did a marvellous job starting this program and it's as great as ever! Check out the line up of mentors for yourself. Maybe I will see you there? Applications are open ... spaces are limited. What are you waiting for?
http://nevada.scbwi.org/nevada-scbwi-mentor-program/



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23. None of the Above – 2015 Diversity Reading Challenge

Today’s diversity read is one I had been looking forward to since meeting the author at one of the biannual SCBWI conference LGBTQ meetings a year ago. It doesn’t exactly fall into any of my categories, but boy, is it … Continue reading

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24. Illustrator Interview – Ruth McNally Barshaw

I have many different reasons for inviting illustrators onto my blog. Many have become  friends, all are gifted artists whom I admire, sometimes their daily doodles inspire me, others have won portfolio awards or I have contacted them after drooling over … Continue reading

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25. pictures mean business: bookseller, scwbi rally for illustration

Hurrah for The Bookseller magazine, for not getting sore when a bunch of us criticised it for not properly listing illustrators in articles and sales charts. Instead, they've listened, made changes, and this week opened up wider debate on the #PicturesMeanBusiness issue. Journalist Charlotte Eyre asked me to write this piece for today's issue (which you can also read online here).


Portrait photo in The Bookseller by Dave Warren

Charlotte has written a longer piece, and created a 'Top 10 Picture Book Illustrators' sales chart, which is something very new. Helen Oxenbury has gone from being unmentioned for her role in creating We're Going on a Bear Hunt with Michael Rosen to being listed in her own right as illustrator. You can read Charlotte's article here, Nielsen calls for debate over crediting illustrators.



But the issue's not as clear as we illustrators would like to think, and Charlotte flags some of the complex areas which need addressing:




Last Wednesday, a group of us from the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators met in the Savoy Tup pub in London to discuss #PicturesMeanBusiness, organised by active SCBWI members Candy Gourlay and Mo O'Hara. Carnegie head Joy Court, Charlotte Eyre and I talked with the group about the campaign and we pooled what knowledge people in the room had on the issue so far.

Joy was the first person who made me aware that the data was such a big issue in the Carnegie award listings. One thing I've been learning, and which was strengthened by the discussion was that Nielsen isn't entirely to blame for the problem. When I first came to the issue, it seemed like the main problem was that Nielsen had outdated software and needed to update it; then all the listings would fall into place. But that's only partly true. The other problem is that publishers all have different ways of organising the data they submit to Nielsen (many of their own systems desperately outdate), and Nielsen has to work with what it's given.

Some publishers realise that their illustrators may not get credit if they list them as illustrators, so they list them as authors. (And, in a sense, illustrators are authors in telling the story.) But if they leave the illustrator field blank, then it's tricky to discover who illustrated the book. Other publishers are giving incomplete data, possibly only listing the writer. What's submitted to Nielsen is a big, irregular mish-mash. Since the publishers are paying Nielsen for the data collection service, it's more likely that they can demand things of Nielsen, rather than Nielsen demanding software upgrades from the publishers. Charlotte has been liasing with a contact at Nielsen and said he's been very open and helpful about it.

So we need to look to the publishers to provide more regular data. Digital data may be a boring topic, but it is a BIG DEAL. As more and more processes are computerised, our livelihoods become very dependent on the accuracy and searchability of this data. Amazon are leading the way in organising their data, and because it's so easy to find things on their websites, it's beating out sellers who don't have access to such good data. UK publishers need to up their games so Amazon doesn't take all the sales. (And politicians need to sort out better tax laws so sellers are taxed fairly and equally, but that's another subject, even if it's related.)

At the SCBWI discussion, we asked, how can we encourage publishers provide better data? One suggestion by Charlotte was to try to get publishers to sign up to a charter, agreeing on a standard way of submitting book data. By signing, they would be stating that they submitted a complete set of data to the charter's specified standards (including illustrators and translators). Charlotte said The Bookseller might be able to spearhead this action.

But as Charlotte has pointed out in her article today, crediting is not always clear. We're going to talk more about this in a follow-up discussion on Twitter at 4pm (British time) on the hash tag #FutureChat. Bookseller Associate Editor Porter Anderson will be hosting the discussion, manning @TheFutureBook account. Please do take part if you can!



And I've realised that my #PicturesMeanBusiness updates sprawl over many blog posts, so I've tightened them up on to one page here: www.jabberworks.co.uk/pictures-mean-business



On that page I talk about:
1. The problem of uncredited illustrators
2. Why it matter and whom it affects (beyond illustrators)
2. How you can help with the campaign
4. Campaign progress so far


And I just spotted that Bookseller Associate Editor Porter Anderson has blogged about WRITERS going uncredited! I can see what he means: there is a lot of 'The Times says...' or 'The Bookseller claims that...' without mentioning the journalist.

Big thanks to writers Candy and Mo for hosting this weeks' SCBWI event!



One wonderful thing from that night was meeting Yat-Hong Chow, who created this book, Yellow as a real family effort. His seven-year-old son, Yü Chow, wrote the text, 'a fictional diary of a seven year old boy', with his dad's help. Yat designed the book, and his wife, Yü's mother, Hannah Kops, created the illustrations. Not every family can do this so expertly, but it's a wonderful example of a family coming together and recognising every aspect of creating a book. What a sense of achievement, to work as a team and create something like that together! (Here's their Kickstarter page.) It felt very much in the spirit of what we'd been discussing that evening.

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