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1. Television Animation vs. Picture-Book Illustration

In my opinion, neither animation nor illustration is better than the other, and as with all things, each has its own assets and liabilities.

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2. 2013-2014 yearbook superlatives

mortarboard chocolates 2013 2014 yearbook superlativesAs summer winds down and the new school year looms, we look back on the year that was. Here are our senior superlatives for characters in the class of 2013-2014. What superlative would you award your favorite character?

Wild-and-craziest: Mr. Tiger (from Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown)

Slow-and-steadiest: Giantess George (from Galápagos George by Jean Craighead, illus. by Wendell Minor)

Bravest: Peggy (from Peggy: A Brave Chicken on a Big Adventure by Anna Walker), Chicken Little (from Brave Chicken Little by Robert Byrd)

Most chicken: Alvin Ho (Alvin Ho: Allergic to the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, 
and Other Tourist Attractions by Lenore Look, illus. by LeUyen Pham)

Most zen: Koo (from Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons by Jon J Muth)

Most loyal: Santiago (from Santiago Stays by Angela Dominquez)

Class clowns: the Vole Brothers (from Splat! Starring the Vole Brothers by Roslyn Schwartz)

Miss Congeniality: Princess Ko (from The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty)

Mr. Congeniality: Jackson Greene (from The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson)

Cutest couple: Emily and Sam (from Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan), Amy and Matthew (from Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern), Devorah and Jaxon (from Like No Other by Una LaMarche), Mouse and Mole (from Mouse and Mole, Secret Valentine by Wong Herbert Yee)

Most complicated love triangle: Alix, Swanee, and Liana (from Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters)

Most likely to elope in Vegas: Holly and Dax (The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt)

BFFs: Rose and Windy (from This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illus. by Jillian Tamaki), Sophie and Bernice (from Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller, illus. by Wilsdorf), Pom and Pim (from Pom and Pim by Lena Landström, illus. by Olof Landström)

Best frenemies: Dog and Cat (from Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall)

Best dancer: Josephine (from Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, illus. by Christian Robinson), Rupert (from Rupert Can Dance by Jules Feiffer)

Best artist: Emily (from Emily’s Blue Period by Cathleen Daly, illus. by Lisa Brown), girl with red crayon (from Journey by Aaron Becker), prehistoric child (from The First Drawing by Mordicai Gerstein)

Best knitter: Needles (from When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds)

Best dresser: Rose (from The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee)

Best/worst babysitter: Octopus (from Thank You, Octopus by Darren Farrell), Baba Yaga (from Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire)

Best car: Mike and Tschick (from Why We Took the Car by Wolfgang Herrndorf)

Best facial hair: George E. Ohr (from The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan)

Best teachers:

French: Mr. Hulot (from Hello, Mr. Hulot by David Merveille)

Chinese: Norman (from Norman, Speak! by Caroline Adderson, illus. by Qin Leng)

Sex ed: Sophie Blackall (author/illus. of The Baby Tree)

Best bus drivers: Joe (from My Bus by Byron Barton), Gus (Gus, the Dinosaur Bus by Julia Liu, illus. by Bei Lynn)

NBA-bound: Josh and Jordan (from The Crossover by Kwame Alexander)

Future mathlete: Annika (from Annika Riz, Math Whiz by Claudia Mills, illus. by Rob Shepperson)

Future gymnast: Jake (from Jake at Gymnastics by Rachel Isadora)

Most likely to be a vet: Lulu (from Lulu and the Rabbit Next Door by Hilary McKay, illus. by Priscilla Lamont)

Most likely to win an Oscar: Kate Walden (from Kate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie Chickens by Julie Mata)

Most eco-concious: Kate Sessions (from The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins, illus. by Jill McElmurry)

Most traveled: cat (from City Cat by Kate Banks, illus. by Lauren Castillo), dad (from Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman, illus. by Skottie Young)

Most likely to get abducted by aliens: Robbie and Marilee (from The Summer Experiment by Cathie Pelletier), Aidan, Dru, and Louis (from Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn by Greg Leitich Smith, illus. by Andrew Arnold)

Cutest siblings: Gaston, Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, and Ooh-La-La/Antoinette, Rocky, Ricky, and Bruno (from Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, illus. by Christian Robinson)

Weirdest siblings: Merciful and Gospel Truth (from Engines of the Broken World by Jason Vanhee)

Most dysfunctional family: the Romanovs (from The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming)

Most well preserved (for her age): Lady Dai (from At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawangdui by Christine Liu-Perkins, illus. by Sarah S. Brannen)

Poshest: Lord and Lady Bunny (from Lord and Lady Bunny — Almost Royalty!: By Mr. & Mrs. Bunny by Polly Horvath, illus. by Sophie Blackall)

Bathing beauties: Queen Victoria (from Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine by Gloria Whelan, illus. by Nancy Carpenter), Elizabeth (from Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox, illus. by Brian Floca)

Night owls: Hannah (from Hannah’s Night by Komako Sakai), Chengdu (from Chengdu Would Not, Could Not Fall Asleep by Barney Saltzberg), Tippy (from Tippy and the Night Parade by Lilli Carré)

For more Horn Book silliness about books we love, see the 2014 Mind the Gap Awards and our 2012-2013 yearbook superlatives.

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3. Why is Middle Grade better than Young adult?

Why do I write Middle Grade? Good question, faceless reader, and one I will answer forthwith.

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4. End of this year’s WriteOnCon

Woo, what a whirlwind, right? From crazy twitter pitches (twitches?) to ninja stalking and requests to hopefully making new friends in the forums, we hope you had as great a time as us!  If you need a recap of the things that happened on day #2, here you go:

Twitter Pitch Event with editor Annie Berger from Harper Collins (see if yours was selected; go to #writeoncon to read the feedback)

Twitter Pitch Event with literary agent Carlie Webber (see if yours was selected; go to #writeoncon to read the feedback)

Twitter Pitch Event with literary agent Victoria Marini (see if yours was selected; go to #writeoncon to read the feedback)

Live chat with editor Andrew Harwell and literary agent Jenny Bent

And… now the conference is over already! What a bummer, right? Well, don’t despair… at least our forums will stay up for a couple of weeks, so you can still read the work of other’s, critique and maybe even some ninjas might still show their faces – uh masks? – this week. Who really knows? They’re THAT sneaky.

First and foremost we’d like to thank all the literary agents and editors that provided their free time to WriteOnCon this year! You all have busy schedules and it means a lot to us that some of you keep coming back for more. ;)  We can’t say thank you enough for that!

Secondly, our attendees… thank you for sticking with us through server outages and technical difficulties. Thanks for contributing to the forums and generally being awesome!

A feedback form, where you can tell us what you thought of this year’s condensed version of WriteOnCon, can be found here!

We’ve already received a couple of donations, so THANK YOU so much to those people who’ve contributed. If you haven’t donated yet, please consider it, because your donations are what keeps WriteOnCon going and has us return every year! Even a small donation goes a long way!




Thank you!

WriteOncon…. out.

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5. Engaging literature and students with CHARGE syndrome

This summer, I was asked by a parent whose child had attended our reading tutoring program in the spring, to work one-on-one with her daughter, a rising middle schooler with CHARGE syndrome. CHARGE syndrome involves a number of developmental and medical differences (see www.chargesyndrome.org to learn more), and for this particular child it means profound deafness in addition to other factors. Her signs could at times be challenging to understand, and it was not always clear when you asked her a question whether she understood the answer or whether she was repeating what you last said to her. So what was my approach in teaching reading with this student? Pull out all my favorite picture books, naturally.

When my undergraduate student who had been tutoring her in the previous semester pulled out The Red Book by Barbara Lehmann, she was at first confused and later delighted to find this rich story told entirely through pictures. Over the summer, in addition to many others, we have been reading a great deal of Mo Willems (the Knuffle Bunny books and the Elephant and Piggy books) and Jon Klassen (mostly of the hats-being-stolen-by-fish-and-rabbits genre). Halfway through Knuffle Bunny Too, she had the whole story figured out, excitedly signing to me, “Wrong rabbit, wrong rabbit!” The language and understanding that came through when presented with engaging literature was a delight to see.

lehman redbook 300x300 Engaging literature and students with CHARGE syndrome    willems knuffle bunny too Engaging literature and students with CHARGE syndrome    klassen thisisnotmyhat 414x300 Engaging literature and students with CHARGE syndrome

We do more than read picture books, of course. We work on building vocabulary, we develop American Sign Language (ASL) skills and compare how concepts are conveyed through both languages, and we even examine word order through mixed-up sentences. But these lessons are always underpinned with  marvelous books that are clever and engaging. It is through these books that her abilities come shining through. And although reading tutoring during the summer months would not be the favorite activity of most middle school students, her mother told me that she actually begins laughing and smiling as they approach my building. The joy of reading!

Has anyone out there worked with children with CHARGE syndrome or those with multiple disabilities? I would love to learn about strategies you have used to support their reading!

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6. Live event with editor Andrew Harwell and literary agent Jenny Bent

Live Blog Live event with editor Andrew Harwell and literary agent Jenny Bent
 

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7. The Empire Strikes Back

No Fighting1 The Empire Strikes BackALSC Past-President Starr LaTronica responds to my July editorial. Incidentally, we’re publishing a terrific piece in the November issue by Thom Barthelmess (former ALSC prez and BGHB chair) about how to conduct oneself in a professional book discussion. Thom is far more temperate about these things than am I.

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8. Rockwell and Engelbreit

Over the weekend my family visited the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA. It was suggested as a things-to-do-with-kids-in-the-Berkshires activity because of Rockwell’s “accessibility” as an artist. (Be that as it may, the little boys were much more interested in climbing on the outdoor sculptures — allowed! — and running around on the lawn.) Amidst all the small-town folksy scenes and the smiling cheerleaders was Rockwell’s arresting The Problem We All Live With. Large and horizontal, among the mostly vertical and more contained (and restrained) pieces, the image commands attention and reminds viewers that Rockwell, though undoubtedly adept at capturing cozy Americana, had something more to say.

rockwell The problem we all live with Rockwell and Engelbreit

I then read in the news about the flap caused by illustrator Mary Engelbreit, best known for her sweet, cherubic children and bucolic scenes — from her website: “Mary Engelbreit is known throughout the world for her distinctive illustration style, imbued with spirited wit and nostalgic warmth.” The St. Louis native was inspired by events in Ferguson, Missouri. Who knew she had it in her? You go, Mary.

engelbreit ferguson Rockwell and Engelbreit

It’s an apt time to re-post last summer’s thoughtful, moving piece by Christopher Myers — “Young Dreamers” — about cultural diversity in children’s media, the state of race in America, and childhood cut short.

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9. The Voice of Reason

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to The Horn Book’s July/August 2014 editorial (“Don’t Speak!”) regarding the ALSC Policy for Service on Award Committees that was revised during the 2014 ALA Midwinter meeting.

In response to the ever-increasing number of requests regarding the appropriate use of social media from conscientious award committee members wishing to respect the code of confidentiality that has sustained the stature of these venerable awards well, the ALSC Board of Directors established a task force (TF) to examine the current policies and bring forth recommendations. The TF was intentionally designed to include a range of member and stakeholder thinking, and consisted of a representative from the publishing profession and four past or current award committee chairs; one of whom is a reviewer and blogger of national reputation, another of whom has served as consultant to the award committees for the past three years and has grappled with the queries and concerns from circumspect members and chairs. The issue of confidentiality within the changing landscape of electronic communication and social media was carefully considered. Many colleagues, including children’s librarians and publishers beyond those who actually served on the TF, were surveyed and consulted.

The TF and the ALSC Board absolutely acknowledge and respect the role that social media play in the professional responsibilities of librarians. We recognize their benefits and power in accessing, assessing, and promoting books and information to our colleagues and to our clientele. We value the dynamic discussion that they facilitate amongst passionate professionals. We appreciate the possibilities for enriching our service and our lives. However, we recognize that there are pitfalls as well. As former Horn Book editor Paul Heins observed in a School Library Journal letter to the editor from May 1972, “Twentieth Century life has become overorganized and overcomplex,” and that was over forty years and several eons ago.

Privacy is a price one may pay for public dissemination of information and opinion. As information professionals we have always worked to balance the public’s right to know with the individual’s right to privacy. ALSC award committee members value the confidentiality that guards the privacy of all committee discussion and fosters an environment of candor, honesty, and flexibility. Indeed, the preservation of this policy has kept the awards, as noted in your editorial, “admirably if boringly scandal-free.” Committee members are free to speak frankly, ask questions, and change their minds without worry that their comments will be repeated or even implied beyond that meeting room. If these confidences are compromised, and the effects compounded through global dissemination by electronic means, it could have a chilling result. This courtesy also extends to authors and illustrators whose work is under consideration. Many have heard Lauren Myracle speak of her public embarrassment when Shine was mistakenly announced as being on the short list for the National Book Award. When committee conjecture or inside information is released, it travels far and fast and can never be fully retrieved, much like the old folktale of gossip and feathers in the wind. Such a situation would undermine both the process and the perception of these prestigious awards. Committees of the present and future deserve the same protections and considerations as committees of the past.

A receptive atmosphere is also cultivated when members enter into the discussions with an open mind and without taking an official, public position on any title prior to discussion. Such a stance, whether endorsement or indictment, does have an influence on the ensuing deliberations, where every title should begin on level ground. While committee members are encouraged to discuss their opinions verbally (despite the title of the editorial), when commending or condemning an eligible title in writing via blog post, tweet, email, or signed review, a member is establishing a viewpoint from which the rest of the committee must then work. Readers of blogs and recipients of email are not under a confidentiality agreement and not constrained from forwarding on a committee member’s opinion, thus increasing the influence exponentially. As Miss Cary exhorts Benji in Christopher Paul Curtis’s novel The Madman of Piney Woods, “The written word is different. Once you commit something to print, you are, in effect, chained to it. It is always available to be looked at again and traced back to you.” That is true more than ever these days.

Despite the assertions of your editorial, librarians (and editors of review journals) who serve on award committees are still “able to promote good books” and fulfill their professional responsibilities (and pleasures) in many ways:

• Members of all committees may write and publish unsigned reviews of any book.

• Members of all committees (except the Batchelder) may write signed reviews or discuss via social media any book previously published in other countries, or by an author or illustrator who is not an American citizen or resident.

• The Batchelder committee members may write signed reviews or discuss via social media any book that has not been translated.

• Books with no illustration provide a wide field for members of the Caldecott committee.

• Books with no text are available for Newbery committee members (and seeing that all three Caldecott Honor Books qualified for that category this year, it would seem a rich field).

• The Belpré committee members are welcome to write signed reviews or discuss via social media any books by non-Latino authors and illustrators.

• Members of the Sibert committee may write signed reviews or discuss via social media all works of fiction.

• Geisel committee members may write signed reviews or discuss via social media any books beyond the scope of a beginning reader.

• The wide and wonderful world of YA literature is available to all of us who value and evaluate literature for older youth.

The editorial calls for “more fresh air” in the awards program. Luckily, there is a plethora of blogs and discussion lists offering ample opportunity to follow the thoughts and insights of well-read colleagues who are not serving on award committees and to engage in communal speculation and promotion of worthy titles — combining electronic communication and professional expertise for the best possible advantage and allowing us to participate vicariously without jeopardizing the purity of the process and dissipating the distinction of the awards, as with the editorial’s example of the Children’s Choice Book Award, where too many voices can crescendo into cacophony.

I confess that I am perplexed by the comment that impugns the integrity of members who contribute unsigned reviews “and remain free to revel in the attentions of publishers eager to wine and dine them.” The implication is that attending a publisher’s event without making a public declaration about a book is somehow unethical. I know of no member, reviewer, or editor of a review journal, whether penning an opinion or not, who would be influenced in such a manner. While some committees and individual committee members occasionally do decide to forego such invitations, that is their prerogative.

I am indebted to award committee members for their dedication to service and for requesting clarifications that have led to examination of the policy. I honor their concern and commitment to maintaining the ethical standards that underpin the eminence of these awards, and their understanding that awards of distinction (e.g., the National Book Award, The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books, etc.) carry a commitment to a certain level of comportment. They have our complete trust and confidence.

I am proud to be a member of this passionate profession and am grateful to all those who have added their voice to this discussion. Even when we may differ in opinion on process, I know that ultimately we all agree in principle — we want the very best for children. I invite any interested parties to peruse the official documents.

Roger Sutton responds:

I also encourage Horn Book readers to examine ALSC’s award guidelines and commentary at the link Starr provides, as well as to look at my editorial and the (sometimes heated!) comments it engendered.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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10. Welcome to Day 2!

Wasn’t yesterday awesome?! I hope you’ve been spending time in our forums. I can’t stress it enough — that’s where most of the WriteOnCon magic happens. Even if you don’t get your work commented on by an agent, you can learn a lot from the comments they leave for others.

We also hope you got a lot of information yesterday on what makes a good pitch. We have several more pitch events today, so we’re hoping to get through more of the HUNDREDS of pitches that have been submitted via our Google form.

You can still submit your pitch if you haven’t yet. (Please don’t submit a repeat! We only need you to put in your pitch once.) The form will remain open until 3 PM EST, at which time we will close it.

We have a couple of hours until our first event, so head over to the forums and get some critiquing done!

 

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11. End of Day 1!

Whew! So we made it through day one! Even through the glitches and changes and everything. That’s the great part about technology — you never really know if you can count on it!

We’re thrilled with your patience, and your kindness, as we work behind-the-scenes to put on the best events we can. We realize that we cannot meet everyone’s needs, so every “thank you!” and “you’re doing great!” mean a lot to us.

In case you missed some of the awesome today, here’s where you can go to get caught up:

Keynote by Literary Agent Peter Knapp

Twitter Pitch Event with literary agent Katie Reed (see if yours was selected; go to #writeoncon to read the feedback)

Twitter Pitch Event with literary agent Amy Stern (see if yours was selected; go to #writeoncon to read the feedback)

Live Chat with literary agent Molly Ker Hawn

Live Google Hangout with the editors at Spencer Hill Press

 

And we have another day of awesomeness lined up for tomorrow! We hope you’ve been hanging out in the forums, getting and giving feedback, and maybe doing a little Ninja stalking…

 

And if you can, we’d love for you to donate to WriteOnCon. It takes thousands of dollars each year to update the forums, purchase the plans we need for chatting, and increase our server capacity. NONE of the organizers behind the scenes get a dime — it all goes to making sure we can keep bringing you these great events.




Thanks!

 

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12. LIVE EVENT: Google Hangout with Danielle Ellison, Asja Parrish, and Patricia Riley of Spencer Hill Press

Danielle, Asja, and Patricia are looking for specific manuscripts. PLEASE DO NOT PITCH DURING THIS EVENT IF YOUR NOVEL DOES NOT MEET THE FOLLOWING CRITERIA:

  • -Only YA.
  • -Realistic (Contempoary) ONLY.
  • -Completed, revised MSs ONLY.

We will be TAKING YOUR PITCHES FROM TWITTER using the hashtag #wocshp. These are TWITTER PITCHES, meaning they must be 140 characters or less.

One of the cool things about the Google Hangout is that we can stream parameters into our feeds and thus, display them for our pros.  You’ll be ON TWITTER to pitch, once again using the hashtag #wocshp. We have it set so that all tweets with that hashtag come into our Hangout, where one of us will put the pitch on the screen for the pros to read.

You’ll then get to see their honest reactions. So be prepared! You’ll get to see their faces as they read, hear their voices as they react.

Watch on YouTube, or Google+.

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13. Submission Questions with Molly Ker Hawn

Live Blog Submission Questions with Molly Ker Hawn
 

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14. Keynote from Literary Agent Peter Knapp

There is an anecdote about the late editor Ursula Nordstrom that her posthumously published collection of letters, Dear Genius, has made popular among children’s publishing professionals. Ms. Nordstrom was the editor-in-chief and publisher of Harper & Row’s Department of Books for Boys and Girls for over thirty years, from 1940 until 1973. She worked with such authors as Margaret Wise Brown, Charlotte Zolotow, Maurice Sendak, Shel Silverstein, Crockett Johnson, and E. B. White, among many others. She was a fierce advocate for authors, a devoted writer of letters, a defender of challenging subjects and important books, and a brilliant editor. She was, quite simply, a visionary.

The anecdote goes like this: Ms. Nordstrom was at an event when someone questioned her credentials, asking what qualified her—a “nonteacher, nonparent, and noncollege graduate”—to edit and publish books for kids. Ms. Nordstrom, quick on the draw, responded, “Well, I am a former child, and I haven’t forgotten a thing.”

Doubt can come from any direction, at any time. It was true for Ursula Nordstrom, and it’s true for the rest of us, too. In creative endeavors especially it can feel like building paper boats and setting them adrift in vast seas of uncertainty. Is the plotting good enough? Is the voice strong enough? Do I actually have something to say? When striving to make something that is both entirely new and inevitably personal, it’s easy to question the validity of your claims and the credentials that allow you to make them. It is easy to both hear and be the nagging voice asking: what are your qualifications, anyways?

Have faith. You have surely, at one point or another, hesitated to put a period on a sentence, to hit save on a new story idea, to email off a first draft or to tell someone that yes, you are a writer. Doubt is good: it is your ally and your instrument. Anne Lamott, whose collection on writing Bird By Bird is immensely popular, wrote about uncertainty when addressing faith in Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith: “I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me—that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” It is not surprising, then, that Ms. Lamott has been so successful at writing about both faith and the creative process. In describing faith’s demand for uncertainty, she could just as easily have been describing the perquisites to write, for it too demands finding darkness and slowly shedding a light on it, sentence-by-sentence—word-by-word.

So what are the credentials that entitle you to attend a conference for writers? What qualifies you to be here is that you are here. Because you don’t just hear the nagging questions—you strive to answer them.

This is the spirit of WriteOnCon.

And when all else fails—when you find yourself facing down the darkest corner of the darkest room—just remember this: you are, in fact, a former child, too.

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15. Live Event Instructions

Okay, so this is probably the most important post you’ll read from us this year. It’s going to give you ALL the instructions for how each of our 8 live events will go. PLEASE READ every word of it. Then read it again. Then again. Then ask any questions you have. Any pitches that don’t follow the rules will be disqualified.

Live Twitter Pitch Events (schedule below):

1. These will happen on Twitter, using the hashtag #writeoncon. We encourage you to follow along using TweetChat or something similar where you can watch that specific hashtag.

2. You submit your pitches for our Live Twitter Pitch Events through a Google form, as per the instructions HERE (given on August 21. Pitches will be taken through the form until 3 PM EST on Wednesday). NOT on Twitter. NOT during the event. ANY pitches tweeted to the #writeoncon hashtag during the event will be disqualified!

3. We have a moderator for each of the Live Twitter Pitch Events. They will be logged into the @WriteOnCon account, and our pros have been instructed to ONLY respond to those pitches that come from the @WriteOnCon account.

4. We love the setup of this, because for the past 5 days, you’ve been able to submit your pitch for one of these events, whether or not you’ll be able to attend at their scheduled time. If your pitch is selected and you’re not online, never fear! We will make a list of those pitches that got through for each Pitch Event and put it in our forum. Then you can check the #writeoncon hashtag stream for the feedback on yours — anytime!

 

Live Twitter Pitch Events:

Tuesday, August 26

Noon EST: with literary agent Katie Reed (taking MG/YA/NA and women’s fiction pitches)

2 PM EST: with literary agent Amy Stern (taking PB illustrators, MG, YA, and SFF pitches)

 

Wednesday, August 27

10 AM EST: with literary agent Annie Berger (taking realistic fiction and fantasy pitches)

1 PM EST: with literary agent Carlie Webber (taking all genres of MG and YA except for epic/high fantasy)

3 PM EST: with literary agent Victoria Marini (genres TBA)

 

So that’s 5 hours of pitch feedback! Even if yours doesn’t get selected, think of how much you can learn!!

 

Google Hangout Pitch Events:

We have one Google Hangout Pitch Event happening this year, with three editors from Spencer Hill Press. This event will take place on Tuesday night at 9 PM EST. We will broadcast this live Hangout via our website and YouTube.

1. For this event ONLY, you will submit your pitches live via twitter with the special hashtag #wocshp (WriteOnCon Spencer Hill Press). ONLY pitches with this hashtag will make it into our queue of pitches for the event. It will run similarly to the one SHP did last year. Check that out here.

2. ONLY YA realistic contemporary pitches. NO exceptions. (Well, you can tweet it, but we won’t put it up in the Hangout.)

3. Even if you can’t attend, if you can tweet, you can participate. The video will be available for you and your posterity. So hopefully you can get to a phone or tablet or computer to tweet your pitch with the appropriate hashtag.

 

Live Chats:

We have two live text chats this year, with industry professionals. These will be embedded in our website on THIS PAGE, and the transcript will be posted later and be available online for as long as this site is up.

Tuesday, August 26

4 PM EST: with literary agent Molly Ker Hawn on the submission process

Wednesday, August 27

9 PM EST: with literary agent Jenny Bent and editor Andrew Harwell on the general publishing industry

 

1. We will take questions during these events, using Twitter. You will tweet your question using the hashtag #writeoncon, and we will select the ones we think will have the widest audience appeal. (That’s a hint not to ask too personal and/or specific questions!)

2. This is a new chatting program, where our users can contribute to the chat. We have never done this before–we have always moderated the comments. But this year, we’d love to have you chat with each other for the few minutes before the chat starts.

BUT — once the chat starts, we’re going to ask you to keep your comments to yourself. The questions you have should go through the Twitter #writeoncon hashtag stream.

IF — we feel like you’re inserting too many comments during the chat, we do have the power to delete them and/or ban you from commenting in the chat. Please don’t make us do that!

3. Transcript available afterward if you can’t attend the event live.

 

And that’s it! Those are our 8 events, and we’re hoping to address hundreds of pitches, learn a lot about the publishing industry, and give you the best WriteOnCon yet!

 

 

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16. Welcome to WriteOnCon 2014!

We’re so glad you’re here with us for our fifth year! It has been fun to be behind-the-scenes every year, watching as WriteOnCon grows and changes with the needs/wants of the industry, as well as our attendees.

If you’ve checked our Program page, you’ve noticed how we’ve scaled WriteOnCon down to include what everyone wants: Live Events. We have 8 of them this year, and in 30 minutes, you’ll see a post here on the site that gives you detailed instructions for how to participate in these Live Events. So watch for that, and be sure to read it!

Other than that, welcome to WriteOnCon! We hope you’ve registered in the forum, as we have dozens of Ninja Agents trolling through the critique boards, looking for potential clients and giving feedback. You can also find critique partners and offer feedback on other attendees’ work. Don’t overlook the magic that happens in the WOC forums!

Ready, set — GO!

 

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17. Frankly, tired of reading Anne Frank

frank diary of a young girl Frankly, tired of reading Anne FrankI’ve hit an academic dilemma at summer camp this year. For the past three years at this gifted students’ camp, my lead instructor has chosen to teach The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank). Yes, the book provides an entryway into a very difficult historical topic; yes, it’s pretty amazing to watch Anne’s growth; and yes, she is a role model and a hero for multiple reasons. But I’m so tired of reading and teaching Anne’s diary year after year. Though it’s new to my students every time, it’s become monotonous to me. I’m bored!

I encountered the same problem with another lead teacher during the school year, except she couldn’t stand Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.  Having been raised in California, I read this book in elementary school because the narrative explained so much about Native American daily life in California. My lead teacher had used the text for over ten years, so it was understandable why she was simply sick of the book. As her assistant now given the task of teaching Island of the Blue Dolphins, I asked her why she didn’t switch Island of the Blue Dolphins out for another book. Her reasoning was that she saw the value in teaching it despite her feelings.

inside out back again thanhha lai hardcover cover art Frankly, tired of reading Anne FrankMy solution so far is to find suitable replacements (Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, in case you were wondering) but recognize that this isn’t feasible for most teachers on a regular basis. To choose a replacement means taking the time to find a book that matches what you find value in the original (now boring) book, write a whole new curriculum, and figure out how to teach it. It’s much easier to pull out familiar curriculum.

So what to do about Anne Frank? I still haven’t decided if I want to say goodbye to her forever. But the question still stands: what do you do when you have a book of value and you don’t have the passion for teaching it anymore? Do you continue to teach it because of its merit, or shelve it?

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18. The 2014 Schedule!

In case you haven’t been obsessively refreshing the “program” page, here it is!

 

GO HERE TO SEE THE SCHEDULE OF LIVE EVENTS for WriteOnCon 2014!

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19. Announcing… our Ninja Agents for 2014!

We’re so excited to be bringing you our NINJA AGENT program again this year!

This program will take place in the forums–so you must be registered and using the forums to participate. If you haven’t already done that, go HERE.

Here’s what you’ll do:
1. Post your absolute best, polished query letter or writing sample in the appropriate critique threads in the forums. (Please look carefully and ask questions if you’re unsure about where to post, and make sure you follow all our forum guidelines)
2. Don your thick dragon skin, cross your fingers, and keep checking your forum posts, because our Ninja Agents will be sneaking around, leaving feedback on whatever strikes their fancy–which could very well be YOUR QUERY.
3. Pray you’ve perfected your work enough to generate a request. Some agents may be requesting from the posts they read.
4. Remember your manners. Please don’t engage in hurtful behavior toward an industry professional because of feedback they might leave on your query. Remember, publishing is SO SUBJECTIVE.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it. All you have to do is use our forums the same way you should be using them anyway (because they’re AWESOME) and you could have a super-cool Ninja-Agent critique your work. And even if they don’t comment on your work (they promise they will try to comment/critique on as many as they can) you can learn SO much from the comments they leave for others. Because really, the best part about the forum is that you can go read the feedback whenever your schedule allows.

What the Ninjas will do:
1. Each Ninja Agent will be in the forum during the conference. You won’t know who, and you won’t know when…that’s the beauty of a ninja. They strike when you’re least expecting it.
2. Ninja Agents have been encouraged to leave feedback—as detailed or as vague as they want—on as many queries as they can. They can also request from the queries they read.

We are announcing who the Ninja Agents are, but not when they’ll be Ninja-ing or who’s who. So Ninja Agent Blue could be any of the following….

Our Ninjafied Nunchuckatorians are:

  • Pete Knapp, Park Literary
  • Victoria Marini, Gelfman Schneider Literary
  • Kathleen Zakhar,  Harold Ober Associates, Inc.
  • Katie Grimm, Don Congdon Associates, Inc.
  • Janine Hauber, Sheldon Fogelman Agency
  • Danielle Smith, Red Fox Literary
  • Jaida Temperly, New Leaf Literary
  • Danielle Barthel, New Leaf Literary
  • Jess Ballow, New Leaf Literary
  • Amy Sterm, Sheldon Fogelman Agency
  • Carlie Webber, CK Webber Associates
  • Renee Nyen, KT Literary
  • Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary
  • Laura Cummings, Foreword Literary
  • Brian Farrey-Latz, Flux
  • Alycia Tornetta, Entangled Publishing
  • Nicole Steinhaus, Entangled Publishing
  • Katie Reed, Andrea Hurst & Associates Literary Management
  • Jackie Lindert, New Leaf Literary
  • Alex Slater, Trident Media Literary
  • Annie Berger, Harper Collins
  • Rena Rossner, Deborah Harris Agency
  • Patricia Riley, Spencer Hill Press

The Ninja-Agent Program is open for business starting on Tuesday, August 26, though some of our ninjas may make an appearance before that!

We hope this program will benefit everyone, from those who post their query to those reading the comments/opinions from some of the top literary agents in the publishing world.

Questions? Ask them here!

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20. Happiness and high school humanities

I got a request this past year from my friends at Boston Green Academy (BGA) to help them consider their Humanities 4 curriculum, which focuses on philosophies, especially around happiness. This was a tough request for me, and certainly not one I had considered before. There aren’t any titles I can think of that say “Philosophy: Happiness” on their covers to pull me directly down this path.

But as I thought about it, I got more and more excited about how this topic is tackled in the YA world. The first set of books I considered were titles that dealt with “the meaning of life” in a variety of ways. Titles like Nothing by Janne Teller, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass, and one of my personal favorites, The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp give lots of food for thought about where we expend our energy and the wisdom of how we prioritize our attention in life.

 teller nothing 213x300 Happiness and high school humanities    maas jeremyfink 201x300 Happiness and high school humanities    tharp spectacularnow 199x300 Happiness and high school humanities

This, of course, led to stories about facing challenges and finding happiness despite (or because) of the circumstances in our lives.  So we pulled texts like The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, and Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, which all deal with characters finding ways to deal with and even prosper alongside difficult circumstances.

green faultinourstars Happiness and high school humanities     vizzini kindofFunnyStory 204x300 Happiness and high school humanities     stork marcelo 195x300 Happiness and high school humanities

Then we happened upon a set of titles that raise questions about whether you can be “happy” if you are or are not being yourself. We pulled segments of titles like Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, Tina’s Mouth by Keshni Kashyap, American-Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, and Rapture Practice, which I’ve talked about here before.

openly straight Happiness and high school humanities     saenz aristotleanddante 199x300 Happiness and high school humanities     keshni tinasmouth 234x300 Happiness and high school humanities     hartzler rapturepractice 203x300 Happiness and high school humanities

And then there were a world of nonfiction possibilities, those written for young people and those not — picture books by Demi about various figures, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s ideas about work and play, and any number of great series texts about philosophers and religions and such.

So I guess the (happy) moral of this story is that it was much easier than I thought to revisit old texts with these new eyes of philosophies of happiness. I left the work feeling as though every text is about this very important topic in one way or another, and I can’t wait to see how the BGA curriculum around it continues to evolve!

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21. Brendan Reichs: Confessions of a Dynamic YA Author

Brendan Reichs, co-writer of the YA Fiction Virals series, shares with us some insights, favorites, and confessions of his dynamic author life.

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22. Virals, by Kathy and Brendan Reichs | Series Review

In Virals, acclaimed mother and son writing duo Kathy and Brendan Reichs have created a captivating and enthralling series by incorporating science fiction and crime with a contemporary perspective, via 4 teens who are navigating an unusually adventurous adolescence.

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23. Pitch Event Instructions

Only a few days left, WriteOnCon-ers! We hope you have your pitches prepped and your mouse ready to repeatedly refresh (if you’re anything like us, that is). We’re so excited to bring a great con this year, full of opportunities to get feedback from an awesome group of agents and editors.

Last year, we heard some frustration about how our pitch events were structured. We get it—repeatedly tweeting pitches is no fun, especially if you don’t get selected. So we’re doing things a little differently. First of all, our focus this year has been to create as many pitch opportunities as possible. Most of our events are pitch focused this year. If you don’t have something pitch-ready just yet, there’s still plenty to learn, though! Observing critiques and giving a little feedback can really make a difference when you’re ready to tackle it yourself.

We’re also adjusting our submission procedures. If you’d like to submit a pitch for our live events, here’s what you do:

  • Click here to go to the submission form, which is open NOW!
  • Submit your pitch using the instructions on the form. We are only accepting short, tweetable pitches via this form (140 characters or less including the #writeoncon hashtag). If you’re looking for feedback on a longer pitch or query letter, please post that in the forums.
  • THAT’S IT.

By following those instructions, your pitch will be submitted for all of the events. There’s no need to submit multiple times—please don’t! Select your best pitch and enter it into the form one time. We’re trying to get feedback for as many people as possible and will delete multiple pitches from the same person.

We’ll be selecting pitches at random during the event itself, although submitting early is a good idea. The earlier you get in, the more chances you’ll have of being selected. The reality is that in past years, we’ve received enough pitches to do 10 conventions. We’ll try to select as many of them as possible in the time that we have, but we simply don’t have time for all of them. You can help us to maximize the number of pitches we get through by following the rules!

During twitter events, we’ll tweet selected pitches from our @writeoncon account, using the hashtag #writeoncon. The agent will tweet their reactions from their account. We’ll make sure to post those twitter handles in advance so you know where to look, but in a pinch, always search the #writeoncon hashtag.

For our Google hangout, we will post links to the hangout on this blog, on the @writeoncon twitter, and on our facebook page. Those don’t go live until shortly before the event, so don’t worry if you don’t see them far in advance.

And you’ll find our live chats here, embedded right into a post on this blog. Again, that post will open shortly before the event begins to give you time to log in.

We’re still putting together a few last minute events, but the schedule will be posted as soon as we have it. Have any other questions? You can post them here in the comments, and there’s a question section in the forum as well. Let us know, and we’ll give you a hand.

Write on!

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24. Win an iPod Touch and The Darracia Saga, by Michael Phillip Cash | Giveaway

Enter to win audiobook downloads of The Darracia Saga, by Michael Phillip Cash, and an iPod touch Space Gray!

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25. Do you read your reviews?

statlerwaldorf Do you read your reviews?I’ve been reading soprano Barbara Hendricks‘s memoir, Lifting My Voice, and it’s led me not only to a rewarding reacquaintance with her singing but to some thinking about the relationship between the artist and the critic. Hendricks spills a suspicious amount of ink over how she doesn’t pay any attention to critics (whose opinions of her highly distinctive voice have long been divided), but even if the lady doth protest too much for me to exactly believe her, her essential argument–that critics aren’t helpful to artists–is a good one:

“A review of my performance is totally useless in teaching me about myself. Reviews reveal so much more about the reviewer than they do about the artists. Until her death Miss Tourel [Hendricks's teacher, Jennie Tourel] was my most demanding critic, and since then I have had to assume that task myself. I learned during my first year as a professional singer that a review was not the right criteria to determine how well I had done my work, whether I had done what I had set out to do. I know my repertoire and I know when I have done my best work.”

Hendricks goes on to recall contradictory reviews, mean reviews, and seeing a reviewer who had really gone after her: “He was slight, had thinning hair, wore very thick glasses, and did not look like a happy person.” But all this is to miss the point. It’s not a reviewer’s job to make a singer–or a writer–a better one. We aren’t here to help you; we’re here to help inform audiences and potential audiences. (Even Hendricks graciously if barely allows that she “imagines critics serve some purpose and I do not want to do away with them.” Big of you, thanks.)

If I were a novelist I hope I wouldn’t go near reviews of my own work. What have I to gain? Stars and pans, Kipling’s impostors alike. (I guess I would hope that my agent or editor were paying attention, though, so as to strain anything that might be useful to me through a filter of helpfulness.) Must be hard to resist, though, especially in an age when reviews go flying about through social media and a “we’re all in this together” ethos pervades the field.

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