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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Writing Conferences, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 65
1. Counting Blessings with Hannah Hall

Spring arrived a few weeks early here in my little corner of the world when I found God Bless Our Easter by Hannah C. Hall.

And no, Hannah is no relation to Cathy C. Hall. But I’d love to share a cup of tea and talk writing with her. Too bad Hannah’s all the way in Arkansas! Thankfully, her lovely book is here on my doorstep, so let’s take a look.

In God Bless Our Easter, the most adorable baby animals ever playfully romp through a spring day. The rhyming text tells of their discovery of God’s blessings in rain puddles and shady naps, in sunny daffodils and soaring butterflies. God Bless Our Easter is the perfect book for a toddler’s springtime basket, though it’s sure to find a place in your child’s heart through all the seasons.

And thanks to the blessing of email, I did have a chance to chat with Hannah and ask her a few questions.

When did you begin your writing journey?

My mom predicted when I was a very little girl that I was going to grow up to be an author. I was always, always reading. I didn't get serious about writing, however, until college. When a professor I both respected and was terrified of told me I should to switch my minor to Journalism, I did as I was told! I wrote for my college newspaper and then transitioned into freelance writing for a few small magazines after graduation.

When I started having children, my mom again encouraged me that I should write for kids. Having never taken a creative writing course, I didn't think I had the imagination to do it. However, as my kids and their imaginations grew, I found my inspiration.

My "official" writing journey began after I pitched my first manuscript for a picture book at a conference. Though that particular story has yet to be published, I met an editor at a meeting there that resulted in the God Bless series, of which I'm now in the process of writing the fourth book.

Moral of the story: go to conferences and listen to your elders!

What’s your writing process?

My process is certainly not very technical or structured. I'm a stay-at-home mom, so I do a lot of writing in my head while I fold clothes or wash dishes. I always keep a pad of paper and an ink pen by my side or in my purse. There is something about gliding a good ink pen over nice paper that inspires my creativity in a way a computer screen never can.

Since I write a weekly blog, I am always thinking on that as well. What am I learning in the day-to-day from my children or about parenting or marriage that might be useful to someone else? I would hate to have these experiences (good and bad) and someone not get something out of it. I want to be real with people, and I really want them to learn from my (many) mistakes!

How did you find your agent?

I queried many agents, and I'm not sure I got even so much as a rejection letter from any of them. They simply never responded. It was very disheartening. I stumbled on to the amazing Sally Apokedak while checking out a conference that she happened to be speaking at. (Conferences, again!) She responded to my query very quickly, and I appreciated that so much. She is a writer herself, so she respects writers and the time (and nerve) it takes to send out queries. She is down-to-earth, truthful, and truly a blessing to me.

A big thank you to Hannah Hall for sharing her blessings with us here at the Muffin!

And P.S. Sally Apokedak is our amazing judge for the Spring Flash Fiction Contest. So if Hannah’s inspired you today, why not pick up your pen and give springtime writing a whirl? You might be blessed with a winning story!

~Cathy C. Hall

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2. KidLit Writers’ Events

We don’t have any KidLit Author/Illustrator events this week, (although super-writer Brandon Sanderson who has a new YA novel STEELHEART  is at Murder By the Book tonight promoting the newest book in his current series for adults) so I thought I’d let you in on what’s going on around Houston for those who write books for kids and teens.

March 15, 9:00 a.m. Recurring: Third Saturday of each month
Bunker Hill HEB Community Room, 9710 Katy Fwy, Houston, Texas 77055
Houston YAMG Writers Group

Houston YAMG Writers Group is happy to have Elizabeth White of The Writer’s Studio of Houston speaking this month on How to Wow Readers on Page One!

To get an agent’s or an editor’s attention, yes, you need a “hook” that draws them in. Yes, you need flawless prose. And, yes, you need a style of your own and an idea so unique, your readers won’t let go. And, you need something else: you need a terrible problem that catches any reader’s heart, and a character whose pain and desire are achingly evident from the start. Come learn to let the deeper elements of character arise in your first words, so that you hook not just readers’ minds, but their souls. Elizabeth has asked that everyone try to bring in an example of a well-written first page from a novel they love.
Follow Houston YAMG Writers on Twitter!

March 20, Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Recurring
Barnes & Noble, Baybrook II, Webster, TX
BAWL (Bay Area Writers’ League) Critique Group

Members of the Bay Area Writers’ League meet on the first and third Thursday of each month to improve their writing efforts.

March 22, Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Brazos Valley SCBWI Workshop with Martha Wells
Registration: $20 for SCBWI members /$25 non-members. Seating is limited. Please r.s.v.p: brazosvalley@scbwi.org

“Writing Speculative Fiction for Kids and Teens,” a morning workshop with acclaimed fantasy author Martha Wells. She will offer her expert overview of speculative fiction, including tips, resources, exercises and practical advice. Bring your questions for a time of Q&A. Copies of Martha’s books will be available for purchase—cash or check only.

March 24, Monday, 7:30 p.m. Recurring
Barnes & Noble, Baybrook II, Webster, TX
SCBWI Critique Group

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators meets on the second and fourth Monday of each month. Join us as we give and receive feedback on our writing projects!

There is still time to sign up for the awesome writers’ conferences coming up in April:

The Houston Writers Guild Annual Agents & Editors Conference: April 12

Keynote Presenter—Nikki Loftin (Penguin/Razorbill author of The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy and Nightingale’s Nest)
Pre-conference Workshop (Power Revision, editor Meghan Pinson)
Post-conference Workshops (Author Platform, author Joy Preble).
Agent/editor pitch sessions (Eddie Schneider— JABberwocky, Jennifer Udden—Donald Maass, Pooja Menon—Kimberley Cameron, Stella Riley —Soul Mate Publishing, Dawn Dowdle—Blue Ridge Literary Agency, Jessica Kirkland—Blythe Danield Agency


Keynote Presenter: Two-time Newbery Honor Winner and NAtional Book Award Finalist Gary D. Schmidt,
Agents: Stephen BarrWriters House; Stephen Fraser—Jennifer DeChiara Literacy Agency; Natalie LakosilBradford Literary Agency
Editors: Kendra Levin—Senior Editor, Viking Books for Children, Penguin; Jocelyn Davies—Editorial Assistant, HarperCollins;
Julie Ham—Associate Editor, Charlesbridge
Art Director: Jim Hoover—Associate Art Director, Viking Children’s Books, Penguin Group
PLUS: There is still time to sign up for a critique with authors Kathy Duval, Sherry Garland, Joy Preble, and Ana María Rodríguez.

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3. Whispering Woods

I'm headed off later this afternoon to one of the highlights of my writing year:  the Whispering Woods Picture Book Writing Workshop/Retreat. I'm one of the facilitators, along with my author friend Linda Skeers, so obviously I'm biased, but I urge all of you to someday try an away-from-home writing workshop/retreat. It can be nothing short of life changing. Briefly...

1.  You get to focus solely on your passion – writing for kids – in a warm, friendly, no-distractions atmosphere.

2.  You make new friends (the importance of friendship and support from other writers is crucial, at least for me).

3.  Your work is read and compassionately critiqued by people who understand how tough it is to put yourself out there – they're doing it, too.

My first writing retreat was one sponsored by SCBWI-IL. Technically, it wasn't a workshop, but it was the first time I'd spent an entire weekend focused on my writing, so I'm counting it. I met amazing writers at every turn, people with whom I felt an instant rapport (Esther!). I made a connection with a sweetheart of an editor. But the best, most affecting thing about that weekend? I came away feeling like a writer. For the first time. (People who don't write might not get that, but I know most of you will.) It was almost as though I'd finally been given permission to take my writing seriously. I know, I know. Nobody has to GIVE us permission to follow our dreams, but with a busy husband and three active kiddos, it was way too easy to put my "little hobby" on the back burner. The positive feedback I got on my writing made me realize that a career in children's books wasn't a fantasy.

I've heard great things about on-line workshops. And sometimes those are the best option – maybe the only option – for writers who cannot get away. (I wish the internet had been around when I was starting out!)

I've also heard (or read about online, anyway) writing workshop horror stories about nasty critiquers and jealous/pompous/frustrated instructors, but I believe (hope!) those are rare (or nonexistent) at workshops centered on writing for children.

So if you can swing it someday, go for an in-person workshop. Do your homework first, of course. Look for online reviews of whichever one you're considering. Talk to others who have attended, if possible. Then, when you feel ready, take the plunge.

Truthfully, I get as much as I give at Whispering Woods. Talking about writing all weekend, reading dozens of quality picture books, reading and critiquing the work of others....All that concentrated picture book STUDY improves my own writing as much as I hope attendees are improving theirs.

I love it when everybody wins.

Jill Esbaum
(photos were taken by me on the grounds of the retreat facility here in eastern Iowa where Linda and I hold our workshop)

7 Comments on Whispering Woods, last added: 8/4/2013
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4. A Few More Words about Contests

I have the pleasure of wrapping up this series of posts about writing contests. Unlike Mary Ann, I've never won any money in a writing contest, but several of my entries, including the first two I submitted way back in high school, did lead to publication. The poem April shared in her post perfectly captures the sense of elation those publications gave me. In fact, it was that feeling that inspired me to want to become a writer.

As Esther mentioned in her post, I've updated our Links page to include a section on writing contests. I've added a few more since Esther's post, including the Shabo Award for Picture Book Writers. Entry deadline for that one is August 10 this year, so if you're interested, don't delay. And if you know of any contests I missed, please share the information as a comment below.

There's one contest I'd like to discuss here that I couldn't provide a permanent link to because it changes every year, and that's the fiction contest associated with the annual SCBWI Midsouth Fall Conference. Last year, I entered the YA category and was fortunate to receive an Honorable Mention. While that hasn't led to publication (yet), I believe that mentioning the honor has brought more attention to my queries--at least I'm getting personalized rejections. :-) I also know that one of the agents attending the conference went up to a contest winner and asked if she was seeking representation. When the winner said "yes," the agent asked to read her winning manuscript.

Unfortunately, the 2013 SCBWI Midsouth Fiction Contest is already sold out, though there are still openings to attend the conference. But there are plenty of other SCBWI contest and grant opportunities. For example, last year, SCBWI-Illinois offered a contest as part of the annual Prairie Writer's Day. I don't know if that contest will be offered again this year, but you can watch for details on the Illinois regional events page at SCBWI. And there are all sorts of awards and grants available through SCBWI, which you can read about on the official website.

As my fellow TeachingAuthors have already mentioned, one of the benefits of entering a contest is that it provides a deadline as motivation to finish a project. I have also entered contests where, even if you don't win a prize, you receive a critique of your submission. This is true of many of the contests offered by individual chapters of the Romance Writers Association. Author Stephie Smith regularly updates an online list of such contests, including those for young adult literature. Two other contests I've entered that offer critiques and that are open to YA and/or children's literature are the Pacific Northwest Writer's Association Literary Contest and The Sandy.

If we haven't given you enough reasons for researching and entering writing contests, read this blog post at writers-editors.com. And for tips from former contest judges, see this contest tip sheetalso from writers-editors.com.

Do keep us posted if you enter any of the contests we've mentioned in this series, whether or not your entry wins. And good luck!

Happy writing!

0 Comments on A Few More Words about Contests as of 7/26/2013 9:14:00 AM
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5. SCBWI Florida- Picture Book Intensive

The SCBWI Florida workshop in Orlando, FL consists of two days. The Friday is a day of intensives that work on a writer's craft in a particular genre.

This year I decided to stretch myself and took the picture book intensive with Sylvie Frank, associate editor at Holiday House, and Andrea Davis Pinkney, a New York Times best-selling and award-winning author and Vice President Executive Editor for Scholastic.

I was so impressed with the expertise and professionalism that both of these ladies had. After taking their workshop, I came away with new knowledge of how to use the economy of writing when creating a picture book as well as using a picture book dummy to determine if my pacing was on target. 

Excellent advice from Andrea was that there is no such thing as writer's block!

Sylvie had us create a picture book from paper so we could better understand how the picture book is laid out. Once we made ours, then we looked at the pacing of the picture book and how to determine if our story's pacing was strong enough. If you'd like to try, here's a great link to get you started.

7 Comments on SCBWI Florida- Picture Book Intensive, last added: 6/24/2012
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6. Writing Conferences- How to Know Which Ones to Attend?

Today I'm pleased to post my interview with Sarah Nicolas who attended the SCBWI Orlando, FL conference with me. She is a young adult writer who is famous for her youtube channel, YARebels.

In this interview she shares about her best conference experience. Sarah is also the acquisitions intern for Entangled and in this interview she shares common mistakes writers make.

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7. Interview with Larissa Hardesty

I'm thrilled to share with you the interview I did we my local critique partner, Larissa Hardesty. We met a while back through Verla Kay's Blueboards. When I moved back to the States, I hitched a ride with Jessica Souders and her down to the SCBWI conference in Miami. Ever since we've been swapping chapters with each other.
She attended the SCBWI conference here in Orlando, FL with me and I asked her about what she was hoping to get out of the conference as well as tips of what to bring to a conference.

Thanks Larissa!

I'm also giving away another book of Danette Haworth's from the conference, SUMMER OF MOONLIGHT SECRETS. All you have to do is write a comment below. If you tweet, blog, or Facebook about this post, let me know in your comment for an extra point. Deadline in July 13th!

3 Comments on Interview with Larissa Hardesty, last added: 7/1/2012
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8. SCBWI Young Adult Workshop

During the SCBWI conference in Orlando, FL, I also attended the Young Adult workshop. This was led by Noa Wheeler, editor for Henry Holt, and Nancy Werlin, bestselling author of numerous books including Extraordinary. These two ladies did an excellent job exploring ways to tackle issues we face as young adult authors.

Noa Wheeler talked about how to deepen our characters by asking questions about them. One of the best questions she asked was “Is my character active?” She says we should be asking ourselves this question all through the book.

She also had us create 100 questions for our characters. I was really excited after I finished because these questions helped me build a more three dimensional character for my current WIP.

In the afternoon, Noa discussed how to write a flap copy and gave us specific examples from the books she’s edited. She said that usually the assistant editor writes these for the books, but they are a great exercise to find what the big issues of our stories are about.

Nancy is currently revising the third book that will come after Extraordinary. She broke down the revision process she is undertaking right now which I found fascinating in how she tackled her revisions. She also explained how she used the feedback from her critique partners to write another revision.

Overall, I came away with some new ways to revise and a stack of answered questions I hadn’t known about my main character.

Have you ever interviewed your characters? Did you find that helpful and if so, which questions did you find to be the most helpful?

8 Comments on SCBWI Young Adult Workshop, last added: 7/31/2012
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9. Preparation: Don't Leave Home Without It

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.


I am a big believer in preparation, especially when it comes to writing conferences. Probably because I look at conferences as more of “workferences.” I mean, yes, I confer with a ton of people. But honestly, I work that event like a politician in a room full of babies.

Which doesn’t exactly sound polite. And I am very polite. But I’m also a writer determined to maximize my return of investment. And that takes weeks of preparation before I ever walk (nervously) through the doors of opportunity.

Here’s what I do. (Maybe it’ll help you.)

Check the schedule and target the sessions that offer you the advice and information you need for where you are in your writer’s journey. If you’re a sparkly new writer, you’ll want to find classes for the beginner. But if you have a couple of finished manuscripts, you'll want to hear what agents and editors have to say. Most conferences offer plenty of sessions, for all levels of writers.

Research the speakers. Read the books they’ve authored, or at least familiarize yourself with what they’ve published. For agents, know what they’re looking for, and for editors, check the books they’ve edited. Because you may find yourself at lunch (mostly because you planned it that way) sitting next to the editor from a huge publishing house. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could say, “Oh, I loved (fill-in-the-blank-with-a-book-she-edited)!” And a delightful conversation ensues.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You don’t want to be that writer, the one who’s sucking up. But you’re not sucking up; you’re working. Speakers want to help you. They’re happy to share their expertise. They come to conferences, expecting to meet and talk with lots and lots of writers. They’re looking for their next writer star.

Of course, if you know too much about a speaker, you’re saying, “I’m that crazy writer who’ll pick up your used napkin after you leave.” You do not want to be that writer.

You do want to be that writer who says, “Wow. That conference was worth every penny!” So put in the work before the conference and you may find yourself quoting Henry Hartman who said, “Success happens when opportunity meets preparation.”

(I prepare Cathy-on-a-Stick for conferences as well. But she never really behaves herself.)

4 Comments on Preparation: Don't Leave Home Without It, last added: 9/1/2012
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10. Spotlight On: Writer’s Digest Conference West

writers digestNo matter if you are new to writing or looking to connect with other passionate writers like yourself, the Writer’s Digest Conference West is the place to be. This special event takes place October 19-21 at the Loews Hollywood Hotel & Spa in Los Angeles, CA.

5 Reasons to Attend the Writer’s Digest Conference West

When you attend this conference, you’ll:

  • Explore publishing trends. Hear industry pros debate the pros and cons of self-publishing, discuss the best ways to market your book, and listen to them share their perspectives on writing the first chapter or mastering conflict and suspense.
  • Get discovered. Ever heard of a pitch slam? During the conference, you’ll have opportunity to sit down with agents, pitch your work, and receive immediate feedback. More than 30 agents who are seeking new writers will be in attendance.
  • Learn from bestselling authors. Do you want to know the secrets to writing a novel or building an audience? Attend sessions focused on writing-related topics with award-winning writers like James Scott Bell, Steven James, Elizabeth Sims, Aimee Bender, Nina Amir, Victoria Lynn Schmidt, and many more!
  • Network and connect with liked-minded writers. Being around other writers can not only provide you with the inspiration and encouragement you need to hone your craft but also potentially lead to new opportunities!

Additional Details

Interested in attending this year’s conference? Look at the register page and choose from several options!

The price to attend the full conference for an individual is $495.

If you only want to attend all the sessions offered on Saturday, including the Pitch Slam and lunch, you’ll pay $375.

The price to attend the exclusive boot camp with Rob Eagar, author of Sell Your Book Like Wildfire, is $199.

You can also choose to attend all three conferences–StoryWorld Conference + Expo 2012 (October 17-19), Screenwriters World Conference 2012 (October 19-21), and the Writer’s Digest Conference West 2012 (October 19-21) at the Loews Hollywood Hotel–for $945.

If you book your hotel by September 24th, you’ll be able to take advantage of a special, discounted hotel rate of $199 (plus taxes and gratuities). Click here to see rates and to reserve your room.

Mark your calendar now & plan on attending this year’s Writer’s Digest Conference West!

Register now!

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11. How to Get the Most Out of a Writing Conference

In only a few weeks, our staff will be venturing west for the Writer’s Digest Conference in Los Angeles, set for Oct. 19-21.

On tap this year, writers can expect keynotes by Aimee Bender and Steven James, sessions taught by authors Elizabeth Sims, James Scott Bell, Rob Eagar, Nina Amir and many others, workshops on everything from crafting characters to agents and marketing, and, of course, our signature speed-dating style pitch slam loaded with agents.

If you’re going (or if you’re planning to attend another conference any time soon), here’s some valuable advice from an article the brilliant Elizabeth Sims wrote for us. (If you see her at the Writer’s Digest Conference West, I highly recommend offering to tap her wisdoms over a martini. She’s good people. And wise people, if you’ll forgive my already broken colloquialisms.)



1. Arrive early to scope out everything, get settled and make friends. It’s incredibly bracing to have someone you can eat with or wave to as you enter a room.

2. Be on the lookout for faculty hanging around during downtime. Strike up a conversation, not about yourself and your work, but about them, because you’re here to learn. Try questions like, “If you were just starting out today, what would you be writing?” or, “What’s the best attribute an author can have?”

3. Carry a full-sized notebook for the full-sized ideas you’re going to write—not a tiny one for tiny ideas.

4. Focus sharply on what you want. Make a mission statement: “At this conference I intend to learn how to write better suspense / organize my nonfiction project / figure out an ending to my novel.”

5. If you’ve submitted work for critique, be open and receptive. Never argue or try to justify anything. Ask for more explanation, but don’t take notes—it’ll only distract you. As soon as it’s over, write full notes.

6. Make up your mind you won’t be judgmental, easily offended or needy. Remember, it’s not about you—it’s about your writing.

Bonus tips:

  • Take nothing for granted. Speak up and ask lots of questions.
  • Cut your losses and leave a session that’s not right for you. Step in late to another one where you might learn something truly useful. If that fails, find a sunny spot outside, open your notebook, and do some writing until lunch. Any writing.
  • Writing is the only thing that matters. Do it.
  • Agents might be only human (as they continually insist they are), but they can also be as callous as dingoes, so cast a wide net when searching for a good one.
  • In spite of everything going against us, writers are as doggedly hopeful as orphans on Parents’ Day. This, I think, should be celebrated.
  • Fight smugness and spitefulness for all you’re worth.
  • Worship ye not heroes.
  • Figure out how much whiskey you think you’ll need, then pack double that amount.


Zachary Petit is an award-winning journalist, the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine, and the co-author of A Year of Writing Prompts: 366 Story Ideas for Honing Your Craft and Eliminating Writer’s Block.

Like what you read from WD online? Check us out in print, or check out our digital subscription. Also, do you have a question for a writing pro? We’re starting a new advice column, and nothing is off limits. Click here for more details and the scoop on how to submit your question.

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12. Care to promote your writing conference?

I'm a big fan of writing conferences. Sure, some meet our personal budget and current needs better than others, and not everyone you encounter leaves you feeling all warm and fuzzy about your future potential, but if you go along with an open mind, the positives far outweigh any negatives.

writing conference - compressed

If you know of a writing conference taking place this year, please share a link to its homepage in a comment. I'll upload it into the main post here.

Create Something Magical Writers & Readers Conference
Saturday, March 16th, 2013 - Iselin, New Jersey

 writestuff  The Write Stuff Conference
Fri-Sat, March 22nd - 23rd, 2013  - Allentown, Pennsylvania (pre-con workshops on March 21st and 22nd)

Black Diamond Write it Right Writers' Conference
Saturday, April 20th, 2013 - Tamaqua, PA

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13. Revving Up to Write or Curing Brain Freeze

     When I was a student back in the last century, there were three things you could count on happening the first day of school;  somebody would throw up, the PA system issued a stream of incomprehensible directives ("First lunch students will eat during second lunch...").  While my teacher figured out the intricacies of her Delaney Book seating chart, there would be our first assignment on the chalkboard, right under "Hello, my name is Mrs. (Fill in the Blank). 99 per cent of the time it was "What I Did on My Summer Vacation." Sometimes this was followed by the threat "Spelling and punctuation count. Must be at least 250 words."

      This assignment was so predictable that after second grade, I started wrting the essay in advance, so I could read a library book instead. The kids who went to the Wisconsin Dells or some place truly exotic like Disneyland had no problem. Kids who stayed home and spent the summer running through the lawn sprinkler or worse, in summer school, (the equivalent of a stint in Sing Sing) stared at their three ring binders, and sweated bullets.  Five minutes into the school year, and the threat of next year's summer school was already nipping at their heels.

     Somewhere between my school days and my daughter's, the "What I Did..." essay had gone the way of the dodo bird. Instead, every morning, she was expected to write in a "journal" for five to ten minutes, using a writing prompt on the white board. I am not a fan of writing prompts. It's hard to come up with a hundred and eighty or so age-appropriate writing prompts, year after year. The kids knew that what they wrote didn't matter, just that they wrote something. Their grade came from the teaching flipping through the journals looking for blank pages or suspiciously short essays.

    Whoever came up with the journal idea had good intentions. Being able to write English fluently is always a handy skill. Unfortunately, journals turn an awful lot of kids off. I wouldn't be a writer today if I had been expected to write on a narrowly defined topic, first thing in the morning. Every morning. By middle school, these journals were used in every class (except P.E.). Six or seven prompts a day would give me brain freeze.

     OK teachers, I am going to give you a writer's workout that will cause you to roll your eyes, gnash your teeth, and call me nasty names (hopefully, not in front of your class.) And yes, it will take more time (in the beginning). Ready?  Let's rev up that creative part of the brain that has probably lain dormant all summer.

Writer's Workout

(This is adapted from Writing Workshop: The Essential Guide by Ralph Fletcher and JoAnn Portalupi.)

   Equipment needed:  Teacher:  A timer, a small legal pad, and writing instrument. Students; the same,minus the timer.

    Plan plenty of time for this exercise; the more students you have, the more time you'll need. Don't plan on multitasking. Your students will need your full attention.

    First, share a couple of your own (short) ancedotes. This serves several purposes. One, students seem more open to learning if they know a little something about you. Something interesting to them.  For instance, second graders are probably not going to care that you like gardening, have two grandchildren and your cat got stuck in a tree last week.

   They may be intereste

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14. Kidlit Author/Illustrator Events

Last week, I mentioned what an amazing line-up of events we have going on in Houston in September. As well as having many wonderful bookstores in Houston, both big chain stores and outstanding independent bookstores, Houston is also fortunate to have several excellent writers’ organizations. One event I forgot to mention is a multi-author signing at the Barnes & Noble at Town & Country Village on September 17th. The writers at this event are part of the Houston Writers’ Guild—an organization with authors across all genres and age groups—which hosts a conference each year featuring prominent editors and agents. They have already announced the date for next year’s conference, so if you are a writer or an aspiring writer, mark Friday, April 13-14, 2012 on your calendars!  I had a great time this year (and part 2 here), and I’m looking forward to Market Sense for the Writer, 2012.

This week’s event:

September 10, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Katy Budget Books
Sophie Jordan

Sophie Jordan presents VANISH, the dramatic follow up to her debut paranormal young adult novel Firelight.

To save the life of the boy she loves, Jacinda did the unthinkable: She betrayed the most closely-guarded secret of her kind. Now she must return to the protection of her pride knowing she might never see Will again—and worse, that because his mind has been shaded, Will’s memories of that fateful night and why she had to flee are gone.

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15. Marketing Help is Here!

bookThe Frugal Book Promoter: Second Edition: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher.

I very rarely read an e-book and then buy the hard copy–but I did in this case. I have to mark it up, add my colored flags and post-its, and turn down page corners.

Why? Because it is so very full of practical, usable, frugal marketing advice. (And I mean frugal in terms of both money and your time.) I already owned the 2004 first edition, but publishing times have changed so much–and this 2011 updated version reflects that.

Why a New Edition?

We all know that book promotion (and life!) has changed since The Frugal Book Promoter was first published in 2004–particularly in ways that have to do with the Web, but in other ways, too. As an example, the publishing world in general is more open to independent publishing now than it was then. So, this update includes lots of information on ways to promote that were not around or were in their infancy a few short years ago.

So here is what is new:

  • A simplified method for making social networks actually work–without spending too much time away from my writing
  • How to avoid falling into some of the scam-traps for authors
  • The best “old-fashioned” ways to promote–the ones I shouldn’t give up on entirely
  • How to write (and publish) an award-worthy book
  • How to promote your book to mobile users and others
  • The pitfalls of using the Web and how to avoid them
  • Unusual methods of getting reviews–even long after your book has been published


Today’s technology, social networking and marketing techniques are covered. Updated web resources abound. Advice in sync with today’s Internet are incorporated:

* Blogging tips and pitfalls
* Obtaining reviews and avoiding scams
* Finding places to pitch your book
* Using the eBook explosion to promote sales
* Using Google alerts to full advantage
* Staying on top of current trends in the publishing industry
* Writing quality query, media release letters and scripts for telephone pitches
* Putting together power point and author talk presentations 

This is just a tip of the iceberg too. I highly recommend Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s updated Frugal Book Promoter. (NOTE: Be sure you get the new 2011 edition with the cover above.)

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16. Around Town…and Beyond

Hey everyone, I want to pass on some tasty info:

Item #1

In case you missed her announcement, Lynne Kelly, author of the upcoming middle grade novel CHAINED, is offering a book club kit giveaway for teachers and librarians. The kit will go to a classroom or reading group and includes ten books, a tote bag, a Skype visit, and bookmarks and signed bookplates for each kid in the group. Lynne will also send bookmarks to everyone who enters. Details and instructions are here in this blog post. Lynne’s contest is open from now until May 1st.

Item #2

If you are in the Houston area, mark your calendars for Saturday, February 18. The Houston YA/MG Writers are hosting a FREE workshop by award winning, multipublished author, Kimberly Ivey.

Purpose, Power and Pizazz!
Learn to organize the components of your book, beginning with visualization of your story’s structure, followed by dividing those components into chapters with purpose and punch. Discover how to avoid trouble spots and fine tune tension, pacing, and hooks like the pros.

We start at 9:30 but come at 9 if you’d like to chat. The meeting is in our permanent location- the Community Room at the H.E.B. at 9710 Katy Freeway, on the north side of the freeway. For questions, please email Jessica Capelle at jessicacapelle@gmail.com.

IMPORTANT: Bring one full chapter of your work in progress for brief exercises, plus pen, paper and laptop for notes. If you don’t have a full chapter to work with, bring what you’ve got or just take notes- this will be valuable for us all.

Item #3

If, after the Austin SCBWI conference on February 17-19, the Houston SCBWI conference on March 31-April 1, and the Houston Writers Guild conference April 13-14, you are still hungry for more, check out West Texas A&M University’s Writers’ Academy on June 18-22. Sherry Garland, award-winning and best-selling author of thirty books for children, teens and adults, will teach Writing for Children and Young Adults.

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17. Beach Writes – The Southampton Childrens Literature Conference

“If you’re dreaming of becoming the next J. K. Rowling, we’ve got the perfect place for you—the Southampton Children’s Literature Conference!” So said School Library Journal last year after Rocco Staino paid a visit to the Stony Brook Southampton campus to observe the Conference in action.

As Director of the Conference, I am delighted to announce that applications are now being accepted for our July 2012 workshops. We have a truly stellar line-up of faculty members this year, every one of whom is an esteemed, award-winning author in his (or her) own right, including:

Every workshop is capped at 12 students, which makes for a uniquely individualized experience and an incredible opportunity for specific and direct feedback and support. It also means they fill up quickly – so don’t delay if you’re thinking of applying!

A bit more information about the Conference… this year there will be two sessions, a five day one (July 11-15) featuring workshops in picture book, middle grade and YA with Peter H. Reynolds, Kate McMullan and Cynthia and Greg Leitich-Smith, respectively, and a 12-day session (July 18-29) in YA with Patricia McCormick.  Mornings are spent in workshop, and in the afternoons a series of electives are offered such as craft lectures, panel discussions and mini-workshops. You can also choose to spend time writing at one of the beautiful Hamptons beaches or on the gorgeous campus grounds.

Because the Childrens Literature Conference is part of the Southampton Arts Summer, it runs concurrently with workshops in playwriting and screenwriting, as well as with adult workshops in poetry, memoir, novel, creative non-fiction, and even acting and visual arts. Evening events feature well-known authors, playwrights, and filmmakers. The schedule of formal and informal social gatherings is rich—from author receptions to an open-mic night—with a few surprises, too. And because Southampton Arts sponsors an esteemed and long-standing MFA in Creative Writing and Literature at Stony Brook Southampton, as well as new MFA’s in Theatre, Film and Visual Arts, the workshops may be taken for credit. There are even a few partial scholarships available.

To find out more, or to download an application, visit http://www.southamptonchildrenslit.com

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18. Almost Here:Houston SCBWI 2012 Conference!

It’s hard to believe a whole year has gone by and that it’s time again for the fabulous Houston SCBWI conference. This year our keynote speaker will be Dan Yaccarino. If you aren’t familiar with the work of this outstanding author and illustrator, take a look at this trailer for his newest book:

Dan will be having an illustrators’ intensive on Sunday and twenty-five local illustrators will have their portfolios on view throughout the conference. If you’d like a sneak peek at their work, you can watch this short video highlighting a few illustrators:

Our other guest editors this year include Heather Alexander from Dial Books for Young Readers. Heather edits middle grade and young adult novels, including the recent BEYOND LUCKY by Sarah Aronson. We’ll also have Jenne Abramowitz, of Scholastic, editor for Bill Doyle’s BEHIND ENEMY LINES , and Connie Hsu, with Little Brown Books for Young Readers, who has edited everything from board books to YA horror, includin

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19. Birdhouses

I hope to get a post of the 2012 Houston SCBWI conference up soon, but I’m deep in manuscript revisions right now and don’t want to look away too long. But I do want to share a super-cool feature of this year’s conference.Our Illustrators’ Coordinator Diandra Mae had a brilliant idea (one of millions!) to invite our illustrators and other crafty folk to decorate birdhouses in themes from children’s books. The birdhouses were auctioned off at the conference and bidding was cut-throat! I started taking pictures of them before the room filled up, but ran out of time before the crowd arrived so I didn’t catch them all. If you can identify the artist and title of the artwork, please leave a note in the comments! Also, if you have posted pictures of these birdhouses, please leave a link in the comments.

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20. New England SCBWI Conference Offers On-the-Spot Critiques!

This year, the NE SCBWI Conference is offering something new: on-the-spot critiques.

Not to be confused with agent quick query meetings or manuscript/portfolio critiques, this is a new and exciting platform for receiving feedback from an editor or agent. As the On-the-Spot Critique Coordinator, I want to help, so if I haven’t addressed all of your questions, let me know!

What is an on-the-spot critique?

An on-the-spot critique lasts fifteen minutes, the same as a standard critique. The only difference is the editor/agent will not receive your work ahead of time, or have the ability to offer a written critique. In real life, your submissions must garner interest immediately. So this is a rare opportunity to see if your writing can indeed capture a professional’s eye. If it doesn’t, find out why. Ask questions, and always keep in mind that everything is subjective.

How do I sign up?

At the registration table, please ask for Betsy or Shirley, and do come early!

Can we contact you earlier to reserve a spot, via e-mail?

Unfortunately, no. You must sign up during the conference weekend. Spots will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

What does it cost?

$40.  Payable in cash, or a check made out to: SCBWI New England.

 How many spaces are available?

I have secured 50 slots, all thanks to the generous editors and agents.

 We are also offering the opportunity to connect with a children’s magazine editor…

This editor from a renowned magazine in the Cricket group edits non-fiction, historical fiction, and retold folktales. Don’t miss your chance to get feedback on writing for this market, especially if you have been told, “Great story, but it might be better suited for a magazine.”

Which editors and agents are participating?

When you sign up for an on-the-spot critique, we will provide you with a list of available editors and agents.

3 Comments on New England SCBWI Conference Offers On-the-Spot Critiques!, last added: 4/15/2012
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21. NESCBWI Conference Welcomes Elizabeth Carpentiere

Elizabeth Carpentiere, editor of FACES magazine will be at the NESCBWI conference this weekend! She has been the editor of FACES, a world cultures magazine for middle school readers, for 15 years. FACES is one of several award-winning magazines published by Cobblestone Publishing. During her tenure, the publication has received numerous honors and awards including being named a Parents’ Choice Honor Winner and the Most Improved Publication by the Educational Press Association. Elizabeth has also worked on special projects for Cobblestone Publishing including a supplement for the Boston Globe’s Newspapers in Education program. She has also edited several eBooks with more titles to come. Elizabeth began her career in weekly and daily newspapers. In 1997 she was named Writer of the Year by the New Hampshire Press Association.


On Sunday, Elizabeth is giving a workshop on query letters, and on Saturday, she will be available all day for “on-the-spot critiques,” a brand new offering at this year’s conference.


Sign up at the registration desk during the conference weekend for the fifteen-minute meeting. You can bring up to five pages of a work in progress (picture book, novel, or magazine article—non-fiction or historical fiction) and/or a query letter, or simply ask questions about the children’s magazine writing industry. Elizabeth is also happy to read/critique retold folktales.  The cost is $40.

Come early to secure a slot with Elizabeth! We are thrilled to have her join us this year!

2 Comments on NESCBWI Conference Welcomes Elizabeth Carpentiere, last added: 4/19/2012
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22. New England SCBWI Conference 2012

This year’s NE-SCBWI Conference (my sixth) was different for me. As the On-the-Spot Critique Coordinator, I was one of numerous volunteers responsible for making a successful conference. In my position, I felt deeply obligated to the attendees, wanting to facilitate proper connections to editors/agents, and I’d promised these same professionals that I’d do my best to secure them additional critiques. In truth, I was scared. Since becoming the On-the-Spot Critique Coordinator less than a month ago, I have secretly fretted, while my daily early-morning writing time turned into early-morning e-mail communication, chart-making, and teaching myself how to make a spreadsheet. (I am also a committee co-chair for the upcoming New Jersey SCBWI Conference.) My manuscripts lay untouched; my muse went on strike.

Preparing for the conference reminded me of my earlier years in the business of writing for children, when I was unsure and questioned my abilities. Self-doubt hinders your growth as an artist. So I stopped thinking about What Might Not Happen (that the on-the-spot critiques would be a failure) and I began to believe that I could, indeed, pull this off. But to do this, I had to call on my Inspired Frame-of-Mind, which is strong, determined, and follows the muse with much delight, like a kitten chasing an unraveling ball of red yarn. I write what my characters tell me, and on some level, believe they are the ones shaping their stories, not me. I continue to struggle with writing for my blog, for that voice comes from a different place, where self-criticism has rented a tiny room and ignores my weekly eviction notice.

So in my Inspired Frame-of-Mind, I faced the task of being a successful conference coordinator: I worked diligently and focused on being positive, while doing everything possible to sell these critiques. The bar to succeed is set high due to the tireless efforts of our region’s longtime coordinators, who have given so much of their time over the years: Marilyn Salerno, Joyce Shor Johnson, Kathryn Hulick, Melissa Hed. Valarie Giogas. Laura Pauling. Melissa Stewart. Casey Girard. Betty Brown. Sally Riley. Jean Woodbury. Linda Brennan. Jennifer Carson. Joannie Duris. Anna Boll. Jennifer O’Keefe. Greg Fishbone. Francine Puckly. Margo Lemieux. And Shirley Pearson, who I hope can one day step out from behind the registration table to pursue her own dreams. I apologize in advance for not listing every name, though my gratitude is intended for all. Thank you! The NE-SCBWI Conference reflects your efforts, selfless dedication, and enthusiasm for our wonderful community. A community filled

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23. Summer Fun

I have 18 more school days left. 18!!!! And I can't deny that I'm just a teeny, tiny bit excited. Because I can't wait for summer to begin.

I'm kicking off my summer by attending the Florida SCBWI Orlando Conference on June 16th at Disney.

Here's the line up: 

Holiday House Associate Editor Sylvie Frank, Scholastics Trade Vice President and Executive Editor Andrea Davis Pinkney, Tracey and Josh Adams of the Adams Literary Agency, Henry Holt Editor Noa Wheeler, Simon and Schuster Art Director Laurent Linn, Artist Agent Christina Tugeau, Tammi Sauer (Chicken Dance, Bawk and Roll), Florida SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator Linda Shute, Donna Gephart (How To Survive Middle School), Nancy Werlin (Impossible), Tracy Barrett (Dark of the Moon), Nancy Rosenthal Stewart (One Pelican at a Time), Deb Noyes Wayshak, editor-at-large at Candlewick Press, and Gaby Triana (Backstage Pass, Cubanita).

So you see, it's going to be awesome.

Then I'm jumping in a plane with my boys and spending a week in Germany and then another week in Austria. The main request from my boys is to see lots and lots of castles. It's going to be such an inspirational trip and I hope full of adventures.

Then come July, I'll be attending the Quill Track at Ascendio 2012 at Universal Studios. And guess who's going to be there? Beth Revis! I can't wait!

Here's the line up for the Quill Track:

  • Lev Grossman (author)
  • Beth Revis (author)
  • Veronica Roth (author)
  • Aimee Carter (author)
  • Michelle Hodkin (author)
  • Molly O’Neill (editor)
  • Ben Schrank (publisher)
  • Joanna Volpe (agent)
  • Lindsay Ribar

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  • 24. Giveaway: Win a day pass to ThrillerFest, featuring Jack Higgins, Lee Child, Ann Rule and many others

    I’m going to go ahead and toss the illusion of journalistic objectivity out the window for a second, and put this on the table: I love ThrillerFest.

    We sponsor it every year, and in 2011 I attended for the first time. I was blown away. There are craft sessions taught by bestselling writers. Lively panels. A pitch slam. Some of the most fun cocktail parties in publishing (I was reduced to a giggling teenager when I saw Margaret Atwood wandering around).

    Perhaps the best part: Everyone is approachable, from the debut authors to the heavy hitters.

    This year, ThrillerFest is July 11-14 in New York. Of the dozens and dozens of authors on hand, Jack Higgins, R.L. Stine, Lee Child, Catherine Coulter, John Sandford, Ann Rule, Richard North Patterson and Karin Slaughter will be there.

    And here’s the scoop on how you can be part of it. Executive director Kimberley Howe is giving one WD reader a Day Pass for Friday, July 13—one of the best days of the conference. The pass includes full access to all ThrillerFest programming for the day, as well as a ticket to the Love is Murder cocktail party that celebrates the release of the International Thriller Writers’ third anthology.

    Event programming runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and includes spotlight interviews with Lee Child and Catherine Coulter. Former FBI and counterterrorism expert David Major will also share his tales from his days at the White House.

    … So how do you win the pass? Easy enough.

    In the comments section below, just tell us who your favorite thriller writer is by 2 p.m. next Friday. We’ll put all the names of the commenters into a hat and randomly draw one winner. We’ll announce the winner Monday, July 19.

    Good luck! Hope to see you there.

    For more on ThrillerFest, visit thrillerfest.com.

    Now, back to being objective and such.


    Zachary Petit is an award-winning journalist, the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine, and the co-author of A Year of Writing Prompts: 366 Story Ideas for Honing Your Craft and Eliminating Writer’s Block.

    Like what you read from WD online? Don’t miss an issue in print!


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    25. SCBWI Florida Conference

    This past weekend I attended the SCBWI conference at Disney World in Orlando, FL. I had an amazing time and got to learn under brilliant editors and talented authors.

    Here's a short video clip of what I'm planning to share with you about the conference:

    2 Comments on SCBWI Florida Conference, last added: 6/22/2012
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