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1. Thank You Conference Coordinators!

Many thanks to our conference coordinators: Susan Eaddy, Genetta Adair (SCBWI-Midsouth's RA) and Sharon Cameron. Thank you for giving us a fabulous conference ladies!

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2. Book Donations

Conference Faculty & Conference Coordinators with Donated Books

Patricia Wiles, SCBWI-Midsouth's Assistant RA, organized a book drive to help out two schools in the region. Thank you Midsouth for your generous book donations!

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3. Contest Winners!

A HUGE congrats goes out to all of the winners!

Picture book category:

Honorable Mention:
Jersey Girls by Suzanne Johnson
Hamster Hair by Kristi Valiant
Eleanor's Best by Amanda Driscoll

Darwin, the Modern Dinosaur by Jessica Young

Middle Grade Category:

Ready...Or Not by Gretchen Kelley
The Spiritualists by Allison Foster

The Doors of Whim by Tiffany Russell

Young Adult Category:

Honorable Mention:

Rise of the Archeteens by David Jarvis
Some Secrets Bleed by Courtney Stevens
The Edge by Teresa Lockhart

Winner:  Wish Granter by Rae Ann Parker

Illustrator category:

Honorable Mention:

Kristi Valiant
Amanda Driscoll

Cheryl Mendenhall for The Traveler and the Dragon:  A Voyage with Marco Polo

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4. Faculty Panel

Tracy Barrett, Diane Muldrow, Lionel Bender, Linda Pratt, Peter Clifton, Kelly Sonnack, Ellen Hopkins, Ruta Rimas, Patti Ann Harris

From Rae Ann: Memorable quotes

Some memorable quotes:

“Be true to your style” – Art Director Patti Ann Harris speaking to illustrators

“Plunge into the next project.” – author Ellen Hopkins

“Don’t become a professional student of the industry. Write.” – agent Linda Pratt

From Bethany: Answers

What are the common things that can speed up or slow down the publishing journey?
Patti Ann Harris - Be comfortable with who you are and your interests and style.
Ruta Rimas – Be creative professionals.
Ellen Hopkins- Jump into the next project.
Peter Clifton- have fun…
Kelly Sonnack- Find a way to hook publishers/readers. Follow your heart, but make it relevant.
Linda Pratt- be flexible. Find different formats, spend time writing rather than becoming a professional student of the industry
Lionel Bender- Understand how the industry works. Don’t underestimate the amount of time needed to write/research etc.
Diane Muldrow – Do your homework.
Tracy Barrett – decide what works for you and what doesn’t.

What if you disagree with your critique…Critiques are subjective, but the faculty know the industry and are well read. Don’t discount author critiques—some people are disappointed when they get an author rather than an agent or editor. Possibly have it critiqued by another professional and look for consistency in the comments. Consider the niche of the faculty member who gives your critique. Put the manuscript away for awhile and then reconsider it.

From Amanda:

What are some examples of ways you can market directly to teens?

Ellen Hopkins: More and more publishers are creating more of a YA/Teen outreach. It is a network, so I am tied into all the major publishers. Friends who are authors promote for me and vice versa. On twitter, you don’t have to be friends with everyone that follows you. Reach teens through twitter and they may blog about it, etc. As much as you can, answer the messages that come to you from kids. You have to care because they are your readers. I do school visits—to keep in contact with kids and how they’re talking, what they’re thinking about, and let them see you are a real person.

Ruta Rimas: Melissa Marr does a terrific job of networking with her audience. John Green has a massive following of teen readers he has tapped into. Harper has developed a website called InkPop.com. It gets our authors interacting with our teen audience and writers.

When is present tense appropriate and is it being overdone these days?

Tracy Barrett: Sign up for the listserv for a longer answer to this question.

Ellen Hopkins: Present tense is when you need a sense of immediacy—it’s an unfolding experience.

Kelly Sonnack: It’s your decision. Commit to it and decide what works.

Would you ever ask for chapter two instead of chapter one since first chapters are often weak?

Ruta Rimas: No. If it’s not indicative of the quality of writing, then maybe you aren’t starting in the right place. If the first chapter isn’t strong, why would I want to continue reading?

Linda Pr

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5. Peter Clifton: Surviving and Thriving in an Online World

A look at author marketing online

We are looking at an expanding digital reading market 500M+ mobile devices, reading and content consumption.  For example, we now have access to the Nook, iPhone, Kindle, iPad, cell phones, PDA’s, Android and more…

Marketing techniques have shifted from offline to online--think Twitter, Facebook, etc.

It is important to keep your information available and correct.

Platform building--link all of your online activities.

You will want to connect directly with readers and build community!

Some social reading Sites- Goodreads, Shelfari, Library Thing

Clifton's site, Filedby, is organized around authors

It is authorcentric and contains information on 10 million books.

It is a place where authors can control the information that’s out there, make it authoritative, and make it right.
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6. Ruta Rimas on Developing Characters

Ruta Rimas, editor at HarperCollins Balzer + Bray imprint presented a hands-on workshop on developing a character from scratch.

Look at your characters & ask questions like:
Who is your character? How does your character react to certain situations?
Write a scene where they do the exact opposite.

Ruta’s examples of well-developed characters:

from TV:
Dexter (conflicted & complicated)

Literary Characters:
Max from Where the Wild Things Are
Frankie Landau-Banks from The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Katniss from The Hunger Games

Ruta recommends Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

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7. First Pages with Agents Kelly Sonnack & Linda Pratt

What makes the 1st page a No:

Too much exposition (telling instead of showing)
Labeled for the wrong age group
Picture Book is dialogue heavy
Picture Book is list-y (tackling a list instead of an overall conflict)
Too much description in action scene slows down the pacing

What makes the 1st page a Yes:

Interesting opening line
Picture Book showing good imagination
Lots of action in opening scene

A Note on Titles: Choose a Title that doesn’t explain everything about the book.

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8. Meet the Blog Team!

Rae Ann Parker is a clinical social worker only working with fictional characters now.  She presents writing workshops on social work-y topics like birth order and blogs with the SCBWI-Midsouth blog team at regional conferences.  Rae Ann writes YA and middle grade fiction.  Please visit her website at www.raeannparker.com.

Bethany Griffin is the author of Handcuffs. She lives in Lousville Kentucky with her two kids, awesome husband and many cats. She teaches 10th grade English and creative writing, and is currently working on a YA rewrite of a Poe story.

Amanda K. Morgan is a YA writer from Nashville, TN represented by Mary Kole of the Andrea Brown Literary agency.  She also co-organized the Do the Write Thing for Nashville project for flood relief.
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9. Linda Pratt: A Pragmatist’s Guide to Charting Your Career

We are an industry in flux!
In late 2008/early 2009 there were many editors leaving due to layoffs.  Many of these became agents, which means there are more agents.  This is good for writers in terms of getting representation, but does create more competition.
Fewer books are being published.
However, it is always a mistake to write solely for the market.
Consider, when writing, who the consumer is for your book and who is selling it.  (I.E. retailer)
Libraries don’t have access to the money they used to.
Publishers want to know they can bridge on a successful book.  (Identifiable characters help as well as stories with an underlying truth)
When a book goes to acquisitions, it must be 90% done.
Find a critique group!
There has been an explosion in YA in the last ten years and this has made it the biggest growth area.
Paranormal is another area that isn’t going to disappear, but it is a little harder than it was.
Make yourself part of the writing community.  Blog, be on the Blue boards, etc.
Fantastic quote from Linda: “I don’t know how you make good in this business without a critique group.”

2 Comments on Linda Pratt: A Pragmatist’s Guide to Charting Your Career, last added: 9/26/2010
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10. Kelly Sonnack talks about The Secrets to Revising

Focus on the big things first before moving on to small things like word choice.

“Envision your story like a path. The reader needs to stay on that path throughout the story and not get lost in the woods.”

Characters - Why should the reader care about your protagonist? We need to care in the 1st 10 pages. An exception: in a fantasy, worldbuilding may be the focus of 1st 10 pages and character comes later.

Dialogue - Kelly suggests read through your manuscript reading only one character’s voice out loud. Is it consistent throughout the story?

Pacing - You need a good balance of description & detail. Use spare details in action scenes.

Language - Do you favor certain words? “Every writer has favorite words. Be aware of the words you favor. Vary sentence openers & paragraph openers.”

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11. "Everything You Wanted to Know About Making a Picture Book, But Were Afraid to Ask" by Patti Ann Harris and Diane Muldrow

Hi everyone! I'm at the Saturday afternoon breakout session with Patti Ann Harris, Senior Art Director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, and Diane Muldrow, editorial director at Golden Books/Random House.

Diana Muldrow is both a writer and editor. Picture books are a visual media. The one thing that has struck Diane over the years is that most writers of picture books don't think visually.
Most of her submissions are from writers who are in two categories unpublished and amateurish. She wants to help us NOT look amateurish:

-Don't edit yourself as you write--"vomit" out your stories, don't "constipate" yourself. Take ownership of your manuscript--you're writing this for yourself.
-visualize story as a format (price, page count, size, jacketed hard-cover, novelty). Ask yourself--can your book carry an $18 price tag or is it a board or novelty book? Think about how your story is going to land on those pages. Think about holiday books--look at your topic and think about how you can help sell it.
-What images do you want your picture book to have? Page out your book. Put art notes under each page. Opening page is always a two-page spread--should welcome you into its world--with opening text on right hand page (just enough text to tease reader). Patti Ann says to storyboard so you can see a bird's eye view of your entire book--print it out in thumbnail form. Think of it always as an evolving work in process--real work starts in revision.
-Picture book needs flow--build, suspense, climax--cinematically. Be sure what you have written is visually interesting (beware the "talking heads"). Must make reader turn the page to find out more--tease!
-What's happening in the art should match the first line on any page. Think about the child being read to.
1 Comments on "Everything You Wanted to Know About Making a Picture Book, But Were Afraid to Ask" by Patti Ann Harris and Diane Muldrow, last added: 9/26/2010
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12. Lionel Bender- What are Book Packagers?

Lionel Bender – book packager

Editorial Director of Bender Richardson White (BRW), a book packager (creation/ development house) in London, England and the author of 70+ children’s illustrated non-fiction books.

Started with a Nashville appropriate metaphor- Book publishers are behind the scenes, if they were a band they'd be behind the scenes, the roadies, the producers, never with frontmen with their name in lights.

Book packaging started in London in the mid-1960s.

It started with illustrated non-fiction.

What types of Books do book packagers produce?
Illustrated non-fiction for ages 6 & up

Books for school & libraries

Most are in series.

Most of the books produced by Mr. Bender’s company are science and nature books.

It is more common to see fiction books now produced by book packagers.

Kinds of books book packagers make:

Highly illustrated – photographs or art work

Integrated images & text

Why do Book Packagers exist?

Extra staff (example: book publishers need to complete a series & need extra staff)

A subject matter expertise book packager has

30-40% of the Children's Nonfiction books that you see on shelves are produced by book packagers.

Book packagers often do not pay royalties. They rarely work with agents, they prefer to work directly with authors.

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13. More Saturday Scenes

Diane Muldrow – editor, Golden Books

Kelly Sonnack, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Patti Ann Harris, Senior Art Director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Special thanks to J. Michael Smith for all of the wonderful photos!  You rock, Michael!

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14. Saturday Morning Scenes

Conference Bookstore

Conference Attendees

Agent Linda Pratt

Editor Lionel Bender

Editor Ruta Rimas

Special thanks to J. Michael Smith for the fabulous photos!

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15. "Keeping It Fresh, from Sketches to Final Art" - Patti Ann Harris

Patti Ann Harris addressed Breakout Session II on Saturday 25 September to a lively group of attendees.   Patti Ann is the Senior Art Director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and oversees the design of the picture book list and the novelty book imprint, LB-kids.  She has experience working with illustrators of all levels -- from "first-time" to "seasoned."
Her presentation included sharing her experiences with Little, Brown and providing tips for keeping artwork "fresh" and interesting.
Her advice included the following:

  • Keep a sketchbook -  Shared sketches from The  Curious Garden picture book by Peter Brown as the book came together.  
  • Do your research.  It is important to go back to basics and understand how, for example, how a cat would hold it's paw.  Illustrator Steve James did research and used photos to capture anatomy of cat.   Showed initial sketches of cats and people from "Dewey: There's a Cat in the Library."
  • Create a character.  That is motivation for creating a book.  "Birdies Big Girl Shoes" by Sujean Rim, author and illustrator.  Sujean was in her fashion world and created the notion of a little girl obsessed with her mom's high heels, make up, dressing.  Used water color and collage.  Showed studies of Birdie loving the shoes.  Discussed layout of book and colors.  The sketches of Birdie create a really cute and fun character.
  • Retell a classic.  Focus on Jerry Pinkney's "Lion and a Mouse."  Pinkney played with the scale of the mouse early on.  The more he drew the more he understood the mouse was the hero of the story.  Revised the scale to emphasize that.  Multiple panels to show a sequence of time and space.  Showed initial sketch, experimenting with panels and characters.  Illustrator would make a face and look in the mirror to study facial expressions.  Uses pen and ink.  Sketches are free and explore the possibilities.  Can tell the stories through the expressions.  
  • Revise.  Revise.  Revise.  Revising is really such an arduous task but is where discovery takes place and raises the level of any project.  Book to highlight "The Very Fairy Princes" illustrated by Christine Davenier. Made studies of the characters.  She played with the idea and never got tired of revising who that character might be.  Work in progress.  Keeps lively line and expressive gestures.  Lay down water color and puts pencil on it.  Mixed media.  Always kept alive.  Showed various sketches and capture spontaneity instead of laboring over a piece until it was dead. 
Among the questions asked:
Q:  What kind of order is standard for submitting art?
A:  We like to see the whole thing at once.  Could be very rough thumbnails.  Give comments and feedback along the way.  Helps paginate the book.  Art notes are important to know what the images will be. Best to see the whole book at once.

Q:  Do most illustrators turn in final art?  Do you ask for final art?
A:  Christine Davenier sent jpgs of final art.  We could see and make suggestions prior to final art.  Tweeks might be necessary.  Illustrators must be open to this.  

Q:  Do you work with digital artists?
A:  We see traditional artist using media/digital to add.  Artists photographing their artwork then using computer.   Printers can scan files and do retouching as well.  

Q:  What percentage of established vs first time illustrators?
A:  Of the five books brought, 2 are illustrated by first-time illustrators.  We take time to meet with people at conferences and art schools (end of year shows.)  Great place to find new illustrators.


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16. Kelly Sonnack: De-Mystifying the Publishing Process

Step one: Write a damn good book and WORKSHOP IT.

On finding an agent: DO YOUR RESEARCH. Write a good pitch letter and WORKSHOP IT. FOLLOW directions.

Don’t give up!

Formalizing representation: Sometimes, authors must do REVISIONS before an offer of representation. An agent needs to know you can have a good working relationship.

Phone call with an agent: ask questions! Now is a good time to start. Make a list of questions you will ask your agent in the future.

The agent will submit to agents using a pitch letter.

When there is interest from an editor, it will go to an editorial and acquisitions board to be approved by the editor's colleagues.

Then, the editor may offer. Several different things can happen at this point depending on the type of offer. Sometimes this can lead to an auction if there are multiple editors interested.

Negotiating/signing the contract: this is when the agent/author decides what rights to keep (i.e. film, electronic, etc).

If you sell your book, you will begin working with an editor. You will receive an editorial letter that will explain the revision and will explain the vision the editor has for your book. Then, you will work on revisions. A lot. And then a lot more. And then maybe a little more.

After the book sale, the agent steps back a bit, but will be involved if necessary--for example, with a title change, the cover, design, etc.

You won't be sent on book tours! For pre-publication, consider promotional ideas: websites, blogs (and blog tours), school visits, author photos, etc.

Amazing Quote of the Session: "Patience is a virtue you really need to have in this business. Books take 18 months from contract to publication at the MINIMUM."

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17. Ellen Hopkins - So What?

Ellen Hopkins writes great poetry. But when it comes down to it, it isn't the poetry that resonates and in some cases haunts readers. It's the characters.

She often reads for critiques and for blurbs and a common weakness she sees is character motivation.

Ellen says, "If you make the reader stop to ask WHY the character is doing whatever they are doing, then you've lost them!" She explains how to create and understand complex characters who do things that make sense.

Ellen explains that authors are often asked What Does the Character Want or Need? But the real question is WHY do they want it.

She takes the audience through exercises and asks questions to help writers pinpoint the motivations that define their characters.
Quote of the day- I'm always getting better! So, when I get to be 800, my writing might be perfect!

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18. Ruta Rimas on What Makes a Book Great

Ruta Rimas is an assistant editor at Balzer and Bray, an imprint of Harpercollins.

Ruta’s workshops are INTERACTIVE. She asks, “What makes a book great to you?” and gives the attendees time to answer the question. This is one of the really cool sessions that the attendees can directly apply to their own writing.


Rimas encourages looking at your writing word by word. She presents a word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of great books and our own manuscripts.

Rimas also discusses the difficult concept that is voice.

Fabulous Quote of the Session: "Voice is one of those very complicated, often misunderstood topics. You can practice at it, but it's one of those things that has to come from you. You can't just fill in a form and all of a sudden you have voice in your character."

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19. Pre-Conference Interview with Kelly Sonnack!

Kelly Sonnack is a literary agent with the Andrea Brown Literary agency in LA. She has sold books like 2009 Golden Kite Winner Down Sand Mountain by Steve Watkins and Candace Ryan's Ribbit Rabbit.

Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions, Kelly! :)

Can you give us a sneak preview of what you'll be discussing at the conference?
Sure! I’ll be giving two presentations. They are called, “The Secrets to Revising” and “Demystifying the Publishing Process, from Cradle to Grave.”

What is your favorite part of being a literary agent?
Celebrating the success of my clients. There’s nothing better than that phone call when I can share good news about an offer, an award, or other exciting news.

What's the number one thing you look for in a potential author?

A unique, takes-your-breath-away, have-to-have-it kind of story and writing.

What is your favorite book and why?
This is THE most impossible question in the world to answer. It’s like asking a Mom to pick her favorite kid. I think I could name my top three IF you gave me subgenres. But, one I continue to come back to again and again is A WRINKLE IN TIME. It was a cornerstone book for me in my development and I just love the themes, characters, and ideas it shares.

How do you know when you want to sign a new project?
When I can’t get the writing and story out of my head.

Thanks again, Kelly! We appreciate you stopping by!

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20. Book Signings from Both Sides of the Table

So, I hate to admit it, but I never went to book signings before I was an author. Not because I don't like books, they've always been among my most treasured possessions, and not because I don't like authors...I guess it was just one of those things I never thought to do...I didn't know people who went to book signings. My mom never took me to one. Yes, I loved to go to book stores, but I didn't know what I would say to a real life author.

And now that I am a real life author, I'm not sure what anyone would want to say to me. :) Though if you do want to say something, please stop by and do!

There is a certain beauty to book signings. People go there because they love books. The people who write the books are sitting right there, ready to personalize them. I think it's great. But, I also have a talent for making any social situation awkward.

So in preparation for Friday's desert party and book signing, I've asked some of the authors to answer two simple questions.

1. What would you like the attendees to know about you?

2. What would you like them to know about your books.

I hope some of the people who are attending will post in the comments with some things that they would like the authors to know about them!

So, here we go.

We'll begin with Candie Moonshower author of The Legend of Zoey

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21. Dessert and Book signing photos coming soon!

Watch this space for photos from the dessert and book signing.  Slight technical difficulties are preventing immediate upload, but rest assured--they'll be here!

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22. Linda Pratt talks about Voice

Linda Pratt (agent with Sheldon Fogelman Agency) talked about voice.
Voice in children’s books (and any book) is the key thing that agents, editors, & readers look for.

Voice is something that is developed. Most artists & most authors are not self-taught. Writers must be readers first. Writers great with voice must be good listeners.

Linda says, “Voice is the personality and the whole life history of a character when they speak.”

Look at who the character is and the language they use. Word choice and sentence structure can tell the reader a lot about the character.

Some exercises Linda recommends for honing your voice include:
*Eavesdrop on conversations.
*Read for pleasure, then re-read later. Study the work.
*Read your work aloud.

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23. Ellen Hopkins keynote: Yes, You Can!

Ellen Hopkins has written seven New York Times bestselling novels.  She is the RA of the Nevada region of SCBWI.
*Ellen Hopkins writes honestly—she doesn’t sugarcoat anything.  She credits her parents for setting her on her path. 
*She says we don’t know exactly where we belong or the path we are going to take as writers.
*Hopkins published her first poem—a haiku—at age nine.  She first went into journalism and then began to write children’s non-fiction.  Hopkins has written 20 non-fiction books for girls.  Looking for a way to break in?  Hopkins says that non-fiction is a hungry market.
*Hopkins started her own publishing company in Nevada to publish a children’s newspaper.  She was also doing artist residencies to teach creative writing.
*Hopkins originally started writing Crank for herself, not because she expected publication.  It is loosely based on her daughter’s battle with drugs.  She started writing the book in prose, and then switched to poetry after hearing a keynote speech at SCBWI LA.
*Hopkins marketed Crank herself, and it took 2.5 years for the book to become a New York Times bestseller.  It was a viral effort that she spearheaded.
*After Crank, she wrote Burned and followed it up with Impulse.  She now has seven NYT bestsellers.
*So what’s next?  Hopkins has just signed a contract for two adult novels in verse.
Super Awesome Quote of the Day (or at least the keynote): “The journey to this place wasn’t easy.  Pain inspired a lot of it.  Find the story that matters to you.  If a story doesn’t speak to you it’s not going to speak to a reader or an editor.” –Ellen Hopkins

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24. Conference Welcome

Genetta Adair, SCBWI Midsouth Regional Advisor welcomed everyone to the conference.

The 2010 SCBWI Midsouth conference is a sellout! There are 120 writers/illustrators here from 14 states and we have one faculty member from London (Lionel Bender).

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25. We're here! We're here!

Breakfast was delicious! Company has been fabulous! I bought way too many books (Merry Christmas to my kiddos!) and now we're eagerly awaiting the keynote by Ellen Hopkins! Love the Midsouth conference!

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