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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Jordan Brown, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 8 of 8
1. Jordan Brown: Five Principles For Revision

One of the coolest things about attending the SCBWI Summer Conference is that when you're wowed by a faculty member's breakout session – if you time it right – you can go to their other session as well. To dig deeper. To learn more.

So, after being wowed by Jordan's breakout session on Voice, I attended (and here blog) his second breakout session, on Revision...

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

The room is packed, every seat filled, people sitting on the floor.

Jordan starts us out the way he starts out when creating an editorial letter for a book he's editing. He aims to define the core of the manuscript.

The core is three important qualities:
1. A central element of the story to which all readers can ideally relate - the universal.
2. What is the most formative experience of your young character's life? That's what your book should be about.
3. Something your character chooses, or has agency.

He illustrates the core of the manuscript with Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games":
1. The concept is survival.
2. The most formative experience of Katniss's life is being in the Hunger Games.
3. It's her choice. She volunteers to save her sister.

It's these core concepts that Jordan uses to ground his revision notes, to make sure he and the author share a vision of what the book is.

He walks us through his five principles of revision. I'll share one of them.

Character Drives Plot

You want your plot to ask the right questions of your character:
1. What does my character want?
2. What are the stakes for my character? What happens if she doesn't get what she wants?
3. What complicates things. Why can't the character get what they want?

As full as the room is, Jordan's speech is still more full of great content, tips and examples. He ends with his explaining how to know if your book is ready... or if it's not ready.

A final note:

Jordan reminds us that our manuscripts don't have to be perfect, that

"As editors, we're not acquiring your pages. We're acquiring the vision they represent."

And revision is the way to get our books to match our vision.

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2. Jordan Brown: What We Mean When We Talk About "Voice"

Jordan Brown is an executive editor with the imprints Walden Pond Press and Balzer + Bray at HarperCollins Children’s Books. In the ten years he has been in children's editorial, he has been fortunate enough to work with such esteemed authors and illustrators as Jon Scieszka, Anne Ursu, Gris Grimly, Steve Brezenoff, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Chris Rylander, Erin McGuire, Laura Ruby, Kevin Emerson, Christopher Healy, Greg Ruth, Dan Wells, Lois Metzger, M. Sindy Felin, and many others. Amongst the books he’s edited are New York Times bestsellers, ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults, an NPR Backseat Book Club Selection, and a National Book Award finalist, in addition to other accolades. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Your voice is the way you distinguish yourself as a writer.

With everyone hanging onto every word, Jordan defines voice as what comes between the objective facts of your novel and your readers. He leads us in exploring

what voice does,

the elements of narration that define voice,

tasks and challenges to help our voice stand out,

and some examples that do voice well.

Three highlights:

1. Readers want to feel the character they're reading is emotionally real. And the way to get that authenticity is by being specific.

Authenticity = Specificity
2. Think of voice as a camera in a movie that chooses certain things to focus on over others, like leaving the room with one character while leaving the others behind.

3. The idea of psychic distance. Using five sentences from "The Art of Fiction" by John Gardner, Jordan walks us through the different distances of voice, from the helicopter view that's the most remote and objective to as close as it gets, no outside world at all. Each distance has its own feel and strengths and things to be aware of. And the point isn't to choose one level and stay there the whole book.

"The key is to know when to make moves between levels within your manuscript."

The session is packed with information and tips, covering first versus third limited points of view, how knowing something your character doesn't can disconnect readers from your story, the benefits and retraints of present versus past tense, and much, much more.

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3. Jordan Brown and Sara Sargent: Editors' Panel

What Hooks Jordan and Sara?

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

Highlights from Jordan:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highlights from Sara:

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

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


fantastical, and


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

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

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4. The Editors' Panel Begins!

#LA15SCBWI Editors' Panel underway

From Right to Left:

Moderator Wendy Loggia, executive editor at Delacorte Press/Random House Children's Books (primarily MG and YA)

Jordan Brown, executive editor with Walden Pond Press and Balzer + Bray at HarperCollins Children's Books

Allyn Johnston, vice president and publisher of Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

Rotem Moscovich, senior editor at Disney-Hyperion

Sara Sargent, executive editor at HarperCollins Children's Books

Julie Strauss-Gabel, vice president and publisher of Dutton Children's Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers

Alison Weiss, editor at Sky Pony Press

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5. Editorial Insight: Jordan Brown talks about Anne Ursu’s BREADCRUMBS

“My brother teaches an undergraduate writing course at a university in New York, and he recently shared with me a thesis statement from one of his students’ papers: “Words are very important in A Passage to India.”  It was, perhaps fittingly, a poor choice of words on the student’s part—it’s a novel, after all—but I think I see the point about word choice that the student was trying to make.  Words, after all, are not simply bricks in the path upon which an author is leading a reader, identical and interchangeable and valuable more for their sequence than for their individual qualities.  They are much more than that.  They have shades and contours.  They catch light in different ways.  They are meant to illuminate a pathway that already exists, and when enough of the right ones are strung together in a great novel, they are just as tangible as the things they represent.

One of the reasons I love working with Anne Ursu, and especially on her latest middle grade novel Breadcrumbs, which releases this September, is because she knows how important words are.  Anne is one of the most talented wordsmiths I know – her ability to turn a phrase is boundless, fluctuating so smoothly between humorous and heartfelt that the two almost seem to form one quantum state (“It was not the greatest insult ever, but one thing Hazel had learned at her new school was when it comes to insults it’s the thought that counts”).  But Anne takes things much further than that in Breadcrumbs.  It’s a contemporary fairy tale set in present-day Minneapolis which draws its structure and inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story “The Snow Queen.”  In Anne’s book, a young girl named Hazel and a young boy named Jack are best friends, and they’re both dealing with hardship, but it’s their friendship that holds them together.  They spend their days talking about Joe Mauer’s batting average and Batman’s utility belt and the Chronicles of Narnia, but what they’re saying with all of it is “I know you, and I am here.”  They’re just saying it with different words, and it’s the words that make the difference.

If you’re familiar with “The Snow Queen”, you know what happens next.  Jack’s heart is frozen by a broken piece of an evil mirror, and he decides to leave everything in his life behind – including his friendship with Hazel.  Jack is still there, he is still speaking English, but the language they had created is gone.  Now, baseball and comic books and talking lions are just baseball and comic books and talking lions.  As in the original story, Jack eventually leaves, taking off into an enchanted forest with a woman made of ice.  Hazel, of course, follows him, and under normal circumstances, this would be fine.  She has read Alice In Wonderland, The Hobbit, A Wrinkle In Time.  If she has to kill a sinister queen, slay giant spiders, or tesser, she’ll be good to go.  But how do you save someone you can’t talk to anymore?  How do you convince someone to come back home when no one there speaks the same language?  How do you connect when words have lost their meaning?

Part of the brilliance of Breadcrumbs is that it is so deeply concerned with the shades and contours and light-catching that make words much more than interchangeable bricks.  Hazel navigates the fantasy world in the book the same way the reader will – with the stories she’s brought in with her.  It’s finding the right words that will save Jack or lose him forever at the end, but Hazel thankfully has enough words and stories to light the pathway to him.  And we hope that readers will find a similar path lit for

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6. Cover Stories: The Secret Journeys Of Jack London by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon, Illustrated by Greg Ruth

5.JPGIn a special treat of a Cover Story, there are three people weighing in today. Here are Tim Lebbon (TL) and Christopher Golden (CG), the authors, and Greg Ruth (GR), the illustrator who did the cover (actually, editor Jordan Brown weighs in too, so it's the first ever four-person Cover Story!).

Did you have an idea in mind for your cover as you were writing the book?
TL: I think I always imagined the cover featuring Jack himself, probably in an action scene, although I'm always concerned at what a character might look in cases like this. Greg's final product exceeded my wildest expectation - there's so much power in that image, so much Wild, that it just took my breath away.

CG: I had been thinking of something almost antique and old-fashioned looking to go along with the Jack London era adventure tone. Greg managed to come up with something that served that desire while being totally contemporary and beautiful. We're lucky to have him on this. Despite warnings to the contrary, people often do judge books by their covers, and this one is a home run.
GR: I think the notion going in was to thread the needle between making a cover that was distinctly Jack London, but without actually showing Jack's face... which was of course the hard trick to manage. I needed then to make everything about the image a contributor to his character, and to that I did a number of initial sketches of him atop some snow ridge, either with his back to us, or facing us, but his face obscured by snow and light. We quickly settled on the former and worked it towards fulfilling the initial goal along those lines.

[Below, see two of Greg's eight intial sketches for the cover, at left, all very different ideas, these are the two to which we most gravitated. They loved the scale and the weight of the one with Jack looking out from the precipice, and also the intricate detail of the more close-up image of Jack's back. They asked if Greg could combine them a bit in a more refined sketch, and that one is on the far right:]
1a.jpg 1b.jpg 2.jpg

Did your publisher ask for your input before the art dept started working?
TL: We talked generalities about book design, the feel we wanted for it. But we didn't impose any restrictions, because we all had faith that Greg would come up with something wonderful..."

Read the rest of this epic Cover Story (and see more initial designs) at melissacwalker.com.

PS-The full post is part of a huge blog tour, so here's the full schedule in case you want to learn more!

Monday, February 28th
Little Willow at Bildungsroman

Tuesday, March 1st
Kiba Rika (Kimberly Hirsh) of Lectitans

Wednesday, March 2nd
Kim Baccellia from
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7. Gnomes in the Garden

One week ago Saturday, I stepped into a Story Garden. Immediately, like magic, roots grew down into the ground, connecting me to a rich substrata of writers, editors, agents, all with amazing stories to tell. As I wandered the Story Garden (known to some as the SCBWI Western Washington Writing and Illustrating for Children Conference) flowers of every sort shot up out of the ground at my very feet. I watched with amazement as one particularly bright colored blossom (Genus Lainius taylorus, fuschia petals, quite lovely) began to speak. Wondrous tales of a circus troupe within her very being, struggling to emerge, wove a spell around all of us in the Story Garden, prompting great excitement at the possibilities for each of us, ready to bring forth our own fruit.

As the day wore on, and we were watered, fertilized and shone upon by Master Gardeners Jay Asher, Peter Brown, Edward Necalsulmer IV, Jordan Brown, Lisa Graff, Paul Rodeen, Michael Bourret, Sara Crowe, and so many others--voila! We bore fruit. Many of us scurried to secret corners, to quickly capture those first buds of a new story, the tentative tendrils of a plot twist.

No garden is quite complete without a Garden Gnome, and by early afternoon, our very own gnome appeared (see above), cheering us on, giving bits of writing advice to each of us who captured him before he disappeared back into his own hidden garden, once again to write.

And now each of us have returned to our own secret gardens, treasuring all we brought back from that magical weekend, seeding our own stories to bloom in due time.

Watch our gardens grow!

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8. Day One - SCBWI

Hotel parking...$24
Books from the SCBWI bookstore...$26
Glass of wine at the hotel bar...$10

Meeting all my blogging buddies...priceless.

Today alone I met Sarah Laurenson, Jolie Stekly, Lindsay Leavitt, Shelli Wells, Katie Anderson, Sarah Frances Hardy, Lisa Schroeder, Lee Wind, Greg Pincus, Cynthea Liu, Barry Summie, Cindy Pon, Thalia Chaltas, Greg Trine, Paula Yoo and Jill Corcoran...all people who have only existed on the internet before now. But the beauty of it is, when we meet, we already have a common bond--blogging. I'll never question the value of my blog time again. (Okay, I probably will, but then I'll just remind myself how great it was to be in a room of 1000 strangers and be "recognized" because of my blog. I LOVE the internet!)

As for the presenters, wow, just wow. Sherman Alexie kicked off the event with an amazing speech. My notes aren't as good as Sarah Frances, but I'll highlight some of the most memorable quotes for me:

People hand you their lives on a daily basis. They may see your book as somewhere they can pick up ideas for how to deal with their daily lives.

Connecting outside of yourself--that's when the world changes. That should be your aspiration.

Writing for children changes lives in ways an adult book never can. We can alter them forever...in good and bad ways.

The power of these books will find its way to someone who needs it.

Writers for children fully accept their responsibility, unlike other writers.

No matter who you're writing your book for, you're going to save at least one person.

I went to a workshop with Jordan Brown, an editor at HarperCollins who works with the Balzer and Bray imprint (publishing everything from PBs to YA) and Walden Pond Press (a new imprint which will publish middle grade exclusively). His session focused on First Pages. Here were some of his thoughts:

You want to own the reader. Decide what the reader is going to take away from the story and put it there on the first page.

Three most important things to have on the first page: Introduce the MC, Establish voice and character, Tell us what's going to happen.

Character drives plot. The easiest way to get us into a charachter is showing us what's important to that character. (That's the #1 thing for him.) Show us the character's defining attributes. If physical description isn't the most important thing to that character, then you're missing an important opportunity to tell the reader about the character in the best most concise way you can.

Let readers know what's at stake, what the character stands to lose or gain. Your story should tell the most important story that has ever happened in this character's life. If we can only hear one story from this character's childhood, this should be the one that you're telling us right now.

The way characters are different from us is never as important as the way they are the same.

The first page is kind of a self enclosed little masterpiece within the larger story, so strategically placed detail within that can give your reader an idea of what's to come and lead them on to the second page.

You don't need to force conflict. Conflict will arise when you have a bunch of decent characters on stage together. If the main thrust of your book is a conflict, then put it on the first page. But if it's not that cut and dried, you don't necessarily have to start with conflict.

Later in an editor panel, he also made this comment which I thought was great:

Except for Toy Story 2, Pixar has never made a sequel. But you know what to expect when you go to a Pixar movie. Think of yourself as a brand and what you can bring to the childrens book world.

So much more to tell! But I really need to sleep...so I can soak up more tomorrow!

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