Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Highlights and Lowlights from the Miami Conference


I had a great time at the conference, and got a chance to meet mindyalyse! We managed to have lunch and dinner together on Friday, which was so much fun. I also got to meet Laura, Kim, Betty, Adrienne, Cana (from Verla's), Linda M (who was wonderful and took me to the airport), and Donna, and I'm sure a ton of other people I'm forgetting right now - sorry! LindaB (from Verla's) puts on a wonderful conference, and it was good to see her again. Plus, I got to talk to Libba Bray, and finally meet Arthur Levine. I also had critiques with Priscilla Burris and Frank Remkiewicz (who looks a little like Walt Disney). They were both wonderful and helpful and gave me a lot to think about!

First books panel It was really fun to hear how each author got their first books published. They also had some advice for the rest of us:
* Sherri North (The School That Sank) - Target the publisher that’s most likely to need/want your story.
* Jeanne Kraus (Corey Stories) - Follow our passions, and set writing goals.
* Carol Nevius (Karate Hour) - Part of her job as a picture book writer is to keep her illustrator employed – so that he doesn’t go to another publisher.

Query Letters panel with Arthur Levine (Scholastic), Alyssa Eisner (Simon & Schuster), & George Nicholson (Sterling Lord Literistic)
* The main themes here were to infuse your query letters with the same passion that you have for your book, to not write a generic query, and to make sure you target your subs well. One way to do that is to go onto the SCBWI site and look at the "Edited By" section. Also, sometimes art directors and designers are credited on the © page of a pb so you can see who they are.

Bruce Coville – I saw him give this talk in LA…but it was still informative and entertaining. (Go see him if you get a chance.) Characters that the reader cares about must make moral decisions – it ups the action and emotion in your story. Also, you must take risks as a writer and jump off that cliff every time you sit down to write – it will be worth it in the end.

Ruth Vander Zee – Truth in good stories gives kids hope. The truth needs to be something kids can relate to whether you write fiction or nonfiction.

Libba Bray – Her talk was funny and full of information. (Go see her talk if you get the chance!!!) Writing for kids matters – we’re making readers. It gives kids permission to jump into a book and believe the story. She also urged us to write with passion and heart, and to make our book as strong and unique as it can be.

Jo S. Kittenger – Nonfiction - always keep footnotes (you never know when you might need that info) and send a great bibliography to the publisher.

First Page Critiques - The beginning should flow from the voice of a unique character, and not seem like an intro or explanation of facts; it should make the editor want to read more.

Arthur Levine - Why do you love the books you love? Where do you want to go as an author? Know yourself as a person and as a writer. (Mr. Levine posted the full text of his speech here: Arthur Levine's Blog)

George Nicholson – talked about what it means to be an agent, and what kind of responsibilities they have.

Priscilla Burris - The purpose of showing work is to be published. Work on your drawing skills and show images that evoke emotion. The first page in your portfolio should show what you love to do most, and the rest of the portfolio should follow that.

Alyssa Eisner - Likes historical fiction and MG fiction, not interested in dark YA. The Publisher’s Weekly twice/year children’s issue lists imprints and what they are publishing, which can help with your research in targeting your submissions. 3 key things you & your books need to get published – brains, heart and courage.

Joyce Sweeney Plotting Your Novel – We did a workshop exercise from the book Screenplay by Syd Field. She said to use the plotting structures / rules / guidelines only when you get stuck. Don’t use them as a formula to create your book. If it’s working, don’t worry about the rules. Also, keep brainstorming and don’t go with your first idea – keep going until you get the best idea for each scene and plot point. It must have emotional satisfaction / be exciting, etc.


1. Always make sure you have your pb dummy, manuscript, or portfolio printed out, put together, and ready to go BEFORE the conference. Otherwise, you will be like me…sitting in the hotel room during the peer critique sessions and open mic, with glue all over your hands and a sore head from where you’ve been banging it on the wall, because you accidentally missed a bunch of pages at the beginning of the pb dummy, and now you have to rip out all the pages you already glued in, and re-glue them so you don’t have extra pages left over – grrrr!

2. Always make sure to set your alarm AND have a wake up call. Otherwise, you will be like me…snoozing through your alarm, even though you are a light sleeper, and waking up 2 hours later, only to realize that the first workshop of the day is almost over, and you better chow down some dry cereal and jump in the shower so that you’re not hungry or stinky, and don’t miss the second and final session of the day!

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Good News to start 2006

We're finally home!!!

Good News to start 2006
I found out that not only did I get into Wee Ones magazine for January, but I have the first featured story and illustrations too - yippee! Check it out: Brother Trouble

I am also in Kid Mag Writers this month, which artistq was wonderful enough to mention in her blog :0)
It's a spoof on my favorite MTV show for the In My Office column: I Want To Be Made

Back to work
I leave for the FL conference a week from friday, and I still have a lot of work to do on my 3 pb dummies and portfolio that I'm bringing along, so if you don't hear from me for a while, it means I'm covered in paint and pencil shavings :0)