Tasty Tidbits from a Conference

There is no better way to continue learning your writing craft than by surrounding yourself with dedicated writers, top-notch speakers, and tasty chocolate. These three ingredients are a writer’s recipe for success. (Well, maybe not the chocolate, but it sure helps.)

 Here are some tidbits from the SCBWI-WI Fall Retreat.

Andrea Welch, Tracey Adams, LeUyen Pham

Laura Ruby, Cheryl Klein, Marsha Wilson Chall

LeUyen Pham, an upbeat and talented illustrator, spoke on visual storytelling. In order to make a stand out picture book, an illustrator carefully studies the author’s story. Objects, size, and color choices work together to determine how the illustrations on each page are precisely placed to make the reader’s eye travel around the entire page.

Cheryl Klein, executive editor of Arthur A. Levine Books, presented a detailed talk on the principles of plot. It’s something all writers should study and know. Do yourself a favor and buy Cheryl’s book, Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults. It’s well worth your time and effort.

Marsha Wilson Chall, an award-winning picture book author and instructor in the MFA program at Hamline University, talked about taking a second look at picture books. Look at the structure of a picture book. Look at the pacing and page turns. When you’re writing, keep these in mind and don’t forget to cut and trim any unnecessary words.

Laura Ruby is a multi-talented author who writes for adults, teens, and children. She talked about world-building – how she creates a unique world for her characters. She said when she can see that world and when she starts to hear the sound of the story, she knows it’s time to begin writing.  

Andrea Welch, senior editor at Beach Lane Books, spoke on how to make your picture book a perfect ten. Three things she looks for in a picture book manuscript are heart, humor, and irresistible characters. She likes a manuscript that captures her on the first read. She also noted that spare picture books are selling now – books between 300-500 words.

Tracey Adams, agent and co-founder of Adams Literary, shared tips from twenty years in the business. She mentioned that Margaret K. McElderry mentored her and was inspired by her. At times when she is questioning something, she thinks, “What would Margaret do?” Here are some things Tracey offered up to writers. Always be professional. Work with people you like and admire. Write what you know and love best. Laugh.

K.T. Horning, Director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was our final speaker. She gave an excellent talk on “What We’ve Learning from Harry Potter” and how the Harry Potter books have influenced, not only our world of reading, but also the world.

There were also break-out sessions presented by fellow Wisconsin SCBWI members that were well-planned and filled with excellent information.

Writers and illustrators know how to have fun!

This conference left a good taste in my mouth and a yearning for more. What more can I say? Except… Take your chocolate to a writing conference today!

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