Tips from a Writing Conference

Once again, SCBWI-Iowa hosted another fantastic conference. The members of the Iowa chapter are not only extremely talented, but they are some of the nicest people I’ve met. This year’s theme was “The Sky’s the Limit,” and I’m still flying high from an overload of valuable information from a very knowledgeable group of speakers.

Take a look at this lineup!

Bonnie Bader- Editor-in-Chief, Warne & Early Readers Grosset & Dunlap, a Division of Penguin Young Reader

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

Stephanie Pitts- Assistant Editor, Schwartz & Wade, Random House

Jennifer Mattson- Literary Agent, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Rebecca Janni- Author from Iowa

Alice McGinty- Author from Illinois

Pat Zietlow Miller- Author from Wisconsin

Here are a few tips from the speakers at the conference.

Picture books are back! Yes, after a few slow years, editors are looking to acquire picture book manuscripts once again. Here’s what editors want in the picture book genre:  Short books 250-500 words, clever concepts, humor, unique voice, and character-driven books. Think visually. Now get to work on a new manuscript or dust off a manuscript you filed away and write something amazing!

There is a need for leveled readers to go along with the Core Curriculum Standards. If you are thinking in terms of writing a series, there must be a hook and you must have at least three story ideas. Each book should have a catchy title and must stand alone. Nonfiction is also being considered for the leveled readers.

Oral pitches should be no longer than thirty seconds. Take a look at Jill Esbaum’s (Iowa author) post from teachingauthors.com for crafting a one sentence synopsis or “elevator pitch.”

In the YA category, contemporary realistic fiction is the trend. Zombies and paranormal are out for now.

When writing, word choice, language, style, voice, and pacing are key.

A note on cover letters:  They should be short and concise – no frills! If you’ve been published and are an SCBWI member, include that information.

Writing conferences are beneficial. If you have the opportunity to attend one – go! You come away with new friends and worthwhile information.

Happy writing!

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