Posted tagged ‘Editors’

Tidbits from a Writing Conference

October 25, 2012

This past weekend I attended a writing conference at what I call “The Nunnery.”

The room and food — not so good. The speakers and attendees — fantastic!

With editors like Melissa Manlove from Chronicle Books, Kristen Nobels from Candlewick Press, and Michelle Poploff from Delacorte Press Children’s Books and authors like Kathi Appelt, Sara Zarr, and George Shannon, who wouldn’t be excited? The weekend was filled with camaraderie, laughs, encouragement, and valuable information.

Alas, I cannot share everything I learned, but I can let you in on some tidbits of information from the faculty.

Find your voice and unique style.

There is magic in words. Use them to your advantage.

Word choice should have patterns of sound, rhythm, a sense of urgency, and pitch that provide emotional impact.

Surprise your reader.

Put personality and place in your writing.

Actively engage your readers.

The number one job of an author is to worry the reader. That will keep the reader turning the pages.

Up the ante to create tension.

Every word counts.

Perfect your craft.

Good writing plus good pacing equals a good book.

If you have a passion for writing, no matter what, stay in touch with what you love.

Suggested Reading:

Dear Genius The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom written by Leonard S. Marcus and illustrated by Maurice Sendak

Tidbits from the SCBWI-Iowa Conference

April 24, 2012

This past weekend I attended the SCBWI-Iowa Conference. As always, Iowa did an amazing job preparing and organizing a conference that sent attendees home with a wealth of information.

Below are a few tidbits I’d like to share.

Brett Wright, assistant editor at Bloomsbury Children’s Books USA, mentioned that paranormal and dystopian manuscripts have pretty much saturated the market, and the market for picture books is still tricky. Manuscripts need to be unique and have a good hook, and that hook should come near the beginning of the book.

Brett is on the lookout for middle-grade boy books, but the book needs to stand out from other boy books. He noted the ideal middle-grade word count is between 30-40,000 words.

Marilyn Brighman, editor at Marshall Cavendish/Amazon Children’s Publishing, said writers should take risks and write what they want to write. Don’t follow trends. Marilyn likes edgy contemporary fiction. She is looking for solid middle-grade books and would like to find a new chapter book manuscript with series potential. Manuscripts should have a unique voice and a fresh writing style.

Kari Pearson, editorial assistant at Abrams books for Young Readers, addressed the aspects of publishing. Quality of work is paramount. Editors get excited about innovative ideas. Some things a writer should think about before submitting to a publishing house are marketability, books that are similar to yours and how well they sold, and to make sure your book fits the publisher’s list. Kari is interested in picture books from ages 0-5 years, and wants to read something interesting about you in your cover letter.

Kristy “Ty” King, a literary agent from Writers House, gave an excellent talk on how an agent can help you navigate publishing. An agent wears many different hats. He/she should involve you in all steps of publication. An agent acts as your business manager, legal counsel, editor, and is your support. In a nutshell, your agent is your career counselor.

Ty represents children’s books, young adult authors, and illustrators across all age ranges. When querying, a one-page professional letter is best. It should pique interest in your project, and when describing your manuscript, it should read like flap copy. You should also include information about yourself and your background and note that your manuscript is available upon request.

Ty also spoke on “Becoming Literate in the Children’s Book World.” Books she recommended are:  Minders of Make-Believe by Leonard S. Marcus, Dear Genius:  The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom by Ursula Nordstrom, and Writing with Pictures by Uri Schulevitz.

There were two breakout sessions from which to choose:  “Plotting the Novel” presented by Jan Blazanin and “From Research to a Fiction Picture Book” by Wendy Henrichs. I chose to go to Jan Blazanin’s presentation. She is the author of A & L Do Summer and Fairest of Them All. Jan’s presentation was overflowing with excellent information — way too much to include here.

SCBWI-Iowa is a great group. You immediately feel at home when you’re with them. Thank you Iowa for a wonderful weekend!

Arrrgh! Mutiny on the Bookshelf

September 20, 2011

Shiver me timbers! Yesterday was “Talk Like a Pirate Day?” Aye, it were!  This was a day close to me heart, me hearties. Upon this day, I wanted to reveal my treasure to the reading world. It was the perfect day to launch my pirate parrot picture book. Alas, to me great despair, me book was given the heave ho before this could happen. The publisher decided to deep six it, toss it overboard, bury it in Davy Jones Locker. I was hornswaggled out of a book launch. It were a foul day for me.     

I’m no sissy pirate writer. Aye, I took it in stride. I had me some grog and thought mean things about those scurvy dogs. Then I had an arrrgh moment. I’m an Old Salt when it comes to the cutthroat competition of writing. Never give up! Keep your eye on the treasure.  

So gangway!  Thar She Blows! a pirate parrot tale is still ridin’ the waves waiting for some lucky editor to hoist it out of the Sea of Submissions. I’m hopin’ for fair winds!

Tips and Tidbits from the SCBWI-Iowa Conference

April 5, 2011

Iowa knows how to do it. I’m talking about the SCBWI-Iowa Conference, which I attended this past weekend – “The Career of Dreams!” From Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon, the conference schedule was jam-packed. Attendees were awed and inspired by a group of talented presenters. Here are some tips and tidbits from the fabulous weekend.

Molly O’Neill, Associate Editor at Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books, spoke about book beginnings and characters.

Every story should “evoke something in us as readers and as people.” It should “stir up a reaction and make us feel something that connects us to the story.”

If you want to catch the eye of an editor, make sure you have a great story, great story telling, and memorable characters and voices.

For a memorable character, know your character through and through. “Stalk your character. Study your character from all angles.”

Candace Fleming, an award-winning picture book, middle grade, and nonfiction author and Eric Rohmann, an award-winning author and illustrator, gave a funny and informative presentation on the fundamentals of picture books.

From Candace Fleming:  A picture book has a “unique structure” – a basic framework with visual aspects and written aspects. The problem in the story should be in the first few sentences, and the most important page in a picture book is the last page. It should have a final twist or surprise – an “aha ending.”

From Eric Rohmann:  When writing a picture book, think visually. Everything written has to have a purpose. Be concise. When it comes to the ending of a picture book, “you have to earn the ending.” The “best endings solve the problem, but don’t end the story.”

Alli Brydon, an editor at Sterling Children’s Books, spoke on how to strengthen a manuscript and get it out of the slush pile.

When submitting a manuscript, know the publishing house. Be professional. Be unique. The elements editors are looking for are plot, theme, tone, setting, character, voice, and style. Your manuscript should have a solid story arc. Show that you’re committed to your craft.

Diane Muldrow, an Editorial Director at Golden Books/Random House and the editor of Little Golden Books, evoked memories of Golden Books from years past in her presentation about the history of Golden Books. As the editor for Little Golden Books, she still looks for the feel of those originals.

The fabulous Lin Oliver was also in Iowa this past weekend. She is the Executive Director of the SCBWI and one of its founders. She is also a children’s book author, writer-producer of family films, television series, and movies for children. How does she do it all? 

She talked about writing a book series and the elements involved in a book series and had some words of wisdom and “Morals of Success” to share with us.

Spread literacy.

Persist with belief in yourself.

Seek mentors.

Stay in touch with professionals who believe in you.

Stay actively engaged. All work breeds work.

Step into fear.

Do the work.

Gary D. Schmidt, an author of two Newbery Honor books and the Michael L. Printz honor award, gave a powerful speech.

He said, “Writers must engage with the world.” They must pay attention to the world and love both the beauty and tragedy of the world in order to come up with the right questions for their readers. Those questions will energize writers and be the ignition for their stories.

Stephen Fraser, a literary agent for The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, gave an inspiring talk and sent out positive vibes on how to win the publishing game.

“Dare to be quiet each day. Listen and let ideas fill you up.” Stephen reminded us that “a creative person can accomplish anything and a good book has a home.” *  

The organizers of the conference planned a full schedule. I wasn’t able to attend all of the sessions, but word had it that every session provided attendees with something valuable to take away with them. The weekend stirred our thoughts, encouraged us to keep at our writing, and motivated us to be the best that we can be!

* For more on Stephen Fraser and what he’s looking for as an agent, DON’T MISS an in-depth interview, Friday, on this blog!

Inspiration from Prairie Writer’s Day

November 16, 2010

If you haven’t had the opportunity to attend the SCBWI-IL Prairie Writer’s Day, you are missing out on a fun-filled, information-packed day. From 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM you are on the go. A fantastic group of professionals is on hand, offering writing tips and industry information.

Here are just a few of the tidbits I took away with me from the editors who were there.

Andrea Welch, editor from Beach Lane Books, reminded us how important emotions are in your manuscript and to remember to “speak to the heart of the reader.”

Katherine Jacobs, associate editor from Roaring Book Press, spoke on pacing in your manuscript. Control the pacing of your story though the structure of your manuscript.

Marilyn Brigham, editor from Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books, talked about choosing the right words to create powerful sentences and to find your voice because “voice is most important.”

Tamra Tuller, editor from Philomel Books, discussed writer’s block suggesting different ways of unblocking yourself and concluded by saying, “only you can control whether or not you write.”

Janice M. Del Negro, PhD, an author, storyteller, and Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Dominican University in River Forest, IL, said something that really hit home. “Words are the raw stuff authors work with. Mastery of language is what makes art.”

It was a perfect day. I have a treasure trove of notes and handouts to pore over and to keep me inspired. I’m looking forward to next year’s Prairie Writer’s Day, but for now, it’s time to get to work!

News & Views from a Writing Retreat

October 19, 2010

The SCBWI-Wisconsin Fall Retreat was fantastic. Who cares that we stayed in a retirement home for nuns with austere rooms and bathrooms reminiscent of old college dorms. It was all about the people who were there – the speakers and the attendees. It was a Shake, Rattle and Revise weekend ─ a time to learn how to strengthen our writing craft and a time to mix and mingle with some very knowledgeable and talented people. And if that wasn’t enough, the “Sweets Table” was to die for and take a look at these views of Lake Michigan!

Bruce Hale, author of the Chet Gecko series and other books, kept us in suspense as to which hat he might wear next. Editors, Lisa Yoskowitz (Dutton) and Greg Ferguson (Egmont USA), gave us insights into the submissions process, marketing ourselves, and the editorial process. Mary Kole, an agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, talked about what we need to do to get an agent. Loraine Joyner, art director at Peachtree Publishers, walked us through the steps an illustrator takes to reach the finished product. Finally, author Deborah Wiles made us laugh and made us cry with tales from her personal life and from her life as a writer.

Each presenter left us with food for thought. They were equally as appealing as the “Sweets Table.” Could any writer ask for more? Well, we got more!

Our own talented members offered breakout sessions on point of view, writing to foster emotional growth, uncovering the secrets of finding the right agent, writing a one-page synopsis, and revising with fierceness. There were also peer group critiques and individual critiques from visiting faculty and our own published authors. This was a weekend not to be missed.

When an opportunity to go to a writing conference presents itself, don’t think twice – GO! You never know what pearls of wisdom you can add to your hope chest of writing!

Times Are Changing

May 18, 2010

Times are changing. Authors, hop aboard the technology train before you get left behind!

This past weekend I attended the New England SCBWI Conference. The theme was “Moments of Change.” Online presence and author branding were hot topics. Author websites, blogs, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter are ways of getting your name known. You don’t have to do it all, but you must do something. Keynote speakers were Cynthia Leitich Smith, Marla Frazee, and Allyn Johnston. It was a fantastic weekend!

First up on Saturday morning was Cynthia Leitich Smith. She has it all. She does it all. She’s the author of picture books, a chapter book, a ‘tween novel, and YA Gothic fantasy books. She has a website. She blogs. She’s on MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. Best of all, her YA novel, Eternal, debuted at #5 on the New York Times Bestseller List. Wow!

Cynthia Leitich Smith is a funny, down-to-earth person. She is also extremely talented. Her presentation was entertaining and filled with words of inspiration. We learned more about Cynthia during an interview conducted by Melissa Stewart on Sunday morning.

From an early age, Cynthia was a reader. She used to bring home stacks of books from the library. She recognized the “poetry and grace” of children’s literature and learned to love it. When Cynthia made the decision to become author, she did all the write things. She took the time to hone her craft. She’s a person that sets goals and achieves goals through work and determination. Her advice to authors is “write fierce and be brave.”

On Saturday afternoon, Marla Frazee, author-illustrator and Caldecott Honor Award honoree, and Allyn Johnston, VP & Publisher of Beach Lane Books. did a wonderful presentation about picture book endings. It was the same presentation they gave at the Iowa SCBWI Conference I attended, but it was well-worth hearing again. These two talented people make one great team!

In their presentation, Marla and Allyn used text and illustrations to demonstrate how to create a perfect ending to a picture book. Allyn said endings should have a strong emotional impact – even if it’s a funny book. Marla said, “Endings should disarm us.”

Both agree pacing of text and illustrations is a vital part of making a book memorable. Allyn added that an author should focus on choosing the right words because a picture book is a read aloud art form. To keep readers coming back, it’s essential to have a deep, emotional chord at the end of a book.

Stay tuned for part two on Friday:  School Visits Starring Cynthia Lord and Toni Buzzeo

Don’t Be Weird

April 27, 2010

 

Okay, a potbelly pig is a little weird, but authors and illustrators will do almost anything to get attention. You know I’m right!

I spent the weekend in Bettendorf, Iowa with a wonderful group of writers, illustrators, editors, and an agent. Secretly, I wanted to kidnap those editors and bring them home for one-on-one time with me and my manuscripts. That would be really weird, and I’d probably get arrested so I nixed that idea and took to heart some of the information I collected.

Lisa Graff made the comment:  “Don’t be weird!” When approaching editors of a publishing house, be professional. Don’t waste their time with silly stuff. They’re busy people. Lisa also said that if you’re writing a novel, begin with a good hook to grab the readers, and don’t forget to end each chapter with a hook that will keep readers turning the pages.

Ammi-Joan Paquette from the Erin Murphy Literary Agency shared eight ways to make your manuscript stand out ─ find your voice, be unique, start with a bang, get feedback, revise, make sure your manuscript flows well, raise the stakes for your main character, and set your manuscript aside before sending it out.

Allyn Johnston, VP and Publisher of Beach Lane Books and Marla Frazee, author-illustrator and recipient of a Caldecott Honor Award for All the World, talked about picture books. Pacing is extremely important in a picture book, and the ending of a picture book should surprise us and have a strong emotional impact upon us.

Along with Laura Arnold, editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, author Carol Gorman spoke about common mistakes writers make in their writing. So get out those grammar books and keep them close at hand.

Author/illustrator visits are an important part of spreading the word about your publications.

Mike Shoulders not only writes some great books, but he also gives dynamite school presentations! No time for in-school presentations? Dori Butler presented the ins and outs of visits via Skype. Now that’s a great way to put your best face forward.

The weekend was a time for meeting new people, learning new things, and sharing with one another. There was a feeling of camaraderie at this conference that made the weekend a top-notch experience. Well done Iowa SCBWI.

One last reminder:  When it comes time to send out your manuscript, make sure you’ve done everything to make it the best you possibly can, and DON’T BE WEIRD!


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