Posted tagged ‘Prairie Writer’s Day’

Hooked on a Writing Conference

November 15, 2011

The SCBWI-Illinois’ 7th Annual Prairie Writer’s Day had me hooked from the moment I walked through the doors of the Wojcik Conference Center at Harper College in Palatine, IL.  SCBWI members greeted attendees with fishing nets filled with chocolate candy. Hey, I don’t care what time of day it is – chocolate is always welcome.

This year’s theme was Get Hooked, and they had me – hook, line, and sinker. I was lured into a fabulous conference. From aspiring writers to established writers, there was something for everyone to catch. Swimming in the Prairie Day waters, were editors from well-known publishing houses, an Edgar-nominated author, an agent, a senior art director, a literary lawyer, and much more. By the end of the day, my brain was reeling from an overload of information.  

Here are some highlights from my fishing day at the conference.

Daniel Nayeri, editor at Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, likes quirky but not wacky submissions. Of high interest at Clarion are Picture Books, Graphic Novels, and Fantasy/Sci-fi.

Molly O’Neill, editor at Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Children’s Books, likes to see a manuscript with a compelling story to tell and then asks, “Who is this book for?” High interest is YA, Fantasy/Sci-fi, Mystery, and Middle Grade Fiction. Revision is important. It’s re-seeing your story and making it better.

Mary Rodgers, Editor-in-Chief of Lerner Publishing Group, says as an editor she really has to believe in a book in order to convince others to feel the same way. High interest for this group is nonfiction.

Michele Burke, editor at Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers/Random House, has high interest in Picture Books, YA, Mystery, and Middle Grade. She talked about world building and said there should be a balance between action and the world in which the characters live. Acquiring a manuscript is more relaxed at Knopf. It’s primarily between Michele and her publishing director.

Stacey Barney, editor Penguin/Putnam Books for Young Readers, has high interest in YA, Multi-cultural, and Middle Grade. If you want to make an editor fall in love with your book, you must make your book stand out with something innovative or unique. Voice, characterization, and pace should be right on target. Your main character should have flaws and obstacles to overcome. The pace and plot of your books should have a steady forward movement.

Kathy Landwehr, Vice President & Associate Publisher of Peachtree Publishers, has high interest in YA, Multi-cultural, Middle Grade, and humor for all ages. When she pitches a book, sales and marketing are there, and they have to be on board with it, too.

Josh Adams, co-founder and literary agent for Adams Literary, represents authors in all genres. His advice to writers is to wait until you’re ready to look for an agent. Do your research and make sure the agent you choose is a good match.

Bruce Hale visited via Skype. Humor was his topic. He suggested that when revising you should play with word choice and details to heighten humor and listen to rhythms of speech.

Editorial comments:

Picture books should have spare sensibility, rhythm and cadence, and vivid verbs. If you’re writing a rhyming book, make sure your rhymes work perfectly. The best rhyming books focus on concepts and word play.

In chapter books, characters should have a good relationship with other characters and the dialogue between them should be believable.

Make sure your ideas are fresh and original.

Choose your words well.     

If you’re a serious writer, fish for conferences in your area. Take advantage of them. It’s a time to learn, to network, and to have the opportunity to send your manuscripts to closed houses. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. It could end up being a whale of a tale to share with others.

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!


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