Thursday, April 29, 2010
Fiction Fire! for Teens and Adults
Saturday, June 5, 2010
10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Orcas Island Public Library
The Orcas Island Writers Festival is hosting a one-day writing class for teens and adults, taught by author Deb Lund. Deb Lund is the author of several picture books, including her celebrated “Dino” series and her latest book, Monsters on Machines.
Whether you write (or want to write) adult, middle grade, or young adult fiction (or most genres, for that matter), these hands-on activities will provide the kindling you need to ignite new stories. Create characters with unique voices, sizzling settings, and plots that keep readers blazing through your pages.
Registration is available online at www.deblund.eventbrite.com. Please send a check to:
Orcas Island Writers Festival
PO Box 1726
Eastsound, WA 98245
If space is available, tickets will also be available at the door for $75/ticket.
Authenticity is incredibly important these days as people are sick of the marketing spin that is used by so many. You as an individual are unique and therefore no one else can be like you. Your writer’s voice needs to be just as authentic – but how do you find that authentic voice?
Julia McCutchen is the founder and creative director of the International Association of Conscious and Creative Writers (IACCW) where writers discover their authentic voice – on the page and in the world. Julia is also an intuitive writer’s coach, mentor and professional publishing consultant based in the UK, as well as the author of ‘The Writer’s Journey: From Inspiration to Publication‘.
One point she touches on in a 34-minute podcast is this: What is the writer’s voice? Journey into yourself to discover who you are authentically, combining your unique gifts and expression in congruent forms and then reaching as many people as you can with it. Expressing your own truth in the world – through content and style.
Get the whole podcast here.
The event officially begins at midnight on Saturday May 1, 2010 and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Friday May 7th.
From April 1-30, 2010, she will be posting an inspirational blog every day with picture book writing tips, quotes from published author friends, and encouragement as you prepare for this year's NaPiBoWriWee. For the month of April, she encourages you to brainstorm ideas, take notes, do research, and even outline your books. BUT... ABSOLUTELY NO PICTURE BOOK MANUSCRIPT WRITING IS ALLOWED DURING THE MONTH OF APRIL.
Get more info here.
Today's event, at 1 p.m., is Writers & Free Speech: Important First Amendment Considerations.
On May 27 at 1 p.m., they're offering Should I Sign? What to Know About Publishing Contracts.
Get more information and tickets here.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Lois V. Harris will read her Charlie Russell: Tale-Telling Cowboy Artist book at 1 PM at Mockingbird Books, 7220 Woodlawn Ave. N.E., Seattle.
Here's what Jaime has to say about her class:
The UW Illustrating Children's Picture Books class really is the perfect way to keep your butt in chair over the summer. I consider it a boot camp for picture books. All levels are welcome to attend. We will be learning about what constitutes a great picture book and making dummies. Even if you think you know it all, are you practicing it in your own work? Or do you get more done if you are accountable to others? I'm happy to account you this summer!And here's what I have to say about it...I first met Jaime during this very class, and strategically sat by her each time because she was so darned good that I thought I could pick up a few things by osmosis.
You don't need to be an illustrator to attend: authors will be encouraged to practice paginating their work and thinking more visually. And I'm SO EXCITED to share the book report assignment I've come up with -- yous guys are going to love it.
You don't need to be an author to attend: if you don't have a manuscript to dummy up, I will have some published texts for you to practice on or you can find a song or folktale on your own.
Wouldn't it be fun to spend a few nights a week this summer making your next project shine, surrounded by kindred, picture book lovin' spirits? Listening to some stellar guest speakers -- Julie Paschkis and Paul Schmid? AND DID I MENTION THERE WILL BE CUPCAKES?
Plus, the class is happening during Eric Carle's birthday and the anniversary of the awarding of the first Caldecott Medal. So be prepared to celebrate those if you sign up!
The class itself definitely helped me turn a corner as a picture-book writer--among other things, I learned what words I could leave out. But to have it also be taught by Jaime? SCORE. She really knows her stuff. Sign up if you can!
"Here's the review:
"Scab McNally is back in this laugh-out-loud volume. With high energy and ingenious ideas, the 10-year-old skates (just barely!) through one sticky situation after another. The plot focuses on a dinosaurlike creature he spots while fishing with his buddies, but nonstop goofiness, plot-related or not, is the real draw here. Cartoon drawings and plenty of sidebars full of Scab’s secrets, tips, and other hilarious insider information break up the text. A solid step up from Captain Underpants." –Amanda Moss Struckmeyer, Middleton Public Library, WI
Any time I'm called a "solid step up from Captain Underpants," I'll take it!
The third book in the series: Scab for
President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer? will be released in the spring of 2011. Seriously, that's the title. On my series proposal, I just threw this one in at the bottom of the page as a possible title because I thought it was funny, not because I had any ideas for a book. Naturally, that's the one that caught my editor's eye. "Let's do that one," she said. It's the first time I've ever written a book to fit a title! That will show me to be flip and cute on my proposals."
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Sign up now. Go. Do it. Here's the link.
OK. Now that you've done that, let me tell you why you want to study fiction writing with these people.
First, Arthur Levine (pictured here with Sara and Jolie--hi, ladies!).
I went to the working writers' roundup in Los Angeles last summer, where I got to hang out with the amazing and talented people of the L.A. chapter. Every single one of them brought multiple manuscripts to be critiqued in small-group settings. This is a serious group of writers.
Arthur was the sixth and final group leader, and one of our members read a picture book we'd all loved. You know, to the point of saying, "It's perfect! What more could be done?"
Then Arthur listened to her read, and in about five minutes, explained beautifully and kindly how the book had a problem with its story arc. Suddenly, we were all able to see what he was talking about. It was one of those scales-falling-from-the-eyes moments. Once you're able to see problems like that, you can always see problems like that.
So, it was a transformative experience.
I can praise Linda Sue Park with equal ardor. I took her scene writing master class last summer and was astounded at how much she taught us about the structure of scenes, tricks with point of view, as well as repeated story motifs. Yes, the class was about scenes. But it was really about revising your writing with the highest levels of the craft in mind.
Linda Sue is blunt and funny, and she will make you feel better about the challenges we face as writers.
I know these conferences cost a lot of money and time. They are so worth it. If you're at all able to go, don't miss out--and seriously, these workshops are going to fill up shortly. Sign up now!
Monday, April 26, 2010
It's part of their Ultimate Tuesday extravaganza, and these events are a guaranteed good time.
Martha is also the push behind this up-at-dawn working routine that other SCBWI locals like Benjamin Watson, Kim Baker, and Jolie Stekly are now practicing. Follow them on Twitter -- Ben, Martha, Jolie, Kim, to get high fives at five, too!
And since Martha isn't a horn tooter (and all I do IS toot!) did she tell you she's on SCBWI TEAM BLOG?!?!? Yes, Martha will be blogging at the upcoming LA Conference. And she's also going to be blogging for MSN Entertainment's Books Superfan blog with me, soon?!? Darn tootin'.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
So if the Bainbridge event is tough to get to, you'll have this additional opportunity to meet the creators and celebrate the popular series.
Jesse is going to show some of his original covers and rumor has it that the model for Hank Zipzer (who comes from a famous family in children's literature) might even appear, too.
Click here for more information.
Friday, April 23, 2010
The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators of Western Washington cordially invites you to the Spring 2010 Inside Story on Wednesday, April 28th at Mockingbird Books (7220 Woodlawn Ave NE, Seattle), from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
The Inside Story is presented twice yearly in a rotating venue of bookstores by independent booksellers and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators of Western Washington. All librarians, teachers, booksellers, book buyers, and media are invited to join us as local authors and illustrators share the "inside stories"behind their new books! Please RSVP to geeta@MockingbirdBooksGL.com or (206) 518-5886, and feel free to forward to anyone who might be interested. (If you received this email from a friend or colleague and would like to be added to our mailing list for future events, please send the information to email@example.com.)
For more information visit http://scbwi-washington.org/24/inside-story.html.
Want to create a plot you'll itch to write? A protagonist you'll love? An antagonist that will give you shivers? And (simultaneously) the first draft of a synopsis ready to be pared down to two pages and polished up?Read the rest.
Like many writers, I've spun my mental wheels researching and experimenting with different methods of plotting: outlining versus free writing versus turning points versus notecards versus snowflake method etc. Since I've finally found something that works for me, I thought I'd share my Complications Worksheet here to help you simultaneously develop action, motivation and character depth by piling trouble on your poor protagonist.
Maybe I’m tootin’ my own horn here, but I just have to say that the writing community here in the Pacific Northwest is pretty dang awesome. Not only are we a creative, friendly, and professional bunch, but we’re generous too.
Not long ago, I asked my local writing community for book donations to help orphans in Tanzania. (Orphans Africa, a non-profit 501 (c) 3 charity which I co-founded, was having its first gala dinner and auction and we needed auction items.) Two days after I broadcast my plea, I received some beautiful autographed books. That was only the beginning. Over the next few weeks, autographed books flooded into my local post office, eliciting raised eyebrows from the postmaster as I walked out each day, arms piled high. Picture books, novels for children and adults, self-help books, inspirational books, chapter books for young readers . . . the writers of the Pacific Northwest sent their very best. Their generosity literally brought me to tears.
So this is my official group hug. To each of you who gave, thank you and God bless you. And for those of you who attended the auction and purchased book baskets, wow! We raised over $17,000 at our auction, enough to nearly complete a kitchen and dining hall at our nursery and primary boarding school for orphans!
Check out the list of people who gave; you'll see some familiar SCBWI folk.
You might want to let your inner Pinky and/or Leather Tuscadero know that Fonzie is coming to Bainbridge Island to talk about the latest in the book series he co-wrote with the SCBWI's beloved Lin Oliver. It's also the last book in the series, so if you've ever wanted to bask in the glow of Henry Winkler's coolness, this is your big chance.
Here are the details:
West Sound Reads! and Eagle Harbor Book Company presents a discussion and book signing with actor Henry Winkler, based on his book A BRAND NEW ME (Hank Zipzer series #17), Sunday, May 2, at 1:30 p.m. at the Commons at Bainbridge High School. The event is free and open to the public. The program will be followed by a question and answer session and a book signing.
Winkler's series, aimed at 8- to 12-year-olds, follows the adventures and tribulations of Hank Zipzer, a bright, dyslexic boy in New York City. School presents challenges for the student, who is an enthusiastic learning, but often runs afoul of teachers and classmates who don't understand his learning differences. With a great family support system, two best friends, and his own considerable charm and creativity, Hank succeeds in grade school.
For more information, please call (206) 842-5332 or (360) 692-2375 or
visit us online a www.eagleharborbooks.com.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I was a member of the SCBWI for years before I traveled to a national conference.
Oh, I had my reasons: the time, the money, the idea that our local conferences are so darned good that any travel beyond Redmond is unnecessary.
And then I went to my first L.A. conference.
Without getting into too many details (because what happens in L.A. stays in L.A.), my first conference led directly to my signing with an agent and getting a picture book deal. A lot of this was luck—but just as important, it was an opportunity for me to build on what I'd learned at SCBWI-WWA and take my career to that next level.
The second time I went, I took a master class with Linda Sue Park that helped me immensely with a revision. So that, too, was career-changing.
Even if those things hadn't happened, though, I'd still want to go back. The conferences are a ton of fun, even for bookish introverts like me. (And really, the only embarrassing thing that's happened so far is that I conditioned my hair with hand lotion accidentally. This could happen to anyone. Anyone with hair, that is.)
So do think about the conference. Registration is now open. If you want to take one of the master classes listed, you'll want to sign up ASAP because those fill up fast.
“And then, it suddenly dawned on her.”
That phrase is the ultimate cliche for a character epiphany. The term epiphany was originally a religious term referring to the physical appearance of a deity. In fiction, it’s the point at which truth appears before a character; the character learns or understands something.
Elaine Marie Alphin, author of Creating Characters Kids Will Love (Writer’s Digest) and several novels, says, “The epiphany is the moment of self-realization; it’s when the character’s change and growth hits him or her, even if the character doesn’t fully understand it.”
And here's the rest.
Mondays, April 26-May 17, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
$80 Limit: 10 students
Location: Instructor’s studio (near Gasworks in Seattle)
This 4-week class will jump-start your writing or venture further than you’ve experienced with your writing. We’ll use writing prompts to trigger creative insights, and/or explore story lines relevant to your ongoing project(s). My goal is to identify your writing strengths and help you build on them. You learn how to trigger your creativity on your own and work with others in a creative environment. Perfect for those looking for a writing group with constructive feedback, not criticism.
This class is perfect for those feeling stuck with story lines or experiencing “writers block,” as we will kick your creative mind back into high gear. Bring blank paper or existing work.
Editing the Manuscript
Wednesdays, April 28-May 19, 6:30-9 p.m.
$120 Limit: 10 students
Location: Instructor’s studio (near Gasworks in Seattle)
This 4-week editing workshop is designed to help you prepare your manuscript for submission. Editing emphasis will be placed on 1) tight scene structure, 2) no unnecessary words, and 3) strong characters.
Participants will be expected to offer feedback and perspectives on other’s work and be open to receiving commentary on their own work. The instructor will review the first chapter for each student.
Bring your manuscript (novel or screenplay), and you’ll end the workshop with your best work yet.
To register for workshops, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website.
Christine M. Fairchild has over 20 years of experience as a writer and editor. She helps fiction writers improve their use of language, timing, and perspective to deepen their work. Christine has written 2 historical fiction women’s fiction books as well as a Romantic Suspense. As a writer, editor and ghostwriter, her experience ranges from novels to screenplays to non-fiction, from science fiction to romance to memoir.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Northern Network Schmooze
Tuesday, May 4, 7:00-9:00 pm
Barnes & Noble, Bellingham, Washington
“Highlights from the 2010 SCBWI WWA Spring Conference”
The SCBWI Northern Network was well represented at this year’s fabulous conference held at the Redmond Marriott on April 10th and 11th. Whether you were able to attend or had to miss this year, please join us as we review the highlights of what we enjoyed and what we learned as we “Stepped Into the Story Garden.”
We will be meeting at Barnes & Noble this month. No RSVP required, but if you have any questions, or just want to say “hi” and tell us you’re coming, please contact the Network Coordinator, Angelina Hansen, at email@example.com.
Hope to see you there!
Registration for the 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles will begin at 10AM PT on Wednesday, April 21st! Premium workshops and consultations will fill quickly, so if you're thinking about signing up, think fast! Click here for more information and here to download the full schedule.
But Laini Taylor, generous soul that she is, has posted her whole, fantastic plot workshop on her blog. It's in three parts:
Part I: What is Plot?
Part II: Character, Motivation, and Conflict
Part III: Structure
Do check it out. There's some really great advice in it.
Here's what they had to say:
The Can Man (Lee & Low, 36 pages, $18.95), by Laura E. Williams, illustrated by Craig Orback, focuses not only on recycling but also homelessness. Mr. Peters was young Tim’s apartment neighbor before he lost his job and home and became known as the “Can Man.”
Tim wants a new skateboard for his birthday more than anything. After seeing Mr. Peters out collecting cans, Tim decides he will collect cans too — before Mr. Peters can get to them. He works very hard and earns the money he needs. When he bumps into Mr. Peters with his empty
shopping cart, he realizes that a new skateboard is not as important as surviving in the streets and gives Mr. Peters all the money, learning an important lesson.
Rich oil paintings complement this heartfelt story for readers ages 6-10.
She's done so much for our region and is a writer beloved by everyone who knows her. (And you can get to know her through her blog.)
She leaves us early next month, and Allyson Valentine Schrier is hosting a See Ya Later, Molly evening on Thursday at Secret Garden Books in Ballard, from 7-9 p.m.
Everyone is invited to attend. We're going to miss you, Molly!
Monday, April 19, 2010
That's because April 26 marks the official release date of Karen Cushman's latest, ALCHEMY AND MEGGY SWANN (Clarion), about a girl, her goose, and their magical transformation in a gritty London world.
Karen is one of the Truly Great Figures in children's literature, with a Newbery Award and a Newbery Honor to her name.
She also happens to be one of the warmest, most generous authors I've met. Seriously. I love her.
On May 11, she's headlining at our final Professional Series meeting of the year, telling us how she finally came to write after years of talking about it a speech titled IN DREAMS BEGIN RESPONSIBILITIES.
We're incredibly lucky to have her, and so that you can be ready to get the most out of the evening, we put together a blog book tour.
Whether you write middle grade, historical fiction, nonfiction or just love to read, you'll learn a lot from the answers Karen shared with our team.
Kim Baker, our assistant regional adviser, writes about middle-grade fiction at Wagging Tales. She first met Karen last summer, and asked her some questions about her writing process. Read up on them here.
Laurie Thompson, our co-regional adviser, has a blog about nonfiction--something that overlaps plenty with the historical fiction Karen writes so beautifully. Read it here.
Kirby Larson, a colleague and Newbery honor winner, has both a review of the book AND an interview AND she is giving away an ARC to the person who invents the best Meggy Swann-style curse. Here's her review. And here's her interview.
Emilie Bishop--who contributes to the historical fiction blog Damsels in Regress--has a great interview tailored to people working in that genre. Here's a question I loved:
2. What was your favorite period word or phrase that you got to include in the book?You can read the whole thing here.
I pick gallimaufry though beslubbered, dampnified, and gorbellied come close.
And finally, Allie Costa, a California gal who writes the popular book-review blog Slayground, has an interview with Karen about all of her books. You'll find that one here, along with a hilarious anecdote about bosoms and school uniforms. (You'll probably also get ideas for what you want to read next, both from Karen, and from the publishing world at large).
More good stuff:
Friday, April 16, 2010
Stay tuned for more conference photos in the printed Chinook, but I have to share this one shot of Chadwick Gillenwater as a gnome.
He might not have had his dramatic entrance with the faculty parade, but I'd put him in a wheelbarrow and cart him around, all the same. (Note: that was a compliment.)
Thanks to Bill Trueit Photography for the camera work.
The iPad Meets the Children's Book
Apps for kids' stories start to proliferate for Apple's newest product
By Karen Springen -- Publishers Weekly, 4/8/2010 4:54:00 PM
Apr8AppsMissSpiderInteriorJUMP"An interior image from Calloway's 'Miss Spider' app."On launch day last Saturday, Apple sold more than 300,000 iPads—and users downloaded more than one million apps and more than 250,000 ebooks from the iBookstore. Parents immediately started snapping up picture book apps from Apple's online store. In fact, children's stories held six of the top 10 paid iPad book-app sales spots as of press time. Typical prices for children's book apps range anywhere from $2.99 for The Cat in the Hat to $9.99 for Miss Spider's Tea Party.
Read the rest.
Really, though, this is the thing that everyone--and by everyone, I mean Peter Brown--is talking about:
It sure does look fun to turn a book this way and that and watch Alice's neck get long, but I dunno. To me, that gets in the way of the story. Also, it calls to mind those little floaty pens that make the cows go back into the barn or what have you. It's fun once or twice. After that? Yawn. At least when it comes to books. Games are another story.
The Highlights Foundation is offering a $1000 grant toward the $2400 tuition for the Writers Workshop at Chautauqua, July 17-24, 2010. In addition to the grant, the Foundation will subtract their early-registration discount of $415, which makes the tuition $985. This price includes all meals and conference supplies, as well as your gate pass providing you access to the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution.
The only costs additional to the $985 tuition are your transportation and housing. We have rented a variety of housing within easy walking distance of our activities. If selecting your lodging through us, you pay us for it. We also coordinate shuttle service from the three nearby airports. You will pay the shuttle service directly at time of service.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
This year, we again asked each of our manuscript consultants to nominate one or more of the manuscripts they critiqued at SCBWI Western Washington's 19th Annual Writing and Illustrating for Children Conference.
Please understand that some consultants chose not to participate, so if yours didn't get a shout out, it doesn't necessarily mean it isn't promising! Everyone who received a consultation is working on improving their craft, and each and every one of them should be commended.
Great job, Western Washington illustrators! I have to tell you that several of the conference faculty made a point of telling us how impressed they were with the overall quality of all the portfolios in this year's juried art portfolio display, so everyone who participated should feel proud of his or her work--way to represent!That being said, there were a few that stood out as exceptional...
Matthew received a $20 gift certificate to The Secret Garden Bookshop, our wonderful conference bookseller.
Click here to see more from Lisa Mundorff!
Aree will receive full tuition to SCBWI Western Washington's 20th Annual Writing and Illustrating for Children Conference next spring.
The Heretic's Tomb, my fifth novel, is set in the time of the Black Death in 1349 and the June 7 show will feature authors who have written books set in a particular time, with a major event as part of the story—World War One or Two, the American Civil War, the Titanic, the Crusades, the French Revolution, and so on.For more information, visit Facebook's Blog Talk Radio.
If you have a children's or YA novel based on a major historical event, this show will be a good fit for you. The deadline to submit your name for consideration is April 30.
Lois is the author of two nonfiction picture books - Mary Cassatt: Impressionist Painter and Charlie Russell: Tale-Telling Cowboy Artist. She joins us today to discuss research, writing, art, and hurricanes.
- 10,000 books donated by publishers are being delivered to teens on Native reservations and tribal lands. (Learn more here.)
- Regular folk are buying books off the Powell's wish list to send to two additional schools.
- Authors around the country are leaving books in secret locations for teens to find.
If you'd like to join in the fun, leave a book and tweet about it using the hash tag #operationtbd. It'll go up on the readergirlz blog today. It can be one of yours, one of someone else's--the idea is to spread the joy of reading far and wide.
Afterward, go to the blog at 6 p.m. Pacific for a chat with a ton of cool participants.
Operation Teen Book Drop was founded by readergirlz (made of many local members), and is done in partnership with GuysLitWire, YALSA, and If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
More details here.
The Chinook Update blog had a round up of local studio tours a few months ago. You may have noticed framed quotes populating these places and the panel was asked if they had any particular rituals or mantras they turn to while working.
Dana: She has a pair of Addidas Tokyo track spikes hanging in her studio from her running days. "They remind me there is no substitute for putting in the work. Before you can race, you have to train, so craft, craft craft."
Jim: Laini and Jim work in the same room and they have signs above their computers. Jim's says "Mr. Fresh" and Laini's says "Mrs. Wonderful." This only proves that they are indeed superheroes. BUT seriously. Jim surrounds himself with reference books and does Mental Apprenticeships -- when looking at other artists' work analyze how they made a piece and see if their approach could help your work. "Always be studying, always be willing to try new styles, especially if you aren't getting the work you want."
Paul: He's got a quote hanging above his desk that says "Quality is not job one, being totally, frigging amazing is job one." What Paul wants to do every day is amaze and stand out. He thinks this boils down to content, not style.
Jaime: I spend most mornings having existential crises and low confidence. Running has helped that. Especially running up a hill which makes me feel like I've accomplished something for the day even if I end up scrapping all my drawings. Taped to my computer is "What's the opportunity in this?" I always wonder if I'm good enough to handle a new job or responsibility, but taking a leap into the unknown can be great. If I get a rejection, rather than cry into some Ben & Jerry's, I have to remember there's got to be something in this that will make me a better author or illustrator.
This mostly comes down to Seattle/Portland opportunities for illustrators.
Dana: Dana works in watercolors and has a Kinko's secret for us. She brings in her 140 lb. watercolor paper (up to 13 x 19) to a Kinko's and has them use their color laser printer to print her line work on the paper. Knowing she has multiple copies to practice painting on frees her to try new things and not be too careful.
Jaime: Printing postcards at Costco (see their website for locations with Copy Centers) and taking Brenda Guiberson's summer UW Extension class on Illustrating Children's Picture Books. It is like book dummy boot camp and I've taken it three times. Shameless plug -- I'll be teaching it this summer and Paul Schmid is one of the guest speakers!
Since world domination is the goal of most illustrators.
Dana: Online tutorials. If you need to beef up your digital art skills, check out lynda.com.
Jim: Conferences. Jim attends the SCBWI International Conferences and has made many work connections. Jim also attends other industry conferences like ComiCon.
Paul: The internet. Paul loves to look at other illustrators online and is especially enamored of European ones. You can look at covers on Amazon.fr or see if any of the Bologna Book Fair illustrators have websites.
Jaime: Alyson B. Stanfield has a mini-monopoly on art business advice. Though geared toward gallery artists, her book, podcasts and classes offer advice easily applied to illustrators. I loved taking her online "Blast Off" class.
Lunch is free but if you come, please bring a checkbook. Page Ahead is hoping that each guest will donate $165; donations of $250 or more will be matched by corporate sponsors.
Please email kirby, kirby AT kirbylarson.com by April 22 if you are interested.
I have a small time publisher interested in my manuscript for a middle reader fantasy book called the "Ornithspeakers." But I can't quite get the story right and I feel it's time to get a co-author. Do you know of anyone who might be interested in co-authoring a book with me?
If that sounds like it's up your alley, contact Ian at birdbooker AT zipcon.net.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Peter has always been a question asker. He thinks we might be able to find answers to how to advance our own careers in children's books by asking the right questions first -- Peter provides us with the questions.
What am I good at?
Besides video games and climbing trees, Peter found he was good at art and storytelling. Peter shows us a painting he made in art school that still haunts him to this day. It was SO AWFUL and SO EVIL, he decided he needed to use his skills for good. He came up with a plan to make better art.
See the earlier blog post of his breakout session to find ways to develop a new, more appealing style. Later on in life he's used this same approach for his writing.
What are my goals?
Some of Peter's goals are to be a successful illustrator and to have a balanced interesting life.
What's my ideal routine?
For Peter some of his ideal routine includes:
Working hard, but not too hard
Full of art and culture
Lots of reading
Active social life
Sports and exercise
Dinner with The Colbert Report
If Peter follows a routine with these elements, he's not only going to be happy, he'll be moving towards his career goals.
And there are more questions to ask yourself -- but my laptop power is about to run out -- so you need to come to the conference!
(And now, she just gave the A/V guy a cowbell. Zing!)
Elizabeth's twitter name is @egmontgal. Do yourself a favor and follow her there.
All an editor is looking for is the big tomato: juicy, specific, and one that she identifies with when she's reading. She's not looking for a formula or to fill a slot on her list. She's looking for something she recognizes and likes.
Her regrets are publishing things she didn't like but thought would make a lot of money. She won't do that again.
The way to build a hit is to find a good book that you really like and get behind it and bang the drum for it. WHEN YOU REACH ME was not an easy book to sell into bookstores. It just kept on selling, and then Rebecca Stead went on NPR and it sold 40,000 copies in a month.
Elizabeth disclosed she'd sleep with someone at NPR to sell that many books, which is a beautiful show of dedication, isn't it?
Egmont USA is a tiny company, just eight people.
There are a number of questions she has to answer every time she buys a book. Here are a few:
- Who is the audience?
- Where will it sell?
- What is it like and how have those books sold (she doesn't love this part)
(Fascinating E. Law trivia: She shampoos with Alpecin Caffeine Shampoo, which apparently isn't legal in the U.S.)
Everything we do in writing is a balance between dramatization and narration.
Plot is the answer to the question, "What happens?"
"What is the story about" is not a question about plot. That is about premise and themes.
The plot is the sequence of events over which your themes, your premise, your conflicts, and your character growth play out.
Plot is, by definition, the stuff that happens. It's true that there are a limited number of basic plots because our wants and needs are simple and rather primal. Humans need food, shelter, and love--"clothing optional depending on climate."
Readers need connection, enjoyment, and satisfaction.
For readers to connect, character or characters to care about or even be. Think about all the Pride & Prejudice movies and remakes. Or even Twilight. To be passionately loved by someone amazing is a primal need. The unlikely hero is also compelling.
Plot is driven by your characters' desire and action. What do your characters want? Characters must have a desperate goal that is thwarted. The author is a rascal, rooting for his protagonist, even while thwarting him.
It's the motivation of the antagonist that drives the plot. The villain wants something and sets about making it happen. The main character's job is to prevent it.
Conflict is the elemental building block of plot.
Find more of Laini's essays on writing here.
You want to pursue niche markets because review outlets for books are shrinking rapidly. We're down to two major newspapers with a pull-out review section (NY Times and San Francisco Chronicle).
The beauty of niche markets is that your book doesn't have to be new, but it has to be relevant.
How do you identify niche markets: Find something related to the theme of your book. It has to be a major component (say, about dogs--there can't be just a dog in it).
- The regional niche: Local media love to talk about local authors. Community newspapers, TV stations, especially in small towns are going to be interested.
- The setting of the book can give you a hook. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, for example, is set in Texas and by a Texas author.
- Curriculum connections can be powerful. (And you can hire curriculum specialists if you're not up for writing that yourself.)
How do you get help from your publisher? Know whom to contact and when. Do it six months before your book publishes.
Even if publishers can't do something like send postcards, they might be able to help you pay for half.
A hopeful quote: "Publishers want your book to sell, just as much as you do."
Facebook and Twitter and other social media networks (Dogster, for example) bring like-minded people together. Too much blatant self-promotion doesn't work, though. Social media is about people. It's not about products.
Suzanne Selfors: She wrote three adult novels first, all dense historical fiction set in Ancient Greece. She faced a lot of rejection. She found herself loving and reading a lot of middle grade novels with her kids. Had an idea that she couldn't get out of her head: the story of a brother and sister who found a baby mermaid. She got six offers in a week, and sold the book at auction.
Robin Cruise: She worked in children's publishing for almost 20 years. Was deputy publisher at Harcourt (but the job didn't come with a gun or badge, alas). She's publisher with the juvenile group at Becker Mayer in Bellevue. Even with her connections, it took her seven years to sell her first book, chewing up only one agent in the process. She actually sold her first book herself--The Top-Secret Journal of Fiona Claire Jardin.
Holly Cupala: She's been coming to SCBWI meetings for 10 years. She took Peggy King Anderson's class, the UW Extension Program class, and about six years ago, lost her first child. Everything changed after that. She couldn't write, and a few months later, went to lunch with Justina Chen Headley, another local success story. Holly found the door to the story start to open itself. She felt the story really land in her lap; then she won a WIP grant from the SCBWI, got interest from agents--and signed with one she met at a national SCBWI conference.
Kevin Emerson: Wrote novels in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades (as a way to pick up girls no doubt), but it wasn't until he was teaching and injuring himself with volcano experiments and experiencing delayed gratification with his rock star career that he got entranced with middle grade novels. He had a lot of near-misses with editors and contests with his first two novels. He started a third in 2003 when the first line popped into his head. That became CARLOS IS GONNA GET IT. He started seeking an agent again, and after some assorted finagling, signed with one and sold the book to Arthur A. Levine books, which published CARLOS in 2008.
Lois Harris: She wrote a soccer story and submitted to Highlights. They accepted it. Then she wrote another soccer story and another magazine accepted it. Her husband created her an office. She wrote a novel and ... got a rejection letter. At the time, she didn't know about the market, Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, or anything. She submitted to 22 publishers and gave herself a year to sell the manuscript. Meanwhile, she signed up to be an English major in creative writing at the UW, which she earned before having to go back to work full-time. She read in the newspaper about SCBWI and started coming to the meetings, soaking up information until she had time to write, in 2000 (when she took early retirement). She discovered her love of nonfiction and research and has sold two books.
Paul Schmid: One of Paul's first successes came from a failure--a rejection. He was working on an illustration for THE WONDER BOOK and a sketch of a porcupine running with a balloon was rejected. But he had to "fix" that character's problem. Next thing he knew, he had a story that an editor bought.
Suzanne Young: Her first success came after a huge disappointment--getting dropped by an agent. She decided to send her books out on her own. Razorbill contacted her (as did an agent). She sold four books. "It was me being stubborn after getting dumped."
Mitali has just taught us how to say hello in Boston. Surprisingly, you don't throw a can of beans at someone when you say, "HOW YA DOIN'?" Oh, Boston, I kid.
Now Mitali is telling us about how stories, information, and art are moving from the printed page to the screen. (In related news, she tells us about the joke she kept out of her Twitter feed, but that we're putting right back in. Ahem. "iPad! It's that time of the month!")
She just mentioned the new Figment.com, where you can submit stories you write for cell phones. Check it out.
A second change: kids and teens want to personalize and interact with everything (including authors and illustrators).
Influence is shifting from traditional reviewers to trusted curators (though big-name old-media reviewers such as Roger Ebert remain powerful as they move to new media).
There's a power struggle over which stories and art get sold and how. An example: the Macmillan/Amazon.com power struggle. (Macmillan FTW!)
UNEXPECTED TRIVIA BREAK! Mitali weighed 11 pounds when she was born. They wrote newspaper articles about it. Her head had its own weather system. Also, her parents dressed her in boys' clothes.
Now Mitali is talking about coming to the United States and how it felt to be in a California middle school while living in a traditional Bengali home. Despite her efforts to achieve Farah Fawcett hair, no one talked to her at school for two months.
Her life changed when she was invited to be a lunch table Uhura. It was a transformative seventh-grade experience.
You can follow Mitali online at her blog and her twitter feed. (And if you were at the conference, you would be writing down her secrets of creating a vision statement--everyone is frantically scribbling right now.)
Saturday, April 10, 2010
- free fruit smoothies;
- the truth about men and women and what they say about foot sizes; and
- ill-advised laminated bookmarks featuring The ChocoBarn Cow (tagline: for Adam Kinski, life is one problem after an udder)
But it's still not the year he got published. (In fact, he was only halfway there.)
Along the way, Jay accumulated three agents--one at a time. "Anyone who's ever said that agents are just as hard to get as editors? No."
He started getting more personal rejections. He got the idea for 13 Reasons Why while driving on an icy road one dark night.
It was during a creative period when he was writing everything, including SCBWI joke contests (and Pat the Bunny parodies). He also won an SCBWI grant for his work in progress. An editor was interested in seeing his manuscript. Advice from Jay: "Enter as many contests as you can; you never know what connections you'll make there." (Note: this includes costume contests.)
With his fourth agent, Jay finally started submitting 13 Reasons Why, which received 12 rejections, some of which were really hard to take. And then an offer came. And then another--the same day.
- You have to be good at revising before you even have an editor, so you're presenting your best work;
- If you're a first-time author, your manuscript needs to be in publishable shape because an editor doesn't know if you can't revise and has to assume your book isn't getting better; and
- Writing and revising require different hats (say, Dr. Seuss vs. a construction hardhat).
Then she writes a new draft and repeats. Lots of times. She makes major changes. Kills characters. Changes endings. Changes themes.
Follow your muse, but recognize that stories often change.
Suzanne Young: her quirky character led to the creation of a series from a single book (THE NAUGHTY LIST). Write relatable characters you want to be around. If she'd known it was being a series, she might have set it up more, and it wouldn't have felt as satisfying to read.
Kevin Emerson: He used to get psyched out about creating unique characters. It helps to be thinking in a genre. He had some rules he could use or change. He had some models to work from when he did OLIVER NOCTURNE. It was helpful for him to work with incremental elements (offering a big "prize" development at the end of the books). He also goes back to his character's age and thinks about what makes for good trauma/conflict (road trips and dances! oy!)
Trudi Trueit (SECRETS OF A LAB RAT): Find characters who are really honest. She writes out a character sheet--all the things her characters like. What's in Scab's pocket? What does his room look like? One of her characters has a lab/bedroom with piles of laundry and stacks of fossils. This makes characters come to life. "Sometimes you just start with one character and it develops as a series." Once you get that series going, you're locked in. So make sure the supporting cast is a good one.
Liz Mills: For the STABLEMATES series, Liz travels back to the age she's writing about and remembering the feelings of envy and jealousy, and how to work it into a story. The quest for perfect hair, for example, makes for good episodic content.
Ingrid Law's Savvy reimagines the concept of super hero and her first line pulls you immediately into that world--and it's literary. A savvy isn't a gimmick; it's a metaphor. That's the key.
High concept sometimes relies on genre considerations/elements, as opposed to starting with a character and/or a voice. If they're done right, though, they ought to come from the same place as good stories: with a character who wants something and tries to get it.
If you're considering a high concept story, what excites you? It's not about doing something expected or predictable (such as the forthcoming Fat Vampire by Adam Rex--imagine being a chubby 15-year-old for eternity).
Good high concept breaks established rules.
- What do you like about the pieces you've collected?
- Write a list of the qualities you like about each piece (for example, Zwerger -- areas of detail and openess)
- Do you notice any patterns or trends in what you like?
She does tell us that a turning point for her was when a famous writer read some of her early work and said, "You are the real thing. Keep writing."
She stopped writing right after that.
But then she went to art school and met the man she'd marry, Jim DiBartolo. (Awww.)
Since then, she has been blessed with happiness but afflicted with perfectionism.
"Ideas are just so perfect and everything we do trying to tug them into existence seems to disfigure them," she says.
Perfectionism is a barrier that prevents forward momentum. It is an enemy to grapple with. It sucks.
"Lazy and scared are a killer combination about which I know all too much," she says. "You can live quite comfortably at the threshold of your dream for a long time."
So, she says, we need to make the commitment to go through that door. Referring to the TV show Firefly, she said, "You have to be the brilliant mechanic who can keep your brain working, lest you be lost in space forever and die, gasping, like a fish."
The only way anything is ever going to happen: "Form a habit of completion and put your butt in your chair."
There's already been swearing and bare bottoms (not hers). No joke!
(From a clip from the movie Hamlet 2)
Laini has a special word for those that find writing easy and breezy. You are robots!
What is writing anyways? "Nothing less than a kind of wizardry..." The writer finds a way to make the page disappear so that the reader forgets they are reading.
For Laini, writing is hard.
Laini has a "one step forward, two steps back" method of writing. She has a healthy relationship with her delete key. "A highly inefficient way to write a book."
"Writers have a kind of synesthia, where they can taste words."
"Writing is like the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead. When it's good, it's really really good. And when it's bad, it's horrid."
Elizabeth Law got sued once by a writer who'd sent in an original illustrated dummy. She wrote a letter and sent it back that day and it returned home damaged. The author took her to small claims court.
Now they're talking about scary/gimmicky submissions:
- letter openers/small knives
- manuscripts in cupcake boxes (an unfair trick that led to dismay)
- dog biscuits
They remember the gimmick but not your MS. Don't do this!
Michael Bourret: Children's book market healthier--more sales. Healthier worldwide, too. Clearly people in the industry have lost jobs, though.
Edward Necarsulmer: There is still room for really good contemporary work. It's finding axis between commercial appeal and literary demands. Find a story where something actually happens that accompanies that great voice.
Elizabeth Law: The market always has hot spots, but the bestseller list isn't all about any one thing. Watch out about blaming the marketplace or what's trendy instead of looking at your writing.
Jordan Brown: There is no secret ingredient you can stick in your manuscript and have a bestseller. It's how you work with the elements. The ebook thing is "kind of scary." Up till now, electronic has meant free. Not necessarily the case here. The Kindle device says, "We want to buy stuff. I want to buy books with this."
Lynne Polvino: There might have been overpublishing going on before economy soured. Even good books weren't selling. They're being more selective, now. We should be more selective about what we send and hone craft even more.
Edward Necarsulmer: Have your password-protected portfolio online behind. You and your agent can send via e-mail.
Elizabeth Law: Asks about postcard samples she gets in the mail. Now, she's relying on websites. Should artists still be sending postcards?
Lisa Graff answers: Loved postcards. Liked having a physical thing, even though this is changing. You can save a postcard but you're more likely to delete an e-mail. You NEED a website as an illustrator. You need to showcase variety on this (show off the styles you can do).
Tim Gillner: Please put your phone numbers on your websites. He can't spend all day trying to look this up, and normally makes first contact on the phone. ("We're not stalkers. We like to help you.")
Lynne Polvino: Still looks at postcards, but you need a website, too.
Elizabeth Law: Only show what you do well--so if you can't draw people and you're just showing range, it might discourage people.
Paul Rodeen: jury out on how well they'll do. We're still trying to figure out how to do hardcover and paperback GNs.
Elizabeth Law: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate...heavily illustrated paper-over-board MG fiction that brings the accessibility of graphic novels are the trending things.
Jordan Brown: He's a big fan. They're sold in a different way than books. You have to get in that comic bookstore. Major publishers don't have a huge amount of experience with this. The key: Find GNs that will be broadly appealing, not just to regular GN readers. (Blankets is an example of one that does this.)
He's based in Chicago. He also moonlights for his clients as a life coach, financial adviser, and relationships counselor. (Why did he look at Peter Brown when he said this?)
Most of his clients came to him unpublished or with one book under their belts. He prides himself on being able to launch careers. He's had the most success with picture books from writers, illustrators, or double-threats. He's also sold MG, YA, and even nonfiction projects.
She likes Clarion because it's a small, very selective imprint. She believes you can find books that challenge readers, have high literary quality, and broad commercial appeal.
He represents everything from board books and picture books to YA. Stay tuned for a Jimi Hendrix picture book. He's looking for a Grateful Dead book, too ("perhaps for older readers").
He met his client Holly Cupala at an SCBWI first pages conference. Her novel comes out this summer.
He views books as an enormous service to kids, who face many challenges (no money, no freedom, no privacy) and have had their lives changed and saved by good books.
You see people on the show who are given good advice but still aren't able to hear it.
The question is, when to listen to advice vs. trust your instinct.
We really have to learn how to take in important feedback, even if we are old enough to know who we are.
Elizabeth has literary snob credentials but is also able to appreciate things that appeal to the raging 13-year-old hormones she still has within, even though there are improbable elements and errors (such as going to the prom in a walking cast and high-heeled shoe).
They're a literary house focusing on quality, literary books (as well as ones that make a trillion dollars). They pride themselves on publishing "authors, not books."
There are six editors there. They publish longer picture books and historical fiction, which many other publishers no longer do.
So, books like Holes, The City of Ember, and Charlotte's Web.
Also, he hates American Idol and is about to engage in fisticuffs with Elizabeth Law.
We're about to begin!
Secret Garden Books in Ballard brought a terrific selection of books to sell at the conference. You can get many of these books signed by our faculty. Score!
Also, Joni has promised a gnome. I will be very disappointed if she doesn't make good on that.
And with this rain, we are introducing our conference faculty. Except that no one is coming in the door. Good thing Kim is wearing sensible shoes so she can run back and invite them in.
And now, she is running back a second time. Excellent!
The question came up: Should you pitch an agent or editor at a conference like this?
Answer: No. There will be opportunities for that, and it's better that you get to know the editors and agents a bit before you try to sync up on projects. (Conference attendees may submit work later using information provided in your packet.)
What's more, the most valuable networking resources you'll meet at this conference are your peers. The people sitting around you can be great allies in improving your work.
We're lucky to have experienced live bloggers Jolie Stekly and Jaime Temairik on our team. I'm the third wheel--something indispensable on a tricycle, and perhaps less so when it comes to conference blogging. We'll see.
Here's a reminder of who's speaking. Stay tuned for the rest of our posts!
Friday, April 9, 2010
What follows is a long post about it, but here's the summary:
- 10,000 books, donated by publishers, are getting delivered to teens on Native reservations and tribal lands
- You can donate books to two additional schools via the Powell's website
- You can participate in the drop by leaving a YA or MG novel to be found by some lucky kid. If you do, be sure to blog or tweet about it using the hashtag #operationtbd so we can include your efforts
Nationwide, scores of young adult authors and librarians to drop books on April 15 AKA Support Teen Literature Day.
Operation Teen Book Drop will deliver 10,000 new books to teens on Native reservations and tribal lands, an event that coincides with Support Teen Literature Day.
In addition, more than 100 top young adult authors will leave their books in public places for young readers to discover, and members of the public can buy books online and have them shipped to tribal libraries.
Publishers donated the books, valued at more than $175,000.
“These publishers have shown astounding vision and generosity by supporting Operation Teen Book Drop,” said readergirlz co-founder Dia Calhoun, an award-winning novelist herself. “Now underserved teens can benefit from the current explosion of high quality YA books. These teens can see their own experience, their tragedies and their triumphs in these books, books that become shining doorways to the young human spirit.”
The donations are especially significant to many Native teens. “In their lives, they really don’t have new books,” said Mary Nickless, the librarian at Ojo Encino Day School, one of 44 institutions that will benefit from Operation TBD.
A nationwide effort of authors, publishers, librarians and readers
In its third year, Operation TBD is part of a massive effort by librarians, young adult authors, and avid readers to spur reading on a nationwide scale. The day aims to encourage teens to read for the fun of it.
The effort is coordinated by readergirlz, the Young Adult Library Services Association, GuysLitWire, and a new partner, If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything, a national reading club for Native children.
• More than 100 young adult authors—including David Levithan, Sara Zarr, and Cynthia Leitich Smith—are participating by leaving copies of their books in public places for teens to find.
• Teens and other fans of YA literature are also invited to “rock the drop.”
• GuysLitWire has created a wish list of 750 books that supporters can buy from Powells.com. Beginning April 7, these purchases can be made and sent directly to one of two tribal school libraries, Ojo Encino Day School or Alchesay High School.
In 2008 and 2009, the groups coordinated the delivery of 20,000 new books to teens in hospitals.
“Operation TBD was originally conceived with the hope of reaching a number of teen groups,” said readergirlz co-founder Lorie Ann Grover. “While we donated books to hospitalized teens for two years, I was personally compelled to donate books to the local Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. We were thrilled to discover we could broaden this effort with If I Can Read and gift TBD to our second targeted group, Native teens.”
“By making Operation TBD part of Support Teen Literature Day, YALSA and its partners help raise awareness of the importance of teen literature to all teens,” said Linda W. Braun, YALSA President. “Our thanks to the publishers, If I Can Read I Can Do Anything, readergirlz and Guys Lit Wire for joining us in supporting such a worthy cause.”
Participating publishers this year include Abrams Books; Bloomsbury/Walker Books; Candlewick Press; Chronicle Books; Hachette Book Group; Boyds Mills Press; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Milkweed; Mirrorstone Books; Orca Book Publishers; Scholastic; Simon & Shuster Children's Publishing; Tor/Forge/Starscape/Tor Teen; Roaring Brook Press; and Better World Books.
Everyone who participates in Operation TBD is invited to celebrate at the TBD Post-Op Party on April 15 at the readergirlz blog.
About Support Teen Literature Day
In its fourth year, Support Teen Literature Day is April 15, and will be celebrated in conjunction with ALA’s National Library Week. Librarians across the country are encouraged to participate in Support Teen Literature Day by hosting events in their libraries. The celebration raises awareness that young adult literature is a vibrant, growing genre with much to offer today’s teens. Support Teen Literature Day also seeks to showcase award-winning authors and books in the genre, as well as highlight librarians’ expertise in connecting teens with books and other reading materials.
About the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)
For more than 50 years, YALSA has been the world leader in selecting books, videos, and audiobooks for teens.
Guys Lit Wire brings literary news and reviews to the attention of teenage boys and the people who care about them. Working to combat the perception that teen boys aren’t as well read as teen girls, the organization seeks out literature uniquely targeted toward teen male readers in hopes of bringing attention of good books to guys who might have missed them.
About If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything
If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything is a national reading club for Native children directed by Dr. Loriene Roy. The program works to encourage reading among Native children by offering incentives, sending books to schools, and sponsoring activities.
readergirlz is the foremost online book community for teen girls, led by critically acclaimed YA authors—Dia Calhoun (Avielle of Rhia), Lorie Ann Grover (Hold Me Tight), Justina Chen Headley (North of Beautiful), Holly Cupala (Tell Me a Secret), Liz Gallagher (The Opposite of Invisible), Elizabeth Scott (The Unwritten Rule) and Melissa Walker (Lovestruck Summer).
readergirlz is the recipient of a 2007 James Patterson PageTurner Award and a 2009 Innovations in Reading Prize from the National Book Foundation.
To promote teen literacy and leadership in girls, readergirlz features a different YA novel and corresponding community service project every month, and offers chats with authors and an author-in-residency program for aspiring writers.