Monday, April 30, 2012

2012 Juried Art Portfolio Dislpay Winners

We are so thrilled to announce our fantastic first and second runners-up for the Juried Art Portfolio Display:

Second Runner-Up:

First Runner-Up:

And drum roll for the Grand Prize Winner of the 2012 SCBWI WWA Conference Juried Art Portfolio Display.......................................................................................................................

Yayayayay! Congratulations, everybody!

2012 Conference's Outstanding Work-In-Progress

In case you missed hearing their names on Sunday afternoon at our 21st annual conference, a round of applause for these Outstanding Works-In-Progress mentions. A reminder that it was not mandatory for faculty members giving manuscript consultations to pick any work as outstanding, so kudos to those receiving a mention below, in no particular order:

Amanda Humann
Peter McCleery
Melissa Koosmann
Dan Gemeinhart
Christy Wilson
Jan O'Neil
Keri Schneider
Fabio Bueno
Frances Snyder
Brooke Hartman
Mara Pina
Ron Pellegrino
Rebecca Van Slyke

Well done! And we hope you enjoyed your consultations!

Cinderella Smith Review

Did you make it to fellow SCBWI WWA member Stephanie Barden's book launch Saturday at Mockingbird Books? Stephanie released her second book in her CINDERELLA SMITH series, CINDERELLA SMITH, THE MORE THE MERRIER. If you didn't make it you can check out a review by fellow SCBWI WWA member Dorine White on her blog, The Write Path.

Dorine is a great supporter of fellow SCBWI members and always has fun giveaways too! She has one today for THE WICKED AND THE JUST, so check it out!!! 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Good News for Erik Brooks

Good News abounds this Friday!!! Congratulations to fellow SCBWI WWA member Erik Brooks. Erik's book, WHO HAS THESE FEET, was recently named a Bank Street Best Book in the 5-9 year old Science Category, POLAR OPPOSITES, is a nominee for the 2013 South Carolina Picture Book Award!!!

For more information on Erik, and his work, you can visit his website.

Good News for Peg Kehret and Kirby Larson

Peg Kehret & Kirby Larson

Good News and fun times for fellow SCBWI WWA members Peg Kehret,  Kirby Larson (and also SCBWI members Mary Nethery and Jean Cassels). 

Both Peg and Kirby were in Missouri this past weekend, Peg to receive the 2011 Mark Twain award for STOLEN CHILDREN , and Kirby to accept the 2011 Show Me award, on behalf of Mary Nethery and Jean Cassels, for TWO BOBBIES. At the end of the evening, the award committees announced the 2012 winners: Peg won for RUNAWAY TWIN and Mary and Kirby won for NUBS!  Kirby says it was pretty exciting, in addition to being an historic occasion -- the first time any authors have ever won Missouri young readers' choice awards, back-to-back!

Congratulations!!! For more information on Kirby, and her work you can visit her website. You can also find information about Peg, and her work, on her website

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Stephanie Barden Book Launch

Come celebrate with fellow SCBWI WWA member Stephanie Barden at the launch of the second book in her CINDERELLA SMITH series, CINDERELLA SMITH- THE MORE THE MERRIER, this Saturday, April 28, from 1-3 p.m. at Mockingbird Books in Seattle. This party is especially for kids! There will be games, crafts, treats and even gifts-with-purchase. (Actually just gifts for coming.)  

Stephanie hopes to see many of you, (and your kids, grand-kids, neighbor-kids, kid-friends there!). For more information on Stephanie, and her work, you can visit her website

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Highlights from the Nonfiction Intensive

On Friday, Andrew Karre from Lerner/Carolrhoda gifted a group of our region’s nonfiction writers with over five hours of his undivided attention. And, wow, was it an afternoon to remember! He brainstormed with the group and helped us hone our ideas into something marketable. He gave feedback on our short proposals and/or first pages. And he gave insight into Lerner, the broader industry, and what makes for great nonfiction for kids. For a summary of my notes, please see my blog post about the nonfiction intensive

Laurie Thompson, SCBWI-WWA Nonfiction Coordinator

Jennifer Shaw Wolf Book Birthday!!!

Congratulations and Happiest Book Birthday wishes to fellow SCBWI WWA member Jennifer Shaw Wolf! Her book, BREAKING BEAUTIFUL, releases today!!! 

You can celebrate with Jennifer today at her launch party at Fireside Bookstore in Olympia from 5-7 p.m. (116 Legion Way SE, Olympia). She will also be collecting donations for SafePlace Women's Shelter  in Olympia. Here's a link for what they need. 

If you can't make it you can view the book trailer here!!! You can also find out more information about Jennifer, and her book, on her website and blog!!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lucy Ruth Cummins: Now/New/Next

Lucy Ruth Cummins is an art director at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. She gave us a look at what she is seeing a lot of in terms of illustrated books and what she sees as trending. This was an opportunity to see books she admires and has worked on, in many styles, from picture books to MG and YA.

Short books--500 words or less seem to be selling. There is a place for picture books without words. Publishers are looking for books that reluctant boy readers will pick up and there is a career to be had working in non-fiction for young people.

More books are being illustrated in the middle grade and even young adult market. Books with characters in peril, where the stakes are high have been successful, so there seems to be a little bit more of an edge coming into the younger market.

Lucy talked about Pinterest and Tumblr as workspace and inspiration for developing ideas and collecting images. She was generous with her Q&A, encouraging illustrators to send her post cards.

Notes by Tina Hoggatt

Matt de la Peña: Hey, Author Person, Get Out Of My Way

Matt de la Peña followed up his Friday Fiction Intensive, focusing on dialogue, and his Saturday Keynote address with a terrific breakout session on the use of the narrator in fiction--getting out of the way of your characters and clearing the stage for them to do the work.

Matt spoke to the importance of the author being patient, of stepping back in the writing so as not to show off to the reader--allowing the character, setting and action to reveal the story and create more space for the reader to participate in the narrative.

Some nuggets I took away from his session:

  • Start a scene (or the book) as late as possible and end it as early as possible: get in, get your beats and get out
  • The reader wants to be thrust directly into the story; they want to watch and discover. Are you starting your book too soon?
  • The idea of the writer and the reader being in collaboration – stepping back from the work allows for a wider interpretation on the part of the reader, and that’s a good thing.
  • In dialogue, what’s inside the quotation marks is the character. What follows (the tag: she said for example) is the writer. Make that tag, and the author’s presence, as spare as possible.

Notes by Tina Hoggatt

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Keynote Speaker Rachel Vail: Building Character- Creating Believable Kids

Our final keynote for the conference was Author Rachel Vail. Rachel shared insights and stories from her children and childhood to show us how to make believable characters and stories. She talked about how books show us other layers, perspectives, experiences and a mirror to ourselves as writers and readers.

She also talked about how memories can be powerful tools in creating honest and true characters and work. She shared how she wrote her book PIGGY BUNNY (which I'm going to get as soon as possible).

For more information on Rachel, and her work, you can visit her website.

Caroline Sun: How to Work with Your Publicist

Caroline Sun, the Senior Publicity Manager at HarperCollins Children's Books, gave us a much-appreciated glimpse behind the publicity curtain. Here are a few of the highlights:

Your editor will typically introduce you to your publicist 4-5 months before the publication date to share plans, timelines, and initial ideas. He or she will want to know about the author's personal media contacts (if any), the backstory, interesting anecdotes, and realistic pitch angles.

Publicity is the stuff that's open to the PUBLIC: the unpaid appearances, interviews, reviews, etc. Marketing is advertising, store displays, and other paid placements.

Publicists work hard. They send EVERY single galley to all of the trade publications... but the publications then decide what to review--or not. Media coverage of children's book is shrinking, and national radio and TV spots are rare. In other words, if your book doesn't get reviewed and/or you don't appear on the TODAY Show, it doesn't mean your publicist sucks! Publicity is unpredictable. You never know what will hit when.

So, what else is there?

  • bloggers and social media
  • conferences and networking opportunities
  • author communities
  • local book festivals
  • local author events
  • author-planned group tours

Andrew Karre: From Controversy to Craft

Andrew Karre, looking slightly
blurrier than in real life
Andrew Karre is the editorial director of Carolrhoda Books, Carolrhoda Lab and Darby Creek, divisions of the Lerner Publishing Group.

He publishes everything from picture books to YA, but focused his conference talk on YA lit, which is a cultural force these days. In a way, he wants to keep that a secret, to keep the excellent collegiality of our industry free of adult authors who will want in.

He opened by talking about the two sure-fire ways of getting attention: launching a new Apple product or bashing YA literature.

"It feels silly when there are so many remarkable things happening in this community, and the variety and power and meaning of the art is substantial," he says. (For more on this and why actually like Apple, read his Hunger Mountain essay.)

Where he started at Flux, they had a tagline: "Young adult is a state of mind and not a reading level." He believes YA is a genre about teens and the teen experience, not reading level. It's about teens, not necessarily for them (because that's more something people who run malls think about).

"Like many of you, I have not recovered from my adolescence," he says. "It you have, you did something wrong. Or not enough wrong."

In other times, adolescents were full-bodied adults. Until the 20th century, teens were as educated as a person would generally get. Now, they're in the waiting room for adulthood. "What a gift for YA writers that is," Andrew says.

So what do you do with outrage and controversy if you're an artist? "If you set out to write a book to save a life, you will write a bad book."

In a way, all the controversy and disapproval of YA work is like adult condescension toward teens. It's proof that it matters. "This must be a bit what teenagers in England felt like around the birth of rock 'n' roll. Disapproved, misunderstood, marginalized. Interesting things came out of that. At the end of the day disapproval is a powerful motivator of any work."

Andrea Welch: Making Your Picture Book a Perfect 10 #scbwiwwa

Andrea Welch is a senior editor at the delightful Beach Lane Books, a San Diego-based imprint of Simon & Schuster. They're just a block from the beach in La Jolla (we all swooned at the pictures).

A native of the Midwest, Andrea knew she wanted to be an editor when she graduated from college. But she found New York to be overwhelming, and when she learned about an opening at Harcourt in San Diego, she grabbed it. She joined Beach Lane with her publisher, Allyn Johnson.

Fun facts: They keep their fridge stocked with white wine and delicious cheeses, and Andrea works several days from home at a 200-year-old desk. They've bought 15 projects from SCBWI folk in the last four years.

Her presentation on Perfect 10 Picture Books was standing-room only.

What draws her to a manuscript

She used to say she was looking for great writing. But drilling down deeper, she's come up with a list of things that make manuscripts irresistible.

The first impression is key: Does she laugh? Does it have fun with the language? Does her heart ache for the character? Does she want to read it aloud? "I will never get used to that feeling I get when I open something up and say, 'Oh my God, this could be amazing!'"

Does it have certain crucial elements? She asks 10 questions (we're sharing five) 

  1. Who is this manuscript for and does it have a clear audience? 
  2. Is the project emotionally engaging?
  3. Does the manuscript meet a specific childhood developmental/emotional need? 
  4. Does the manuscript have a highly creative concept, structure, and execution? 
  5. Does it use clever, evocative language? 

"Emotionally engaging doesn't mean sappy," she sais. "It means it speaks to a reader's heart somehow." The Mo Willems pigeon books speak to a child's desire to want to do something, for example.

"If a manuscript is funny, it will get my attention," she says. "If it's funny and full of heart, I probably won't be able to resist it."

Crystal Kite Award Presentation: Bonny Becker

The Crystal Kite Awards, voted on by peers, are given by the SCBWI each year to recognize great books from 15 regional SCBWI regions around the world.

Bonny Becker chose to be presented with her Crystal Kite Award for A BEDTIME FOR BEAR here at our local Western Washington conference.

The Bear books for Bonny are so natural, that they are easy. That said, it took twenty years for her to get there.

Bonny wants us to acknowledge the force inside us, that need that wants to be expressed.

There are times you can get a flash of inspiration suddenly. That's what happened for Bonny with Bear. There are those problems in life that seem to continually creep up, those things that won't go away until you deal with them. Bonny, as a writer, naturally came up with a metaphor and saw those problems as a mouse that kept popping up and wouldn't go away.

Bonny came to realize she knows Bear and Mouse, and that the books were so easy to write because she now knows the core of herself better.

Begin to discover what works for you. Often writers resist what comes naturally to them. Ask yourself what you may be resisting.

Ask yourself: What's your way of writing? How do you call up your muse?
What's that fire inside of you about? Then honor it.

Local Success Panel: Stasia Kehoe, Kiki Hamilton, Ben Clanton, Deb Lund #scbwiwwa

This is what success looks like! (Only in real life, it has better lighting)

This year we featured four local talents who make us proud:
  • Stasia Kehoe, author of the novel in verse AUDITION; 
  • Kiki Hamilton, author of the fantasy THE FAERIE RING; 
  • Ben Clanton, author and illustrator of VOTE FOR ME; and 
  • Deb Lund, author of the Dino series, MONSTERS ON MACHINE, and more wonderful picture books.
On their first successes:

Deb Lund's TELL ME MY STORY, MAMA was her first book. She submitted directly to the editor in chief and got a call from an editor while she was in the bathtub.

Ben Clanton: He was featured on the blog 7 Impossible Things before Breakfast, and from there attracted the notice of an art director. He had a picture book called DON'T EAT ME about a turkey with plans of his own, which morphed into a book about sparring donkeys and elephants (Ben finds turkeys to remind him of politicians, for some reason). 

Kiki Hamilton: She started writing five years ago and met an agent at the conference. The agent didn't love the first submission, but asked for revisions--plus a submission of another book Kiki had been working on. Susan Chang at Tor Teen (on our faculty this year) bought it, and afterward, was able to visit London, where her book is set.

Stasia Ward Kehoe: Success is a five-letter word for her ... SCBWI. "I wanted to be a writer but I didn't know how," she said. This is her tenth conference in a row (she even came the year she had a baby). After hearing Ellen Hopkins speak about novels in verse at a conference here, Stasia had a breakthrough on how that might work with her story idea, which began as a monologue. 

On the most enjoyable part of the writing/illustrating process: 

Stasia loves to sit at her desk almost every day and work. "Doing the work is the most fun part," she says. "When you feel like you've finally captured that character and you ask, 'And then what happens' and you know is a total high."

Kiki loves writing first drafts.

Ben likes the first moment of inspiration, when the idea comes "and it's perfect and brilliant and you know you're awesome."

Deb has a couple of favorite parts: where you're oblivious to anything else that's going on because you're so into it. "The other part I really love is part of the revision process where I'm collaborating with an editor. Then you have a partner in this process."

How long did it take to get published? 

Deb submitted something when she was 25. It got rejected--and it took her another 15 years to try again. She started taking it seriously when she was 40 and pregnant and knew she wouldn't have time.

Ben started writing 4 1/2 years ago. He was a college sophomore. He was really into social justice and wanted to pass along important messages to kids. He got to know the market better and started drawing, and has been doing as much as possible since. "As much as posisble, I'm trying to create."

Kiki started in 2005, when HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE was coming out. She bought the first book when she was on a family vacation, and she wouldn't get out of the car until she finished. That reminded her how much she loved to read. "Harry Potter took me back to how wonderful it was to get lost in the pages of a book." So she set out to write a story for her daughter, then 10. Then she started taking classes and joined a critique group, got an agent in 2008, and saw her book on the shelves in 2011.

Stasia had a job at Random House and used to read all the books she could find. Though she grew up thinking her sister was the writer in the family, it occurred to her that's what she'd like to do. Life was busy--she had four kids and not a lot of time, and got lots of rejections, but persisted.

Melissa Sweet Keynote: Play at Work

Melissa Sweet telling us how she works.

Melissa Sweet, the amazing illustrator of more than 100 books for kids (!), has won all sorts of recognition for her work from outfits you might have heard of, including the New York Times and NCTE. And then there's her Caldecott Honor for A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams.

She talked to us about her working process, showing us images of her studio full of treasures--basically a giant version of the hatbox from Flora McFlimsey.

Some early inspirations for her were things like Spirograph, Colorforms and Etch-a-Sketch, along with maps.

Her studio has a big wall where she puts up her entire book and studies it as a whole.

She gives herself assignments. One year she did a daily 15-minute watercolor. "That was incredibly useful for my nonfiction work. It really made me look at the world more acutely."

Another time, she focused on whether, recording the color of the sky and the barometric pressure. Taking a bit of time away from work for a few minutes every day is a great thing for her.

For A River of Words, she cannibalized beautiful books she found at her library's sale, taking book jackets and painting over them.

Her research process for Balloons Over Broadway was fascinating, from studying stories about Tony Sarg to watching a video clip, making puppets, and taking an important book her dog chewed up and making collage material.

"I was so determined that the whole world know about this guy is that I tried to become him," she said. "This is what I do all day long: scribble, make collages, and try to figure out what the story is about."

Melissa had this to say about persistence, which is turning out to be one of the themes of the conference: "You just have to keep plowing through and you will get to the end. You just don't know where it's going to take you."

Helen Landalf – Keeping it Real: Bringing Authenticity to Fiction

Helen Landalf (Flyaway, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) identified three elements of authenticity in fiction and illustrated each with examples from regional author’s published books.

“Most of us can just feel when a story is authentic – it’s like a punch in the gut.”
“If a story feels authentic the reader has the reader firmly in the dream of the story.”

Elements of authenticity
Factual accuracy – dates, locations, technical details
Sensory Realism – specific sensory details that evoke experience for readers.
Emotional Truth – enables readers to feel story’s emotions on a gut level.

Helen walked us through methods of factual research, as well as approaches to accessing emotional truths from our own lives and using them in the creation of our characters. She walked us through several writing exercises that allowed us to think about and process authenticity in our own. She closed by asking the question: How authentic is authentic enough?

Her answers:
This is fiction, remember?
Don’t show off your research.
Let authenticity serve your story – don’t sacrifice your story to serve the truth.
“If we ground our stories in accurate facts and emotional experiences we can create stories that will be authentic and connect to the reader.”

The session was thoughtful and generous in spirit, reminded of the importance of getting both the facts and emotional details right, and gave the participants some takeaway tools of inquiry for use in their own writing.

(Notes by Tina Hoggatt)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Keynote Speaker Matt de la Peña: Working Class Writer

"You are what you do when nobody is watching you"
Keynote speaker Matt de la Peña gave us a brief history of his journey from reluctant reader to published author (and avid reader).

Matt's books share stories of identity, class, code-switching and being bi-racial. He empathized that our profession is all about patience and encouraged us to "embrace the possibility."

For more information on Matt, and his work, you can visit his website.

Conference 2012 photos (and more)

The editor and agent panelFaculty on parade!Crowd shot!Helen's fan clubStephanie Barden, Cinderella SmithI've already written the book, now I have to write more?
Helen LandalfSomebody's gonna win this ARCStephanie Barden, Cinderella SmithHelen Landalf with her ARC of FlyawayLois Harris, Charlie Russell, Tale-Telling Cowboy ArtistAnd the winner of my ARC is...
Still stallingA little help?Thanks kidStephanie Barden's a great writer, but can she draw?I love this book.What's your name, kid?
Will you illustrate my next book?And you won MY book, you lucky kid.Bookfest in October? Nice tent.You just won "And Then Comes Halloween!"This woman!Jennifer Wolf, Breaking Beautiful ARC

Tricia Lawrence: Agency Revision and Resubmit (R&R) Requests

Agency R&R Requests: The Answer Key
with Tricia Lawrence, agent, Erin Murphy Literary Agency

Agents are busier than ever and working hard. The industry is watching a lot of watershed moments now. Things are changing faster than ever.

Agents are human beings (a.k.a. they can be fickle). They have to be completely passionate about what they represent. It is a subjective business.

A revision request is a GOOD thing. It means you’ve done something worth pursuing. It is not a rejection, not a closed door, but an open door, an invitation.

Agents don’t want to crush writers. That’s not what they’re there for.

It’s about more than just the book, it IS about you as a writer, YOUR passion, what’s YOUR story. Tricia’s 4-step author test:
1.       What’s YOUR story, your axiom, your lens? How do you see the world? It will come out every time you write.
2.       Do you know (specifically) where your work belongs? (Hint: “It’s for kids” isn’t good enough.)
3.       How do you interact with kids today?
4.       What do you watch, read, follow, etc. to keep in touch with your audience?

When you put the time into an R&R, it shows the agent that you are serious about this business AND that you’ll be able to eventually stand up to the revision letter from an editor.

Follow your truest passion. Robin LaFevers said it perfectly in this post on WriterUnboxed:
The thing is, once we have reached a certain mastery of craft, craft is no longer the issue. In order to take our writing to the next level we must embrace our strange, unique, and often embarrassing selves and write about the things that really matter to us. We need to be willing to peel our own layers back until we reach that tender, raw, voiceless place—the place where our crunchiest stories come from. We need to get some skin in the game. It should cost us something emotionally to tell our stories. But many of us who come to writing do so because they were voiceless at some point in their lives, so doing that can be the most terrifying risk of all.
Just as we must dance as if no one is watching, we must write as if no one is reading. 
What Tricia wants:
Tricia loves troubled characters, wounded narrators, kids who pretend everything is cool when they're actually dealing with really big issues, and the kinds of kids who tend to fall through the cracks. She's crazy about ghost stories and would love to see a middle-grade thriller. She's also interested in high-concept picture books.

First pages: Rubin Pfeffer and Andrea Welch

First pages sessions are a special kind of excitement for participants. Will my page be read? Will I survive with my ego intact? Eek!

East West Literary Agent Rubin Pfeffer and Beach Lane Books Senior Editor Andrea Welch listened to a slew of picture book first pages and gave quick and thoughtful feedback:

  • Whether the voice rang true; 
  • Whether the story was short enough to fit the format; 
  • Whether the details worked. For example, don't try to hook a reader with gross details. Hook them with story and character.

"I like the idea of eating unicorns," Andrea Welch said about one entry.

Some useful tips:

  • Go light on description to leave room for illustrators.
  • Get to the story quickly. You have to know where it's going on the first page. 
  • Don't overwrite. Keep it short, snappy, and narrative (because long bits of dialogue are hard to read aloud). 
  • If you're writing in rhyme, don't repeat words. 
  • Choose an original topic (lots of books about wanting a pet, for example).
  • Introduce controversy on the first page. 
  • Target it appropriately for the age of the reader.