Sunday, April 21, 2013

CONFERENCE 2013: Local Success Panel


Kim Baker, Pickle
Stacey R. Campbell, Hush
J. Anderson Coats, The Wicked and the Just
Suzanne Kaufmann, I Love Monkey


JAC - Wrote 11 completed novels until Wicked and the Just.

KB - I failed miserably. I tried to be a PB writer and failed miserably.

SK - Came from animation, video games. Discovered when selling her paintings at a craft fair!

SC - Dyslexic, told she could never be a writer in third grade.

What has kept you going? How did you get past obstacles?

SC - Teen girls in the house, getting inside their heads, pumping them with questions. There's no wall you can't break through.

SK - Draws and paints every day.

KB - If I'm not writing I'm grouchy. I hit walls all the time. Self-doubt, months of not writing during Pickle. My character traits aren't accepted in "normal" society. I think of giving up all the time! But you want to be inspired, right? (laughs) But hey, don't give up!

JAC - All of us think about giving up about once a day, it's part of the process. When I was pursuing publication, right before you're about to have success, you think you're going to give up. "Great story, but I don't think I can sell it." Then agent involvement, back and forth courtship, making changes over nine months. Than, an offer of representation. An offer came soon after: within one wk of signing with agent!

KB - Critique partners convinced her to keep writing, keep going. Conference one-on-one with Grace Lin, who saw something in an early draft.

What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of creating kids' books?

SK - I absolutely hate the query, and I hate sending the work in, I get so nervous.

JAC - I hate the waiting. You send something out...contract, copyedits., etc. You distract yoruself by writing more stuff. Finding my tribe was a huge component. Ever since I got my contract I've met so many amazing people who've been so welcoming, making me feel like a writer.

SC - Query sucks. I love the writing process, editing you define your characters, research. The thing I hate the most is the marketing aspect, the going to the bookstores, trying to sell this piece of your soul. I'm an introvert, would rather be in front of my computer.

KB - Favorites: thinking of new ideas, finishing projects. Talking to kids. I get to go talk to kids about books, and they get so excited. Hanging out with writers, writers are the best people. The bad parts - the middle of the draft is bad - and trying to find the balance between promotion and authenticity. Trying to appreciate every aspect of this, I'm very fortunate. My main goal is that a kid will put down my book and pick up another book.

                                                              If you could give advice, what would it be?

KB - It took me a while to figure out my voice, versus watching the market and seeing what kids read. You need to find your uniqueness, what you liked to read as a kid. You have to tap into YOU. If you're going to succeed, it's going to be with YOU.

SC - Stick with it. Don't be afraid to chop words, chapters. Your book is only going to get better. Constantly learn. There's so much out there to make you better, to make you connect more.

JAC - I would have told myself, "Learn to write this book." I thought I had a formula, but really, you do start over with every book, start the process over every time. Learn to write THIS book.

SK - Focus. I come from animation, but I love picture books. I have to do picture books, and even if I don't publish another book, I have to keep making stuff. I'd now rather do this than animation.

What or who has influenced you the most?

JAC - Cliche, but it was my misspent youth. (laughter) Moved to the East Coast, learned to be there, and it's when I really started to produce writing that became more real ad close to tbe bone.

SC - My kids. Hush came about at the dinner table. Family origins.  Family collaboration, teen feedback. Working with her kids, bribery: If you don't clean your room, I'm going to write a scene where you have gas!

KB - I was a troublemaker, and I was poor, I was kind of invisible. I remember the teachers and librarians who encouraged me to read. My school librarian made a job for me after school. But having somebody on your side, aligning themselves with you. I had that. When I thought about who inspired me career-wise, I wanted to be weird like Adam Rex. It was important to me to have an Hispanic protagonist, because I'm Hispanic and there just aren't that many books available. A kid might pick my book up at the store and think, "This character is like me!" Think about what kind of writer you want to be, be inspired by those around you.

Some story of what happened on the journey to publication you haven't shared yet?

SK - Comi-con, kid comes every year, loves my book.

JAC - Last year I did a school visit, hosted by the teen book club. Tall linebacker kind of guy among the girls. Guy was the most animated, excited. I was amazed and charmed by this kid who wasn't ashamed to admit his excitement about teen books.

SC - Volunteered for "I Love to Read" program in Anacortes. Skippy John Jones, reading aloud is so fun, so important. Little girl was reluctant to keep book, didn't have any others, her mother didn't let her keep books because she ruined them. "It's a treasure, show her you can take good care of it."

KB - Park Place Books in Kirkland. Saw an old man pick up my book, first time I'd seen anyone pick my book up. Watched him from afar. He read the flap copy, wife asked if he was going to buy it. Then he said, "No! It's about troublemakers, and kids don't need that." I thought, "Yes, they do!" Which made me determined to always write about rabble-rousers and troublemakers. I was inspired by his rejection.

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