Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Crystal Kite Award: And the winner of the West is....

Holy things that make you pucker up!

Join me in a round of applause for Kim Baker, whose book, Pickle, just was announced as the Crystal Kite Award winning book in the West!

(No, this is not a prank. But her book is all about them....)

Winner of the Crystal Kite Award!

Kim, Crystal Kite Award-winning author!

TONIGHT: Inside Story!

Okay, finally woke up from my post-conference adrenal fatigue. And whoa, look what time it is! I've been negligent. My bad....

It's time for:

There are so, so many talented folks who are going to showcase their recent publications. You just can't miss this! Come support local writers and illustrators whose work has made it out of the tunnel and into the world.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

CONFERENCE 2013: Robin LaFevers, Keynote Speech

Robin LaFevers

How do you stay sane when the burning need to get published is eating away at your soul? When what you think is your best work is rejected all around?

Bestselling author Robin LaFevers, whose series about teen assassin nuns (Grave Mercy, Dark Triumph), has garnered rave reviews, has a lot to say about the craft and pursuit of writing.

Here are a few of her observations, which silenced a room full of people and made us all think about our selves and our creative obligations to ourselves:

You focus on the work. It's your love of the work that will see you through. It will see you through the stress, the ups and downs of your career.

All the things you've told herself re: why you're here, are lies. We're good at telling ourselves lies, in order to get to the right path.

Something inside you wants to be heard. That voiceless part of you has something to say.

I was one of those people who never understood the fear of success. When this recent dose of success landed in my lap, though, I pretty much freaked the heck out. The first thing I did was panic that I wouldn't match the [initial] success with my second book.

My writing cave: I will close the door, and shut out the voices. Thinking only of the story, and the characters, and write the truest story I know how to tell.

Writing's not comfy, safe, or about staying invisible. It's really scary to give voice to our deepest thoughts and feelings. Our one concern is finding our truest voice, to connect to those readers who want to hear what we truly what we have to say.

Writing for kids is more important than writing for adults. Our childhood books mean more to us than any books we read as adults. We are helping create a database for kids - show them all the different colors that joy can come in. Helping them navigate this terrifying thing called Life.

Sometimes when you have nothing left to lose, you find the courage to write without holding back.

Explore yourself. What are your issues? The ones we don't even share with our therapists. Those are the places where your most powerful writing will come from.

Writing is a long, hard journey to reclaim our voiceless selves. What we have to say matters.

CONFERENCE 2013: Colleen AF Venable- Villains: Why It’s Good to be Bad

Colleen AF Venable is an author and designer. Colleen AF Venable has an incredible knack of showing some extremely scary villains to her audience. She (with scary and hilarious slides) talked through film and literary villains, such as Voldemort, King Leck, Darth Vader, a number of Disney villains, and even a rabbit.

We talked through the different types of villains from Pure Powerful Evil villains to the Reader as the villain (with some WONDERFUL examples!). We looked at two different villains: King Leck (from Kristin Cashore's GRACELING series) and the Rabbit (I WANT MY HAT BACK by Jon Klassen)

A question that was asked was: How do you write a great villain? Here is one from Colleen tip to use: Think of what the average person would do in a situation. Make your character do anything but that.

Check out more about Colleen, and her work at her fabulous website

CONFERENCE 2013: Abigail Samoun- Tools for Every Plot Mechanic (Part 1 & 2)

Abigail Samoun's breakout sessions were dealing with tools for every plot mechanic. She gave us advice, insight and practical tools to use for story plots. In our second session she had four volunteers share their homework and we had a great session listening to the process. 

Since we can't give away all of Abigail's amazing tools we'll share one of her tools that is substantial to a plot. Ask these questions about your story and plot.

Creating Tension 
Tool #1- Be your hero’s worst enemy
-How can you be mean to your characters?
-Be especially mean to your most likable characters.
-Use the Dial of Misery (turn up the volume of misery that affects your character)- how can it get worse?

You can find our more information about Abigail on the Red Fox Literary blog

CONFERENCE 2013: Tamra Tuller, "Crying Out Loud: Heightening Emotion in Your Novel"

Chronicle Books' Tamra Tuller addresses the banshee in the backs of our minds, waiting for its time to wail in the pages we write:


um, er, (inner voice drops to a whisper). . . emotion.

What she shared:

*It's difficult to bring a high level of emotional complexity to your text.

*Understand your character's motivations, what makes them tick. Can't say it enough: Know your character!

*Be specific! Authenticity in a character's emotion comes from specificity.

*Subtext: You can read what isn't there. We've all heard this before, but it applies even more in writing emotion: Silence sometimes speaks louder than words.

Examples of texts where authors successfully deal with emotion in a variety of ways:
Markus Zusak's Book Thief
Katherine Erskine's Mockingbird
John Green/David Levithan's Will Grayson, Will Grayson

*Pick and choose the right moments to harness your character's emotion. Be judicious.

*We bring our own emotional baggage to the reading as well as the writing experience.

*Do your best to avoid cliches as you attempt to create high levels of emotion.

CONFERENCE 2013: Ammi-Joan Paquette, "Choose Your Superpower"

When you sit down to write your novel, know this:

Ammi (pron. "Ay-mee")-Joan feels your pain. Besides being an agent with Erin Murphy Literary, she's also a writer (Nowhere Girl, and the upcoming Rules for Ghosting in July).

She offered a list of ways to strengthen your approach to writing your story, such as:

the hook
the voice
the plot
the theme
the character

She is not one to pooh-pooh outlining, and thinks it's a great way to boil down your story, pre-revision, to see where it's heading. Make lists, outline, get out a glass of wine and brainstorm. It's a hands-on, organic process, and ultimately, the agent side of her wants to be transported. She wants to remember and think about a manuscript she's read.

The more you polish and revise, the better! Her advice to those of us with less-than-savory first drafts, or for those of us whose fifth draft is languishing in a drawer in the back of the closet, is to always be writing something new. All the lessons you've learned from your previous project will subconsciously flow into your new material. You'll always be learning and improving upon experience that way.

Revision sounds scary, but she suggests going out on a limb and opening a blank document and starting from scratch to get a fresh take on your first draft. Go on, try it! You never know what will create the kind of creative upheaval in your process and spark that forward motion.

CONFERENCE 2013: Robin LaFevers, Pace Yourself: Tools & Tips for Pacing Your Story

We had a wonderful session with Author Robin LaFevers. It was chock full of invaluable information on pace for your story. According to Robin:
Pace is all about momentum. Getting the reader to turn the page as quickly as possible. We are creating a compulsion through pace for our reader to turn the page.
There were so many great pace tips and tools that Robin gave. One major tip and tool for pace is conflict. Stories need to have conflict. Conflict equals tension (which drives the pacing of a story). 

Here's a question regarding conflict that Robin asked us to consider:

Is the Conflict Big Enough?
-Look at the conflict and the growth protagonist needs to overcome it.
-Is it Big Enough to sustain an entire book?
-Does it truly challenge your character?
-Will readers care?

You can find our more information on Robin, and her work, on her website

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.

CONFERENCE 2013: Kelly Milner Halls, Keynote Speaker: Being Weird and Loving It!

This morning's fabulous keynote was Author Kelly Milner Halls. Kelly comes to us from the Inland NW region of SCBWI, and lives in Spokane, WA. Kelly has made a successful career of writing what she loves- nonfiction writing! She was the kid who always wanted to know the answers. In high school she fell in love with journalism, and later decided she wanted to write for kids. She didn’t want to write for adults, they were boring. 

She writes non-fiction because “I want the answers to my questions- and to share them with kids like me.” Kelly made us laugh and moved us to tears with her tales of her adventures as a writer (and great school visits). I love the parting words of wisdom that Kelly gave us, "Write your authentic book. There is a kid out there somewhere like you and you don’t want to disappoint them."

You can find out more information (and check out an amazing interactive website for kids) at Kelly's website

Saturday, April 20, 2013

CONFERENCE 2013: Mac Barnett- Very Practical Lessons from Very Good PBs

Mac Barnett spoke to an over-flowing room of conference attendees on taking very practical lessons from very good picture books. Mac read several picture books and then went through why they worked and what we can learn from them.

He made it very clear that picture books are a form and not a genre. They are a visual way of telling a story. 

Part of his job as a writer (and our jobs as storytellers) is to read. To be aware of current stories, while also learning from classics and those books we grew up with as children.

Here's a snippet of one of the lessons learned from a very good PB:

THE THREE ROBBERS by Tommy Ungerer
Building in PAGE TURNS (one of the most important things). It's the way you get movement, suspense, move time, reverse, set up expectation, can totally reverse course of story, everything can change, can set up a joke in text (follow with illustration as punch line).

Other PB books we discussed:
IT'S USEFUL TO HAVE A DUCK by Isol (Groundwood Books)
HENRY'S AWFUL MISTAKE by Robert Quackenbush

Questions to ask yourself as you read, write and create:
Always be thinking- How these books get made and how do they get used?
What's the relationship between text and image? (This is the most important thing about picture books and why they work).
Always have to be thinking about the form.

art by Dana Sullivan

CONFERENCE 2013: Keynote Speaker Mac Barnett

An Evening with Mac Barnett & Van Halen* (Lineup Not Final)

Author Mac Barnett was the first keynote speaker at the 22nd Annual SCBWI WWA Conference. He started off by stating that technically it was morning, and that Van Halen was unavailable. But Mac Barnett didn't need Van Halen. His humor, stories, and passion for creating wonder for kids made him the rock star this morning.

Mac shared his passion for picture books, tales from his camp counselor days, messages left for whales, and about 826 (a SUPER cool place to check out...we have one in Seattle!). You can find out more information about Mac Barnett on his website (I'm a total fan now!).

A few thoughts to take ponder:
Kids are ideal fiction readers because they get into that place of wonder.

It's our job as storytellers to get to create that place of wonder.

As a writer/illustrator-You need to deliver on your promise/bargains of creating a place of wonder for your readers. If you don’t deliver it disappoints them as readers.

Break the 4th wall. Find ways to make the fictional world break out into the real world.

CONFERENCE 2013: Joanna Volpe, "The Dreaded Synopsis"

Joanna Volpe

New Leaf Literary agency head Joanna Volpe wants YOU––yes, you!––to stop freaking out about the S-word.

By which I mean "SYNOPSIS."

For Joanna, and most agents, the synopsis is used in-house, that is, as a tool for agents and editors to help them figure out where your plot is headed. It is NOT, she made clear, supposed to sell your book.

It is supposed to sell your plot. Period.

How does one write this diabolically difficult item?

Like this: (pretend the below is an 8.5x11" paper)

Title of Work                                                                       Genre
Author Name                                                                       Word Count

Your Plot:
End (This is important. You're going to give it away!)

The Rules:
Write in the present tense.
Use 12pt in Times New Roman, preferably
Single-spaced, but space between paragraphs
Characters don't have to be capitalized (that's a movie industry thing)
1" margins around the edges

Do Not Include:
Style, Tone, Voice, Hooks, Setting (unless relevant to plot), backstory (unless relevant to plot)
"Think of this as a book report," Joanna repeated like a mantra. "

As a helpful exercise, Joanna played with the group in a synopsis for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Just you try to figure out how many characters are really necessary for it. (Hint: Can you pare it down to less than five? Four?)

Segueing into a conversation about querying, Joanna gave this analogy:

The synopsis is to a book report as a query is to a movie trailer.

So go think about that.

And please don't freak out!

CONFERENCE 2013: Sophie Blackall, Keynote Speaker

Sophie Blackall

Sophie Blackall began her keynote address with a slide that introduced herself as "Sophie Blackall, Illustrator, etc."

So what's the "et cetera"?
She's an Aussie. As a girl, she "drew in the margins as I do now." Her childhood inspirations ranged from The House at Pooh Corner to Milly-Molly-Mandy - a favorite childhood book - to Edward Gorey. She applied for a green card and won the lottery! She has two children. She moved to New York City and now is part of one of the most dynamic studio groups going: with illustrators Brian Flocca, Eddy Hemingway, John Bemelmans Marciano, and Sergio Rizzier.

What are her tactics:

Sophie Steals: from own kids, it can be also called "borrowing" - Moby Dick, anthropological pictures of people, old school photographs, old guidebooks and letters and paint sets.

Sophie Collaborates: by doing drawings with friends and kids, making things around the house, and in that dang cool studio (mentioned above)

Sophie Does Puzzles and Sets Rules: Picture books are always a challenge to figure out, she says, so you have to set rules for yourself. The challenge of text or the lack thereof in picture books: illustrators are architects, landscapers, town planners, clothing designers, interior designer.

The takeaway, even from this amazingly quirky, colorful, and imaginative artist?
Kids know when you're faking it. 

Where did you get your inspiration?

CONFERENCE 2013: Julie Just, "Page 1, Line 1"

Julie Just of Pippin Properties

Breaking News: Pippin Properties has just signed the talented Julie Just, who begins at the esteemed agency in May after finishing up at Janklow & Nesbit yesterday! Here are some bits of wisdom from Julie on story openings, from her singular experience and perspective.

She begins with the fact that kids are more distracted/stressed today than they've ever  been. Young people have access to everything, their level of stimuli is so different today. As for children's book writers, your writing faces a bit of an extra test - can you compete with what else is out there? (social media, games, etc.)

Every project she's taken on and sold, she knew from Page One. That writer was there on the first page. She says, "When I ask editors what they're looking for, they usually say "voice." Plot, mechanics, etc. can be edited. Voice can't be edited. If it's not there, you can't edit it in. Do you have what you need before you send your work out?"

Julie also cites a great nugget from the author Betsy Lerner (Forest From the Trees): "The writer has to earn the reader's trust, reader doesn't even know they're making that pact with the writer."

Julie explains that the main character's worldview should be fairly obvious up front. Psychological stakes are then raised, and the reader drawn into the story. Do you want to spend a whole book with this person?

Ex #1: multiple drafts of Ned Vizzini's opening for The Normal World.
This writer, god bless him, too NINE DRAFTS TO DISCOVER THE REAL OPENING. This is a fantastic example of a writer not giving up until he got where he needed to go.

Ex #2: Jeff Baron, I Represent Sean Rosen (March 2013 release)
Are you rooting for this narrator or not? Do you believe what he says? It needs to convince, and not bore.

And for picture books, versus novels? "I would apply the same standard to a picture book," she states.

Watch as Julie builds her list in her new job!

CONFERENCE 2013: Editor/Agent/Art Director Panel

Patti Ann Harris, Julie Just, Kendra Levin, Taylor Norman, Ammi-Joan Paquette, Abigail Samoun, Tamra Tuller, Colleen AF Venable, Joanna Volpe, and Stacy Whitman

Q: Name the last thing you've bought or sold: 

Slush pile treasures, fairy prostitutes, halfway houses for broken robots,  Malawian mud balls, a haunted camera, turtle-back islands, and one (ahem) naked tiger.

Q: What you're looking for:

Voice, fluidity, characters that grab you, strong writing, a degree of honesty that allows you to connect to readers and not condescend - treat your readers as smart people!

Voices that don't get heard.

Unreliable narrators, unexpected turns, experimental plots. 

Q: Where do you find authors/illustrators?

Slush piles, agents, conferences, the Internet (Tumblr, Twitter, blogs), fan fiction sites.

Q: For your published clients, what should they be doing with an extra hour in a day? What do you do with your time when you're done writing?

Nothing to do with their process.
Leave your house!
Genre specific, career specific, pub date specific. 
School visits.
Spend time with actual kids!


Scbwi wwa by scbwi-wwa
Scbwi wwa, a photo by scbwi-wwa on Flickr.

Friday, April 19, 2013

CONFERENCE 2013: And we're off!

If you aren't one of those who braved the rain, wind, and closure of 520 Eastbound, then you're still going to get a peek inside this year's annual conference.

And, after a day of master classes and roundtables, the verdict is: THUMBS UP. WAY, WAY UP!!!

I will be receiving and posting updates throughout the weekend, so enjoy the vicarious thrills. And hopefully they'll convince you that this is THE place to be next year!

Master Class: Revision, "Intuitive Revising" with Kendra Levin
(posted by Rebecca Van Slyke)

Kendra Levin, senior editor at Viking Children's Books, talked about finding the motivation of your characters. She led us in several exercises that enabled us to distill our story in a one-sentence summary, then fleshing it out into a descriptive paragraph. She encouraged us to ask Building Block Questions, like "What is the ticking clock in your story?" She talked about the value of outlining, either formally or loosely. The final step is only for the truly brave writer: Rewrite your manuscript! So much may have changed that sometimes it's easier to begin fresh.

And now, for an inside look at the Illustrators 
(by Dana Sullivan)

"Keeping It Fresh" a Master Class with Patti Ann Harris


feedback from Sophie Blackall

Roundtable Roundup, aka Ten Minutes of Glory (or Ten Minutes of Youch, That Smarts, But I'm Better for the Experience)
(by Emily Russin)

This year, instead of one-on-one feedback sessions, we tried something new: roundtables not unlike the Great Critique format, where groups of about ten writers in similar genres come together and take ten minutes to read and hear feedback from the agent/editor/writer leader at their table. From the general chatter in the hallways between and after these hour-and-a-half sessions, there were two main takeaways:
1. The quality of individual submissions (500 words, max) was extremely high. Go, us!
2. The agent/editor/writer/publisher feedback was sharp, spot-on, and couched with constructive comments that made you want to go away and work even harder. (I even watched as two folks in my group got asked to submit full manuscripts to editors! Talk about getting the most out of the weekend on the very first day!)

The group dynamics were supportive and also inviting. No one's comments were taken the wrong way, and everyone seemed to benefit in one way or another, whether it was hearing their work read by another group member, or hearing that they wrote with too-long sentences (guilty as charged!).

Needless to say, this format seems to have been a success, and the instant and savvy reactions of the experts at the tables were worth the experience.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Few Things to Remember....

It's almost time! Registration is closed, so you're either going or you're not. Either way, we have some tips to get you through the next couple of days.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Free your unloved TBR books!

When you gather yourself to come to SCBWI Western Washington's Writing and Illustrating for Children Conference on Friday and/or Saturday, don't forget to bring new or quite gently read books to donate to either Eastside Baby Corner (books for readers up to age 12) or Teen Feed. Try these 5 easy steps:

1. Take a look at that to-be-read (TBR) stack... are you *really* going to get through all of those books, some of which may have been waiting a long time for your love and attention? Hint: If they're dusty, they secretly resent you.
2. Admit to yourself that this stack will be getting even higher, once you hear from our conference faculty and find yourself intrigued by their titles, too...
3. Oh, and remember that it's important to read books that have been ushered to life by editors and agents to get a good sense of their tastes prior to submitting to them... that might mean one or two more you'll want to buy.
4. Then soothe your conscious for those unloved TBR books by deciding to give them to readers who will adore them. (You can always check another copy out of the library later, right?)
5. Remember to bring those books for our donation boxes. (Blow the dust off first.) It's that simple!

The even-slightly battered residents of your TBR pile, of course, are like old dogs... they'll be more comfortable in the home they know and love, even if all they do is sleep. So leave those at home. If your whole TBR pile is old dogs, don't worry — Secret Garden Bookshop will be delighted to sell you a new book, one never yet suffering the indignity of the TBR pile, that you can donate instead. And we'll all live happily ever after!

See you soon!

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Hear ye, hear ye!

Registration for this year's annual SCBWI-WWA conference, which takes place this coming Friday, April 19–Sunday, April 21 in Redmond, WA, is....


Yup, as in "You can't come if you aren't registered" by MONDAY, April 15.

Space is limited, but there are a few spots left! If you're still on that rickety fence, the time to act is NOW!!!

Thank you.

Conference update: 520 Bridge Closure, 4/19–4/21

For all of you coming and going to and from the Eastside next Friday, Saturday, and Sunday––

520 is closed, starting late Friday and reopening early Monday. The WSDOT announcement can be found here.

Please make alternative plans to travel via I-90, and to give yourselves a little extra time. I-90 means taking 405 Northbound to 520 East to Redmond. It's a little bit of a detour, but hopefully shouldn't be too much of a hassle when you consider it's the weekend.

But, we love you, we want to see you make it to your roundtables, sessions, and, most importantly, Kid Lit Drink Night!

Yours affectionately,


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Conference Sneak Peek: Abigail Samoun

Abigail Samoun

With a storied resume that took her from Little, Brown to Simon & Schuster, and Random House to Tricycle Press,  Abigail Samoun segued into her current role as a literary agent at Red Fox Literary, a boutique agency she started with Karen Grencik. With what could only be called beginner's luck, Abigail acquired Yesterday I Had the Blues, by Jeron Frame, with illustrations by R. Gregory Christie. Well, it went and won the coveted Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award! Abigail also edited the Edgar & Ellen middle-grade series, a nine-book series that went on to be published in twelve languages, selling half a million copies worldwide. It also spawned a cartoon on the NickToons Network. For her presentation at our conference, Abigail will speak on "Indispensable Tools for Every Plot Mechanic." If you want a taste of how she rolls, here's a link to an interview she did for the Cynsations blog back in 2008, before Red Fox was even a glimmer behind her literary eyes!

Conference Sneak Peek: Stacy Whitman

Stacy Whitman

Stacy Whitman wears many hats. She's an editor, a marketing specialist, a blogger, a publisher, and at Tu Books, the imprint of Lee & Low that she oversees, she's gone from Editorial Director to Publisher. With a background at Wizards of the Coast, Houghton Mifflin, and other publishing stops, Stacy is a true SF/F devotee, and her taste in books reflects that. To check out her exceedingly impressive credentials, see her blog, and also check out an interview she gave a few years back. She is nothing if not intrepid, and a life-long lover of great stories and storytelling. When she stands before us at the annual conference, she'll be talking on the topics "Beyond Orcs and Elves: Human Diversity in SF/F" and "World-Building 101."

April Calendar of Events

Um, don't forget to register for the MOST IMPORTANT EVENT THIS MONTH: Our annual, one-and-only, pulling-out-all-the-stops, so-good-it's-gotta-be-bad CONFERENCE!
WHEN: Friday, April 19–Sunday, April 21
WHERE: Marriott, Redmond Town Center, Redmond
REGISTER: For a good time, click right here!


Want support and accountability in your writing? YA Novel Writing: Captivating the Teen Reader begins April 8 at Bellevue College, taught by Katherine Grace Bond. To register, go to the Bellevue College Continuing Ed website.

Author appearance:
Author Eric Ode and Illustrator Erik Brooks read their new book: Sea Star Wishes: Poems from the Coast (Sasquatch Books, ages 4-7, $16.99).
WHEN:       Thursday, April 11, 7pm        
WHERE:    Secret Garden Bookshop
Short story class:
If you've always wanted to write a short story or learn more about crafting these little gems, 

Lois Brandt will show you how. In her course, "Writing Short Stories from First Sentence to 

Submission," you will spend eight weeks producing a portfolio of work–between 2 and 5 completed short stories.  Each student is expected to write between 2,000-7,000 words a week. During the first four weeks students plot short stories and write them to completion. The second half of the class is devoted to editing and revising one story from the student’s portfolio. Students will learn to edit their own work and to receive and give constructive criticism. At the end of class students submit their polished stories to literary or genre markets.
WHEN: 8 Wednesday sessions, April 17–June 5, 6:30-9pm.
WHERE: Bellevue College, North campus
REGISTER: Cost $179, click here.

Author signings:

Robin LaFevers appears on behalf of her latest novel, Dark Triumph, prior to 
being on the esteemed faculty of SCBWI-WWA's 2013 Annual Conference!
WHEN: Thursday, April 18 at 7pm
WHERE: Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park

Sherri Duski, author of Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, has a new book out, Steam Train, Dream Train.
WHEN: Sunday, April 21 at 5:30pm
WHERE: Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park

Dav Pilkey signs his newest Captain Underpants book: Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers (Scholastic, $9.99, for ages 7 and up).
WHEN:       Monday, April 22, 5-7pm AND Tuesday, April 23 at 4pm        
WHERE:    Secret Garden Bookshop AND Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park

Sarah Dessen's coming! The bestselling YA author is here for a ticketed signing event in support of the paperback release of What Happened To Goodbye. The Rules: Purchase your copy of What Happened to Goodbye (or any other NEW Sarah Dessen title) at Third Place Books and receive your ticket. Two people may stand in line together, you maybe bring 2 additional books from home.
WHEN: Monday, April 22 at 7pm
WHERE: Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park

Writing Class:
Author Lois Harris leads a two-night course, entitled, "A Simple Structure for a Strong Story."
WHEN: Thursday, April 25 and Thursday, May 2 from 6:30-8:30pm.
WHERE: Skagit Valley College, Mount Vernon campus
REGISTER: For course information (listed as 6075 CENGL) as well as registration ($49)
click here.

Graphic Arts Guild Workshop presents

"Best Practices for the Fallible & Fickle." Have you ever changed your mind 75 percent of the way into a project? Or has a client? Or perhaps you've felt like you've painted yourself into a technical corner, and the only way out is to ruin work you've done. In this conversation, we'll talk about awesomely non-destructive, re-editable methods in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.
WHEN: April 24, 12–1:30pm
WHERE: Seattle Design Center, 5701 Sixth Ave S, Seattle
TO REGISTER: Brown Paper Tickets (Guild member $10, General $20)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Suzanne Selfors book release

 Good news! A new book is born!
April 2 is the official release of Suzanne Selfors's new middle grade book, The Sasquatch Escape, Book One in the Imaginary Veterinary Series. Illustrated by Dan Santat, this is the story of Ben Silverstein and Pearl Petal, who become apprentices in a secret hospital for imaginary creatures. Published by Little, Brown, the second book will release in September.
As part of her promotion, Suzanne will be leaving free copies of the book with the Sasquatch statue at Pike Place Market for lucky readers to find.

Check out Suzanne's website for more information.
Congratulations, Suzanne!

Kid Lit Drink Night: Conference Edition! Open to all!

If you:

Happen to be in Redmond for the Annual Conference, or just

Happen to be in search of writing or illustrating folks to network with, or just

Happen to be ready to discuss the finer points of past conference experiences, or just

Happen to be, well, THIRSTY,


Come to  KID LIT DRINK NIGHT  at this year's Annual Conference! 

When: Friday, April 19, 7-9pm
Where: Redmond Marriott (Redmond Town Center)
Why: Because we like you (and we're going to be thirsty)!!

P.S. You don't have to be enrolled at the conference to enjoy the camaraderie! All are welcome! The more, the merrier!

Conference Sneak Peek: Colleen AF Venable

Colleen AF Venable

As someone who seems to have fully recovered from being voted class "dork," Colleen AF Venable's double major in studio art and English led her to success as a graphic novelist writing about a hamster named Hamisher. Her Guinea Pig: Pet Shop Private Eye series is now up to its fifth release, and she designs graphic novels for First Second Books during the day while continuing her own writing at night. In an interview with Graphic Universe, Colleen freely admits that her favorite genre to write is "Silly." When she appears at our conference, she'll be talking about "Breaking Out as an Illustrator in the Digital Age." Maybe she'll even tell us what the A and F stand for!

Conference Sneak Peek: Taylor Norman

Taylor Norman

To get to know Taylor Norman is to understand to know her almost obsessive passion: books. Specifically, books for kids. As the editorial assistant in the Children's division at Chronicle Books, Taylor comes to life on the Chronicle Books Blog, which gives fellow devotees a dose of what's going on in the kidlit world of Chronicle and beyond. What she reveals is not just the goings-on of the pub world, but also the inner workings of her insatiable book-minded mind. (Hint: She's reading Harry Potter in French!) You'll find out what's on her nightstand, or about other Chronicle authors and local happenings in the Bay Area. When she comes up to Redmond in a couple of weeks, we'll hear from her on the topic of "The Bestseller List." Believe me, she's one to talk. I, for one, want to listen. Follow Taylor on Twitter (@tayor_norm) for all her insights!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Conference Sneak Peek: Patti Ann Harris

Patti Ann Harris

Patti Ann Harris knows a thing or two about a thing or two. If that thing (or two) happens to be related to children's book illustration, art, or design, she's your woman. As the Senior Art Director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, she oversees the design of the picture book list and novelty book imprint, LB-Kids. For her advice on how to be a children's book illustrator, click here. You won't be sorry! Also, in an appearance at the SCBWI conference two years ago in Los Angeles, Patti talked about What Makes Your Work Publishable. We're so eager to hear what she has in store for Western Washington this year, and know that whatever she says, we'll be listening. And taking extensive notes!

Conference Sneak Peek: Kelly Milner Halls

Kelly Milner Halls

Who around here can say they've published over 1,500 pieces of writing? Kelly Milner Halls, for one. She's the tireless and dedicated writer who has a knack for telling the stories behind real stories and making kids clamor for more. With a career that's spanned work for Highlights, Teen People, Chicago Tribune KidNews, Writer's Digest, and a list of standalone nonfiction books that delve into monsters, animals, and science, Kelly has probably written on more topics than anyone. With kids always in the front of her mind, and especially those reluctant readers with whom she bonds over the glories of being weird (her website's subtitle, check it out here), she's earned praise from the Junior Library Guild, Highlights for Children, and Booklist, among many other awards and nominations. Come hear how this intrepid Spokane resident has found her niche, stuck with it, and evolved with a changing market and her own passions for subject matter. 

Conference Sneak Peek: Ammi-Joan Paquette

Ammi-Joan Paquette

From the first glimpse of her inviting and colorful website, author-agent Ammi-Joan Paquette has a lot to say. Not only has she written and released two novels (Nowhere Girl, Paradox) and two picture books (The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies, The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Mermaids)––with more of each on the way this summer and fall––but she manages to maintain and work with her list of clients as an agent at the Arizona-based Erin Murphy Literary Agency from her home in Massachusetts. Her Erin Murphy experience complements her lifelong devotion to reading and writing and telling stories. Each role, it seems, nourishes the other. And how! We're looking forward to learning from her unique perspective from both sides of publishing, as well as to her future publications.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Conference Sneak Peek: Robin LaFevers

If you delve into the rich, imaginative world of Robin LaFevers, you will find yourself awash in history, intrigue, romance, and daring. Her beloved middle-grade series––the Nathanial Fludd Beastologist, Theodosia, and Lowthar's Blade––draw upon her love of mythology and fairy tales and the adventure in magical realms. Her YA series, His Fair Assassin, features compelling protagonists: assassin nuns in medieval France! The second book in the series, Dark Triumph (the sequel to Grave Mercy), just released on April 2.In a recent online interview, Robin talks about the book and its inspirations. With a lifelong passion for the past, a fascination with sacred rituals and the mysteries of life and death, Robin's work delves into the darkest places where history, mystery, and fantasy intersect. Along with a dash of love, of course! To keep up with Robin's life, work, and inspirations, check out her blog.