Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Conference Faculty Interview: Deborah Warren

by Kathleen Hunter and Holly Huckeba

It’s March already, and the snow is still falling! But the crocus are blooming, and so is your 2017 Conference Team, ready to show off our amazing bouquet of faculty for the 25th Western Washington Conference for Writers & Illustrators.

For the first of our pre-conference faculty interviews, we are joined by the fantastic Deborah Warren, agent extraordinaire and founder of East West Literary Agency. Of Warren’s 35 years in the publishing biz, sixteen of them have been served at the helm of the Agency. You might say she’s got quite the green thumb for growing careers that flourish. Did I mention she LOVES discovering new blooms? In her own words, “finding debut talent is a bit of a specialty for the Agency.”

SCBWI: Deborah, we’re so excited that you’ll be attending our April Conference.

Deborah: Thank you—I’m happy to join you!

SCBWI: Can you give us a teaser of your breakout sessions? No spoilers necessary! 

Deborah: Well, the presentation titles themselves are pretty descriptive – “FROM A TO Z AND EAST TO WEST (and everywhere in-between)” and “PERFECT PITCH:  How to be your very own book seller.”  You’ll find that I’m an advocate who values finding your shine and making that connection all the way down the food chain.  (You’ll hear a lot about the food chain!)  And I guess it’s not too early to cite the Four P’s: PASSION, PERSEVERANCE, PERSISTENCE and PATIENCE

Further, to the motto of the conference, which I’ve taken as bloom where you’re planted, I found this saying, “Advice from a Tree,” especially apropos:
Stand tall and proud
Go out on a limb
Remember your roots
Drink plenty of water
Be content with your natural beauty
Enjoy the view
I might add:  Take care of yourself.  Take care of the people you love.  Eat right, pay the bills, and keep breathing.  Maintain your sense of humor.  See a movie.  Take your llama for a walk.

SCBWI: Or your alpacas! So, what’s on your wish-list this year from authors and or illustrators?

Deborah: If you've studied our web site and our monthly newsletter, you know that our clients run the gamut from picture books to YA, non-fiction and fiction. As a boutique agency, we are as proud of our debut authors and illustrators as we are of our NYT best-sellers and award winners.  What we're seeking is quality:  A story, non-fiction or fiction, that is uniquely yours, touches hearts (including ours), opens a reader's eyes to a fresh perspective, and is that book you can't put down.

SCBWI: Do you have any Words of Wisdom TM for newbies?

Deborah: I would echo these three tips by Jolie Stekly on the SCBWI blog for the Winter Conference in NYC:
  • Meet like-minded people. You are not alone. There's a reason Lin Oliver calls us a tribe. This conference can open doors (it does open doors) in so many unexpected ways. More than the editors/agents in attendance, it might be the person sitting next to you who impacts your writing/illustrating life in unexpected ways. Take the leap and say hello.
  • Discover Editors and Agents. You can have a very successful conference experience without speaking directly to editors and agents. These wonderful industry professionals are in demand. The good news is that most will open their doors to submissions just because you are at the conference. Take the time to learn as much as you can about each and decide who might be a good fit for your work. Then, when your work is ready, submit.
  • Create Realistic Goals. Think about a few things you'd like to accomplish at the conference; set goals that are realistic and achievable. If you do that, there's no doubt the experience will be a successful one.

SCBWI: Any other essential tidbits that our attendees should know?

Deborah: I’ll share one little known fact about me: I love to sing. This one is for all of you:

(singing) “Don’t stop believing! Hold on to that feeling!!!!!” (mic drop)

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