Sunday, September 30, 2012

SCBWI - Carolinas: Things I Learned

What a rush! Friends, books, editors, agents, AUTHORS, and food! These are just a few of the highlights I took in from the sessions I attended at the 2012 SCBWI Conference (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). If you can glean one or two bits of wisdom from these notes, then I'm glad I could share. Enjoy!

Writing Tips from Authors, Agents, and Editors || advice for writers | writing conferences | highlights from SCBWI | writing career

Things I Learned or Re-learned

"Launch My Career" by author Alan Gratz

  • Say "I think the audience of such and such a book will enjoy my book." Not "My book is the next such and such book.
  • Find editors and agents in the SCBWI "Edited By" section with the Market Survey and Agents Directory.
  • Advances are usually paid half at signing and half on acceptance of final draft for novels.
  • Say "That is an awesome offer! Thank you so much. May I have a few days to think about it?" Then get an AGENT!
"Agent Panel" by Jennifer Rofe, Liza Voges, and Sarah LaPolla
  • It's all about the writing.
  • Ask yourself why you're writing what you're writing.
  • Know who your reader is.
  • Look at the Core Curriculum.
  • Summer is a bad time to query agents because of all the teacher/writers being off during the summer.
  • Agents get way more rejections than writers do!
"Keynote Address" by SCBWI President and author of 60+ books, Stephen Mooser
  • Digital going strong, but books are here to stay.
  • Make consumers aware of what good literature is.
  • Ask how your book could fit into technology.
  • Story must be terrific and unique.
  • Be persistent.
  • Giving weather reports are good practice for mood and setting.
  • Give your characters a grand entrance.
  • Follow your weirdness.
  • Don't rush it.
"Am I Wasting My Time if I Rhyme?" by author Kristy Dempsey
  • No!
  • Beware of unnatural phrasing, forced rhyme, near rhyme, inverted word order, and meter that's off.
  • Consider natural accents by using the word in as many sentences as you can think of to test the word in question.
  • Have fun!
"The Shape of Things to Come" by editor Daniel Nayeri
  • A few big publishing houses now have three separate divisions: hard back division, paper back division, AND now a separate digital division. 
  • Embrace the digital world.
  • Marketing team will market your book.
  • A publicist will publicize YOU.
  • Electronic Rights vs. ENHANCED Electronic Rights
  • Simple enhancements that let the book remain a book:
    • searchable text
    • wiki definitions
    • hyperlinked index
    • embedded media
    • light animation
  • "All art aspires to the immediacy of music." --???
  • The BEST app ever is The Elements.
"Character, Humor, and Series in a Chapter Book" by author and SCBWI President Stephen Mooser
  • First book in a series the hardest to write because you're trying to get to know your characters.
  • End chapters with a cliffhanger.
  • The subplot needs to help solve the main plot.
  • Have 3-4 main characters who can work together.
  • Ways to add humor:
    • incongruity (a cheerleader in a mudpit)
    • reversal of roles (a nerd in the easy class)
    • understatement
    • gentle foibles (weaknesses get them into troublesome situations)
  • If you stare at 5 words long enough, you'll think of a story.
"Author's Round Table" with various authors
  • Don't spend your time blogging or building a website when you should be writing.
  • Your blog can stand in as a simple website.
  • Craft comes first. 
  • Be persistent!
"The So What Factor" by agent Jennifer Rofe
  • Why does it matter?
  • Why should the reader care?
  • Emotional impact - create characters that readers can care about.
  • Compelling plot - put your characters in a tree and throw rocks at them, then help them down.
  • Connectivity - everything that happens must happen for a very specific reason.
  • Your characters must grow and change as they go through obstacles.
  • They must make difficult decisions.
  • Mostly applies to novels, but can still apply on a much smaller scale to picture books.
"Farewell Keynote - We Are All Apprentices" by editor, Molly O'Neill
  • We are in careers that we never stop learning.
  • "Every book is its own mystery."
  • "I think we learn best from the books we love best."
  • Study the books from the gaps in our lives, from the time we quit reading kids books to the time we picked it up again.
  • Pursue things that fascinate you.
  • Mistakes and doubts help us learn.
  • It's important to get your story to a point that you believe in it before you seek advice.
  • Each book we write must be our own best book.
  1. "For the Young Who Want To" poem by Margie Pearcy
  2. The McBroom stories by Sid Fleischman
  3. websites: Verla Kay, Harold Underdown, Editors and Preditors
  4. Writers Market
  5. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
  6. Surfer Chick by Kristy Dempsey
  7. Hack the Cover by Craig Mod
  8. The Elements, an app
  9. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown (for cliffhangers)
  10. 101 Black Cats, and Disaster in Room 101 by Stephen Mooser
  11. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  12. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  13. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry (perhaps the first dystopian novel ever)
  15. Dear Genius by Ursula Nordstrom
  16. The Gates of Excellence by Katherine Paterson
  17. The Making of a Writer by Joan Lowery Nixon
  18. A Christmas Goodnight illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright
  19. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeline L'Engle
  20. But I'll Be Back Again, memoir by Cynthia Rylant
  21. A Dog's Way Home by Bobbie Pyron
  • Surfer Chick by Kristy Dempsey (picture book)
  • Being Frank by Donna Earnhardt (debut picture book)
  • Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • It was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences. by June Casagrande
  • The Encyclopedia of Writing and Illustrating Children's Books by McCammon, Thornton, and Williams
Keep on keepin' on...


  1. Sounds amazing, Christy! Thanks for sharing. And Liza is my agent! How weird that you went to her panel! :)

  2. I love this post! I'm printing it and hanging it on my bulletin board!

  3. Susanna, I saw that on the Eden Street website. (She actually did a critique for me, too!)

    Genevieve, So glad you enjoyed it. Maybe I should hang it my bulletin board, too.

  4. THis is a wonderful summary of your conference. I love bullet points. It is easier to read. What struck me was the comment about blogging and how we should spend our time writing instead. I was just thinking about how much time I feel like I am wasting on my platform when I should be honing my craft. Nice reminder.

  5. Romelle, And yet we feel guilty when we don't write a new blog post. I guess I average 3-12 a month. And that's okay.

  6. Terrific summary, Christie! I've pretty much let my blog slide, but I'm spending more time writing, so I guess it's not the end of the world (or my writing career). :)


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