This year’s Oklahoma SCBWI Spring conference “Go The Distance” was held in Oklahoma City where there were enthusiastic authors and illustrators ready to learn, an art room decked out with colorful portfolios ready to be viewed, dynamic speakers ready to teach about pacing, humor, creativity, failure, and even what it was like to attend a school like Hogwarts.
What more could you ask for?
Our first speaker of the day was no stranger to this blog as she gave an interview introducing herself prior to our conference. For her talk, she discussed pacing and how writers can improve it in their writing.
Jodell Sadler – Literary Agent with Sadler Children’s Literary
Jodell wrote her critical thesis on pacing picture books and earned her MFA in Writing for Children & YA from Hamline University, 2009 and started agenting a few years later, and most recently launched Kidlit College. She hosts workshops and presents on pacing with Writer’s Digest. At Kidlit College, she brings in editors and agents to present and offers participants direct critiques. The webinars span from picture books (fiction and nonfiction) to MG/YA.
Jodell gave a talk entitled, “Pacing Picture Books & Beyond: Move Yourself to Action to Move Your Reader”. She discussed the 10 P’s of Pacing and gave examples of how carefully considering each one could improve a manuscript.
9. Page Turn
She encouraged writers to release their inner spirit onto the page and to use all creative techniques at their disposal.
(This is a topic that she teaches through her Kidlit College for those not able to attend the conference.)
Follow Jodell on Twitter here.
Our next speaker was also no stranger to this blog or to our OK SCBWI group as she was our March Twitter chat guest. You can read about her chat here. For her talk, she encouraged all of us to view our manuscripts from the same perspective as agents, editors, and readers.
Victoria Selvaggio – Associate Agent with The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.
Victoria has a strong background in business ownership, and she worked for over seven years as a volunteer and Regional Advisor for SCBWI: Northern Ohio. Drawn to the publishing scene first as an author writing all genres, with her most recent publication in the 2015 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market, Vicki’s passion for honing the craft carried over into reading manuscripts for the agency in 2013.
Victoria’s talk entitled, “Does Your Manuscript Go the Distance?” encouraged writers to become knowledgeable in all aspects of writing and the publishing process. She provided several resources in an excellent, detailed handout.
The first section had a checklist of things to look for to ensure your manuscript was indeed ready to submit.
Does it have clarity on intended genre, age group, and word count? And is it appropriate for each?
Does it have a strong opening sentence/paragraph?
Distinct voice of main character and sub-characters? Great dialogue and interactions?
Great pacing, tension, suspense?
Fluent sentence structure? Writing that is rhythmic-almost musical/graceful?
These were just a few of many. We took a closer look at how focusing on these questions could improve our manuscripts.
Victoria made an interesting analogy, comparing writing to road construction. We are the driver of our manuscripts. We want the ride to be smooth for our readers.
Pacing – “Balance is key.” You never want to take your reader out of the story because the pacing is too slow or to have them stop reading because the pacing is too intense.
Dialogue – All dialogue should advance the story. Make sure the characters are moving/gesturing naturally when they speak, not standing still like robots.
Voice – This is the unique way an author writes. Voice and tone are different. Voice captivates your reader and allows them to connect emotionally. If you struggle with voice, she suggests writing the way you talk.
Plot – Something has to change or happen. She likes to think of the plot as MAGIC = the Main character Always Grows In Conclusion.
Final thought – Mastering the skill to be constructive in your assessment of your own work is important. Have to think like an agent (would I represent this?) and an editor (would I acquire this?) and a reader (would I read this?) when evaluating whether or not your manuscript is ready.
Follow Victoria on Twitter here.
Our final speaker of the morning dazzled us with a peek into the world of art and design in picture books.
Jason Henry – Senior Designer with Dial Books For Young Readers
Jason is also an illustrator. He designs a wide range of formats including picture books, non-fiction, YA novel jackets and interiors, and has also contributed illustrations to award-winning published titles.
He began at Dutton Design as a design assistant and was subsequently promoted to the position of Senior Designer.
Jason spoke on the topic, “The Marathon and Teamwork of Creating Picture Books”. For those who were new to the process of how a few, well-crafted words of a picture book manuscript turn into a finished, physical book, this was very enlightening. It is truly a labor of love.
For the rest of us, it was a pleasure to look at some amazing artwork, and watch how another great book came to life.
As one of his examples, Jason used NICE WORK, FRANKLIN! written by Suzanne Tripp Jurmain, illustrated by Larry Day.
I always learn so much from listening to the art directors and designers, don’t you?
Follow Jason on Tumblr to view his artwork here.
After Jason’s wonderful presentation, we took a break for lunch, so this is a great place to break for part I.
Stay tuned for part II, coming soon! It’s better than dessert. 🙂