SCBWI Oklahoma June Twitter Chat Guest – Kelly Starling Lyons

 

As the Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI Oklahoma Region, I host a monthly Twitter Chat for our members (and anyone else who’d like to participate) where we talk for an hour with someone from the children’s publishing world, be it agent, editor, author, illustrator, etc. The conversations are always lively and enlightening.

We meet from 7-8pm CST using the hashtag #okscbwichat. If you’ve ever been curious about a Twitter Chat, stop on by! We love meeting new people.

Our next Twitter chat session is Tuesday, June 23rd. I hope you’ll join us!

CLICK HERE to view our full #okscbwichat 2020 schedule.


Kelly Starling Lyons is the children’s author of several books, including this year’s Caldecott Honor Book GOING HOME WITH DADDY and the ever-popular Jada Jones series.

She also a founding member of The Brown Bookshelf, which hosted the phenomenal Facebook Live event #Kidlit4BlackLives which brought members of the kidlit community together for an online Rally for Black Lives earlier this month. If you missed this wonderful event, you can now view it on YouTube HERE.

Here’s an introduction to Kelly:

June 23rd – Kelly Starling Lyons – Children’s Author

Kelly Starling Lyons is a children’s book author whose mission is to transform moments, memories and history into stories of discovery. She is a founding member of The Brown Bookshelf and an advocate for kidlit diversity.

Her books include CCBC Choices-honored picture book, ONE MILLION MEN AND ME; ELLEN’s BROOM, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book, Junior Library Guild and Bank Street Best selection; TEA CAKES FOR TOSH, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and winner of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Award for Juvenile Literature (sponsored by the AAUW of North Carolina); HOPE’S GIFT, a Storytelling World Award winner, IRA/CBC Children’s Choices selection and SIBA Okra Pick; and the popular JADA JONES chapter book series.

Learn more about Kelly by visiting her website: http://www.kellystarlinglyons.com

Her Twitter handle is @kelstarly

I hope you’ll join us for a fascinating conversation with Kelly this Tuesday!

***Missed our chat with Kelly? View the recap HERE.


You can read the recaps for all of our chats, from this year and from those in years past, HERE.

SCBWI Oklahoma May Twitter Chat Guest – Brad McLelland

 

As the Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI Oklahoma Region, I host a monthly Twitter Chat for our members (and anyone else who’d like to participate) where we talk for an hour with someone from the children’s publishing world, be it agent, editor, author, illustrator, etc. The conversations are always lively and enlightening.

We meet from 7-8pm CST using the hashtag #okscbwichat. If you’ve ever been curious about a Twitter Chat, stop on by! We love meeting new people.

This month’s chat session was Tuesday, May 26th.

CLICK HERE to view our full #okscbwichat 2020 schedule.


Brad McLelland is an Oklahoma author who joined us this week for our latest monthly Twitter chat. He has co-written an award-winning Middle Grade series with long-time friend Louis Sylvester.

Here’s an introduction to Brad:

May 26th – Brad McLelland – Children’s Author

Brad McLelland was born and raised in Arkansas. He spent several years working as a crime journalist in the South before earning his MFA in creative writing from Oklahoma State University. A part-time drummer and singer, Brad lives in Oklahoma with his wife, stepdaughter, a mini-Aussie who gives hugs, and a chubby cat who begs for ham.

Brad co-wrote his Middle Grade debut, LEGENDS OF THE LOST CAUSES, with Louis Sylvester. This book won the 2019 Oklahoma Book Award and is a Junior Library Guild Selection book. The pair teamed up to write the sequel, THE FANG OF THE BONFIRE CROSSING, which was published in Feb 2019. Book three THE KEY OF SKELETON PEAK was just released in Feb 2020.

Learn more about Brad by visiting his website: http://www.bradmcbooks.com

Brad’s Twitter handle is @bradmcbooks

We had a fascinating conversation with Brad. He talked about his writing journey beginning at the age of 8 when he wrote his first story, the ambitious ideas he and his writing partner had for their series in the beginning, and how they work as a team to write their series.

 

***Interested in the rest of our conversation with Brad?

View the full chat recap HERE.


You can read the recaps for all of our chats, from this year and from those in years past, HERE.

SCBWI Oklahoma April Twitter Chat Guest – Barbara Lowell

 

As the Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI Oklahoma Region, I host a monthly Twitter Chat for our members (and anyone else who’d like to participate) where we talk for an hour with someone from the children’s publishing world, be it agent, editor, author, illustrator, etc. The conversations are always lively and enlightening.

We meet from 7-8pm CST using the hashtag #okscbwichat. If you’ve ever been curious about a Twitter Chat, stop on by! We love meeting new people.

Our next Twitter chat session is Tuesday, April 28th. I hope you’ll join us!

CLICK HERE to view our full #okscbwichat 2020 schedule.


Barbara Lowell is an Oklahoma author and an active member of SCBWI OK. She has several published picture books. Barbara finds interesting characters from history, researches them until she finds just the right way to tell their stories and, lucky us, we get to read them.

And she also happens to be one of my most beloved critique partners. I’m so excited we get to have a conversation about her books!

Here’s an introduction to Barbara:

April 28th – Barbara Lowell – Children’s Author

Barbara Lowell is the author of nonfiction and historical fiction picture books, nonfiction early readers, and nonfiction educational market books. Her books include GEORGE FARRIS WHAT A WHEEL, DARING AMELIA, ALEXANDER HAMILTON AMERICAN HERO, and more books for children.

Her book SPARKY & SPIKE: CHARLES SCHULZ AND THE WILDEST, SMARTEST DOG EVER, is a Junior Guild Library Selection.

Her newest book released this February,  MY MASTADON, received a starred review from Kirkus.

Her upcoming title, BEHIND THE BOOKCASE: MIEP GIES, ANNE FRANK, AND THE HIDING PLACE is scheduled for release this fall.

Learn more about Barbara by visiting her website: https://www.barbaralowell.com

Her Twitter handle is @barbara_lowell

I hope you’ll join us for a fascinating conversation with Barbara this Tuesday!

***Missed our chat with Barbara? View the recap HERE.


You can read the recaps for all of our chats, from this year and from those in years past, HERE.

SCBWI Oklahoma March Twitter Chat Guest – Stephanie Stein

 

As the Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI Oklahoma Region, I host a monthly Twitter Chat for our members (and anyone else who’d like to participate) where we talk for an hour with someone from the children’s publishing world, be it agent, editor, author, illustrator, etc. The conversations are always lively and enlightening.

We meet from 7-8pm CST using the hashtag #okscbwichat. If you’ve ever been curious about a Twitter Chat, stop on by! We love meeting new people.

Our next Twitter chat session is Tuesday, March 24th. I hope you’ll join us!

CLICK HERE to view our full #okscbwichat 2020 schedule.


Stephanie Stein is the last of our guests who will also be a faculty member at this year’s SCBWI Oklahoma spring conference, which has been rescheduled for the fall. Stephanie has confirmed that she will be part of the rescheduled conference. It will now be held on October 2nd-3rd in Oklahoma City. For details on the conference and how to register, stay tuned to the SCBWI OK website. Registration should open this summer.

Here’s an introduction to Stephanie:

MARCH 24th – Stephanie Stein – Editor with HarperCollins Children’s Books

Stephanie Stein is an Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, where she acquires middle grade and YA fiction for the Harper and HarperTeen imprints. In her eight years at Harper, she has worked with authors including Anna Bright, Rena Barron, Misa Sugiura, Rin Chupeco, Kiera Cass, Cynthia Hand, and Temre Beltz. She also edits the #1 bestselling Warriors series by Erin Hunter.

Stephanie is always looking for genre-savvy fiction with a fresh premise, a clever sense of humor, or an irresistibly immersive world, and loves books that break your heart–and then put it back together again.

You can learn more about what Stephanie is specifically looking for by visiting her manuscript wishlist HERE.

Her Twitter handle is @stephlystein

This is a great opportunity to get to know the conference speakers before the conference. I hope you’ll join us for our conversation with Stephanie!

***Missed our chat with Stephanie? View the recap HERE.


You can read the recaps for all of our chats, from this year and from those in years past, HERE.

Special Edition SCBWI Twitter Chat Guest – Amy Brewer

 

As the Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI Oklahoma Region, I host a monthly Twitter Chat for our members (and anyone else who’d like to participate) where we talk for an hour with someone from the children’s publishing world, be it agent, editor, author, illustrator, etc. The conversations are always lively and enlightening.

We meet from 7-8pm CST using the hashtag #okscbwichat. If you’ve ever been curious about a Twitter Chat, stop on by! We love meeting new people.

We are having a Special Twitter chat session this Tuesday, March 3rd with another one of our Spring Conference faculty to get to know them before the conference this April. I hope you’ll join us!

CLICK HERE to view our full #okscbwichat 2020 schedule.


Amy Brewer is the second guest who will also be a faculty member at this year’s SCBWI Oklahoma spring conference April 3rd-4th in Oklahoma City. For details on the conference and how to register CLICK HERE.

Here’s an introduction to Amy:

March 3rd – Amy Brewer – Literary Agent

Amy Brewer  is a Senior Literary Agent with the Metamorphosis Literary Agency based in Oklahoma City. Amy wears many hats everyday, from literary agent to co-author of the Texting Prince Charming series to social media manager to yoga teacher.

She graduated from Culver-Stockton College with a theater degree because drama, romance, and angst are lifelong passions. Her intuitive human understanding can help other writers bridge the communication gap and jump into the publishing world.

For the last few years, she has been learning all she can about social media optimization and platform building in the publishing industry. Amy’s experience in the mental health field and yoga training help her guide and assist clients with stress and anxiety in this highly competitive industry. She pulls all of this together with a multi-tasking, hyper-organized brain, so that at the end of every day, she feels accomplished and grateful.

She is seeking captivating stories of human experience and books that touch her heart.

Learn more about what Amy is specifically looking for by visiting her manuscript wish list here: https://mswishlist.com/agent/42amer

Her Twitter handle is @42amer

This is a great opportunity to get to know the conference speakers before the conference. I hope you’ll join us for our conversation with Amy!

***Missed our chat with Amy? View the recap HERE.


You can read the recaps for all of our chats, from this year and from those in years past, HERE.

SCBWI Oklahoma February Twitter Chat Guest – Megan Beatie

 

As the Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI Oklahoma Region, I host a monthly Twitter Chat for our members (and anyone else who’d like to participate) where we talk for an hour with someone from the children’s publishing world, be it agent, editor, author, illustrator, etc. The conversations are always lively and enlightening.

We meet from 7-8pm CST using the hashtag #okscbwichat. If you’ve ever been curious about a Twitter Chat, stop on by! We love meeting new people.

Our next Twitter chat session is Tuesday, February 25th. I hope you’ll join us!

CLICK HERE to view our full #okscbwichat 2020 schedule.


Megan Beatie is one of the first guests who will also be a faculty member at this year’s SCBWI Oklahoma spring conference April 3rd-4th in Oklahoma City. For details on the conference and how to register CLICK HERE.

Here’s an introduction to Megan:

FEBRUARY 25th – Megan Beatie – Book Publicity and Marketing Agent

Megan Beatie is a veteran book publicist with more than two decades of experience. She has designed and executed publicity campaigns for a wide range of books, including literary and commercial fiction, mysteries & thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, and graphic novels, as well as nonfiction covering the topics of pop culture, film, entertainment, health, lifestyle, parenting, and relationships.

 

Some of the esteemed writers she has represented over the course of her career include Marcia Clark, Nicholas Meyer, Maria Goodavage, Dr. Nina Shapiro, John Lahr, Barry Eisler, Lee Goldberg, Leslie S. Klinger, Aimee Liu, Tembi Locke, and Attica Locke, among others.  She has a specialty in children’s book publicity and has worked on picture books, middle grade books and young adult books by authors including Becky Albertalli, Adam Silvera, Ibi Zoboi, Elana K. Arnold, Maureen Johnson, Melissa de la Cruz, Amber Smith, and Alexandra Monir.

The fifth generation of a farming family from Southern California’s Ventura County, Megan lives and works in Los Angeles.

Learn more about Megan by visiting her website: www.meganbeatie.com

Her Twitter handle is @MBeatie

This is a great opportunity to get to know the conference speakers before the conference. I hope you’ll join us for our conversation with Megan!

***Missed our chat with Megan? View the recap HERE.


You can read the recaps for all of our chats, from this year and from those in years past, HERE.

2020 SCBWI Oklahoma Twitter Chat Season Begins! January Guest – Traci Sorell

 

As the Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI Oklahoma Region, I host a monthly Twitter Chat for our members (and anyone else who’d like to participate) where we talk for an hour with someone from the children’s publishing world, be it an agent, editor, author, or illustrator. The conversations are always lively and enlightening.

We meet from 7-8pm CST using the hashtag #okscbwichat. If you’ve ever been curious about a Twitter Chat, stop on by! We love meeting new people.

Our 2020 Twitter chat season starts on Tuesday, January 28th. I hope you’ll join us!

CLICK HERE to view our full #okscbwichat 2020 schedule.


I’ve had the pleasure of meeting our first guest, Oklahoma Children’s author, Traci Sorell, and she is having an amazing debut year!

Her first picture book, WE ARE GRATEFUL: OTSALIHELIGA, is such a delight and has won critical acclaim. She followed that up with a double book launch for two more amazing books and then traveled all over the country promoting her wonderful work. We are truly privileged to have her as our first guest.

Here’s an introduction to Traci:

JANUARY 28th – Traci Sorell – Children’s Author

Traci Sorell grew up immersed in stories. The ones her mother told at bedtime and the accounts of her ancestors’ lives mirrored her Cherokee heritage. Books she brought home from the library and selected during her school’s annual Reading is Fundamental (RIF) Day showed a world beyond her life in rural northeastern Oklahoma.

As an adult, Traci has lived in four U.S. time zones and abroad in Madrid, Spain. Her early writing reflected the Native American history, law, and policy focus of her educational and professional background.

Now she lives back inside the Cherokee Nation with her family. She started writing for young people when she wanted more contemporary fiction and nonfiction children’s books featuring Native Americans to share with her son. Traci’s first nonfiction picture book, WE ARE GRATEFUL: OTSALIHELIGA (Charlesbridge, 2018), features the universal spirit of gratitude as experienced through modern Cherokee culture across the four seasons. Her other works include: AT THE MOUNTAIN’S BASE (Kokila, 2019), INDIAN NO MORE with Charlene Willing McManis (Tu Books, 2019), and POWWOW DAY (Charlesbridge, 2020).

Traci’s debut picture book WE ARE GRATEFUL: Otsaliheliga, was awarded the 2019 Sibert Medal Honor Award, the 2019 Orbis Pictus Honor Award, the 2019 Boston Globe Horn Book Honor Award, and was an Oklahoma Book Award Finalist.

Learn more about Traci by visiting her website: https://www.tracisorell.com

Her Twitter handle is @tracisorell 

This first #okscbwichat of 2020 should be an exciting one! I hope you’ll join us for our conversation with Traci!

***Missed our chat with Traci? View the recap HERE.


You can read the recaps for all of our chats, from this year and from those in years past, HERE.

Highlights from the Middle of the Map Conference SCBWI KS/MO

Last month, I attended the SCBWI Middle of the Map Kansas/Missouri Fall Conference in Overland Park, Kansas, put on by the fantastic SCBWI Kansas/Missouri group.

The conference started on Friday evening with a Mix and Mingle while critiques with speakers were held. On Saturday, the main event began with an all speaker panel and then most of the day was spent in breakout sessions, with a closing keynote and book signing with reception ending the day.

All Speaker Panel

All of the speakers at the conference participated in a panel answering questions from the moderator as well as questions from the audience.

Sarah Jane AbbottAssociate Editor for Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books at Simon & Schuster. She started her career at S&S as a publicity assistant before joining Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books as editorial assistant in 2014. She is also on the editorial board of Simon & Schuster’s OfftheShelf.com. She has had the pleasure of working on books such as The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast by Samantha M. Clark and Blue & Bertie by Kristyna Litten. She loves quirky, character driven picture books with a lot of heart; non-fiction picture books, especially about little-known, strong women; and unique, literary middle grade novels. Find her on Twitter at @SarahJaneEyre.

 

Katie HeitEditor for Scholastic. Katie Heit edits nonfiction picture books and chapter books, as well as select fiction picture book titles. She edits books by Sandra Markle, Monica Robinson, and Nick Seluk, among others. She is actively building her list and is interested in books that approach nonfiction in a unique, kid-friendly way. Find her on Twitter at @katieheit.

 

Jim HooverArt Director at Viking Children’s Books. A graduate of Rhode Island School of Design in Illustration, Jim has been in publishing now for twenty years. He speaks regularly at SCBWI and has designed and art directed hundreds of books including: PICTURE BOOKS (Tea Party Rules with K. G. Campbell, Shy with Deborah Freedman, Ella with Marcos Chin, Bus! Stop! with James Yang) NOVELS (Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch books, Max Brallier’s New York Times best-selling series The Last Kids on Earth) NONFICTION (National Book Award Finalist Elizabeth Partridge’s Marching for Freedom, Printz Award-winning John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth, and the up-coming Boots on the Ground, and the children’s book adaptation of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth) Jim lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son. Find him on Twitter at @JimHoover17.

 

Alyssa Eisner HenkinLiterary Agent, and Executive Vice President, at Trident Media Group. After earning her Bachelors from the University of Pennsylvania, Alyssa fulfilled a childhood dream that she professed on a home video at the age of six: move to New York and work with books. In 1999, Alyssa began her career in editorial at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Here she found “kindred spirits” who loved Anne of Green Gables as much as she did and a kids book space that was rapidly growing. In late 2006 Alyssa (and her inner-entrepreneur) headed to Trident to expand the firm’s children’s book business. Over twelve years, hundreds of deals, and numerous bestsellers and award-winners later, Alyssa still delights in nurturing her books at every stage. From editing and idea-honing to collaborating with marketing, foreign, dramatic, merchandising, and audio partners, Alyssa works hard to ensure longevity for her authors’ work. She represents multiple award-winning and bestselling authors, including Julie Berry, Ruth Behar, Jen Bryant, and R.J. Palacio, whose novel Wonder has been on the New York Times Bestseller list since it came out in 2012 and was turned into a feature film by Lionsgate which came out in 2017. Find her on Twitter at @AgentHenkin.

 

Quressa RobinsonLiterary Agent with Nelson Literary. Quressa Robinson joined Nelson Literary Agency in 2017 after working at a previous agency as an editor for five years. She is originally from San Francisco, but has been living in New York City for over a decade. As a New York based agent, she is eager to build her MG, YA, and Adult lists. When not curled on her couch reading, she plays video games, enjoys too much TV-mostly Sailor Moon and Harry Potter (Slytherin!), eats delicious things, drinks champagne, hangs out with her very clever husband, and adds another “dramatic” color to her lipstick collection. Quressa is also a member of the 2017-2019 WNDB Walter Grant Committee and holds an MFA in Creative Writing: Fiction from Columbia University. Find her on Twitter at @qnrisawesome.

 

Alexandra LevickLiterary Agent with Writers House. Alexandra Levick has worked with a wide range of established New York Times bestsellers, national award winners, and debut clients. After graduating from the University of Rochester with a degree in English focused on Creative Writing, Alexandra attended New York University where she received her Masters of Science in Publishing with a specialization in Content Development. Prior to Writers House, she spent time at Sterling Lord Literistic, in publicity at Bloomsbury, and as a bookseller for Barnes and Noble. Today, she is building a broad list and works on everything from picture books to speculative adult fiction. Find her on Twitter @AllieLevick.

 

Giselle Anatol Moderator   Author/Professor – Gisell is a professor of English at the University of Kansas. She has edited three collections of essays on popular literature for children and young adults. She is also the author of THE THINGS THAT FLY IN THE NIGHT: Female Vampires in Literature of the Circus-Caribbean and African Diasapora.

 

First question asked was describe a typical day from your side of the desk.

Most of the speakers said they started by reading up on industry news and checking emails before diving in to their day.

Jim Hoover said, “Ideally I’ll have a cover up.” He likes to look at a piece of artwork first thing.

Katie Heit said that since her work is mostly focused on nonfiction, she hits those type of sites first, like the Smithsonian and National Geographic.

Alexandra Levick and Quressa Robinson agreed that there wasn’t really a typical day in the life of an agent. Alexandra said, “If I try to plan, it’s disastrous.” Quressa said that instead of a daily to-do list, she does weekly lists.

Next question asked about their pet peeves.

Almost all responded that it really got under their skin when they received submissions addressed incorrectly, with their name misspelled, queries addressed ‘Dear Sir or Madam’, or addressed to multiple people. (Although Quressa Robinson said she doesn’t like it when you misspell her name, she won’t hold it against you.)

Katie Heit said she also didn’t like it when authors included more than one manuscript in an email submission.

Sarah Jane Abbott clarified her pet peeve a little further: “When people haven’t done their research and send a query way out of my wheel house.”

Next question delved into what writers/illustrators should ask when choosing agent/editor to work with, specifically regarding chemistry.

Sarah Jane Abbott said you should ask about the vision your editor has for your story. If it doesn’t mesh with yours, this is important to know before you get started.

Alexandra Levick said you should ask about edits. Hopefully the goal is to make the book more your own – stronger. Also ask for references from their clients, who will be more honest about how agents work.

Quressa Robinson said you should definitely ask about their agenting style. “Some people aren’t phone people – like me.”

Last question asked when they would be willing to take a risk on a project.

Most responded with a need to feel passionate about the project as the precursor to championing a project.

Jim Hoover said simply if he sees the potential is there.

Katie Heit asked “Does it have a lot of potential?” Then after conversation with the author, can we craft this together? Does this make me really excited?

Alexandra Levick said she needs a really strong vision on how to edit it. Very solid ideas on how to edit and get to end goals.

Alyssa Henkin said if she feels the voice and feels so certain in her love for the story. The plot can be a mess – the plot is fixable.

Breakout Sessions

Alexandra Levick – How to Find the Right Literary Agent

Alexandra did her first internship at the University of Rochester. She worked for Bloomsbury for two years while pursuing a Masters degree where she fell in love with Children’s literature when she took a class on the subject. She currently works with senior agents Rebecca Sherman and Brianna Johnson at Writers House. She started there as an intern under Merrilee Heifetz, Neil Gaiman’s agent.

Alexandra had many great tips on how to go about the process of submitting, including what questions to ask and what information to include in your query letter.

One of the first things you need to have before you get started is a COMPLETED MANUSCRIPT. That’s right. You shouldn’t be querying unless your manuscript is completed. So, if that’s you, stop right now and get back to to your pages.

Finish.

Write on until you reach ‘The End’.

Then, continue reading. (Yes, I am also talking to myself.)

What you will need if you are querying:

  • Query letter
  • Sample pages
  • Synopsis
  • FULL manuscript (which, if you’ve read this far, you now have)

Every agent’s submission guidelines are almost always different. Make sure to do your research so you know what each one expects with a submission. What is important about following these guidelines is to show that you can follow instructions. (Yes, it is a test.)

Another interesting tip Alexandra gave was about using comp titles. The purpose of comps is to convey mood or a book’s place on the shelf. It’s better to have NO comps than to have ‘meh’ comps. Think of your examples in terms of “plot meets tone”. Give one comp title that has a comparable plot to your novel, and one that has a comparable tone. Using movies and songs as well as book titles are fine as well as any combination of the three. Also make sure your comp titles are RECENT! Published within about two years.

You can read about the submission guidelines for Alexandra Levick at Writers House here.

 

Sue Lowell Gallion – Beginnings, Endings, and That Murky Middle

 

 

 

 

Sue Lowell Gallion is the author of PUG MEETS PIG and PUG & PIG TRICK-OR-TREAT, which both received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly. Her latest books are the TIP AND TUCKER early reading series. Sue is the former SCBWI regional advisor of the KS/MO region.

Sue is no stranger to us here in the Oklahoma region of SCBWI. She has been a guest speaker at some of our SCBWI OK events as well as a guest on our monthly #okscbwichat on Twitter.

Sue gave some excellent advice on keeping your writing focused on its true purpose and how to get it unstuck when in the “murky middle”.

She said in the Beginning, sometimes we shortchange the rest of our manuscript when we agonize over the first sentence, the first page, the first hook.

She suggested READING PICTURE BOOKS WITH CHILDREN: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking About What They See by Megan Dowd Lambert. It will help you think of all the elements as you create your story.

Examples of stories with great beginnings:

  • ALMA AND HOW SHE GOT HER NAME by Juana Martinez-Neal
  • PENGUINAUT by Marcie Colleen, illustrated by Emma Yarlett
  • QUACKERS by Liz Wong
  • THE KING OF KINDERGARTEN by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Sue said the Middle is where her stories begin to wander because she gets tired of it or it’s time for recess.

Being too predictable can get you stuck in the middle. Ask yourself, does every sentence further the story? Does each trial and failure increase the tension? Make sure to stretch the tension out so your readers want to turn the page.

If you’re feeling lost in the middle, try writing the flap copy.

Examples of stories with great middles:

  • JABARI JUMPS by Gaia Cornwall
  • A KITE FOR MOON by Jane Yolen
  • TRUMAN by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins

Sue said you’ve got to stick the Ending! Don’t rush it or short-change it. The ending needs to be logical AND completely unexpected.

Most picture books end with hope, even if the story is not happy. And the main character needs to have a hand in the conclusion.

More great examples:

  • A LITTLE CHICKEN by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Dan Taylor
  • HELLO LIGHTHOUSE by Sophie Blackall
  • BOOT AND SHOE by Marla Frazee
  • BUNNY SLOPES and HUNGRY BUNNY by Claudia Rueda
  • CREEPY CARROTS by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown

The best compliment for a story after getting to the end, is that request to “Read it again!”.

 

Quressa Robinson – Plotting and Characterization: The Art of Conflict and Personality

Quressa brought her extensive knowledge to the task of teaching us to go deeper into our work on plot and character development. She put us through several writing exercises, which I always find painful under the best circumstances. Useful, maybe, but painful nonetheless.

She said the tension where a reader holds their breath when turning the page is what makes writing truly great.

(GOALS!)

She walked us through several different plotting triangle scenarios and discussed ascending and descending forces. It was very intense.

Quressa said that everyone’s story is different. The stakes in your story don’t have to be actual life and death, however, they do need to be high enough to matter.

If you’re having a problem with your plot, something that’s helpful is to try plotting backwards. Start at the climax of your story and work backwards. (This was actually the focus of one of the writing exercises – one I found very helpful.)

Also think about listing the external and internal stakes for each of your characters. Are their stakes high enough? What can you do to make them higher?

At one point during our discussion of the writing exercises, Quressa said, “Writing is a communal process.”

That is my favorite quote from this conference. Bar none.

“Writing is a communal process.”

And man, do I love my writing community.

I had a great time attending this conference and I hope to attend more outside my state. I love meeting new people and being around other writers.

What about you?

 

Whitty Books – Say Hello to a New Indie

 

As an author, I love supporting independent bookstores. Just a few short years ago, there was quite a drought of indies here in the Tulsa area, and now I am happy to say quite the opposite is true!

I want to introduce you to one of the newest indies in our area, Whitty Books. This little jewel opened its doors in July, 2018, in the Kendall Whittier District – just around the corner from the nonprofit Circle Cinema theatre.

The collection found in Whitty Books focuses on small publishing houses, diverse titles, #ownvoices authors, and under-the-radar releases.

I had the pleasure of meeting one of the owners, Victoria, when I attended the double book launch for fellow SCBWI OK author Traci Sorell. She said after a year of being open, she really has a feel for her customers and what they want. THAT’S one thing I love about an independent book store!

Oklahoma author Traci Sorell at Whitty Books during her book launch in September.
Traci reading from her gorgeous picture book AT THE MOUNTAIN’S BASE, published by Kokila.

 

I loved all of the artwork on the walls in the store and the friendly atmosphere. Books titles were easy to browse on the shelves – nothing felt overcrowded or uncomfortable. Victoria was approachable and friendly.

They have several book clubs at Whitty Books, and Victoria actually invited us to attend one the very next day, for a book by Joy Harjo – our current Poet Laureate, who just so happens is from Oklahoma. ( I do love her writing! If you haven’t checked her out, she’s amazing.)

The book clubs are held at the store – about one a week – all with categories like Sci Fi/Fantasy, True Crime, Native American Lit, Truth and Reconciliation, and Women in Horror. Visit their Facebook page to see what’s on the calendar this month.

Victoria ringing up my purchases.

The next time you’re thinking about buying a book, BUY LOCAL! And why not stop in and check out Whitty Books? Tell Victoria I sent you!

 

Fall is for Festivals! Book Festivals are Everywhere

Nothing makes a bibliophile happier than going to an event that celebrates books, where they have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the language of books, hang out with other like-minded booklovers, and BUY MORE BOOKS! Or maybe that’s just me.

Original Photo credit Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

I, for one, am thrilled at how much our literary world has grown in Oklahoma in the past few years – from the increase in independent book store openings (which has led to an increase in author events!) to new book festivals and book cons, I’ll take it all!

Here are a couple of great events that are fairly new to our state coming up this fall that you won’t want to miss!

OK Book Fest – September 21, 2019 – Oklahoma City Boathouse District

The Mission of this festival is to bring “authors and readers together to create an exciting venue where literacy, artistic expression, and cultural experiences are celebrated”.

This is a completely FREE event. Featuring over 100 authors from around the country, including some of our own SCBWI OK favorites!

 

Tammi Sauer                                        Jerry Bennett      

 

 

 

 

Gwendolyn Hooks                               Brenda Maier  

 

 

 

 

Traci Sorell                                             Kim Ventrella 

 

 

 

 

Barbara Lowell                                       Brad McClelland     

 

 

 

 

Mariana Llanos                                      Mike Wimmer     

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Lynn Barnes                          Una Belle Townsend

 

 

 

 

Susan Myers                                          Alexandra Ott

 

 

 

 

There will be panel discussions, presentations, crafts, poetry readings, book signings, food trucks, and more. Check out the website for a full listing of authors and for a schedule of events.

 

Oklahoma Teen Book Con (OKTBC) – November 16, 2019 – OU Memorial Union Norman, OK

 

The OK Teen Book Con is a FREE event that strives to connect teens to YA authors and their books. There will be author panels, book signings, author meet ups, a teen artist gallery and more!

It has a new home in Norman, OK, this year which will probably make it much better attended than when it was in Guthrie. Last year they had the awesome Maggie Stiefvater of the RAVEN CYCLE books – I’m a HUGE fan!

This year, the phenomenal Neal Shusterman will be the Keynote Speaker! I had the pleasure of seeing him speak at the LA SCBWI conference a few years ago and he was wonderful. He talked about his fabulous book CHALLENGER DEEP. So moving.

 

The fine folks at OKTBC keep announcing other authors that will be attending a little at a time, just to keep us hungry for more. You can follow along on their Twitter or their Instagram account to see who else will be announced and to keep up with information on this event.

If you are a YA author and would like to attend this event, you can find an author submission form and the submission criteria on the event website.

How about you? Are you planning on attending any book-related events this fall?