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.

#TBT Post – Hemingway Revisited

I wrote this #ThrowBackThursday post for a group blog I was once a part of and it was originally published on that site on January 29, 2014. 

Of all the books I was forced to read back in high school, THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA was one of the most painfully dull tomes I had to suffer through. The plot? An old fisherman cursed with a long dry spell has the worst experience of his life when he tries to break his losing streak by pursuing the catch of a lifetime, struggling for days to catch it only to see it slowly stripped away as he tries to bring it to shore. (Sorry, Spoilers!)

An entire book about fishing? BLECH! DEPRESSING! (Yes, I know it was deeper than that, but I was sixteen, give me a break.) 

I can see why it was his last book. I only hoped it was my last Hemingway book. 

Then I watched the HBO movie, Hemingway & Gellhorn, and really enjoyed it. It may have had more to do with Hemingway being presented in the lovely Clive Owen packaging, but whatever worked. (Now I can only picture Hemingway as Clive portrayed him – not a bad thing, if you ask me.) It got me thinking that maybe I should give the old sea dog another try. 

A few months after viewing the show, I was discussing it with my father and he had mentioned recently reading the book A MOVEABLE FEAST. He said it had a lot to do with his early life as a writer and was an excellent read. That kind of sold me on it more than anything else. (Sorry, Clive.)

If all else failed, I could imagine the gorgeous Clive Owen reading it to me. Right?

Clive Owen Reads

(Read me another story, Clive.)

Plot Summary:

Begun in the autumn of 1957 and published posthumously in 1964, Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast captures what it meant to be young and poor and writing in Paris during the 1920s. A correspondent for the Toronto Star, Hemingway arrived in Paris in 1921, three years after the trauma of the Great War and at the beginning of the transformation of Europe’s cultural landscape: Braque and Picasso were experimenting with cubist form; James Joyce, long living in self-imposed exile from his native Dublin, had just completed Ulysses; Gertrude Stein held court at 27 Rue de Fleurus, and deemed young Ernest a member of une generation perdue; and T.S. Eliot was a bank clerk in London. It was during these years that the as-of-yet unpublished young writer gathered the material for his first novel The Sun Also Rises, and the subsequent masterpieces that followed.

Among these small, reflective sketches are unforgettable encounters with the members of Hemingway’s slightly rag-tag circle of artists and writers, some also fated to achieve fame and glory, others to fall into obscurity. Here, too, is an evocation of the Paris that Hemingway knew as a young man – a map drawn in his distinct prose of the streets and cafes and bookshops that comprised the city in which he, as a young writer, sometimes struggling against the cold and hunger of near poverty, honed the skills of his craft.

A Moveable Feast is at once an elegy to the remarkable group for expatriates that gathered in Paris during the twenties and a testament to the risks and rewards of the writerly life. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

Although this was an unusual piece to reintroduce myself to Hemingway since it was his last work and it was unfinished when he died, it made me curious enough to want to read some of his other works. I still have no desire to reread THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, but I would like to try THE SUN ALSO RISES, as it was the book he was writing during the time period of this book.

I did find the order of the chapters and the skipping around a little jarring at times, but when taken chapter by chapter as brief essays, they were really quite enjoyable. Overall I relished getting a feel for the period and for the writers living in Paris. I did have a strong desire to snag a time machine and zip back to Paris to surround myself with the intoxicating sights he described so well. What a fantastic time and place to be a writer! His insights on his own feelings about writing and his fellow expatriates were honest and touching and sometimes quite scathing, but above all always interesting.

Here is one my favorite sections on writing that I think every author should take to heart:

I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day. But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of the blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that you knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.

Whenever you find yourself embellishing from your true writing, gut it back to the studs; your foundation of truth. Nicely put.

And that’s just one of the little gems about the craft I stumbled upon. I loved discovering them and I’m sure most other writers will as well.

One other thing Hemingway allows you to experience, to crawl into and feel deep down in your bones, was the hunger of the starving artist. The smells wafting from the open cafés made my stomach grumble as he talked of skipping meals to stretch his income and instead fed himself on viewing Cézanne paintings at the Luxembourg museum, feeding his artist’s soul. His hunger was almost a necessity to his creative process. He describes it as “good discipline”.

He talks about when he had an entire novel lost, when a bag was stolen at the Gare de Lyon. Every writer’s nightmare!

I knew it was probably a good thing that it was lost, but I knew too that I must write a novel. I would put it off though until I could not help doing it. I was damned if I would write one because it was what I should do if we were to eat regularly. When I had to write, then it would be no choice. Let the pressure build. In the meantime I would write a long story about whatever I knew best.

How many of us just on the cusp of publishing can relate to the struggles he describes?

If I had never given Hemingway another try, I wouldn’t have discovered these insights about his writing. I look back now at his deliberately terse sentences, where he’s culled away all ornamentation, and I see the beauty in them. Of course I am looking at them through very different eyes, as a writer myself. I still don’t like THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA and nothing you say can change my mind! But maybe there is something to learn from this old sea dog after all.

Have you ever given a writer a second chance? Were you surprised when you did?

 

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?

 

Andrea Hall – Editor Interview

I’m so thrilled that Andrea Hall, Associate Editor with Albert Whitman & Company, will be speaking at our 2018 SCBWI OK Spring Conference this April.

Andrea will give a talk entitled, “The Antagonist, a Striking Alternate Reality of Your MC”, about two characters vying for the same external goal and their flaw-revealing, stake-raising journeys. She will also have a break out session entitled, “The First Steps in Creating Award-Worthy Books”, which is aimed at people new to the children/teen publishing world.

About Andrea

Andrea Hall is an Associate Editor at Albert Whitman & Company where she works on picture books through young adult. She is particularly drawn to stories that have layers of meaning and diversity. Andrea started her publishing career at Pearson Education and is a former ARA of the Central and Southern Ohio Chapter of SCBWI.

To help us get to know her even better before the conference, Andrea agreed to answer some questions we received from some of our SCBWI OK members.

 

The Interview

Valerie Lawson: Welcome to the blog, Andrea! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our members’ questions, today.

Question #1 – If you could tell a writer one thing to help them get published, what would it be?

Andrea Hall: Don’t give up! Keep writing and trying. One never knows which project will be the one that will get published.

VL: Ah! Persistence is so important.

VL: Question #2 – Have you ever found a manuscript at a conference that you went on to publish?

AH: Not yet. But I’ve heard stories from other editors.

I did have a published author pitch me the novel of another member of her writing group at a trade show, and I did go on to publish that.

VL: What a nice friend! (Another reason to join a critique group!)

Question #3 – What makes you cringe in a query letter?

AH: Not following directions.

Telling your life story when it doesn’t pertain to the book. Mentioning that family/friends/your kids love your book. Calling the submission the next “best-seller.”

If only we could predict that!

VL: Yes, it’s always important to follow the submission guidelines!

Question #4 – What words would you recommend authors replace in their writing?

AH: This is going to be different for each writer.

For picture books, every word needs to count. Eliminate the words that are unnecessary.

For novels, look at words or phrases that are overused and try to avoid repetition.

VL: Question #5 – Do you prefer picture books written in past or present tense?

AH: I don’t have a preference.

VL: Question #6 – Could you explain what goes on inside an acquisition meeting?

AH: This is where the editor pitches the book to the rest of the group and works to get everyone (hopefully) excited about it. We discuss how the book fits into our list and get feedback from sales and marketing. This determines whether or not the editor gets the green light to acquire the project.

VL: Question #7 – How do you feel about sensitivity readers? Who is expected to obtain the services of sensitivity readers, the author or the publisher?

AH: Sensitivity readers serve the necessary purpose of ensuring authenticity when writing outside one’s own cultural group. I feel it falls to both the author and publisher—the author needs to do their due diligence to make the work as authentic as possible, and the publisher needs to also double-check and verify accuracy.

VL: That makes sense. Double-checking is always a good idea.

Question #8 – In Middle Grade historical fiction, is it a problem if the action of a story begins when the main character is very young? (Knowing kids who read Middle Grade like characters that are a little older than they are, and also wanting to stick to the facts as much as possible without turning off readers.) Any suggestions?

AH: This is tricky without knowing the context of the story. If something significant happened to the MC as a young child, which impacts the overall plot or helped shaped the character, than it makes sense to include. I suggest looking at other historical fiction titles that have done this and then find the best approach for your story.

VL: Question #9 – How many titles that you’ve published have come from un-agented submissions?

AH: Personally, three books I’ve acquired have been un-agented submissions.

VL: Question #10 – What are you NOT seeing from submissions right now that you would like to see?

AH: I’m not seeing enough cultural/diverse/#ownvoices stories. I’m always looking for more of these!

VL: Thank you, Andrea! It’s been a pleasure! We all look forward to hearing you speak at our conference.

And thank you to everyone who submitted a question! 

Learn more about Andrea and her publishing house here.

Follow Andrea on Twitter here.

**While Albert Whitman & Company DOES accept unsolicited manuscripts from unrepresented authors, you MUST follow their submission guidelines.

CLICK HERE for their guidelines on Picture Book, Middle Grade, and Young Adult submissions. 

Want more? You can hear Andrea speak in person at our conference in Oklahoma City this April!

For more details on our 2018 SCBWI OK Spring Conference or to register online, CLICK HERE.

See you there!

2017 SCBWI LA Summer Conference Highlights – Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of the conference highlights. To catch up on previous posts, you can view Part 1 and Part 2 before continuing.

DAY THREE

The final day always comes too quickly, and yet is still somehow packed with a ton of literary goodness. We started off the day with the Picture Book Panel (which included our very own SCBWI Oklahoma star PB author Tammi Sauer!) and ended with an inspirational send off by the amazing Laurie Halse Anderson followed by the always fun autograph party.

Did I mention that there was dessert with Judy Blume in the middle? Crazy, I know! What a fabulous day!

PICTURE BOOK PANEL

PANEL DISCUSSION WITH RAÚL COLÓN, LEUYEN PHAM, JAVAKA STEPTOE, AND TAMMI SAUER. (MODERATED BY LAURENT LINN)

Laurent Linn led this awesome discussion about picture books. He had each panelist introduce themselves first before the questions began.

Leuyen Pham — She’s worked on about 90 picture books and she said picture books are the closest you can come to whispering in a child’s ear. The search for characters is always a lot of fun for her. She does background and research on the characters before starting. There’s an emotional move from line drawing to art – analytical turns off to the imaginative.

Javaka Steptoe — He said he’s not just trying to create art, but an experience. He’s trying to feel what the character is feeling when he’s creating. He thinks back to when he was a child, when he was drawing, making noises, to create that moment on the paper, the experience.

“I don’t want to just draw a picture.”

When he uses found objects, he’s using things that have had a life. That brings a richness. It’s there, it’s alive. For kids, when they see something they identify – like, wow, I have that in my house – it’s a bridge.

He’s always thinking, “How can I bring you into my world?”

Learn the details of a moment; it’s about the subtleties and how it creates the big picture.

Tammi Sauer — (Tammi may have received a giant shout-out of ‘OOGA!’ from her Oklahoma SCBWI fan club when she was introduced. Maybe.)

 

She then flawlessly went on with her stellar presentation and gave her three favorite writing tips for creating relatable characters readers will care about. Make sure to follow her ARF formula:

A – Active

R- Relatable

F- Flawed

Raúl Colón — For his latest picture book,  his editor told him that the pictures were telling the story. She told him to get rid of the words. That’s how DRAW! become a wordless picture book.

When beginning a new manuscript, he starts with sketches. Vision of pictures have to come to him as he’s reading or he won’t be interested in working on it. He plays music while working, He gets lost in the work, especially while doing the final art.

Question #1: What’s the first step in a new creation?

Tammi Sauer — Come up with a fresh idea. Celebrate the weird. Ideas are everywhere. Your job is to capture them.

Raúl Colón — I agree. I was inspired by an exhibit I came across.

Leuyen Pham — My first step is hard. Every book is a reinvention of myself. I freak out. I have to leave my studio. Take a sketchbook and just start sketching. While actually working, I can’t look at others’ work.

Javaka Steptoe — I agree with what everyone just said. You have to find some idea that sustains you. Ideas can come from anywhere. From life. You shouldn’t force a story. It should be fluid. I think about the background materials – asphalt for Swan Lake, wood for Jimi Hendrix.

It looks effortless, but it takes lots and lots of work to get there.

Question #2: Picture books can seem simple. When you have something to say, how do you balance this?

Raúl Colón — In the book ALWAYS MY DAD (by Sharon Dennis Wyeth) a story about divorce, it could’ve been tricky, but we made it as joyful as possible by showing all the things they could do together – focused on hope.

Leuyen Pham — I tend to stay away from stories like that. My approach tends to be more subtle. I’ll find a way to work them into the pictures. For example, two lesbian mothers pictured that are not mentioned in the story.

Her favorite writers are those generous enough to let some words go.

Tammi Sauer — I try to keep the 4 year-old version of my son in mind. Something kids connect with, something with humor. He would either give two thumbs up or say, ‘Wow, that’s a dud’.

Keep it subtle – don’t beat people over the head with a message.

Javaka Steptoe — The story is the most important thing. If it’s not a page-turner, take it out. The writer can show you the road, the illustrator can show you the beauty of the road.

Question #3: What is your purpose?

Tammi Sauer — Something kids can connect with – humor and heart.

Raúl Colón — Something they don’t see every day.

Leuyen Pham — Making another one of me. Feeling an intimacy with a book that will touch that kid.

Javaka Steptoe — I just want to talk with people. Write children’s books like a letter we send back out into the world and we keep going.

 

STEPHANIE GARBER SHARES SAGE ADVICE

 

 

 

 

 

Stephanie Garber, who already gave an outstanding breakout session, now dazzled the entire conference with her keynote address. She shared some sage advice she’s learned along her journey as a writer thus far.

 

The story of her overnight success took seven year. Seven years and five novels. Yes, it wasn’t until the fifth complete novel she wrote that she started to see positive responses to her writing from queries. That fifth book is the one that landed her the agent. And the sixth book was the one that finally sold – CARAVAL.

There was a lot of doubt and questioning of life choices before that book sold, so what helped her keep going and get through that sixth book?

Stephanie said these things were key to her success:

  • Write the book you’re brutally obsessed with — After all, your readers won’t feel something you don’t. (Please don’t write a book that’s safe.)
  • Deal with the things you’re afraid of — (She wanted to get an agent, but she didn’t want to go to a conference to get one – she was terrified of conferences.) There’s something very powerful about confronting fears and it’s better to do it before you’re published. Make your mistakes now. Besides, once you publish, things don’t get easier.
  • Let Go — Great things come from letting go. A manuscript can be salvaged, and it can be good to persevere. But it can also be a good thing to let go of ideas. It’s dangerous to latch on to the idea that you know everything. There’s always something to learn, especially about craft or the industry.
  • Read Widely –Don’t just read, read deeply. Make a personal list of what inspires you. What books do you want to emulate? (Your Cannon) Write the kind of books you want to read.

 

GOLDEN KITE LUNCHEON

The Golden Kite Luncheon and Awards Presentation was beset by a wee bit of a crisis this year when by some twist of fate, the kitchen only prepared place settings (and meals) for half the number needed. Our group was lucky enough to acquire a table, and reparations were made to those who didn’t, but they sadly missed out on a fabulous conversation between Lin Oliver and Judy Blume that took place during dessert.

Stephanie, part of our Oklahoma group, at our table at the luncheon.
Yes, that is a salad on my plate, but my eyes are already on that dessert…
Lin and Judy in conversation.

For most of the conversation, I sat there mesmerized. Judy cast us all under her spell, as she is prone to do. I do remember that Judy talked about how writing saved her life, literally. And how it changed her life. Lin asked her if she’s retired from writing. Judy said that she’s written everything she’s wanted to say, “But there’s this one little thing…”

That got the whole room very excited!

Now that she’s (semi) retired from writing, she’s still surrounded by books at Books and Books, the independent bookstore in Key West she and her husband George have opened. She also invited everyone to come visit – but maybe not all at once.

She also talked about how much an organization like SCBWI would have meant to her when she was a young writer, which is why she is such a big supporter of it now, and why she’s on the board.

One quote I came away with was when she was talking about determination – “You can have all the talent in the world, and if you’re not determined, you’re going to let something stop you from doing it.”

*Sigh*

How much do we love Judy Blume?

 

BREAKOUT SESSION – KWAME ALEXANDER AND ARIELLE ECKSTUT TALK ABOUT THE BUSINESS SIDE OF THINGS

Kwame Alexander and his agent, Arielle Eckstut, gave a fascinating talk discussing business tips.

Kwame and Arielle were wonderful and shared so many fantastic ideas. My absolute favorite thing that Kwame said was that a big part of his success was starting local. Embracing local bookstores and developing relationships with local owners long before you’re published should be a priority.

He was also very creative when it came to marketing. He once had 50 friends call a bookstore and ask for his book before he called them himself to ask if they’d like for him do a signing there. SMART!

He also called anybody he knew connected with morning radio shows and read poems on the air. (And I can only guess how effective that must have been, because when you hear him read his poetry, it is really something.)

Always have a plan that has reach – stretch goals. Constantly create opportunities.

Remember, you are the main driver of your book’s publicity.

So many great things, I could have listened to them spout off ideas for another hour or two.

 

CLOSING TIME – FINAL KEYNOTE LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laurie Halse Anderson greeted us and gave a special shout out to any introverts who were present (no small task!). She acknowledged how difficult it was to carry the bubble of love, the place of acceptance and understanding, we’d created in our conference back home with us after the conference ends.

She gave us a few secrets to help carry this feeling home:

  • “You are the boss of your brain, and your brain is the boss of your emotional state.” She’s done the research. She then suggested we take a cue from the country of Denmark and embrace the idea of “hygge”. A warm, pleasant, and comfortable atmosphere. Void of annoyance or distraction, at total ease.  
  • Get Started! You have to give yourself permission to suck. Revision is about clarifying. If you can just get started with your suckage, doing your art makes you feel better! 
  • Creating books for children is a tremendous privilege and responsibility. We create for the luckiest audience who will ever live.

Choose to make messy art whenever you can.

It was a wonderful way to send us off. What a fantastic conference!

 

AUTOGRAPH PARTY 

I may have gone a little overboard with buying books, but I actually showed some restraint and stopped myself way before I had to buy a second suitcase. I may not enjoy the mad dash and waiting in long lines takes to get all of these treasures signed – honestly, it’s the closet thing I come to experiencing Black Friday, and I barely survived it – but dinner with friends is at the end. And along the way, I do get to meet and thank these authors who have written books I enjoy. Worth the suffering of crowds and long lines? I think so.

The books I bought at the conference, and then lugged around the ballroom to get signed.

 

The dynamic Vanessa Brantley Newton, who also illustrated our own Tammi Sauer’s book, MARY HAD A LITTLE GLAM – I forgot to bring my copy with me (and it was sold out at the book store).
Our darling Tammi Sauer was so busy with her faculty duties that we barely saw her! I did meet up with her a time or two. Once in passing here…
…and once when I had her FINALLY sign my copy of her book CARING FOR YOUR LION. I had to bring it all the way from Oklahoma with me because we kept missing each other (or I’d forget to bring it with me when I’d see her). Mission Accomplished!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kwame Alexander was just as charming as could be. I absolutely loved THE CROSSOVER as I knew I would.

 

The wonderful and ever-so-sparkly Alex Gino signed books earlier in the conference. I was so happy I was able to meet Alex and get my copy of GEORGE signed. What a fabulous book!

INTENSIVES

For the first time ever, I was able to attend the Intensive workshops following the conference on Monday – so worth it!

Morning Intensive was SCENE: THE BUILDING-BLOCK OF FICTION with Linda Sue Park where we explored working in scenes rather than chapters. It was fascinating and very helpful.
The Scene Intensives Class! Don’t we look inspired?

 

Afternoon Intensive was TIP SHEETS with Arianne Lewin. I learned how much I didn’t know about this invaluable marketing tool and then I  learned how to use it.

 

FINAL GOODBYES

After all the workshops were over, our group had our final meal together and the staggering flights back home began. Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to LA…until next year!

Eating the best Greek food. What a great way to end the weekend.

 

Catren and Brenda taking in the sights.

 

Heading home! Bye LA!

Hope you’ve enjoyed the highlights of the summer conference! I thoroughly enjoyed attending!