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?

 

SCBWI OK Spring Conference Recap Part II – Persistence, Professionalism, and Success in Action

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Welcome to Part II of this conference recap. View Part I here. As anyone who’s ever been to any conference or workshop knows the post-lunch slot is a demanding one. You are fighting afternoon sleepiness. You are fighting full-belly fatigue. Our next speaker was up to the challenge and did not disappoint. 2017-scbwi-spring-conference-flyer

 

SATURDAY AFTERNOON

Ally Carter returned to the podium to give a solo talk that all writers could definitely benefit from hearing.

0253_allycarterportraits_by_lizligon-150x150Ally Carter – Young Adult Author

Ally Carter writes books about spies, thieves, and teenagers. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the EMBASSY ROW, HEIST SOCIETY, and GALLAGHER GIRLS series, which together have sold more than two-million copies and have been published in more than twenty countries. She lives in Oklahoma, where her life is either very ordinary or the best deep-cover legend ever.

Ally gave a fantastic talk entitled, “Dear Ally: A Letter for Baby Author Me”, where she discussed many of the mistakes she made as a beginning author. They were so insightful and encouraging.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Nothing sells backlist like frontlist.

Her first book sold about 5 copies, and yet she spent a LOT of time and money promoting that book. She learned the hard way that the best way to promote your last book is to write your next book. The first book in her Gallager Girls series didn’t hit the NY Times Bestsellers’ List, but the second one did. And once it did, the first one did too.

The type of book and the quality are the only things that authors can control. The rest of marketing that authors do may not effect sales very much.

Some people will tell you that making writer friends is going to be good for your career. They’re wrong. These friends are going to be good for your LIFE.

I have never heard a truer statement. My writer friends are the most important ones I have. They understand what it means to struggle with this creative life we have chosen and they support me through it all.

Twitter lies.

Nobody ever shares the bad news. You can’t judge your career based on the career of other people. You don’t really know how their careers are going and it doesn’t help you to worry about it.

There’s no one way to write a book.

You never learn how to write a book. You just learn how to write the book you’re writing right now. And every book will probably have a month where it gets hard.

She had so many other fantastic pearls of wisdom to share. I just loved her talk.

She closed with this:

What you do matters. If you make a kid feel happy for a little while, that’s a great thing.

Truly fantastic. Thank you, Ally.

Follow Ally on Twitter here. Follow Ally on Instagram here.

 

Our next speaker shared ways to add heart into our writing.

jill-santopoloJill Santopolo – Editorial Director with Philomel Books

Jill received a BA in English literature from Columbia University, an MFA in writing for children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a certificate in intellectual property law from NYU. As the editorial director of Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers group, she has edited many New York Times bestselling and award-winning authors including Atia Abawi, Terry Border, Chelsea Clinton, Andrea Cremer, Lisa Graff, and Alex London. She’s the author of the Sparkle Spa series, the Alec Flint mysteries, the Follow Your Heart books, and the upcoming adult novel The Light We Lost. An adjunct professor in The New School’s MFA program, Jill travels the world to speak about writing and storytelling. She lives in New York City.

Jill inspired us all with her talk entitled, “Getting to the Heart of the Matter”. A talk about emotion. She began by asking the purpose of art. To connect with readers/viewers by creating empathy, understanding, or a cathartic experience. In essence, some kind of connection.

In writing, to get that connection, we use “show don’t tell”.

Why? Because You feel it instead of see it.

Connection.

How? Sound, syntax, and word choice.

Jill gave many examples of how word choices and sentence structure effected a specific passage.

For example, shorter clipped sentences can convey anger or intensity.

Pauses have power.

Linking certain words to specific characters tell us how to feel about each character – ‘buzzy’ and ‘roared’ versus ‘lounged’ and ‘sippy’ give us very different feelings.

Like an artist uses brush strokes and color choices, a writer uses sentence length and word choice to create moods for evoking emotions.

 

Prior to the conference, Jill participated in a Twitter chat with us. You can view the Storify version of our conversation with Jill hereFollow Jill on Twitter here.

 

The next speaker had much to discuss and much wisdom to impart for the pre-published among us.

lindacamachoLinda Camacho – Literary Agent with Prospect Agency

Linda joined Prospect Agency in 2015 after a decade in publishing. After graduating from Cornell University, Linda interned at Simon & Schuster and Writers House literary agency, and worked at Penguin and Random House before making the leap to agenting. She has an MFA in creative writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

 

Linda’s talk entitled, “Your Personal Hero’s Journey – Going from Pre-Published to Successfully Published” was full of fantastic advice. One of the main ideas was you need to get used to rejection.

“I get rejected with my clients.”

She went over some surprising facts about rejection from a Psychology Today article. Here are a few:

  • Rejection runs along the same pathways as physical pain.
  • Tylenol can reduce the pain of rejection.
  • Rejection temporarily lowers IQ.
  • Rejection does not respond to reason.

Fascinating, right?

Linda went on to show several examples of rejections from writers who went on to succeed. She said embrace rejection. It means you’re a real writer.

Today’s common rejection? “It’s not for me.”

This can happen even when there’s nothing wrong with your manuscript. You cannot control rejection.

There are things you CAN control:

  • Dump your excuses – “I don’t have the time”, “I’m not talented enough”, “I’m afraid of failure”, etc.
  • Write the book – Pick a routine, any routine.
  • Hold yourself accountable
  • Learn the business
  • Read. A Lot.
  • Get used to revising!
  • FIND A WRITING COMMUNITY – so key when faced with rejection and cloistered when working. The writerly brain is unique. We need some understanding.

She had so many other fantastic suggestions. Such a great talk!

Visit Linda’s agency site to view what she’s currently seeking and to observe her submission guidelines.

Prior to the conference, Linda participated in a Twitter chat with us. You can view the Storify version of our conversation with Linda hereFollow Linda on Twitter here.

 

Our final speaker of the day asked us what we were willing to do to succeed.

2016-kristin-nelson-160x24072dpiKristen Nelson – President and Founding Literary Agent at Nelson Literary Agency

Kristen established the Nelson Literary Agency in 2002 and over the last decade+ of her career has represented over thirty-five New York Times bestselling titles and many USA Today bestsellers. Clients include Ally Carter, Marie Lu, Scott Reintgen, Gail Carriger, Stacey Lee, Marcia Wells, and Simone Elkeles. When she is not busy selling books, Kristin attempts to play golf & tennis. She also enjoys playing Bridge (where she is the youngest person in her club), and can be found hiking in the mountains with her husband and their dog Chutney.

Kristen gave the final talk of the day entitled, “What Will Your Then and Now Story Be?” It was quite inspirational.

She started off with some background on how she started her literary agency by making a business plan and selling her house to fund it. She worked out of her much smaller new house for six months before closing her first deal.

She then asked, in pursuing our dream, “Do you want it badly enough to change?”

  • To allow yourself zero excuses?
  • To get rejected A LOT?
  • To reinvent yourself?
  • To change jobs to have more time to write?
  • To write the fifth novel when four novel didn’t launch your career?

She asked more tough questions and gave examples of authors who’d gone through each of these situations, and then went on to succeed.

Every author faces obstacles. On average, four is the magic number. That’s four manuscripts before you write the one that sells.

Visit Kristen’s agency site to view what she’s currently seeking and to observe her submission guidelines.

Prior to the conference, Kristen participated in a Twitter chat with us. You can view the Storify version of our conversation with Kristen hereFollow Kristen on Twitter here.

 

BOOK SIGNING

Immediately following the end of the conference, there was a book signing for published authors and our speakers. (Code for time to buy more books!)

 

Great time to get my copy of Jennifer Latham’s new book DREAMLAND BRUNING signed. I attended her book release, but they sold out before I even arrived! (Not a bad problem to have, honestly.) Such a great turn out!

 

This is my fourth signed book by Ally Carter and I adore them all. She’s such a delight. (Even if she is an OSU fan!)

That’s a wrap for another outstanding spring conference. Thanks to everyone who made it possible and to all of our fantastic speakers! You were amazing and so inspiring.

 

 

SCBWI OK Spring Conference Recap Part I – Persistence, Professionalism, and Success in Action

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This year’s SCBWI Oklahoma Spring Conference set a high bar for future conferences. A month later and I’m still processing the wealth of information the speakers imparted. Here’s Part I of the brief recap!2017-scbwi-spring-conference-flyer

FRIDAY

This year’s conference began with something new, a warm up event on Friday evening. With three different options, I chose to attend the Friday Night Panel with Ally Carter, Matt Ringler, and Linda Camacho.

From left to right, our panel included NY Times bestselling author Ally Carter, Senior Editor at Scholastic Matt Ringler, and literary agent Linda Camacho of the Prospect Agency.

This fun and informative panel was asked everything from their views on professionalism to what keeps them reading a manuscript to what other agents and editors would say about them. Needless to say things got interesting!

Agent Linda Camacho addresses the crowd.

The three speakers held the attention of the packed room and started the conference off with great enthusiasm.

One of my favorite stories was from Ally Carter. When answering a question about professionalism, she commented that she was simply doing what her mother taught her when she wrote a thank you note to a very important book seller. She found out later that he actually kept it displayed. It was the only one he’d ever received from an author. A reminder that being thoughtful to everyone in this business can make a difference.

SATURDAY MORNING

Our first speaker of the day showed us the power and beauty of using fewer words to tell our stories.

katrinadamkoehler-2Katrina Damkoehler – Senior Designer with Random House Children’s Publishing

Katrina is currently a Senior Designer for the trade imprints of Random House Children’s Publishing, where she designs and art directs approximately 35 middle grade and picture book titles per year. She was previously Art Director at Amazon Children’s Publishing. Recent projects she art directed include the 2015 Geisel Award-winner “You Are Not Small” (Anna Kang/Christopher Weyant), “Grover Cleveland, Again” (Ken Burns/Gerald Kelley), and “This is My Book” (Mark Pett).

Katrina gave a talk entitled, “(Almost) Wordless Picture Books” where she gave examples of picture books that used few words to tell great stories. The (almost) wordless manuscripts may have as few as 50 words. With a limited word count, it’s helpful to have a road map. That’s why most wordless (or nearly wordless) manuscript submissions include illustration notes.

Here are some examples she shared:

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS LITTLE by LeUyen Pham

 

 

 

CINDER-EYED CATS by Eric Rohmann

 

 

HELLO HIPPO, GOODBYE BIRD by Kristyn Crow

 

 

She also walked us through the illustration process – from submitted manuscript to finished book – for EAT, SLEEP, POOP by Alexandra Penfold.

Beginning manuscript for EAT, SLEEP, POOP.

Finished product! Cover and first few pages of completed book for EAT, SLEEP, POOP.

One thing she emphasized about nearly wordless picture books is that emotional expressions of the characters need to be extremely clear. After all, the illustrations are doing a lot of heavy-lifting with the story-telling.

 

To learn more about Katrina, follow her on Twitter here.

Prior to the conference, Katrina participated in a Twitter chat with us. You can view the Storify version of our conversation with Katrina here.

 

Next, a true power couple shared tips on how to write authentically for a YA audience.

0253_allycarterportraits_by_lizligon-150x150Ally Carter – Young Adult Author

Ally Carter writes books about spies, thieves, and teenagers. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the EMBASSY ROW, HEIST SOCIETY, and GALLAGHER GIRLS series, which together have sold more than two-million copies and have been published in more than twenty countries. She lives in Oklahoma, where her life is either very ordinary or the best deep-cover legend ever.

2016-kristin-nelson-160x24072dpiKristen Nelson – President and Founding Literary Agent at Nelson Literary Agency

Kristen established the Nelson Literary Agency in 2002 and over the last decade+ of her career has represented over thirty-five New York Times bestselling titles and many USA Today bestsellers. Clients include Ally Carter, Marie Lu, Scott Reintgen, Gail Carriger, Stacey Lee, Marcia Wells, and Simone Elkeles. When she is not busy selling books, Kristin attempts to play golf & tennis. She also enjoys playing Bridge (where she is the youngest person in her club), and can be found hiking in the mountains with her husband and their dog Chutney.

NY Times best-selling author (and Oklahoma native) Ally Carter joined her agent Kristen Nelson to give a presentation together entitled, “‘So You Want to Write YA…Start by Asking the Right Questions!”.

One of those right questions was instead of asking how to learn teen slang, you should ask if you have a voice that appeals to teens.

Slang comes and goes, and is often regionally specific. Besides dating your manuscript, it can end up alienating readers instead of connecting them with your story.

Another great question was instead of asking if you can just age your characters up or down to ‘make’ your book YA, you should ask yourself if you’re telling a true coming-of-age story that will resonate with teens.

It’s not enough to have characters the same age as your readers. Age doesn’t equal connection. You have to engage your teen readers with a story they can relate to.

And this one was my favorite:

Q:   Should I alter myself when writing for teens?

A:   Ally – “Yes, write smarter.”

Kristen – “I’ve never heard a teen say, ‘I felt obligated to keep reading’.”

Teens expect the writing to be great from page one and will put a book down the minute it stops delivering.

 

To learn more about this dynamic duo:

Follow Ally on Twitter here. Follow Ally on Instagram here.

Visit Kristen’s agency site to view what she’s currently seeking and to observe her submission guidelines.

Prior to the conference, Kristen participated in a Twitter chat with us. You can view the Storify version of our conversation with Kristen hereFollow Kristen on Twitter here.

 

The final speaker of the morning dazzled us with his presentation and his wit.

mattringlerMatt Ringler – Senior Editor with Scholastic

Matt is a senior editor at Scholastic specializing in chapter book, middle grade, and YA fiction. He is the editor of the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine, the Game Changers series by Mike Lupica, the STAT series by Amar’e Stoudemire, and the Little Rhino series by Ryan Howard. His YA list includes the New York Times Bestseller Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky and It’s Not Me, It’s You by Stephanie Kate Strohm.

Matt Ringler imparting his words of wisdom to our SCBWI OK crowd.
Matt took a group picture of us and posted it on Twitter since we would be doing the same to him. Well played. Did I mention he has a great sense of humor?

Matt spoke about “Writing Success at Many Levels”. He started out by giving us some background on himself (started as an intern for the David Levithan – can you say fangirling?) and some mind-blowing Scholastic stats (like Scholastic publishes 1 out of every 3 books, and first experience most kids have buying their own books is through Scholastic Book Fairs).

Matt moved on to talking about writing, and specifically about not fighting your own writing process, even if it changes from one book to the next. You change as your experiences grow – you’re not the same writer you were a few years ago. It’s okay for your process to change. Embrace it.

Matt shared an insight into his selection process. When deciding what projects to take on, Matt said, “To work on a book, it’s a year. It’s committing to a relationship. If it doesn’t feel right for me, I’ll pass on it.”

That’s another reason to not take it personally when your manuscript is rejected because an agent or editor didn’t love it enough. That doesn’t mean your work isn’t good, just that their commitment level wasn’t right for the relationship to work. You want your book to succeed and you want someone to champion your book. That’s going to require a strong commitment to your story.

Matt went on to discuss the different kinds of success:

PERSONAL

FINANCIAL

CRITICAL

LONGEVITY

READERSHIP

PROMOTIONAL

All aspects of success can build on each other. Writing is hard! Don’t forget to celebrate the little steps of success along the way.

 

To learn more about Matt, follow him on Twitter here.

Matt will be our guest for #okscbwichat on Twitter August 22nd from 7-8pm CST! We hope you’ll join us!

 

BREAK

Break time means networking (read “socializing”) and taking selfies with my writing friends!

 

with Catren Lamb
with Brenda Maier
with Regina Garvie

 

 

 

 

 

 

with Gwendolyn Hooks and my thumb
with Tammi Sauer
with THE Jerry Bennett

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the best parts of writing conferences is connecting with my fellow writers (and the odd illustrator or two, Jerry). I love my tribe!

Stay tuned for Part II of the conference recap!

 

2017 SCBWI OK Spring Conference – Persistence, Professionalism, and Success

SCBWI OK Banner

 

Ah! Spring! My favorite time of year! And not only because I get to hang out with a lovely bunch of children’s literature people for an entire weekend, but also expand my brain at the same time. Our 2017 SCBWI Oklahoma Spring conference has so many excellent speakers attending, I can’t wait to hear them!2017-scbwi-spring-conference-flyer

The event begins Friday evening,  March 24th, and continues through Saturday, March 25th.

As always manuscript critiques, and portfolio critiques will be available in limited numbers, but this year there are also new additions, including Friday night sessions, paid face time with a professional,  off-site critiques, and an autograph party. Sounds fun!

 

Let’s meet our speakers:

0253_allycarterportraits_by_lizligon-150x150Ally Carter – Young Adult Author

Ally Carter writes books about spies, thieves, and teenagers. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the EMBASSY ROW, HEIST SOCIETY, and GALLAGHER GIRLS series, which together have sold more than two-million copies and have been published in more than twenty countries. She lives in Oklahoma, where her life is either very ordinary or the best deep-cover legend ever. She’d tell you more, but…well…you know…

She will give the Keynote address entitled, “Dear Ally: A Letter for Baby Author Me”.

Follow Ally on Twitter here. Follow Ally on Instagram here.

 

2016-kristin-nelson-160x24072dpiKristen Nelson – President and Founding Literary Agent at Nelson Literary Agency

Kristen established the Nelson Literary Agency in 2002 and over the last decade+ of her career has represented over thirty-five New York Times bestselling titles and many USA Today bestsellers. Clients include Ally Carter, Marie Lu, Scott Reintgen, Gail Carriger, Stacey Lee, Marcia Wells, and Simone Elkeles. When she is not busy selling books, Kristin attempts to play golf & tennis. She also enjoys playing Bridge (where she is the youngest person in her club), and can be found hiking in the mountains with her husband and their dog Chutney.

To view what she’s currently seeking and submission guidelines, visit her agency website.

***Get to know Kristen before the conference! She will be a Special Guest during our Twitter chat on February 28th, from 7-8pm CST. We use the hashtag #okscbwichat.

Missed the chat? You can view the Storify version of the conversation with Kristen here.

Follow Kristen on Twitter here.

 

jill-santopoloJill Santopolo – Editorial Director with Philomel Books

Jill received a BA in English literature from Columbia University, an MFA in writing for children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a certificate in intellectual property law from NYU. As the editorial director of Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers group, she has edited many New York Times bestselling and award-winning authors including Atia Abawi, Terry Border, Chelsea Clinton, Andrea Cremer, Lisa Graff, and Alex London. She’s the author of the Sparkle Spa series, the Alec Flint mysteries, the Follow Your Heart books, and the upcoming adult novel The Light We Lost. An adjunct professor in The New School’s MFA program, Jill travels the world to speak about writing and storytelling. She lives in New York City.

***Get to know Jill before the conference! She will be a Special Guest during our Twitter chat on March 7th, from 7-8pm CST. We use the hashtag #okscbwichat.

Missed the chat? You can view the Storify version of the conversation with Jill here.

Follow Jill on Twitter here.

 

lindacamachoLinda Camacho – Literary Agent with Prospect Agency

Linda joined Prospect Agency in 2015 after a decade in publishing. After graduating from Cornell University, Linda interned at Simon & Schuster and Writers House literary agency, and worked at Penguin and Random House before making the leap to agenting. She has an MFA in creative writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

To view what she’s currently seeking and submission guidelines, visit her agency website.

***Get to know Linda before the conference! She will be a Special Guest during our Twitter chat on March 14th, from 7-8pm CST. We use the hashtag #okscbwichat.

Missed the chat? You can view the Storify version of the conversation with Linda here.

Follow Linda on Twitter here.

 

katrinadamkoehler-2Katrina Damkoehler – Senior Designer with Random House Children’s Publishing

Katrina is currently a Senior Designer for the trade imprints of Random House Children’s Publishing, where she designs and art directs approximately 35 middle grade and picture book titles per year. She was previously Art Director at Amazon Children’s Publishing. Recent projects she art directed include the 2015 Geisel Award-winner “You Are Not Small” (Anna Kang/Christopher Weyant), “Grover Cleveland, Again” (Ken Burns/Gerald Kelley), and “This is My Book” (Mark Pett).

***Get to know Katrina before the conference! She will be a Special Guest during our Twitter chat on March 20th, from 7-8pm CST. We use the hashtag #okscbwichat.

Missed the chat? You can view the Storify version of the conversation with Katrina here.

Follow Katrina on Twitter here.

mattringlerMatt Ringler – Senior Editor with Scholastic

Matt is a senior editor at Scholastic specializing in chapter book, middle grade, and YA fiction. He is the editor of the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine, the Game Changers series by Mike Lupica, the STAT series by Amar’e Stoudemire, and the Little Rhino series by Ryan Howard. His YA list includes the New York Times Bestseller Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky and It’s Not Me, It’s You by Stephanie Kate Strohm.

Follow Matt on Twitter here.

 

This year, Tulsa is the host city for the conference. Mark your calendars for March 24-25th. You won’t want to miss it!

For more information about our conference and to register for this event, CLICK HERE.

I hope to see you there!