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.

 

 

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

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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!

The Highly Anticipated OK SCBWI Spring Conference Recap – PART 2

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Welcome to Part 2 of our fantastic Oklahoma SCBWI Spring Conference recap!

Beginning from where we left off in Part 1, we broke for lunch where each table enjoyed the company of a conference speaker or a published author, allowing all of our attendees to have an opportunity to ask their industry questions in a more relaxed setting.

After lunch, we heard from our second literary agent of the day.

rachel-orrRachel Orr, Literary Agent with the Prospect Agency, gave a two-part talk beginning with, “Main Conflict: The Spark That Fires Up a Manuscript” and ending with, “A Conversation with an Agent & Author” where local author Jennifer Latham joined her to discuss their working relationship and her journey to publishing.

Many problems Rachel sees in novels revolve around conflict:

  • Some writers are afraid to give their characters flaws. They want to keep them as nice as possible; to avoid any conflict. This equates with boring.
  • Some writers have scenes that can fall into any order – when this happens, it makes her wonder about the strength of the story. It’s much better to have things build upon each other.
  • Another problem is when writers use a character as a vehicle to talk about a topic of interest or when they place conflict on a character unnaturally.

“Everything starts with character.” If you know your character well, conflict will follow.

Other problems Rachel notes involve the structure of the manuscript itself.

Conflicts may be introduced, but then they are resolved too quickly. “Instead of plot slopes, you have moguls.” This is a flat-lining approach. In picture books, this can be the day-in-the-life stories with no conflict.

Literary novels tend to be character-driven. Manuscripts like these with problems, nothing happens in the story. Even though your novel may be character-based, it still needs movement; conflict.

Conversely, plot-driven novels with very clear end goals still need some kind of change to take place in the character.

“Make your characters uncomfortable.”

For the second part of her talk, she invited Jennifer to join her and they discussed their professional relationship.OK SCBWI Spring 5

 

Rachel began by saying her approach to revision/editing is to point out the issues in a manuscript and let the author solve them. “This is what I think needs to be changed, you figure out how to change it.” This type of direction is important for her as an agent and Jennifer is very good at doing this.

Jennifer’s first project received many rejections. She said, “Four rejections is a starting point.” She also learned from her rejections. “Every editor who gave me feedback told me something useful.” It was like her own MFA program. But after so many rejections, She and Rachel decided it was time to shelve that first manuscript.

Jennifer stated, “I deserve to be represented by someone who believes in my writing, not just one project.”

Rachel did believe in her and helped Jennifer navigate her way through a few missteps until SCARLETT UNDERCOVER, her debut novel, was born. Jennifer’s book is scheduled to be released May 19, 2015.

 

Our next speaker talked to us about picture books.

JulieBliven

 

Julie Bliven, Editor with Charlesbridge Publishing gave a fascinating and informative talk entitled, “Elements of a Successful Picture Book”.

 

The top two elements are:

  1. Beginning
  2. Narrative Voice

BEGINNINGS

Why Beginnings Matter: “A successful picture book beginning knows its ending.”

Problems she sees with beginnings are too much description and too much back story.

3 TYPES OF PICTURE BOOK BEGINNINGS:

  1. The introduction is about character experience – has personal and immediate conflict. Examples include I WANT MY HAT BACK, ZEN SHORTS, and LITTLE PIG JOINS THE BAND
  2. The introduction recounts person, place or event. Examples include GRANDPA GREEN, ELLINGTON, and BALLET FOR MARTHA
  3. The introduction has an instrumental setting – something really important.  Examples include THE CURIOUS GARDEN, IMOGENE’S LAST STAND, and EXTRA YARN.

NARRATIVE VOICE

What contributes to voice?

  • Distinctive language
  • Author’s attitude
  • Clear structure
  • Illuminating metaphors
  • Definitions in context
  • Use of quotations
  • Awareness of audience
  • Sense of story
  • Character
  • Remarkable facts
  • Connections/juxtapositions
  • Humor
  • ResearchBalloons over Broadway

In BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY by Melissa Sweet, the author’s voice shows through distinctive language by her use alliteration and simile.

Think about word choice. Circle all adjectives and verbs and consider if they can be replaced with something more descriptive or active.The Wall

Peter Sis shows an example of voice through clear structure in THE WALL when he shows two world views in juxtaposition; his own personal view versus the global world view.Day Glo Brothers

We find a good example of voice through definitions in context within the pages of THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS by Chris Barton and Tony Persiani.

Awareness of audience is shown in FEATHERS by Melissa Stewart and Sarah S. Brannen by understanding how different aged readers experience picture books. The main storyline used similes for beginning readers like this: “Feathers can dig holes like a backhoe”. Then the second layer of text for slightly older readers included more detailed facts.Feathers page spread

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our final speaker of the day gave us tips on tightening those first pages.

alysonHeller1

 

Alyson Heller, Editor with Aladdin Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) enlightened us with some great ideas for improving our beginnings with her talk entitled “Put a Spark in Your First Pages/Chapters”.

Opening Line

This is your book’s handshake, the opening to your reader. It should be assertive and strong.

  • Asks a questions (not always in a literal sense)
  • Sets the mood/directs the reader to what you want them to experience.
  • Sets up voice of a character.
  • Can throw out a surprise.

Books with great opening lines: DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth, CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E.B. White, MATILDA by Roald Dahl, and WINGER by Andrew Smith.

AVOID GENERIC!

“It was a day that changed my life.”

How?

Did you get a new dog? Meet a best friend? Fall in love? Witness the Zombie Apocalypse?

Define it better than in that generic, non-specific way.

First Chapter

  • Should involve the main protagonist. The reader needs to care. This means your character has to be sympathetic, doesn’t mean likable.
  • Have a sense of drama/conflict  – do you have internal as well as external conflicts? Make sure to introduce the opponent. Is your protagonist proactive? They should not just be reacting to events.
  • Tone – set through dialogue, pacing, and voice.

Book Recommendations: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins, SEEING CINDERELLA by Jenny Lundquist, BUCK’s TOOTH by Diane Kredensor, EXTRAORDINARY WARREN SAVES THE DAY by Sarah Dillard.

Make your first chapter like the perfect skirt; “long enough to cover the essentials, but short enough to keep it interesting.”

 

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Our speakers (from left to right) Rachel Orr, Alyson Heller, Laura Biagi, Julie Bliven, Kristine Brogno, and Erica Finkel

Our conference closed with a Q & A Panel with our speakers that was fantastic. What an amazing group of ladies!

 

I did manage to buy a few books from some of our published members. We’ve had quite a growth in this area. At this rate, we may need to add another table to the book store soon.

Some of our published members holding their books.
Some of our published members holding their books, looking very professional.
…and one for fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of our rising stars, Hannah Harrison, signing my book.
One of our rising stars, Hannah Harrison, signing my copy of REMY AND LULU.

 

And I almost forgot to mention the part of the day where I nearly lost my mind. During announcements, when our new Regional Advisor, Helen Newton, announced that for our Fall Retreat in October, LINDA URBAN WILL BE SPEAKING!!!

If you haven’t read A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT or THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING, you must get yourself to a bookstore immediately. And once you’ve read her work, you will be compelled to come to our Fall Retreat. So I’ll see you there.

 

 

SCBWI OK Spring Conference 2015 – Get That Spark Ignited

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I love the title of this year’s Oklahoma SCBWI Spring conference, “Ignite the Spark”. Following our fantastically fabulous fall retreat, I’m ready for some serious spark ignition, how about you?

Three editors, two agents, and one design director should fill the day with more information than most craniums can hold.

Meet our dynamic speakers:

our_team_biagiLaura Biagi – Literary Agent with Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency.

Laura joined JVNLA in 2009 and is actively building her list. She is looking for young readers. Learn more about Laura from her agency bio here. Follow Laura on Twitter here.

 

rachel-orrRachel Orr – Literary Agent with Prospect Agency

Rachel joined Prospect in 2007 to become an agent after she’d spent eight years editing children’s books for HarperCollins. She is looking for middle grade and YA novels, as well as the next big picture book illustrator. Learn more about Rachel from her agency bio here. Follow Agency Twitter account here. Follow Rachel’s personal Twitter account here.

 

JulieBlivenJulie (Ham) Bliven – Editor with Charlesbridge Publishing

Julie is an Associate Editor with Charlesbridge who mainly works with middle grade and picture books, both fiction and non-fiction. Follow Julie Bliven on Twitter here.

Founded in 1989, “Charlesbridge publishes high-quality books for young readers from birth to age 14, with a goal of creating lifelong readers. We continually strive to seek new voices and new visions in children’s literature.” Learn more about this house from their Facebook page here. Follow them on Twitter here.

 

erica-finkel-photo1Erica Finkel – Editor with Abrams Books for Young Readers

Erica is an Assistant Editor with Abrams who is interested in picture books, middle grade, and YA. Follow Erica on Twitter here.

Launched in 1999, ABFYR is one of the imprints of Abrams Books, founded in 1949. This imprint runs the gambit from picture books to YA, from poetry to nonfiction. Visit the imprint website here.

 

alysonHeller1Alyson Heller – Editor with Aladdin ( a Simon & Schuster imprint)

Alyson has been an Associate Editor with Aladdin since 2008 (and with S & S since 2006). She works on everything from picture books to middle grade. Learn more about Alyson from her publishing house bio here. Follow Alyson on Twitter here.

Aladdin is a Simon & Schuster imprint that features titles for readers of all ages up to tween. They publish paperbacks and hardcovers, single-titles and series.

 

kristine-brognoKristine Brogno – Design Director with Chronicle Books

For all of you illustrators out there, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to hear Kristine speak. And if that weren’t enough, Kristine will be giving twelve art portfolio critiques during the conference to the lucky few who register early.

Chronicle Books is based in San Francisco and publishes books for both adults and children. Follow Chronicle Books on Twitter here.

 

There are a limited number of manuscript and portfolio critiques available, as well as the ever popular pitch sessions, so sign up while they’re available!

This year, Tulsa is the host city for the conference. Mark your calendars for March 28th! It’s going to be another spectacular day of learning awesomeness.

UPDATE 3/2/15:

ONLY 45 SPOTS LEFT BEFORE CONFERENCE IS SOLD OUT!

For more details on the conference or to register online, click here. I hope to see you there!