Saturday, July 31, 2010

SCBWI Conference Day Two

Day Two began with a line of literally 75 people-- all waiting for their morning coffee at the lobby Starbucks. Yikes. After a very long wait for my morning buzz-- I was ready for my first keynote of the day:

Writing for Kids: A Three-Quarter Life's Work by Gordon Korman. It was a fascinating talk about Gordon's very successful and highly unusual career. Gordon shared with us how at 12 he sent a story he wrote to the Scholastic Bookfair people (he got the address off the classroom order form). He received an offer four months later. Wow. Not how it usually works.

The second keynote address of the morning was Literary Agents View the Market Place. Josh Adams, Ginger Clark, Lisa Grubka and Ken Wright answered questions from a moderator. It was very informative. I think what was most valuable from this keynote was the incredible difference in Agents attitudes about their roles in their clients lives. Ginormously varying opinions. Very eye-opening.

My first workshop of Day Two started the day off with a bang! Lisa Grubka from Foundry Literary gave a very informative workshop on query letters entitled Query Letter Boot Camp: The Do's and Dont's You Need to Get Your Query in Shape. She shared a lot of valuable information about her preference on query letters. She seems like a super cool person and someone I would really like to represent me.

Instead of lunch I had my First 15 Pages Professional Critique by Courtney Bongiolatti from Simon and Schuster. It went very well. She loved my characters and their voices. She said that it was a very solid, classic middle-grade girl figuring out a place in her world story. She said my character Reese has an intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive voice that would appeal to MG readers. She loves my characters Kami and Joy-- she thought they were very unique and quirky. She suggested I change the age of my character from 13 to 12, which I totally agree with. She thinks it has great long term potential and a classic MG girl style that does well in schools and libraries. All that from just the first 15 pages.

Unfortunately I missed most of Marion Dane Bauer's keynote, but I understand it was very emotional.

The keynote Pursue your Passions by E.B. Lewis was awe inspiring. He is the very prolific illustrator/artist who has illustrated over 30 picture books and has won the Coretta Scott King Honor award three times as well as the Caldecott. He shared his illustration process with us as well as his amazing fine art Icon pieces that he is currently working on. They are beautiful tiny paintings on lottery tickets, the portraits of black children barely revealed through scratch marks. Beautiful and poingnant.

I attended the workshop What's Hot, What's Not by Jennifer Rees just because I think she is awesome. (I already know what's hot.) But Jennifer's message was that ultimately we shouldn't be chasing the market, we should be writing what we are passionate about. It was nice to learn a little more about what she is looking for because she is my ideal editor. She and Deborah Halverson, whose blog I follow, and who I hope to have the opportunity to "bump into" at this conference!

Gail Carson Levine's keynote Sweat and Magic was very interesting. She covered suspense builders and plot predictability and provided various helpful writing prompts in order to "get to know" your characters better. The quote "I am pretty new, you don't know me yet," will haunt me for a lifetime.

The Heart and Soul Celebration got started poolside around 7:30 tonight. Many people were in costume and really let loose. I remained demur but enjoyed rubbing elbows with the likes of EB Lewis and Ashley Bryan (illustrator winner of 6 Coretta Scott Awards!). I may have enjoyed a cosmo or two... All and all another very exhausting but rewarding day.

Friday, July 30, 2010



That is how I feel after my first day of the SCBWI Conference in LA. (I am sure getting up at 5:45 to make the trek into LA from Westlake this morning could have contributed to my exhaustion) I think I will be better prepared (and rested) for tomorrow.

I'm not sure what it is, but I've felt totally on edge today, like I'm afraid I'll miss something...
I have attended conferences before, PTA and National Library Conferences, and I always enjoyed them immensely, but today I was wound so tight. Tomorrow will be better.

Today was filled with entertaining Keynote addresses by Jon Scieska and Loren Long. Both of which are hilarious people! MT Anderson has a lovely singing voice.

My first workshop of the day was How to Approach Agents Without Scaring Them Off by Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown. The answer: Don't be Crazy. I was hoping for the "secret" tips for querying. She did share some valuable information about things to consider when offered representation. I will store these tidbits away for when that option becomes available to me.

My second workshop was Submission Strategies by Josh Adams of Adams Literary. He shared lots of information about the agents' submission process to publishers.

By far the highlight of my day, though, was talking to fellow writers and illustrators at the Wine and Cheese Reception. After skipping dinner, my $10 glass of wine truly hit the spot! I've already met some really amazing and talented people and hearing their stories and struggles made me feel part of something really incredible. I am looking forward to tomorrow.

Friday, July 2, 2010

SCBWI Summer Conference, Los Angeles

I am totally stoked to be able to attend my first writer's conference this summer in Los Angeles.

The SCBWI Summer conference seems to be a who's who of authors and industry specialists. There will be Keynote Addresses by M.T. Anderson, Marion Dane Bauer, Gennifer Choldenko, Paul Fleischman, Gordon Korman, Gail Carson Levine, Jon Scieszka and many more. I hope to gain insight into these successful authors' careers and "learn their ways" (Nacho reference).

There are 80+ break-out sessions on every aspect of the craft and marketing. I am so very excited to learn as much as I possibly can in these four days!

I have signed up for a manuscript consultation and am very excited to talk to an industry professional about my work.

I will try and share as much information as I can on my blog.

Query Letter Quandary

So on the tail end of those last two rejections I was once again questioning my query letter.

I posted a couple of my most recent letter variations on the forum website (Which is a part of querytracker I had not even utilized before).

The Forum is pretty awesome, you can ask for query help, post your first 5 pages for feedback and get the latest dish on agents.

I posted my letter in hopes of revamping it and getting unbiased opinions from other authors dealing with the same issues I am.

I got some strong input, started to rethink things and then rewrote my query. I used my "New" letter and queried three new agents. All three were rejected within that next week.

Huh? I was scratching my head, feeling confused and sorry for myself...

And then I got a request for pages from a query letter I had sent out two months before. AND it was that same query letter that my colleagues had previous torn apart on the Forum.

I then realized that I've had four requests from this very same query letter. More than any other version I've tried.

I think I'll stick with the original-- it seems to be working.

Bottom line? Don't ask me. But take that criticism with a grain of salt.