Wednesday, February 11, 2009

SCBWI Master Class DVD Now Available Online

During my live conference posting I mentioned the debut of the SCBWI Master Class DVDs. As I said in my earlier posts, conference goers got to see seven minutes of each Master Class video--one with Tomie dePaola, one with Richard Peck. These men truly are masters of their crafts--and they ain't bad on camera either. They were fascinating and delightful to watch and certainly have a lot of wisdom to share.

Now the DVDs are available on the SCBWI website. (They're only $14.95 each, which, if you ask me, is a bargain for an hour plus with these Masters.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

NY Conference Photos

SCBWI official photog Alan Baker (spouse of Executive Director Lin Oliver) always takes tons of terrific conference pics. I've picked out a few of my favorites. Click here to view the whole lot of them taking during the Friday intensives and VIP party; the Saturday keynotes and breakout sessions; and the Sunday panels, presentations, and autograph party. You'll almost feel like you were there.

(All photos: Alan Baker, Copyright ©2009, SCBWI.)

Writers exchanging work during the Friday intensive.

Illustrators and their glowing laptops during
the Friday intensives.

The crowd takes in an engaging speaker on Friday.

Listening to Jay Asher. (That's Bruce Hale in
the hat, Jarrett Krosoczka to his left.)

SCBWI Illustrator coordinator Priscilla Burris
congratulates portfolio winner Dave Ercolini.

SCBWI staff members manning the table on
Sunday morning.

Agents look to Lin Oliver as she offers a question
during their Sunday morning panel.

Agent Michael Stearns answers (Lin to his
left, Alyssa Eisner Henkin to his right.)

Michael Bourret smiles as Edward Necarsulmer
addresses the audience.

Michael B. talks with a group of writers
following the agents panel.

The multi-talented Bruce Hale sings.

Richard Peck and Lin Oliver happy after the
sneak peek of Peck's Master Class DVD.

SCBWI staff: Sally Crock, Aaron Hartzler, Kim Turrisi,
Liz Brown, Gee Cee Addison, Brandon Clarke.

Conference goers in line to meet Leo and Diane
Dillon during the Sunday autograph party.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

SCBWI Illustrator Winners: Check Out Their Work

I didn't have time to post images while live blogging, so I'm excited that I've now scored some art from the winners of both the SCBWI New York Portfolio Exhibition and the Tomie dePaola Award which were given out during the NY conference. (Lin Oliver announced that the Tomie dePaola award will be funded by SCBWI going forward and join the permanent lineup of awards offered by SCBWI. I wasn't supposed to blog this because Tomie didn't know yet. He was filled in during a live phone call broadcast to the conference audience, so now I can tell you.)

If you'd like to see more art from these illustrators, click their names or images to view their online portfolios. Enjoy! And congratulations to these terrific artists.

SCBWI Portfolio Award Winners

Grand Prize Winner: David Ercolini

Honor Award: Paulina Cerezo

Honor Award: Patricia Cantor

Tomie dePaolo Award Winners

Grand Prize: Leeza Hernandez

Honor Award: Kenneth Kraegel

Monday, February 2, 2009

Jarrett's Conference Video

As promised here is a link to Jarrett Krosoczka's start-studded and highly entertaining video which he played for the SCBWI conference-goers. Enjoy!

A Writer's Credo

During the SCBWI conference agents panel, Michael Stearns quoted from Raymond Carver's introduction to Best American Shorts Stories, 1986.

My fingers couldn't keep up with him as he talked and I blogged, and I did my best to give you the gist of it. I'm happy that Michael sent me a link to the full quote which is posted on his blog As the World Stearns. Click here to read it (and take it to heart).

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Conference Final Thoughts

As I sit and watch door prizes being awarded and get ready to head to the autograph party, I offer you my last conference post of the day. Over then next few days I'll be making them prettier (and probably catching a few typos here and there), so tell you writer friends to pop in and read the wisdom offered by all the great conference presenters--fell free to link here from your own blog.

Signing out...

Jack Gantos Wrapping Up

You are ultimately expressing the best you can do when you write regardless of what kind of literature you are writing, he says. Don't try to steer yourself to the market. You really need to love the book you write. You want "that human special sauce" all over you book.

As writers, he says, we all know we've got more in common than not in common: love books, great readers, your want to stand on the shoulder of all the great books that came before you and add to those books. And you want to get that book in the hand of the readers you've chosen.

Get it done, he says. "I want to see you in print," he says "because I'm tired of reading my own work."

More Jack Gantos

We have the ability as writers and human being and bring it to the smallest of creatures like a spider in Charlotte's Web, he says. Or Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You start with those characters, you hook up with them, then you get into the rich settings.

As you are building a book, start working those character. They'll become powerful. Give them room to grow. Then emesh them in the setting you create. You always always are looking for the double ending in a book, he says--the physical and the emotional.

More Jack Gantos

He's outlining the journey of going from a pre-reader to reader, from board books to Hop on Pop to Where the Wild Things Are to Corduroy to Eloise to Madeline to Harry the Dirty Dog to Miss Nelson to Sylvester to Arnie, the Donut (it was a walk down literature memory lane.)

After those books, it's chapter book time. Then you discover Frog and Toad. When you're young, you discover the library and realize you own those books.

Now you're a writer. What's most important? Characters: He talks about discovering The Outsiders and how amazed he was at Pony Boy. Setting: The two sides of town in The Outsiders, the two sides of the track. When you read great books you realize that you love them because those books define your humanity to yourself.

From Jack Gantos (Who Was in Switzerland Yesterday)

Jack Gantos is going to talk about writing.

Whenever he has a moment of crisis, thinking "Why am I writing books," he goes back to his experience being a reader. He says he's a slow reader, really reading between the lines. When he finishes the book, he puts the book on the floor, and waits. He closes his eyes and the entire book begins to come back--characters, plot, setting, resolution, how the characters are effected by the change. As that character changed, he knew he had changed. He readers are infected by literature. And it's so wonderful that those of us who love books so thoroughly can just pull them out and relive them.

It's in moment like these, he says, that you realize you really, thoroughly, completely love books and that's why you want to become a writer.

Closing out the Conference: Jack Gantos

Jack Gantos talks next. I'm pretty sure he has come up with the longest title for an SCBWI presentation ever:

When you are writing a book how can you tell the diffrence between: Writing books that readers will want to read vs. Writing books that writers want to write. You can't. So write the best book you can. And how do you do that?

On the Master Class Videos

You should all buy these! The seven-minute snippets we saw of each of them were engaging and fascinating. And they are each over an hour. I could listen to Tomie and Richard talk all day long.

Premiere of SCBWI Master Class: Richard Peck

The second SCBWI master class On Writing the Novel for Young Readers is with Richard Peck. Linda Sue Park is introducing his master class. He's written close to 50 titles, won a number of awards including the Newbery. She's reading first lines from some of his books (A Long Way From Chicago, A Teacher's Funeral, Fair Weather).

He covers plot, character, setting, language dialog, why he believes in writing in first perons and why he believe all great writers are first readers. Plus he reads aloud from a brand new novel.

And now we watch...

Premiere of SCBWI Master Class: Tomie dePaola

Lin Oliver is introducing the first two master classes now available on DVD. The first class is with Tomie dePaola On Creating the Picture Book.

Robert Sabuda is introducing Tomie's master class. (Note to self: Tomie and Robert collaborated on a pop-up book. Remember to look for it.) Tomie is the illustrator he most admired when he began his interest in working on picture books.

Now we watch...

Parting Shots from the Agents

Michael B: Hope. Remain hopeful and look to the future with eyes wide open.

Alyssa: You're all here to be writers and artists. Don't let the doom and gloom of the industry take away from your creative endeavors.

Michael S: Success comes for some writers and for some it does not, and it might strike by lightning, but it will never strike there person how isn't all consumed with writing. (I'm paraphrasing him quoting.)

Edward: Quoting Bob Dylan--if you know what you're doing in your heart and you don't stop and you're going to mystify a lot of folks. Keep writing. Write something superlative. And things will go your way.

Do Illustrators Need Representation and Do You Rep Them

Edward: He's expanding this part of his agency. He thinks is can be a home run.

Michael B: He doesn't represent illustrators.

Alyssa: She represents author-illustrators.

Michael S: He represents two illustrators, one who started doing covers. It's different for him and learning to do it has been difficult

How Do Feel About Mutiple Submissons to Agents?

Michael S: It can be frustrating for agents, but he understands why writers want to do it. But by all means say so.

Alyssa: We definitely need to know if it's a multiple submission.

Micheal: He hates hearing from someone whose work he's reading that they are going with someone else. He encourages writers to talk to agents to make sure they're a good fit before you agree to work with them.

Edward: No problem with multiple subs with full disclosure. It's heartbreak when you don't know and hear someone got representation elsewhere. He hates when a client has sent his or her manuscript to every editor in town before he gets to it.

The rule: full disclosure with your agent. Always be above board when you approach agents.

Are You Seeing Differences in the Advances Today?

Edward: We will see fewer acquisions. The days of super high advances is behind us. They are correcting and are "earn-outable." Buzz-worthy books will remain but won't be so off the charts. Where the smart money is is royalties.

Alyssa: Remember advances are advances. In the ideal sence, your book will earn out and make money in royalties.

Michael B: We're going to see advances going down and royalties and profit sharing going up. This will trickle down to children's publishing.

Discuss Current Advances in Each Category?

No one wants to touch this question.

It depends on the project. Don't think about advances, think about your book being good, says Michael S.

What's Involved in Signing Someone?

Alyssa: She signs clients on a term-by-term basis with yearly contracts. It gives the agent ample opportunity to work with the client editorially then sell. There's a written agreement.

Michael S: They have a contract that's not on a term basis. It's not binding forever, just as long as we're both happy. It gets the business out of the way and let's them focus on the revision and selling of manuscripts.

Edward: He works on a handshake. He doesn't want to be held hostage and doesn't want to hold people hostage. Some clients want some sort of outline of terms in which case he'll write a letter. (Adults side of his agency does use contracts.) Finding a real book is like falling in love, he says, and this applies more in 2009 than ever.

Michael B: They sign an agreement for first book, then work on a handshake after that. They want to lay out how the buisness aspects of the agreement works.

What are the Effect of Layoffs?

Micheal S: It doesn't mean the end of the market

Michael B: There are a lot of problems in publishing that need to be fixed. But in times like this it's more important to have an agent than ever. We know what's going on and we can work to make sure you have the best editor out there. He said: Children's books are fairly helpful.

Edward: It's scary that there are so many talented people let go, but he acknowledged that there were sames changed needed. This does not signal the end of publishing in any way. The publishing houses in the end will be stronger. But it's more important to have an advocate than ever.

First Question for Panel: Large vs. Small Agencies

Lin Oliver (reading question from the audience): What do you thing the advantages and disadvantages from smaller vs. larger agencies?

Michael B: There are 8 people at his agency. The advantage of a small agency is the personal attention you can get. There's discussion and collaboration possible. He handles all his own clients without assistants and interns. We have a personal touch and a different philosophy.

Edward: If you get him as an agent, you get him. He tries to read everything that comes accross his desk. The advantage of a larger agency--fully functioning film/TV/stage dept. inhouse. The more proliferation of choices, there's more opportunity for writers to find the right fit. Interview your agent, he recommends.

Allyssa: About 35 people at Trident. One great things about being part of big agency is that since she has a full audio and foreign dept., it frees us her time to devote to her clients. Also, they don't use sub-agents for foreign deals in most territories.

Michael S: At Firebrand he is the dedicated foreign rights person. The great thing about a small agency is that everyone in the office is weighing in. They are all editorially minded and do a lot of editorial work. They pool their wisdom.

Edward Necarsulmer

McIntosh & Otis is the second oldest literary agency in the U.S. He started working as an intern at Random House, and then went into agenting, working at McIntosh for 5 years. He had a success story at last year's conference, finding an author at a first-page reading.

Things are cyclical, he says. When he first started, you couldn't sell YA. When he took over McIntosh & Otis, it was "picture books are dead." But things bounce back. These times of crisis are also times of great opportunity. I think we'll be resilient.

When he sends out a manuscript, he wants the editorial assistants fighting in the hallways to open his manuscripts because of his reputation.

He things parents will buy book for children before they by books for themselves.

There's a lot of streamlining, but at the end of the day, we'll see leaner, meaner, and houses getting behind known commodities but also take chances on new authors without track records.

Michael Bourret

He's been at Dystel & Goderich for 8 years. He says the market has always been difficult. There's not a lot of money to go around. That's where organizations like SCBWI can be so helpful to writers.

It's also important that writers use the internet to promote themselves and keep up on industry news (for example, Twitter).

There are opportunities in this market. There's a lot of really good stuff to come.

Alyssa Eisner Henkin

She was formerly and editor at Scholastic initially and moved into agenting in fall of 2006. Trident, where she works is one of the largest agencies in the World. She was tasked with building their children's author base.

One one hand, we don't know quite what's going to happen in this economy. Once great things about children's publishing is because children are the last people you want to scrimp on. With luck, the market will remain constant. There are a lot of synergies going to film these days, as well (ex: Coraline).

She says it's key to treat yourself like a published author before you're published.

Michael Stearns

He started in children's books almost 20 years ago, working at Harcourt and HarperCollins in high positions. He's edited Bruce Hale, Jane Yolen, Bruce Coville and many others. He joined Firebrand, a 3-year-old agency which includes Michael and three other agents, who are building their lists.

He feels the recent layoff and changes in the publishing world is something of a market correction. When we first started picture books were huge, and things have shifts to midgrade and YA. The market rebounds and changes, but editors are still buying books.

Agents Are Assembling

Next up: Agents Panel: Selling Your Work in These Economic Times. Here are the agents who will address this topic and take questions from the audience:
  • Michael Bourret, VP/Agent at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management
  • Alyssa Eisner Henkin, Agent with Trident Media Group
  • Edwards Necarsulmer IV, Director, Children's Dept., McIntosh & Otis
  • Michael Stearns, Agent, Firebrand Literary

They are taking the stage and will begin in a few minutes...

Bruce's Hale's Lessons Continued

  • Make readers squirm. Get gross. Use suspense (good example: The Lightning Thief).
  • Tell your readers the truth. Kids know when we're lying to them. We have to show them both the light and the dark in the world. Aknowlegde the truth without deeply dwelling on it, but give them hope.
  • Go the extra mile. Work harder. Write yet another draft. Submit after you're rejected over and over. Take chances in our writing. Stretch your writing muscles and try new things.
  • Write what you love. It matters. Writers are cultivating readers. That's why we write.

Bruce's Hale's Lessons

  • Grab readers from the get-go using things like humor or plunging midstream into the action. He read some undeniably great beginnings.
  • Remind Readers of Beauty. This is something kids might not know they need. It's a writer's job to call attention to the beauty in the world. (He used The Wind in the Willows as an example.)
  • Make your readers laugh. Kids love inappropriate humor. Jokes. Bring the humor. What do kids find funny? boogers, underwears, insults, puns. Also character-based humor (think about Jack Benny). Voicing the forbidden is funny.
  • Hold up the mirror for your readers. Show readers themselves, but better. Offer a limited character to moves beyond. A character needs a strong desire, must be active, and must be flawed (think Meg from A Wrinkle in Time, Chet Gecko, Artemis Fowl.

More From Bruce Hale: Writing Exercise

Bruce gave the audience an exercise to write about a vivid memory from your middle grade years for five minutes. Those of you at home--feel free to join in. (You might want some lovely background music as we have here.)

He recommends going through childhood journals and mining them from ideas.

More From Bruce Hale

Bruce brought down the house. His song told us of the importance of loving and being loved. He said his former editor Micheal Stearns kept a post-it in his office that read "Where's the heart?" He looked for it in every story he worked on.

Middle grade writers, says Bruce, can be passionate readers, but often their interest in begins to wane as they get older. Four things he's learned about middle graders: they are curious, willing to play, helpful, and distracted. They have a lot going on--we have to writer both what they want and what they need in a story. It's important to talk to middle graders, as way as your own inner child. Mine your childhood, he says.

Bruce said he was a TV addict as a kid--then one day, his television died and he began to read and read voraciously.

Bruce Hale Kicks Off the Day

Bruce Hale is the first speaker this morning with a talk entitled: Of Books, Beauty and Boogers: Lessons Learned from Writing for Middle Graders.

Bruce's books include the Chet Gecko series and Underwhere graphic novel series. (And he always wears a great hat.)

It's a weird business we're in, says Bruce. For writers the whole process is internal. He's offering lessons he learned from kids through talking to them and doing school visits. Oh--we're getting a song! (Bruce is also a terrific singer.)

Tomie dePaola Awards

There is one Tomie dePaola honor award ($100) and one Tomie dePaola grand prize winner ($1000 from Blick art supplies). Awards are presented by Cecilia Yung on Tomie's behalf. (He could not attend.)

This years recipients:
Honor Award: Kenneth Kraegel
Grand Prize: Leeza Hernandez

Sunday Kicks Off With Illustrator Awards

Priscilla Burris is presenting portfolio awards. She said there was a beautiful array of beautiful art and all the portfolios were viewed by many art directors and editors. Here are the winners:

This year's winners:

Honor Award: Paulina Cerezo
Honor Award: Patricia Cantor
(both won $100)

Grand Prize Winner: David Ercolini
(David wins a 3-day, 2-night trip to New York--although he lives there!--and appointments with art directors.)