Sunday, September 23, 2012

Midsouth SCBWI Conference

The Midsouth SCBWI Conference last weekend opened with an Autograph and Dessert Party. I shared a signing table with Dan Yaccarino, and we chatted about building a career in children's books (really, he gave me advice and I nodded my head and tried to remember everything he said as I sipped wine and nibbled dessert).

Some tidbits from the conference:

Dan Yaccarino views sketchbooks as a place to dump ideas. Don't hold back and don't be afraid to fill it with mistakes - it's not precious.

In one breakout, Martha Mihalick commented on the first page of our picture book manuscripts. Something that came up a number of times was that we need to convey what's at stake for our main character. In a picture book, we should know what the conflict or problem is by about the fifth sentence.

In a panel on marketing: If you're interested in doing school visits, write the descriptions of your presentations to appeal to curriculum-based teachers. A lot of states have their core curriculum standards online for each grade. Use that same language in describing what your presentation can do for the students. Dan said he makes it as easy as possible for schools by listing everything on his website: fees for school visits, equipment needed, a high-res author photo, videos, ordering info for his books, and descriptions of his presentations. I found this especially helpful since I plan on marketing my school visits more next year when my PENGUIN CHA-CHA picture book comes out.

For something different than what I write and therefore different than what I normally hear at conferences, I took a breakout by Sarah Davies on How to Write a Great Thriller. Some of it could definitely apply to picture book writing. Sarah told us that a book could have all the action in the world, but without heart, it's dead. So true in writing for any age. And another great Sarah tidbit: The best fiction doesn't just tell us more about the character, it tells us more about ourselves.

In Martha Rago's breakout, she gave us questions to ask ourselves about the work in our portfolio. A few I want to look into are:
Does my portfolio show my passions?
Does my portfolio reflect where I want to go with my art?
Is all the work in my portfolio the kind of work I want to get?

Kristin O'Donnell Tubb and her editor, Liz Szabla, gave a most informative talk, and I think everyone in the room came away with pages of helpful notes on revising. Wow, those two were great. Revision Tip #2) Sum up your story in one word. For Kristin's novel, THE 13TH SIGN, her word was "change". For her novel, SELLING HOPE, her word was "hope". Do all your details throughout the story support that word? Do your setting and your turning points portray that word?

Julie Danielson from the blog, SEVEN IMPOSSIBLE THINGS BEFORE BREAKFAST (love her blog!), gave an inspiring breakout on picture books. Quote from Charlotte Zolotow, "Writers writing about children are looking back. Writers writing for children are feeling back." Children have more immediate and intense emotions than adults. They're trying to make sense of the world. We have the wonder taken out of our lives as adults. Everything is new to kids. And yet, as Maurice Sendak said, "Children know everything."

My favorite part of the weekend was seeing old friends - writers and illustrators whom I've grown up in my craft alongside - and celebrating their professional and personal successes with them. What a neat group.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Indiana SCBWI Illustrator's Day

This last weekend, Indiana SCBWI hosted an Illustrator's Day. Our Illustrator Coordinator, Sharon Vargo (in purple and black in the photo), did most of the work for it and it was a lovely time!

We have dozens of illustrators in Indiana SCBWI (20-some came), but we feel like we don't them very well, so we started with having everyone introduce themselves and show us a bit of their work. What great artwork! Throughout the day we had 4 speakers:

Nathan Clement (the tall guy in the photo) spoke on how his first picture book was acquired and working with his publisher on the next 2 books. We also got a peek at his process for illustrating in Adobe Illustrator.

Michele Farley (sparkly blue shirt front and center) was on the 2012 Caldecott Committee. I could listen to her for hours! She gave us a humorous and insightful glimpse into how it all works and why she loves certain picture books. We also heard why some beautifully illustrated books ended up not being eligible for the Caldecott (on one they found out the illustrator resided outside the US, on another they decided it was more of a book with pictures rather than a picture book, etc.)

Patrick Girouard (other guy) shared about the various markets that children's illustrators can find work in. He's done just about everything, and urged us to look at anything that has an illustration similar to our style on it and contact the people who made it. Easy enough way to market.

Jennifer Zivoin (dark hair) discussed the process of finding and working with an art rep and how to figure out if you're ready for one or even if you need one.

4Kids Books in Zionsville let us use their meeting room, and because of a regional grant from SCBWI, we were able to offer this Illustrator's Day including lunch for free for our SCBWI members. How cool is that!