Originally published at Kimberly Sabatini. You can comment here or there.
It’s time for my last installment of my #LA16SCBWI recap. I apologize for taking so long. I’m usually well done with these by this point, but my kids, my own writing, and other life stuff has kept me busy. But I’m here now and I have lots of great information to share with you about the LA 2016 SCBWI Conference.
Lin and Steve strategically kicked off Sunday mornings #LA16SCBWI offerings with the Agent Panel. After an evening of dancing and kid lit shenanigans at the Gala–only the promise of finding an agent can get the sleepy masses out of their beds LOL!
Agent Panel: Acquisitions Today
VWA–Victoria Wells Arms (Victoria Wells Arms Literary)
GC–Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown, LTD)
KH–Kristen Hall (Catbird)
BS–Brooks Sherman (The Bent Agency)
ERS–Erica Rand Silverman (Stimola Literary Studio)
TW–Tina Wexler (ICM Partners)
Here are some interesting bits and pieces of the conversation…
KH–(Talking to her kids) On quitting her job and starting her own agency… I’m fine. I’m covered in hives, but really I’m fine.
TW–After her intro…”I should have just said I was a cat person.”
ERS–I’m looking for people who are purposeful in their craft.
TW–Do I love it? AND… Can I sell it?
KH–Relies on her instinct when picking clients.
BS–Doesn’t worry about what will sell. If he likes it, he’s willing to dive in.
GC–On queries: No voice of the MC. No gimmicks. Not overly personal. PROFESSIONAL! All authors used in comps should be no older than 5 years!
KH–Loves all the opposite query things that GC does ROTFL!
Then it was time for the Art Award Announcements!
The Mentorship Winners.
The Showcase Honors.
And Showcase Winner–Oge Mora
And speaking of fabulous illustrators, next up was a Keynote by Sophie Blackall: FORAGING FOR STORIES: HOW TO JUSTIFY EAVESDROPPING, LOITERING AND BUYING THINGS ON EBAY
Sophie was a natural storyteller and it was hard to pick out the individual threads to share because everything she said was woven together so interestingly. But I’ll do my best to pick out a few things for you…
*I collect things.
*I’m inspired by my fellows.
*One must always pay attention.
*Missed Connections–> the Measles Project.
*I rode the subway in NY, made eye contact with a stranger and ended up in Bhutan.
*Why is yoga still so hard? Because you are constantly pushing your limits. –>Apply that concept to your writing.
*Kids notice your trivial transgressions. Details matter.
*We make mistakes, but we should strive not to.
*The gestation of a book may be the best part.
*Toni Morrison writes into the light. “It’s not being in the light–it’s being there before it arrives.”
*The making part IS the best part. Do not hoard your ideas–use them all now. Something else will arrive.
Next up was my first Break-out Session of the day. I got so lucky picking Neal Schusterman-DON’T TELL DAD I TOTALED THE UNIVERSE: LESSONS IN WORLD BUILDING LEARNED THE HARD WAY
This was an incredible workshop. If you ever get a chance to talk world building with Neal–I suggest you take it. What I loved about his advice and techniques were how accessible they were. The focus was not on High Fantasy which isn’t what I write. And his approach was clear, logical and easy to assimilate into your own process. Plus he was inspirational and funny. Here is some of the best things I learned…
*There are no rules but the ones you make.
*Be prepared to live by your rules. There are ramifications to the rules that you make.
*You don’t have to address all the changes the butterfly effect has on your story, but you have to KNOW them.
*Rules can be problematic, but they can also be tools.
*Bring the reader in slowly.
*Stories are about people, no matter what world you are building–resist putting the world in front of the characters.
*Learn to write characters in the real world first–then move to world building.
*Master world building with shorter works.
*Too much info on the world can be confusing to the reader.
*When you are world building on existing mythology, you have to bring something new to the table, a twist.
*IF YOU CAN’T KEEP TRACK OF YOUR WORLD IN YOUR OWN HEAD, IT’S TOO COMPLICATED FOR YOUR READER!
*Start with the concept of the world. Find characters that fit into the world. Then work to balance the two.
*The world grows as you go along, that’s why revision is so important. By the end you know the world and the characters, then you have to go back and be sure that everything is consistent.
*Follow the exciting, shiny idea within your manuscript–even if you didn’t plan for it–otherwise the writing will be boring.
After lunch, Linda Sue Park did a fascinating afternoon Break-Out session on CHILDREN’S BOOK AWARDS: HOW JUDGING HAPPENS.
I took a picture–I swear I took a picture. But the phone goblins ate it. I’m still missing my good camera. I can’t believe I didn’t bring it. Maybe I need one of those lens attachments for my phone. Any recommendations?
Anyway–this break-out was Linda giving us back ground and information on the judging of kid lit awards and her personal experience doing the judging. There was so much interesting information woven into Linda’s narrative, but I’ll try to pull out some nuggets that will enlighten you.
*When judging the National Book Award in 2006
*Getting from 50 books down to the ones we wanted to discuss as a group was very difficult.
*Used a weighted math system to get down to the groups top 20 books.
*No one goes over these books the way the committee does–it is legit.
*The were the first committee to have a graphic novel as a finalist.
*The process was super time consuming. Linda couldn’t write for a year and sometimes resented not having a choice in what she could read.
*On judging–if you do this–you will never feel bad about not winning an award again. There are so many good books, deserving books out there.
*If you see Linda Sue Park–ask her how the truffles were? I promise, it’s a great story.
Next up was the always informative Deborah Halverson with the UP-TO-THE-MINUTE MARKET REPORT
Here is some of the newest market info complied by Deborah…
*Overall children’s publishing revenue dipped very little–not a lot of movement.
*YA fiction sales dipped by 3%–the Divergent factor. (dips following movie years)
*Non-fiction kids up by 17% due to adult coloring books
*Audiobooks up 24% making up 10-14% of children’s books
*Expansion as a theme. 60 new Indies this year. 660 since 2009. Stable but flat.
*New codes for YA on the bookshelves allowing for more customization and discovery.
*31 new imprints in the last four years.
Market Trend–How Your Current Projects Fit Into the Marketplace
-quality and creativity are being rewarded. Think: LAST STOP ON MARKET PLACE
-creativity in language and text
-dominated by younger PB’s
-some have longer texts where hope is strong and feels justified
-plenty of room for the illustrator to have story telling room
-Write a single title–>series possibility comes later
-diverse characters/actively looking for diversity
-historical fiction/biographies…ordinary people who change the world
-looking for marketing potential, story telling and personal connections
MIDDLE GRADE FICTION
-a great place to be
-agents say editors are asking
-open field–literary and commercial balance
-wants beautiful language, superb execution
-slow build that garners awards and longevity. Think OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper
-room for serious subject matter
-historical fiction–there are lesser known people to explore or new twist on well knowns
-multi-author series are still strong
-stand alones embraced too
-risks that don’t feel gimmicky
-non-fiction–fresh engagement-something unexpected
-MG is not wrapped up in a single trend at the moment
-looking for humor, adventure, realistic fiction
-serves a diverse audience but doesn’t make diversity an issue
-story trumps trends
-sweet spot falls between literary and commercial
-voice that masters the MG sensibility and funny bone
-in historical fiction a contemporary voice gives access–think Hamilton on Broadway
-realistic fiction and fantasy
-still happening but market saturation
-there are the big stars and the rest of us are duking it out for a space
-everyone is super careful/cautious about what they take on
-you need something different and stand out in a crowded market
-be careful about realistic contemporary–its been done
-blending genres–create fresh magic systems–think GRACELING
-layered female friendships*
-exploring grey areas*
-on twitter… #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List)
The internal mood of publishing…
*We are in a good place.
*Not being lambasted by trends.
*Room for thinking creatively.
*Not relying on only one thing.
*Publishing has settled into the mind set that we CAN change and adapt.
*An active author contract initiative underway
*Discovered we were doing it right all along.
Next up was a Keynote by one of SCBWI’s best, Ellen Hopkins: KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE REAL PRIZE
Ellen had the whole place in tears as she told the story of how life and writing intersect…
*Garbage writing is why they invented revision.
*In this day and age, books are candles in the darkness. And for some children, they are a lifeline.
*Keep your eyes on the real prize: making a positive difference in young lives.
And the final and closing keynote came from the one and only RICHARD PECK <3
*We gather today because misery loves company. *giggle*
*The barbarians are at our gates now–with phones in their hands–playing Pokemon. And they might die never knowing WE are the people who augment reality.
*There are 250 million texts and not a semi-colon among them.
*Where do you get your ideas? Isn’t it odd to suggest we can’t THINK of them?
*Schools don’t build foundations–they build upon them.
*Readers are not looking for authors in their books–they are looking for themselves.
*Throw out and rethink the first chapter after you have the table of contents for your real story.
*It’s never to late to be who you might have been” -George Elliot
And now that Richard Peck has reminded you who you are meant to be, it’s time for the autograph party.
Richard signing a book for the Desmond Fish Library who gave me the Alice Curtis Desmond Award
If you can see the iPad on the table, with Richard Peck—it was a part of me having a beautiful, full circle moment. This spring I had the privilege of being awarded the Alice Curtis Desmond Award and had to give my very first speech. And this speech was in front of another award winner–Salman Rushdie. Yup, it was a sweaty palm, heart racer. But I lived to tell the tale and what I was showing Richard was how I quoted HIM in my speech. And how I also heard Richard speak at my very first NY conference and clearly he had an impact on me then and over the years. And how he used the quote from my speech in his keynote and I couldn’t stop smiling at having the chance to share it all with him. Here’s that speech…
Being here tonight is both thrilling and a little terrifying.
I’m in awe of the esteemed company I get to keep this evening.
Compared to my fellow award winners, I’m at the beginning of my career. This is my first professional nod of recognition.
Receiving the Alice Curtis Desmond award reminds me that sometimes, our FIRST experiences do the most to shape our middles and our endings.
The acclaimed children’s author, Richard Peck once said… “–nobody BUT a reader, ever became a writer.”
When I hear that, what immediately comes to mind–are families, schools and libraries. They are the gate keepers that shape so many first experiences.
I still have my FIRST library card. I was the girl who had more books than Barbies.
In fact, I never went into the stacks without a large, paper grocery bag. I needed something big enough to hold my treasures. Those books held the world.
In the 6th grade, my English teacher read to my class… “In Flanders fields the poppies blow. Between the crosses, row on row.”
It was the FIRST time I understood how powerful writing could be. The meanest teacher I knew, was moved to tears—by words.
In the 10th grade, my class read THE GIVER by Lois Lowry. It was the FIRST time I realized I wasn’t alone. There were other people in the world who asked the same strange questions I did.
The summer before my senior year in high school, I took stock of who I was and what I wanted to be. I compared myself to some of my heroes: Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller, Anne Frank and Mahatma Gandhi.
It was the FIRST time I declared myself woefully inadequate to be anyone’s hero. I lost something that day.
On January 1, 2005, eighteen years later, I lost my father, but I finally found my voice. It was the FIRST day I decided to bravely live up to my own potential.
After my FIRST novel was published, my Mom, an extremely avid reader, told me I was the FIRST author she’d ever met in person. It wasn’t the first time I made my Mom proud, but it was one of my favorites.
My husband has always been my FIRST and most enthusiastic supporter. And because of it, there is an exceptionally large group of twenty-something single males, who work in IT Audit, who’ve read my young adult novel. #uniquemarketing
And I shouldn’t admit it, but when my boys were 2, 4 and 6 they ran out of clean socks and underwear because I was writing. It wasn’t the first time it happened, but it was the FIRST time they called me out on it. We bought more.
Then the day came when I received my FIRST letter from a fan. I’d become someone’s hero after all.
And now, because the clock and good story telling demands it, I need to make my ending reflect my beginning–by returning to the library, where I started.
I want to thank everyone at the Desmond Fish Library, not just for honoring me with my FIRST award and hosting such an incredible evening, but also for all you do–you bring books and readers together. You share my FIRST love and I could not be prouder to be a part of this community. Thank you so much.
I adore this guy! <3
Pam Munoz Ryan and Esperanza Rising
Sophie Blackall had the longest line in the room.
Getting my CHALLENGER DEEP signed by Neal Schusterman
I had an amazing conversation with him. So fan-girling!
Totally goof-balling around with Drew Daywalt of Crayon fame!
Don’t ask–I don’t know ROTFL!
Jon Klassen–what would he have done if I’d grabbed his hat and run? And how often does that happen???
And then we were hungry! Because fan-girling is kind of hard work.
And ice cream after dinner will certainly do the trick!
And it might even work tonight as a reward for getting this last #LA16SCBWI blog post done.
Hope this helpful. If you have any questions about the conference or SCBWI conferences in general, feel free to ask. And remember–if you’re heading to your first conference and you don’t know anyone, let me know and I’ll be sure to help out and introduce you to some new friends.