Thursday, September 23, 2010

KS-SCBWI Conference

I told my critique partner as we left the KS conference of SCBWI that I always leave these meetings both supremely pumped up and drastically depressed.  This conference was about the same, although I have to say I left with the hope that some of some of this writing advice is finally starting to gel in my mind.

Bruce Hale was a great speaker.  I especially loved his enthusiasm and his encouragement.  I also had a great personal conversation with him the night before the main conference.  I commented to him that his bio made me feel better about having so many careers throughout my life.  He said writers need it that way...we need to experience all of life, so that we can sit down and put it on paper.  I'd never thought about it before, but I'll use it as my excuse for never deciding what I want to be when I grow up.

My critique was awesome.  Dian Curtis Regan blessed me with a typed-out summary of her advice.  I think she saw potential in what I had brought in with a few tweaks.  Whew!  At first, I was disappointed that I did not get an editor or agent, but the benefit of having a picture book author became apparent as soon as I sat down.  You can't beat the experience of 50 plus picture books.

Here's a recap of information that was new to me:
  • Editors are constantly comparing your work to what is out there, so it's good to know (and mention in your cover letter) what book your story is like but also what makes it unique (Andrew Harwell and Maria Gonzales mentioned this);
  • Editors are at the mercy of big booksellers when designing covers (who knew Barnes &Noble held the pursestrings or the publishing world?);
  • When sitting down to do a picture book, make a brainstorm list of everything that might possibly relate to the subject (Tammi Sauer's idea).
Speaking of Tammi Sauer, I think she gave some great advice on PB writing.  What did strike me, however, is how formulaic her approach is.  She complained about being boxed in by four publishers, and I wonder if it has something to do with her method of developing a PB.  Who knows?  It's a useful framework, one that I've heard several times now.  (I'm not published, so what am I doing questioning it, huh?).

The first pages portion of the conference was helpful, too.  I brought a story about a girl who has to move to the city because her father lost his job (for those of you who remember hearing it, please forgive me!).  I brought it because it has never felt right to me.  I loved the language and cadence of the story, but something was amiss, and I think the panel put the finger on it.  It has an adult narrator.  Ouch.  I guess I had never thought about it before, but a third person narrator must also be child-like and not speak in adultese.  (Now panicked me is looking at all my stuff with fresh eyes, thinking,,,omg, all these kids sound old!  Hence why I come away from conference feeling depressed!)

Overall, the conference was a great experience, and one that I don't mind repeating.  Here's a nod of good luck to all of us in the coming year!  Remember the p's: passion, practice, persistence!


  1. Kristen--It was super to meet you at SCBWI-KS! I just put you on my blog roll and am looking forward to building a friendship with you, a fellow aspiring pb writer. :)

    I thought the conference was super too! Tammi is actually quite lucky to be in a box with four houses. I have a friend who is agented and is pretty much in a box with one house. It's a big one, but that's what she's been told....

    Hopefully, when you are ready for a manuscript exchange you'll be able to find my card. :-0

  2. Hi, Kristen.

    I'm so glad you got a lot out of the conference!

    I hope I didn't come across as complaining about being boxed in. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to work with four wonderful houses. It's just a scary feeling knowing that if those houses all say no to a project, then that project may very well end up in a drawer.

    Best of luck with your writing!

    Take care,

  3. Sharon, nice meeting you as well! I'll make contact soon. My daughter broke her arm while I was away, so we were getting it sorted out. you didn't complain at all. I'm so impressed with your success. This agent stuff is so new to me, and daunting as well. I can see how it would be discouraging to feel that you are limited in your options. Again, you gave great advice, and I've already applied a lot of it to some of my stories. It's a great framework to use when constructing a story.

    Thanks to both for reading my's mostly my mindless dribble!!