Yesterday, I attended the MO-SCBWI conference, and I am so glad I did. It was such a treat to hear from Steve Mooser and Lin Oliver, that I nearly came to tears...several times...really. But more on that later.
The day started with Steve and Lin's list of Ten Most Important Things to remember as a children's writer (but really the list included twelve...it was hard to edit). It was basically a list of quotes from great children's authors. You know, the quotes that you will go home and paste all over your office, to keep you going when you've lost your way. Lin's favorite: "Come up with a character you love, think about what she wants most in the world and decide what's keeping her from it" -- Paula Danziger.
Namrata Tripathi of Atheneum Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) spoke next. For PB writers, she's looking for young, bold picture books and has a special interest in a book with a "classic, but fresh" feel. She pointed us to one of her latest, Lulu and the Brontosaurus, by Judith Viorst (of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), as an example of that type of book.
Bree Ogden of Martin Literary Management in Seattle also spoke. She gave some great advice on how to be savvy in the current marketplace. Put yourself out there in a blog (phew!), even posting some stories, and remember that an experienced agent or publisher makes a decision on a submission from the first couple lines of a cover letter. So do your research and know what a particular agent or editor is looking for.
A common suggestion from Bree and Namrata was to take the relationship with an editor and/or agent seriously. Treat it like a commitment. Feel confident that you are compatible by asking them the right questions. Of course, for first-time authors, this will be a hard challenge. If you're like me, you're salivating, just waiting for that offer, and it will be tempting to grab the first thing that comes your way. But hopefully stronger minds will prevail, and we'll all take the time to ask questions before we take the plunge.
I attended the two Masters sessions this year. Jody Feldman gave a brilliant workshop on creating worlds within books. I found the writing exercises particularly helpful. Steve and Lin gave a workshop on diaglogue. What a hoot. They had us all writing on the spot and spilling our bare souls before each other.
Which brings me to...the tears. Steve and Lin closed the event with a look at children's writing, past, present, and future. They talked about the founding of SCBWI, liking it to "a tribe" of like-minded people all working for the same goal. In fact, when they held their first conference, they sent 10 letters to the best children's authors of the time (Judy Blume, Dr. Seuss, E.B. White, etc.), asking them if they could come speak to their small band. All but one or two (with good reasons) said they would come, taking the time to respond in handwritten letters (insert tears here). Steve and Lin also bouyed the nerves of all writers present when they talked about the future. Yes, technology is changing the publishing industry, but it is not destroying our need for fiction. In fact, technology will play a role in proliferating story, and authors may even see greater return for content in the brave new world.
Well, sorry for my longest post ever (I didn't even tell you about my lunchtime chat with Lin or my critique with Bree), but I hope you found it worth the read. Good luck to all of you in the tribe!