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Celebrating 7 Years

8 Jul

Just renewed my SCBWI membership for another year! Next month marks the beginning of my 7th year and I feel confident.

In the last seven years I have grown so much as a writer and made so many good friends along the way. I’d like to thank the members of the Cincinnati chapter (Ohio: Central and South) for welcoming me to their group. When I joined Kerrie Logan Hollihan was our leader. She later passed the torch to Andrea Pelleschi. Both are gifted writers and published authors yet they, with Brandon Marie Miller, Mary Kay Carson, Kathy Cannon Wiechman, and Nancy Parish willingly offered advice, instruction, and friendship.

Through the monthly meetings I have met many more talented writers and illustrators, and have developed critique groups and friendships with several of them. I’d like to thank Jennifer Sommer, Keila Dawson, Emmie Warner, Kate Harold, Connie B. Dow, and Carol Martin for always being willing to read my work, make suggestions, and provide support. They lift me up and give me confidence to keep going.

And most of all, I’d like to thank Tina P. Schwartz at The Purcell Agency for believing in me and working hard on my behalf. I have worked as Tina’s assistant for a time before we signed a one year contract to sell one of my stories. After that year, Tina and I agreed not to renew our contract while I search for an agent who works more exclusively with picture book writers, but we remain friends and maintain a working relationship. I still read for her periodically and we touch base on our personal and professional lives. It was because of my association with Tina that I got my first ‘paying gig’ talking about agents, how and why they choose or reject a project. I have presented at both the Columbus and Cincinnati chapters.

In the words of John Lennon and Paul McCartney… I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends. So for all those mentioned and those many others I have met at conferences and through social media, I thank you! Have a piece of cake!

16 Feb

photo-26It’s a common enough question. One I’ve asked children countless times… at the end of the day while we waited for dismissal and around the dinner table when the conversation was lagging. I was just asked this question myself at our local SCBWI meeting after my trip to New York for the national winter conference. I answered with a few of the ‘big ideas’ I’d garnered, but here I’d like to share more general observations.

Let me begin by saying this was my first national conference and I was quite awestruck. I had attended several regional conferences before this one, but I quickly learned that a national conference is much more overwhelming than the regional conferences. I did my best to soak in all the combined knowledge and talent surrounding me. I took copious notes, which I highly recommend. You know, you think you’re going to remember every syllable just to walk out the door and be in fan shock over seeing a ‘celebrity’ and completely forget everything you just heard. Not saying that happened to me. (Not saying it didn’t happen, just not saying it did.)

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I recommend you attend as many functions as possible. It’s not only beneficial but also economically sound. After all, we paid a lot of money to attend, why not squeeze every ounce of  the experience out of the opportunities afforded. This particular conference offered more than 30 workshops and 55 faculty members. (Read all the materials carefully before registering. Diligence is key in making your selections.) In addition to the workshops, there are keynote addresses, panel discussions, and various formal and informal gatherings. Take in as many of these as you can.

Have a plan. Know what you want to get out of this experience. Are there specific questions you’d like to have answered? What contacts do you especially want to make? Is there something new you’d like to try? Knowing what you want will help you focus your energy in the right direction. img_1446

Relax (if you can) and enjoy the ambiance. There are superstars all around you!  Make connections. You never know who is sitting next to you until you ask. I had lunch right next to Tomie dePaola and across from Jane Yolen. I listened to, and cried with, the multi-award winning illustrator, Bryan Collier   and got my picture taken with him. I ran into many Facebook friends and made new friends. No, you won’t get to see and talk to everyone (there were over 1000 participants this weekend), but you will get to meet some very interesting people.

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Take advantage of the opportunities to submit your work to agents and/or editors. This is one of the perks of attending a conference. Many of the editors in particular are closed to submissions except for these special circumstances. If you have something ready, do that immediately. The window of opportunity is small, don’t miss out. Be sure to research the recipient’s tastes and wish list before sending it out. Follow their guidelines to the letter. You don’t want to waste your time or theirs.

Enjoy yourself. No matter where you go, take in a local experience. In NYC I didn’t have time to do the  typical ‘tourist’ things, but I did ride the train and eat the cheesecake!

Half the Fun

10 Feb

Getting there is half the fun, right? RIGHT!

I never thought I’d get to an SCBWI national conference, but this year I took the plunge with my friend and writing partner, Jennifer.

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We departed on a bright sunny and unusually warm day in Ohio, knowing that nor’eastern Nico was predicted to hit that night. After our first sighting of a NYC road sign, we stopped for a celebratory DQ Blizzard. I named mine, Nico. Then I ate it!

We drove just more than halfway to make the next day’s drive easy. As we settled in for the night the snow fairies came, promising a blizzard of their own making.

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Luckily, we were prepared with an ice scraper, shovel, boots, and a de-icer.

Patting ourselves on the back we headed out. But our luck was short lived. We ran into a traffic jam sitting behind a long, long, long line of trucks. No one was moving. We crept along two miles of highway before being detoured off the road. Sadly, we weren’t the only ones having a slow start that day. A trucker had careened off the road, closing the highway, and on the exit ramp we saw another unfortunate trucker sidelined.  img_1362

Two hours later we were enjoying the views of a small riverside town. It was actually quite beautiful in the snow.

Once we got back on the highway and the rest of the trip was easy-breezy. Crossing the Hudson at dusk, I knew we had finally made it! img_1408

***

Now, fast forward 24 hours and I’m sitting in a cozy corner of the Ballroom level of the Grand Hyatt in New York City. Jennifer is engrossed in her intensive course she’d signed up for and I’m reflecting on my first day in the big apple. No, I didn’t go see the sights. Instead, I met a cousin I hadn’t seen since I was a very young girl. He brought me family photos and we talked and talked and talked! We spent several hours at one table and then moved into the restaurant for lunch and spent another couple of hours reminiscing and catching up on our new lives. fullsizerender

So until tomorrow, when I attend my first SCBWI Winter Conference, I know that getting here was half the fun!

Western Pennsylvania SCBWI Conference, 2016

27 Nov

 

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This cute little reading robot was host to a couple hundred SCBWI members from Pennsylvania, and three from Ohio. Two of my critique partners and I drove almost five hours to be a part of this conference in Pittsburg on the second weekend of November. It was a beautiful weekend, crisp, sunny, and full of hope.

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The faculty for the weekend included Heather Alexander (former agent from Pippin Properties and now freelance editor), Mary Colgan (senior editor at Boyds Mills Press), Brett Duquette (senior editor at Sterling Publishing), Karen Grenick (founding agent at Red Fox Literary), Jasmin Rubero (editor at Dial, Random House), Jennifer Soloway (agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency), Jennifer Ung (editor at Simon Pulse), and Rebecca Weston (former editor at Delecort Press and now freelance editor).

As always, SCBWI conferences are chock full of information and opportunities to meet new people. With eight faculty members and only four workshop sessions, I had to choose my sessions strategically. This weekend I chose to learn more about queries, leaving room for the illustrations, reasons for rejections, and acquisitions. But the best thing I did, was submit a story for a critique. Not only, did I receive a thorough and thoughtful critique, I also received an encouraging invitation to submit.

And surprise, surprise… I was chosen as one of the six most promising authors in attendance! Each agent and editor who critiqued work chose one person to receive this honor. It is indeed both humbling and exhilarating !

As a critique group we are quite pleased with our efforts. At the end of the day, we each had something to celebrate!

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Franklin IN Conference: Tricks and Treats of the Trade

14 Nov

October brought gorgeous leaf color on a beautiful college campus. The Franklin Writing Conference was a one day intimate gathering for authors and illustrators. About fifty SCBWI participants joined a four panel faculty for a day of learning and camaraderie.

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Pictured from left to right. Jennifer Zivoin, illustrator of multiple picture books and early readers including Big Red and the Little Bitty Wolf (Jeanie Franz Randsom); Andrea Hall, editor at Albert Whitman; Shannon Baunach Anderson, author of several children’s books including Penelope Perfect and Coasting Casey;  Tina Purcell Schwartz, founding agent of The Purcell Agency.

First of all, I was super excited to meet my agent Tina Schwartz in person! Although we have communicated through email, text messages, and Face Time, it was great to have dinner with her and chat informally.

Secondly, I made a connection with Andrea Hall who is reviewing one of my stories for publication. Fingers crossed!

Thirdly, I met up with Facebook connections Kathryn Powers and Teresa Robeson. Both lovely ladies and talented illustrators.

And last, but not least, I spent quality time with one of my critique partners, Emmie Warner. We carpooled, shared a room, and supported each other through our second conference together. Thanks Emmie!

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My Top 10 Tricks and Treats of the Trade:

(in no particular order)

Be prepared to meet agents and editors with your best work. Have it polished and shined to a sparkle. And lead with your strongest work.

Research submission guidelines and follow then to the letter. Do not make the mistake of losing your masterpiece in the rejection box because you failed to follow directions.

Do your own market research before submitting. Know where your work fits on the shelf. What are some similar titles? How does yours stand out?

Take revisions seriously. If your agent or editor asks for revisions, consider what isn’t working and how to improve it. Don’t rush your revisions, it’s not intended to be a quick fix.

Use market guides such as The Book Markets for Children’s Writers, Writer’s Market Guide, and Children’s Writers and Illustrators to find agents and editors who are the best fit for your work.

Don’t take rejections personally. There are many reasons why an agent or editor may pass on your work which may be more due to their own needs and wants rather than your talent.

Your characters need to visually carry your story (picture books). Let your characters distinguish themselves.

Focus on creating visual movement between scenes.

Work with peers to polish your work. Be open to constructive criticism. It’s easier to swallow a ‘no, that doesn’t work’ from your writing partners than it is to get a ‘no, that doesn’t work’ from an agent or editor.

If something isn’t working, keep trying.    Revise.    Resubmit.   Repeat.

April Fool’s Day

1 Apr

April-Fools-Day

I made a comment on a friend’s Facebook post pretty much implying that she and her writing partners stop making hard work look so easy, it’s not! And anyone who thinks it is, is a fool.

It’s true. These lovely ladies lead our monthly SCBWI meetings with the grace and intelligence that only experience can achieve. It may look like what they do is easy. But like one of my supervisors used to say many years ago, “I’m working like a duck… smooth on the surface; paddling like crazy to stay afloat!”

These authors are mentors to the many others who are working to succeed. They are dedicated to research, writing, editing, and sharing. Their many books inform and entertain. So I’m taking the opportunity this April Fool’s Day, to salute them. Thank you (left to right) Mary Kay Carson, Kerri Logan Hollihan, and Brandon Marie Miller at  Hands on Books. 12901048_1754140581483945_8981486111798615873_o

Thank you also to our president Andrea Pelleschi, and to the many other SCBWI members who lift us up every month with their encouragement and support.

 

To my mentors and role models… Happy April Fool’s Day!

A few words to the wise…

 

 

 

 

 

13 Notes on the Magic of 13 SCBWI Conference

30 Sep

2015logoMagicof13It’s been 13 days since The Magic of 13 conference in Cleveland this month. I’ve had time to review my notes and relive the magic. And it was magical! On Friday, I was able to participate in an intensive class with Jodell Sadler of the Sadler Children’s Literary Agency and have a one-on-one manuscript critique with Nikki Garcia, Assistant Editor for Little Brown Books for Young Readers. Then I spent the full day, Saturday, attending workshops with Jodell Sadler again; and Marie Lamba, Associate Literary Agent with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency; Kendra Levin, Senior Editor with Viking’s Children Books, the Penguin Young Readers Group; and Victoria Selvaggio, Associate Agent with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. What a lineup! I talked with wonderful authors like Mary Kay Carson, Miranda Paul, Shutta Crum, Michelle Houts, and Liz Coley. However, there were other wonderful authors and illustrators I missed, like Denise Fleming, Gloria Adams, and Sophie Cayless… the days were just to full to see everyone! And of course, I met and worked with countless other writers and illustrators who attended the workshops. Oh, how I wish I had a week with these extraordinary people!

With the passing of 13 days since the Magic of 13, I want to share 13 things I learned with you. Hopefully these 13 tricks will help you get where you want to be in your writing and publication.

  1. Tell your story. Begin at the beginning. Go until you get to the end. Then stop.

2. Be on every page with the reader. See what they see, hear what they hear, smell what they smell, feel what they feel.

3. Use vivid words to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. Use fun and interesting language. Make your words work hard, make them pull double duty when engaging a reader.

4. Determine your character’s core values. These will guide his/her actions. Apply the emotional truths of what you know to new situations for your characters. You may never have been lost in a jungle like your character is, but you do know what it feels like to be lost. Use that to guide your character through unfamiliar territory.

5. The road to publication comes from employing plot, poetry, pauses, and personality. 

6. Form allegiances with other writers. Support each other. Champion each other to do your best.

7. Study your craft. Find mentor texts and professionals to guide you along the way.

8. Find inspiration in those who have gone before you.

9. Forge your own processes. Don’t be afraid of doing things differently than what ‘everyone else’ says you should be doing.

10. Have a strong hook. Your story must be easy to pitch. Prepare a one sentence log line, a description that can be used to promote your work. It must evoke feeling.

11.Stay current on today’s market and know where your book fits. Yours should be the same but different. It must fit into a market audience.

12. Be aware of your social media presence. Contribute to the promotion of yourself. Be professional. Be positive in your social interactions at all times.

13. Have fun! If you’re having fun, your reader will have fun!

…and now for the magic…

Abracadbra… Poof!

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