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Thursday, August 09, 2007

SCBWI LA Summer Conference - Monday Run-Down!!

     I know, hard to believe the conference kept going. Honestly, it could have been the three previous days and I would have felt I got my money's worth. But Monday still had treasures to share.
     The very thorough, much appreciated, Connie Epstein shared her market report. She mentioned that Marshall Cavendish will be increasing their line from 35 to 50 titles over the next year, again stressed the growth in MGs, and she closed with, "The market is looking good." I thanked her in person for all her hard work, but must thank her again. She does a great job keeping us all in the know.
     Just to illustrate the earlier point of how a talented editor can turn an illustrator's work into "That Great", Marla Frazee and Allyn Johnston (Harcourt) spoke next. Allyn showed us the original final illustration for Everywhere Babies. Marla had created an adorable image that Allyn thought "just wasn't there yet." I wondered how that could be true until she showed us the final, final image and the entire auditorium sighed and laughed, "Awwwww!!!" It was perfect, truly perfect. That is what a great editor can do. I also loved that Allyn sends Marla funny postcards and bits of inspiration on ideas she thinks she should pursue. They obviously have a great relationship. I was so glad to hear Clarion is reprinting Mrs. Biddlebox, but bummed to know, I had an original and had not brought it for Marla to sign. Why oh why did I pack clothes instead of books?
     Awesome lady, Kirby Larson spoke next. I was touched by the story of her Grandmother and her inspiration for Hattie Big Sky. I had read about some of it online, but to hear it in person made it more real. Kirby has definitely climbed the rungs of this ladder to success, without a miss, and I am so, so happy for her.
     For the break-out session, I attended Krista Marino's talk about the editor/writer relationship. Odd fact I learned about Delacorte, even though they are an imprint of Random House, they have three floors of their building and their own separate elevator, so are definitely an entity unto themselves. They don't do picture books, but feel they can take risks with their MG and YA because of the money brought in by their mass market and highly commercial accounts. She also mentioned that an editor will usually read a project 7 to 10 times before it's finished, so they really have to love a manuscript. Kind of sheds light on just how much, eh?
     Finally I had a true lunch, and a treat at that. I joined my online friend, Tracy Grand, creator of my beloved Jacketflap. (Click here for a great interview Cynthia did on her website.) I've been a beta tester for Tracy ever since I discovered Jacketflap in its early days. Having spent my original four years in this business researching information all over the internet, I was thrilled to find it all in one place. I just wish Jacketflap had been created earlier. Tracy has made it into an ever-expanding resource - a true hub for the children's book community. If you somehow don't know about it yet, go check it out!
     Back to the ballroom, Lisa Yee gave an inspirational talk about writing from her "suddenly Chinese" perspective. She said, "Write about what you want to know about." Although she did add, if you're going to write about a culture other than your own, "You better get it right!"
     Another wowsa panel of powerful women was next. Dinah Stevenson, Emma Dryden, Rachel Griffiths, Julie Strauss-Gabel, and Allyn Johnston talked about their "perfect book" although they all hope there isn't such a thing (they'd be out of work). Dinah wants a story to make the hairs on her arms stand up. Julie (who claims her age of arrested development as 14 to 16) wants an older, contemporary yet literary YA novel. She also said something that really stuck with me, "There's not much you can do to sell yourself, much more to hinder yourself." Emma claims her arrested age of development to be 6 - which you can see when she reads her picture books - she just glows. Most claimed to be generalists, liking all children's literature. As Rachel said, "They're reading hussies." :)
     They did mention some things they could live without ever seeing again: stories that begin with waking up; stories that begin in a dream; stories that begin with looking in a mirror; too much alliteration; and too much character description.
     They also all use the New York Times Best Seller List as a barometer by which to measure their progress. Hmmmm. And the message they keep getting: fewer, better books.
     During one of our quick breaks, I was finally able to track down Anastasia Suen, author of Picture Writing which I have recommended forever in my article, "How Do I Get Published." She is just as energetic as I knew she'd be. Unfortunately, I was about out of energy, but I wish we'd had more time to talk.
     Back to our seats to let our brains soar as Lee Bennett Hopkins shared beautiful poems with us. He has such a strong presence and musical voice - he was a pleasure.
     Finally we reached the end. People scattered for book signings and cupcakes then disappeared. I imagine many caught flights or collapsed in their rooms.

     That evening, hubbie and I hung out on the patio with two more Southern Breezers, this time from Mississippi. Katie Anderson and Sarah Francis Hardy - we had breakfast one day too - great gals! We had wine and exhaled from our inspiring, albeit exhausting, weekend.
     Along with the fantastic advise and insights into the publishing industry and everybody I've already mentioned, I also made some new friends. Anna M. Lewis - we gotta talk! Steve Harper - thanks for the Photoshop tip! Lisa Albert, wish you'd been called to sing during the luncheon! Katie and Sarah Francis - thanks for all the easy smiles. Leslie Muir - when are we doin' lunch?
     Lin and Stephen and the rest of the SCBWI staff - you did a great job, thanks SO much. We learned a lot, had a great time, and I can't wait until I can attend again.

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