Okay - I'm going to post these separately because it is a LOT of information to share - I'm trying to be thorough. And I think it's going to take several posts - blogger is being cranky.
I met fellow illustrator, David Hohn, at the Starbucks watering hole that morning. More on this talented guy later.
The morning began with a panel of agents Tracy Adams (Adams Literary) and Kate Schafer (Janklow & Nesbit Associates). The contrast of a small agency vs. a large agency was interesting, as was the internet embracing vs. not approaches. Tracy has a strong reputation in the children's book business and said she chooses clients carefully because they become like family. Janklow & Nesbit is new to the children's side of the business and Kate prefers to work with MG or YA authors on a book by book basis.
Caldecott Honor winner, Coretta Scott King Award winner, illustration legend, Kadir Nelson, spoke next. Imagine walking through the Louvre with Leonardo by your side describing why he did what and how, and you start to get an idea of Kadir's talk. His work is tremendously powerful and leaves me speechless. Just follow the link and prepare to be wowed if you're not already familiar with his work. I especially liked his comments, "Beauty denies negativity" and "People always want to get there, but there's really no there. You have to keep working." Yup.
For my break-out session, I attended Lisa Wheeler's talk about rhyme in picture books. I know this was just the tip of the ice-berg, especially compared to the poetry track with Lee Bennett Hopkins, but I love Lisa's work. She read several examples of her favorites using different methods and forms. I wish I could take a full class!
Again, lunch was a joke as I was scheduled to drop off my portfolio right in the middle of the allotted time. (Can you say "hoover"?) I was a bit flustered when I got to the drop-off just under the wire!
Tamora Pierce played a joke on us at the beginning of her speech which we all fell for hook, line, and sinker. I won't tell you what it was in case you ever get to hear her talk, just leave it to say, she had us in tears from laughing so hard.
Rubin Pfeffer, Senior VP and Publisher at Simon & Schuster Children's Trade Publishing (can you say "big wig"?) was next. We learned about the state of the industry straight from the guy in charge. While he is obviously passionate about children's books (as is everybody involved in the industry) he was our reality check that it IS a business after all and that a bottom line in the black allows us all to continue doing what we love. He was guardedly optimistic, although the continuous message from book buyers is that there are too many new books every season. There are less readers out there, but they are buying more hard-covers these days (yeah!). Profits seem to be going up despite a declining demographic. MGs are the largest current growth area, but he expressed the importance of back lists. Not sure what it all means really, but Rubin presented his information with humor and smiles. I loved his line, "A good book is one that inspires to go read another one - a ripple effect." I'll bet he's a nice boss.
I attended Rachel Griffiths' (formerly of Arthur A. Levine, now Editor at Scholastic Press) break-out session on how to catch an editor's eye. It was a good look into what not to do as she read a few of the truly awful, but sadly common, query/cover letters she receives. There's definitely a difference in a letter from somebody who's done their homework! Keep an eye out for her upcoming collection of stories by authors with very strong voices, "Click." She's obviously very excited about it and a portion of sales will go to Amnesty International. She's also the editor of "Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer" (which is the next up on my "to read" stack and has been getting GREAT reviews). I also met the author, Laini Taylor, who recently dyed her hair bright magenta (check it out on her website) - she was easy to spot!
The nicest surprise for me was Ellen Wittlinger's talk. I am sorry to say I was not familiar with this acclaimed author's work, but after hearing her speak, I rushed to buy a copy of Blind Faith. Ellen speaks honestly and believably about teen struggles with sexual identity. She was so well spoken, I was moved by her attempts to make a difference in the young lives which have at times been saved by her work.
With all the new books that come out, it is nearly impossible to stay on top of them all (and I say this to what I know is a very well-read audience), but please add Ellen to your list of "must reads."
The portfolio show was next and was such a HUGE event, it deserves a posting all its own. So, keep reading!