The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) hosted its 43rd Annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles this past weekend. It’s an amazing event with some of the biggest names in children’s publishing gathering for four days to inspire, advise and teach writers and illustrators at all stages of career development.
A few of the Freshman attended and we put together some of our favorite tips for you. We think these will be particularly helpful for those of you who are in the querying/submitting/just-about-to-debut stages. If you want more, there’s lots of great advice from the conference on Twitter under the hashtag #LA14SCBWI and also here: http://scbwiconference.blogspot.com/.
Charlotte Huang, Virginia Boecker, and Stacey Lee, having fun!
1. Treasure your faults. Be bad, take risks, embrace what’s difficult. (Meg Rosoff)
2. Become a collector of experiences. (Judy Schachner)
3. Your individual voice is the biggest capital you have in this business. (Justin Chanda)
4. Being a writer is the greatest journey. Sometimes I feel like I died and went to heaven, sometimes I feel like I’m just dead. (Sharon G. Flake)
5. Your creativity is not a genie in a bottle that you can just pull up whenever you think you want to. Sometimes blood is required. (Sharon G. Flake)
6. You don’t have to get it right the first time. You just have to get something right. (Tim Federle)
7. Everyone is always starting over. All of us face the same blank page. (Tim Federle)
8. Have the courage to create. Modern society almost doesn’t appreciate the creative act but we have to have the courage to do it anyway. (Tomie dePaola)
9. I never have plots. I just wait for the reviewers to tell me what my book’s about. (Judy Blume)
10. I know a lot of people who are good writers but they stop because they don’t have that determination. (Judy Blume)
The incomparable Judy Blume.
PROCESS AND CRAFT
- Try intuitive collaging: cut things out and put them together with no rhyme or reason and see what ideas it sparks. (Judy Schachner)
- There’s no such thing as writers’ block. It’s just you’re editing too early. (Stephen Chbosky)
- In writing other cultures, research has to be intensive and extensive. You have to spend months, years immersed in that culture. Spend time to get it right. (Linda Sue Park)
- You don’t create voice. Your characters reveal themselves through voice. (Sharon G. Flake)
- Don’t spend time on things that don’t matter. (Sharon G. Flake)
- Don’t bore the editor. (Linda Sue Park)
- Characters must want something. It’s never enough for them to not want something. (Maggie Stiefvater)
- Voice is about finding out who you are, about how your reaction to life is different. (Meg Rosoff)
- Don’t use subplots as a crutch. Don’t toss additional things into the story to give it an engine. If you take something out, will the book still stand? (Julie Strauss-Gabel)
- Craft equals making choices. What belongs in the story you’re trying to tell? (Dinah Stevenson)
Sharon G. Flake, who made us all cry.
WORKING WITH PUBLISHING PROFESSIONALS
- Don’t be weird with your submissions. Don’t use gimmicks to get attention. (Allyn Johnson)
- Don’t submit a revision before an editor has a chance to evaluate your first submission. (Wendy Loggia)
- Pick up the phone. Don’t rely on email. (Allyn Johnson)
- If only submitting to one editor in a house, shows that agent believes in a strong fit between editor and project. These manuscripts get earlier reads. (Wendy Loggia)
- Bring your publishers good news. Only 15% of your communications should be requests. The other 85% should be gratitude and good news. (Tim Federle)
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. (Mary Lee Donovan)
- Send handwritten cards to assistants, interns and blurbers. (Tim Federle)
The Golden Kite Luncheon
MARKETING AND PUBLICITY
- Start your marketing blitz when your book has been published. (Erin Murphy)
- Include your book’s ISBN # on any printed promotional material. (Erin Murphy)
- Remember to write characters and story. Marketing doesn’t trump storytelling. (Justin Chanda)
- What’s your backstory? What inspired you to write this book? Knowing this helps publicity department to come up with the pitch for your book. (Shanta Newlin)
- Develop a good two-sentence pitch. (Shanta Newlin)
- Develop an email list and send a newsletter once or twice a year. (Erin Murphy)
- Book trailers can be used if part of a larger campaign, only if there’s a real way to distribute it. (Emily Romero)
- Write your next book. Nothing sells backlist like frontlist. (Everyone)
The amazing Tim Federle, making everyone laugh.