Saturday, March 8, 2008
Saturday's SCBWI Conference
Today I attended a local SCBWI conference that focused on picture books.
Since all picture books are somewhat like poems -- few words, with each word being the best and strongest ones for the job -- we began with the poet, Dinah Johnson, discussing her work with historical African American books and her current published books of poems. Some of her books were published as collections of poems and some were published as picture books.
Interestingly enough, The rest of the morning was dedicated to two wonderful people who have created the Babymouse Graphic novel series. Jennifer Holm and her brother, Matthew. Besides the fact that both of them are wonderful storytellers, their work fills a real need for graphic novels for young children. (and besides which -- It features a GIRL mouse. Jeni kept saying, "Where are the Girl heroes?" So she created one.
There are so few graphic novels for this age group. I can only think of two.
-- Owly -- which is practically wordless
-- and Babymouse -- your typical schoolkid who has to cope with mean schoolmates, and music concerts, and tests, and her own wild imagination. (a locker so over full that the contents fill the hallway when emptied? Including the dinosaur?)
The 8-year old, a big Babymouse fan, was disappointed that I did not take her today. But she's excited about going with me next month when Jennifer Holm puts on a program for children at the library.
They showed us how to set up the storyboards they use to create the panels in Babymouse. And talked about how much things change once the editor and art director see what they've done.
In the afternoon Molly O'Neill talked about the new imprint at Harper Collins, Bowen Press, and what they are looking for. It's a tiny imprint with a proposed output of 15 books a year at all levels. She showed us previews of the first books to be coming out from this press (they look delicious) and described their appeal. Mostly fiction. Some special nonfiction.
Her description of this first list:
Books about cultural trendds and global matters. (the nonfiction book)
--Literary fiction. (Virginia Wolff completes her series which began with Make Lemonade.)
--Popular fiction. (Dragons and a new Mary Rodgers book called Freaky Monday. Hurrah! Freaky Friday fans will be thrilled.)
--Bold and Arresting picture books. (a retelling of The Fisherman's Wife featuring a kid and a magical lion instead of the wife and magical fish, plus an utterly simple but charming book of friendship and love. It was passed around, but our side of the room never got to see it, so I can't describe it any better but you can betcha that I'll probably grab it to booktalk whenever it comes into my library.)
--Graphic material (beautifully done about the battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address.)
--First novel/ new talent (they'll try their darndest to discover new wonderful writers to feature.)
Unfortunately, the imprint is closed to over the transom submissions. The door was slightly cracked open to those of us who attended the conference -- we could submit ONE thing.
(And it had better be the best thing we've ever done. I'm sure all of us are sitting at home tonight, bonking our heads like Pooh and saying, "Think, think, think. What should I send?")
It ended with a panel discussion at the end answering multiple questions the audience had for the speakers.
No, I"m wrong.
It ended with us trying to make our way home under a thunderstorm with high winds, driving rain, hail, and complete road blockage by downed trees. What an ending!