The annual summer conference of the Maryland/ Delaware/ West Virginia section of the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) is in session now.
There are so many good speakers that people are objecting to the fact that three and sometimes four workshops are scheduled at the same time -- and they wanted to go to at least two of them. (at the same time)
I thought I'd post some gems that I've collected from each speaker:
The first thing you notice as you enter the conference center is the room for book sales. At least two books for each speaker are being offered. I know I'm going to go home with a bag of them.
First off, the charming agent, Stephen Fraser -- Leaping into ACTION: How an Agent sells your Book. This was a basic session to any published author, and to any person who has read agent's blogs, but quite informative to those beginners there.
GEM: you must create an Elevator Pitch! What's that? It's a one minute summary of what your book is about.
2nd GEM: Three things to remember that every writer should have
Creativity -- ideas are everywhere, Catch them!
Bravery -- Don''t be afraid to submit. You haven't copied anyone -- no one has ever told your unique story.
Joy -- Be alert to good ideas with a Joyful awareness and be excited about working with it.
Author (and RA) Edie Hemingway (That IS my real name) and her editor, Michelle Poploff showed the steps Edie's book, ROAD TO TATER HILL, went through after the contract offer. Revision and more revision. Edie had all the versions there for everyone to see.
Michelle's GEM: Every Character has to pull their weight.
Next up -- Marc Aronson discussing Trends in Nonfiction. This was depressing and hopeful.
Series books reign. But there is a place for a Nonfiction book with Passion. Nonfiction books that are FUN.
He also discussed the new trend in classroom visits -- virtual visits using SKYPE.
Even nonfiction should have illustrations -- he likes them to be every other page and he writes with an eye toward their placement.
There were three other sessions during this same time period. I made a vow to try to hit all of them in the afternoon.
Keynote Speaker, Margaret Peterson Haddix. -- Along for the Ride: Taking Readers Where your Imagination Takes you.
Afternoon breakout sessions:
1. Kelley Cunningham and Karen Nelson did Illustration critique, flipping through illustrations on the computer that attendees had brought. Their comments were illuminating. I hope they helped the illustrators there to see where they had succeeded or had missed.
2. Editor/ Agent Panel where all the agents and editors there answered questions from the audience.
GEM: It's the writing they judge. All other things in your query letter are often ignored. Let your manuscript speak for itself. (But, yes you do need a cover letter with that Elevator speech and comparisons to other books showing you know the market. But skip the long chunk of information about yourself. It's interesting but not pertinent to their decision.)
3. Elana Roth -- The Great Query Caper was a fun workshop where Elana handed out a packet of real Queries she had received. (names removed to protect the senders) The audience was to judge whether to reject or to ask for the complete manuscript to be sent for consideration. That was an eye opener to the group
The final speaker was Marc Aronson, again. The Truth is... A Question.
GEM: Behind every answer lurks a new Question. Knowledge continues to change.
2nd GEM All World History is tragically interconnected. There is no American History. Everything that happens/ happened here is part of what is happening all over the world. (lots of examples)
Then I got to drive Marc (and my co-writer, Mary Bowman-Kruhm) to the train station. What did we talk about? Nonfiction, of course. Research. Mary's trips to Africa. My trips to verify facts for my own books. Marc's views about the interconnectedness of things and his own various researches. It was nonfiction heaven.