Sunday, March 29, 2009

SCBWI- Oklahoma conference

Last weekend we had an awesome conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma. First let me tell you of all the worry everyone had beforehand. A big snow storm was suppose to blow in. And it did! I didn't get pics during the day, but you should have seen how beautiful it was. It snowed and snowed and snowed all day long. When we went to our cars, a foot of snow was piled on our hoods. (seriously)

Our first speaker, art director, Laurent Linn with Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers was fantastic. He was very funny and personable. He talked about the Anatomy of a Picture book.

-The Physical--hardcover, paperback
-The Literary Sense--how it's perceived, the story
-What is a picture book ultimately?--it's about connecting with the kids

And also...
Six PB genres:
1. Holiday Books
2. Folktale or Fairytale
3. A child's discovery of the world
4. Nonfiction
5. Poetry
6. Animals

Next, the very sweet, Mary Kate Castellani from Walker Books for Young Readers shared the Five Elements that Make or Break a Manuscript.

-Plot: has to be unique and intriguing
-Characterization: reader has to care about your character, know them like they are real
-Voice: essential
-Setting: needs to be weaved throughout, it can sometimes be its own character
-Details: Show don't tell, can write physical look of character by comparing to someone else- immediate picture

She read from several books to demonstrate these elements.

After Mary Kate came Kristin Daly with Harper Collins. She was such fun and seemed excited to be there. She spoke about Bridging the Picture Book-Middle Grade Gap: The Role of Easy-to-Reads and Chapter Books

Easy to Reads:
1. Content-good story or plot
2. Character- appealing protagonist
3. Format issues-Vocabulary, language
4. Rhythm and Repetition
5. Sentence structure-avoid dependent clauses
6. Illustrations-interaction between pictures and text

Chapter Books:
*Age group:
Early Readers 4-8
MG- 8-12
CB-8-10, word count- 5,000-6,000 younger; 9,000-10,000 older

Most important things of Chapter Books:
-Edited with audiences reading level in mind
-Black and white illustrations
-Plots are straightforward, character based
-Most are part of a series

Then after lunch, we listened to Gail Gross, Royalty consultant. She went over things an author should look for in a contract. (These are pieced together because there was so much info)

1. Author or author's representative has right to review books of publisher
2. Right to review relevant records maintained by publisher with respect to any royalty statement not locked in.
3. Era
4. Look back clause-don't reject right to look at royalty statement within certain amount of time.

Deciphering Royalty statement (after 1st advance paid and check deposited)
1. How many total copies of books were sold in royalty period cumulative sales
2. Are royalties properly calculated
3. Royalty cover price-number of units and royalty
4. Special sales clause-outside of normal channels of distribution(eg. dog book sold at animal stores, vet clinics etc)
5. What are the reserve for returns?
6. Sub-rights-deals publisher makes with other publishers-reprint rights etc.

Next up was Abigail Samoun, Tricycle Press-Crown Books. She sat at my table at lunch and seemed genuinely interested in what we all had to say. She spoke of Three Wheeling down the Road to Publication.

The Editor's Role:
-They guide project through development
-Champions project
-Offers guidance and suggestions
-Acts as keeper of story's logic and clarity
-Helps to find illustrator
-Helps art director
-Communicates with production staff

Rejection Letters:
-Respect their history
-Keep a collection and treat yourself after you get so many, shows you are trying
-If advice is given, consider it carefully then follow up

The PB process:
From manuscript to finished book
I. Editing your manuscript
-Does proposed format fit story? Intended audience? Topic?
-Story arc
-Point of view
-Back and front matter
-the development letter

-Rhyme scheme
-Language level

II. Paginations
-how the text will fit on every page

III. Working with illustrator
-finding perfect artist for project

IV. Illustrations

-takes months

To end the day we had agent, Elana Roth from the Caren Johnson Literary Agency. She gave us a great metaphor for relationships with agents.

1. Make sure your book is ready
2. Know what you're looking for (check out websites. Find one that reps what you write. Do your homework!)
3. Put yourself out there- conferences, queries, use words masterfully
4. Do's and Don'ts
-Do check blogs and websites for submission guidelines
-Don't e-mail or call for submission guidelines
-Do spell names correctly
-Don't say "This can appeal to all readers everywhere," or "My kids love it."
-Don't burn bridges
-Don't e-mail back and ask why you got rejected
-Do be clear in queries about your book
-Do be patient when waiting on response

The Call: Questions to ask
1. Ask about communication style (How quickly do you get back to me? e-mail, phone)
2. What is agents vision for your career (What publishers do they work with?)
3. What kind of editorial work do you provide?
4. Foreign rights? Film rights?
5. Go with your gut, level of enthusiasm, intelligence

Run away if: (for agents)
1. Lack of focus, poor submission history
2. Too many manuscripts under the bed
3. Crazy- personality just doesn't click

Run away if (for writers)
1. Shady history-no background, not enough sales
2. Money- wants money up front
3. High turnover- staff, writers

1. Sign Contract- responsibilities, clauses
2. Balance of Power- partnership BUT author provides product, agent provides guidance
3. Communication- Be clear and honest with one another
4. Be kept informed and speak up if not happy

Agent should be passionate about your writing
Relationships sometimes change

1. Client not producing
2. If relationship is not working, do not stick it out
3. Terminate your agent before finding a new one
4. You deserve any and all rights
5. Don't burn bridges; be on best behavior

All of the speakers were amazing and friendly. Many of us went to dinner afterwards and had a great time getting to know them a little bit better. Kristen Daly sat beside me at dinner and she said our regional advisor, Anna Myers, was a rock star!! Anna really went above and beyond to make the guests feel welcome. Between Anna and our assistant regional advisor, Darlina Eichman, they never disappoint at our conferences. Thank you, Anna and Darlina, for always taking care of your Oklahoma writers.

May our next conference be as wonderful as this one was. Spring conference 2009.


  1. Thanks! I'm trying to send you the pics. I'll have to send smaller files.

  2. Good work, Sara! You took great notes.

  3. Thanks, Jeannie! I was writing as fast as I could, but I'm sure I missed a lot, especially with Gail. She gave out so much and my hand couldn't keep up. Guess I need to invest in a tape recorder. :)

  4. Wow! Lots of great info here. Thanks for coming by my blog!