Monday, March 10, 2014

SCBWI Winter Conference Wrap-up #1 2014

Every few years, I'm able to find both the time and the funds to get to one of the SCBWI National conferences. The NY Winter Conference rolls around each February, and the LA Summer Conference is in August. Each time I've gone, I've lucked out, because I seem to hit on the Best Conference Ever. (Or is it possible that all the SCBWI national conferences are phenomenal?)

This year, I was lucky to be able to attend the NY Conference on some of the few days that New York has actually had fair weather this winter. I took that as a good omen! That, and the giant head with the Cat in the Hat topper greeting us in the hotel lobby. And my roomie (and Dublin critique partner) Nancy Roe Pimm, who is always smiling, laughing, having a good time. The tone was set! Fun conference ahead.

We started out Saturday morning pre-session sipping tea with a group of ultra cool ladies, including Edith Pattou, Colleen Moidu, and Jill Bixel, and Elizabeth Wein. You'll read more about Elizabeth in the wrap-up, but this illustrates what I adore about the writing community:  Before the conference, I had contacted the British Isles SCBWI chapter to see if anyone might be attending the conference. My current WIP features a Scottish setting and I wanted to make sure I was getting sensory details correct. Elizabeth emailed me and offered to meet up. So gracious. Absolutely love her.

There was so much goodness packed into those two days, it will be hard to fit it all in just a few blog posts, but here are some of the highlights:

In the Welcome, Lin Oliver opened up the conference for the "tribe" by giving the attendance stats. I love when these are announced each conference because it shows how huge, widespread, and yet connected the children's literature community is. There were 1,085 people in attendance, hailing from 47 states and 20 countries.

She introduced Kristen Fulton, an attendee of this years conference who shared her experience of getting an agent and getting published. Karen had been a veterinarian, but discovered she had stage 3 breast cancer just about the time her youngest was moving out of the house. She was unable to continue her career, so she asked herself, What next? She had always wanted to write for kids, so she switched gears, found SCBWI, attended numerous conferences to learn the business and the craft, and wrote, wrote, wrote. She now has a two book deal with Scholastic. Hooray, Kristen!

Jack Gantos's keynote had the entire ballroom in stitches. Awesome, awesome speaker.  Some of the takeaways:

*  "A great character will carry a weak plot, but a great plot will not carry a lousy character."

*  "A reader has to feel what the character feels... without empathy you don't have a good book."

*  "The reason we read books is to change. As writers, we have to infuse change into our writing so that the reader feels it."

*  A great book should have two good endings - the external ending and the emotional one. "At the end of the story you have to solve the problem and bring in empathy."

*  "To be a great writer, you have to be a great reader." (Yes! Yes! Yes!)

Next came the keynote panel: The Future of Authorship. Panelists included Paul Aiken of the Author's Guild, Jean Feiwel, SVP Publishing Director at MacMillan Children's Books; Jane Friedman, web guru and editor, Virginia Quarterly Review; author Abby Gaines; and Timothy Travalini, Director of Children's Acquisitions at Open Road Media.

They discussed the changes in the industry with the growth of e-books, social media, self-publishing, etc.  We have lost 60-70% of our shelf space, Mr. Aiken said. "The opportunity (to succeed) is still there, but we need to adapt."

Ms. Gaines seconded that. She began by building her author platform online and publishing e-books. She made mistakes (says her first book was truly bad) but has learned and adapted and is now a top selling author, with both e-pub and traditional publishing credits.  Ms. Friedman agreed that this was a smart strategy. She says that building author platforms should be organic, slow, and about connecting to readers.

Elizabeth Wein spoke on Bearing Witness, Authorial Responsibility. If you have read her books, CODE NAME VERITY and ROSE UNDER FIRE, you know the kind of authenticity Elizabeth brings to her books. (If you have not yet read these books, what are you waiting for?)

I assumed the keynote would be about getting our
research correct - and she did speak a bit about that - but she also spoke a lot about our responsibility as authors to be gracious and positive. She noted the jealousy and self-consciousness that can sneak up on us as writers and artists, but says to approach every aspect of our careers with appreciation.

"The tide comes and goes and comes again," she said, and reminded us how important it is to "maintain grace" in the face of both adversity and success. (I.e., send thank you notes, be happy for others' successes, don't post negative comments about anyone in any forum, etc.)

Elizabeth says her message to young readers, all the way from her first book THE WINTER PRINCE, is "Take responsibility for your own actions." Authors should do the same.

The next keynote panel, Banning Books- Where Do We Stand featured Joan Bertin of the National Coalition Against Censorship, author Ellen Hopkins, and Chair of the Pen American Center Children's and Young Adult Book Committee, Susanna Reich.

I admit to skipping out on this one to visit with my dear friend from the area, Jen McAndrews (a huge motivation for me to attend NY conferences), but I do have some notes that were shared with me.

Susanna Reich noted that 72 of the top 100 most challenged books in the past years have been children's books. She also said "To create something, you have to face your own fears." (More on writing bravely later.

Ellen Hopkins, whose books have been banned numerous times, had these words of wisdom to share:
*  You make children stronger by giving them the truth.
*  Pull the books out from under the covers and read them with your kids.
*  If a 13-year-old experiences sexual abuse, shouldn't she have the right to read a book about it??
*  Write bravely. Speak the truth. We have a responsibility to our readers - not the censors.

That should about do it for now. Individual workshop recaps and Sunday wrap-up coming. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 03, 2014

FAST FICTION with Denise Jaden

Rather than doing a traditional interview-filled blog tour, Denise Jaden is celebrating the release of her new nonfiction writing book, FAST FICTION, by dropping tips about writing quickly at every stop of her blog tour, and offering some awesome prizes for commenting on any of these posts (including this one!)

The more you drop by and comment, the more chances you have to win these great prizes:

Denise's Fast Fiction Tip: Be kind to other writers.
I would not be where I am in my writing career without the help of other writers. That’s just a fact. When I first started considering trying to get my work published, my main critique partner was the biggest help to me, not only in fixing up my manuscript, but also in figuring out how to navigate the landscape of publishing, from query letters to the variety of different publishers. I have had other writers read an entire full-length manuscript over a weekend, when I’ve needed some specific timely feedback. I believe my book sales are a big reflection of the writer-friends who have cheered me on and promoted my books to their friends. I’m so thankful for these things, and so it is always part of my thinking now that anything I can do for the other writers in my life, any time, it is well worth my effort. I run a yearly March Madness challenge on my blog each year, offering encouragement and great prizes. I try to offer words of advice and encouragement whenever I can. Do what you can for the writers in your life. Treat their manuscripts as if they are your own. Offer networking connections and promotion when you can. I guarantee it will come back to you if it hasn't already!

The Prizes:

  • Compliments of New World Library: They will be giving away A BOX of copies of FAST FICTION by Denise Jaden and GET IT DONE by Sam Bennett (US and Canada only):
  • Compliments of Denise Jaden, TWO BOXES of great fiction (US Only). Details on Denise's blog.
  • Audiobook copies of NEVER ENOUGH by Denise Jaden!
  • A critique of your first five pages, compliments of Denise's agent, Michelle Humphrey from The Martha Kaplan Agency!

All you have to do is enter the rafflecopter for a chance to win (at the bottom of this post, I've included links to all of the other blogs where you can comment for more chances to win).

About Fast Fiction:

Writers flock to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) each November because it provides a procrastination-busting deadline. But only a fraction of the participants meet their goal. Denise Jaden was part of that fraction, writing first drafts of her two published young adult novels during NaNoWriMo. In Fast Fiction, she shows other writers how to do what she did, step-by-step, writer to writer. Her process starts with a prep period for thinking through plot, theme, characters, and setting. Then Jaden provides day-by-day coaching for the thirty-day drafting period. Finally, her revision tips help writers turn merely workable drafts into compelling and publishable novels.

A portion of publisher proceeds will be donated to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

Praise for Fast Fiction:

“Fast Fiction is filled with stellar advice, solid-gold tips, and doable, practical exercises for all writers who want to draft a complete novel.”
— Melissa Walker, author of Violet on the Runway

“Being a ‘pantser’ I have always resisted outlining, but I have to say that Fast Fiction changed my mind! Denise Jaden takes what I find to be a scary process (outlining) and makes it into an easy and, dare I say, enjoyable one. Fast Fiction is a hands-on book that asks the right questions to get your mind and your story flowing. I know I’ll be using Fast Fiction over and over again. Highly recommended for fiction writers!
— Janet Gurtler, author of RITA Award finalist I’m Not Her

“Fast Fiction is full of strategies and insights that will inspire and motivate writers of every experience level — and best of all, it provides them with a solid plan to quickly complete the first draft of their next novel.”
— Mindi Scott, author of Freefall

“Fast Fiction provides writers with the perfect mix of practical guidance and the kick in the pants they need to finish that draft. This book is a must-have for writers of all levels.”
— Eileen Cook, author of The Almost Truth

Practical and down-to-earth, Denise Jaden’s Fast Fiction makes a one-month draft seem doable, even for beginners, any month of the year.”
— Jennifer Echols, author of Endless Summer and Playing Dirty

“One of the greatest challenges any writer faces is getting a great idea out of one’s brain and onto the page. Fast Fiction breaks that process down into concrete, manageable steps, each accompanied by Denise Jaden’s sage advice and enthusiastic encouragement. And anything that helps streamline the drafting process is a-okay by me! Fast Fiction is a great addition to any writer’s toolbox — I’ve got it in mine!”
— Catherine Knutsson, author of Shadows Cast by Stars

“Forget the fact that this resource is directed at those wanting to complete a fast draft — if you’re out to get your novel done, period, Jaden’s Fast Fiction will be the kick in the butt that gets you there, from story plan to ‘The End’. . . and beyond.”
— Judith Graves, author of the Skinned series for young adults

Where you can find Fast Fiction:

Help an author out:
Can't get a copy of FAST FICTION right now? I wonder if you'd consider helping out in other ways. I'd really appreciate any way that you can help!

  • Ask your library or bookstore to bring in FAST FICTION
  • Leave a review on Amazon (the more books are reviewed on Amazon, the more they will show up as suggestions for readers).
  • Mention FAST FICTION on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or pin a link to Amazon on Pinterest
Blog Tour Stops:
Comment on any of the following blog posts celebrating Fast Fiction's release to be entered to win prizes galore! 
(All Fast Fiction blog posts should be live by March 9th, or sooner. Contest will be open until March 15th. If any links don't work, stop by for updated links.)

GCC Blogs:

Additional Participating Blogs:

Remember, all you have to do is leave comments to get lots of extra entries to win some great prizes. 
Don't know what to comment about? Tell us the name of your favorite writing book!

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