Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wise and Witty Authors Speak!

Here are a few pithy quotes from three wonderful writers who spoke at today’s fifth annual author panel sponsored by The Studio City Library and Los Angeles Valley College’s child development department.

Lisa Yee – blogger, young adult and middle grade author:  Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally)

I love the smell of old books.

Nothing ever goes to waste with an unsold manuscript. You can use part of a rejected story in a new one.

I didn’t know public speaking was part of being an author.

Doing school visits keeps you in touch with your readers.

After I’d done my first book I bought Harold Underdown’s Complete Idiot’s Guide to Children’s Publishing to see if I’d done it right.

Barney Saltzberg – musician and picture book writer/illustrator:  Kisses

I went to art school because John Lennon did.

Books with heart and soul feel better.

If you write a bad song (or manuscript) finish it. Get it out of you. And move on.

Hope Anita Smith – poet and illustrator:  Keeping the Night Watch

I’d rather read than eat.

A book store is like home to me.

Why do I write? Because I can.

I wanted to be on Broadway. Now I’ve found a way to get to the stage – through writing.

Children’s books are the best books.

Everything is connected to words.

With a pencil and a piece of paper the world is yours.

Writing is therapeutic.

We are every age that we ever were!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

SCBWI Orange County Agent's Day

At the SCBWI Orange County Agents Day held on Saturday there were four agents looking for writers and illustrators with manuscripts ranging from picture book to young adult.

The first speaker was Mary Kole, from Andrea Brown Literary Agency.  Picture books and middle grade fiction are her specialties.  She believes that the children’s book market has done quite well throughout the economic downturn.  Adult book sales are down, but kids' book sales are up, especially in the young adult market.  The market is cyclical and the picture book market is beginning to pick up.  (Yes!)  Editors are asking for more and more picture books.  About the manuscripts she is sent, she said we should avoid conference polish syndrome.  This refers to writers putting a great deal of work into perfecting those first ten pages sent to agents or editors only to have ‘everything fall apart’ on page eleven.  Writers need to put the same care into the entire manuscript as they put in those first ten pages.

Kevan Lyon’s agency is Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.  She represents both young adult and adult women’s fiction and wants happy endings only!  Her message was to avoid clichés.  And when you’re writing queries it’s a good idea to study back cover copy or jacket flaps to learn how to grab attention in a small amount of space.  Look for agents who represent books comparable to your own work.  Both new and experienced agents are good to query when you’re looking for an agent.  New ones, because they’re eager and motivated to find clients and experienced ones for obvious reasons – their knowledge and past success.

The agents agreed it’s OK now to do multiple queries.  Rebecca Sherman, of Writers House, stressed the need to be told when you choose another agent, however.  Or even to be told you’ve been made an offer so they can decide if they would like to also offer you representation.  She asked that writers not base their decisions on who gets the manuscript first.  She’s looking for picture books by writer-illustrators, middle grade and young adult.

Brenda Bowen, who is with Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, is interested mostly in middle grade and picture books – no paranormal romances and not hugely YA.  She and Rebecca Sherman presented a mock contract negotiation for us.  Brenda, as a former editor, took the editor’s role and Rebecca the agent’s. They jockeyed back and forth till they had settled on a compromise for the details of the contract.

Brenda wound up the day with a brief synopsis of points the four agents had made.  Some of them were:
      1. show, don’t tell
      2. we want to be swept away (by a romance manuscript)
      3. be just-weird-enough when writing paranormal
      4. don’t take rejection personally
      5. books do change the lives of kids, and can make life-long readers out of them!
Agents are actively seeking author-illustrators, and though young adult manuscripts are the most desired at the moment, picture books are still being bought.  A few agents are even taking on artists who don’t write, although they encourage them to write and even work with them to develop manuscripts.  As a writer, there was also encouraging news about children’s publishing in general, and apparently many agents are seeking new clients.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Painting in Progress -- Kitten

After writing 7 picture books in 7 days, it was time to paint!  I spent a couple of days working intensely on a painting for a gallery group show......but this one is just for fun!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Seven Picture Books in Seven Days -- Success!

Hurray!  Miraculously I finished my seven picture books in seven days.

Granted, I finished #7 after midnight, but it was well along so I'm counting it.  It was a wild ride.  I have a couple of pending deadlines looming, but really wanted to be a part of Paula Yoo's challenge.

Here's what I wrote about::
  1. accidentally making the right choice
  2. cats on duty
  3. an alphabet book
  4. imagination
  5. a toy factory
  6. Father Frost - retold Russian folk tale
  7. fugitive cats
I plan to keep working on all of them!  Wish I could relax now, but there's that painting due on Tuesday......

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Seven Picture Books in Seven Days…Continues

I’m on schedule so far….five picture books ‘done,’ although I have to check with Paula Yoo on one of them.  Did I cheat?  She says they have to have a beginning, middle and end.  On a particularly hectic day I wrote an alphabet book.  As an illustrator I see everything visually and I got very excited about how I would illustrate it.  So it seems like a real book to me.  I figure the middle of the book is the letter M!

All my other books meet the proper criteria, according to the rules.

I’ve been reading and sympathizing with Paula’s reports on her own picture book writing and have enjoyed reading the comments of the rest of us crazies!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Writer to Writer -- It's All for the Book

Sunday’s session at Writer to Writer was an enlightening look at the inner workings of children’s publishers’ sales staffs.  Catherine Linka of Flintridge Book Store invited Lise Friedman, formerly of Macmillan, and Nicole White of Penguin to speak.  They presented a point of view writers rarely hear, and shared a glimpse of what it is to be a field sales rep.

The number of lines they represent and the volume of books and tip sheets they read to prep for a sales meeting are amazing.  Publishers and editors might also provide audio tapes, describing their books and pitching their strong points.  At the meetings the rep acts as the author’s – no, the book’s – advocate in such things as how to position the book in the market (indies buy differently from big chains, etc.).  It was interesting to learn that when reps are involved in such issues as book jackets and the editor hears the dreaded phrase “Is that cover final?” it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Reps watch covers for – and point out – inappropriate things (pink on a boy’s book) and contradictions (the straight-haired heroine shouldn’t be pictured with curls).

After a sales meeting the reps review their notes, read more books, study catalogs and head out to stores.  They prep heavily so they can discuss and recommend books to help the buyer find the best match for their store.  They might not personally like a particular book, but don’t convey that unless they’re asked.  They also provide feedback to the publisher as to the response to books out in the world, and share with indie store buyers the experiences and reactions of their indie peers.

An interesting question asked was whether the size of an author’s advance has any relation to the amount of money spent promoting the book.  The response was ‘not directly’, because the belief in a book’s likelihood to sell big was the determining factor.  Unknowns as well as the well-knowns could prove to be a big sales opportunity.

Because of the economy, sales reps are being downsized and it’s frightening to think how large an area is sometimes being covered by only one person.  Some publishers are now going with phone reps!  Some indie stores no longer have any reps at all – not good news.  Print catalogs are endangered, too.  Many of those are going on line.

Lise and Nicole gave us some good links to industry resources for what’s hot with book sellers.  As an author you can get involved with your regional Independent Booksellers Association.  Find out what matters to them, show them you care!  Go to events and meet reps.  When you join the Southern California chapter (SCIBA) you can access a directory of reps.  There’s also Indie Bound and the Association of Booksellers for Children.  And, for industry news there's American Booksellers Association and Shelf Awareness.

I came away feeling more ‘in the loop’ about what’s happening with Abiah.  And with the feeling that sales reps aren’t just sales reps – they’re advocates.  It’s All for the Book.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Children's Literature Council Spring Workshop

Saturday I attended the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California’s Spring Workshop, "Old Passions - New Technologies:  Children’s and Young Adult Literature in a Web 2.0 World".  Wow! Big name and big subject, but a very enjoyable event.  I signed up at the last moment, and was so glad I did.  For me it was a continuation of my much-needed education in internet technology.  Tweet Deck, Site Meter, and inkpop!  A whole new language – embrace the tools!

I blogged earlier about the very helpful retreat that I attended in Santa Barbara last January.  Both events included Greg Pincus as one of the presenters.  Saturday he was representing, which is made up of reviewers, librarians, authors, illustrators, etc. who love books and blog about them.  As usual he was very knowledgeable and generous with information.  Greg knows all the useful links – here’s a few: Kidlitosphere Central (a great place to start your journey of finding connections, information and content as well as good blog sites); Kidlitosphere's “Sampler Set” of Blogs; Anastasia Suen’s blogroll on the right of page, and the Google Reader Tutorial Videos.  I love tutorials!

Greg and Elizabeth

Elizabeth Khuri Chandler is the co-founder of Goodreads, which is the largest social network for readers in the world.  Thanks to Elizabeth’s talk I’ve learned that the site can also be useful and helpful for the children’s literature world.  On Goodreads Author Program authors can promote their work, have profiles, upload videos, publicize upcoming events and generate a following.  Elizabeth said this is the best time for writers and readers, right now!

Eva Mitnick is Manager of Youth Services at the Los Angeles Public Library.  She’s a blogger, a reviewer, and says she’s completely obsessed with books!  About blogging she advised:  Find a platform, choose a unique name and a unique niche.  If it’s work related, be careful what you write.  Decide why you’re blogging.  Don’t start unless your plan is to see it through.  Have fun! don’t stress!  The unexpected benefits can be making friends and taking part in the world-wide community of children’s literature fanatics.

Eva and Tracy

Tracy Grand, CEO of JacketFlap, saw a need for a central resource site about children’s books and the people who create them.  She wanted to make it easier by concentrating information – one-stop shopping!  Technology is never done -- there's always something new!  They are constantly adding new things and updating, evolving with the world.  JacketFlap is the Google of children's lit, aggregating all the information the way Google does.  I need to be on it!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Seven Picture Books in Seven Days…is Here!

Did I think I didn’t have enough to do?  I’m planning first-picture-book promotion (only one month left to publication!) and working on a painting for a gallery show in two weeks.  But joining Paula Yoo’s week of writing a picture book a day (NaPiBoWriWee) is so good for me!  The writer me, anyway, because I haven’t been writing enough lately.

I’ve kept on schedule so far (2 ½ done).  Saturday I couldn’t begin until late, but finished book #1 by 12:30 a.m. of day two.  I kept falling asleep over it, but surprisingly it does have a beginning, middle and end.  After I finished it I inexplicably woke up completely and was so charged that I wrote book #2 by 2:30 a.m.

Paula’s posting daily updates of her progress.  (Check out the participant comments, too.)  Her advice is so encouraging, inspiring and kind.  “Don’t worry if one a day seems impossible – it is.”  The idea is to Write Every Day.  Of course they’re really first drafts.  We can revise them later – if they’re worthy of revision!

It’s great fun and so far I do want to work more on the stories I’ve written – maybe there will be a keeper!