Saturday, February 21, 2009

2009 SCBWI Winter Conference -Saturday

I wanted to wrap up the rest of the conference, but I'll keep it brief because Alice Pope did a nice job of live blogging the event with photos. You can read it here and here.

The main event started on Saturday with all of us illustrators and writer folk, all 1056 of us, in the main ballroom. It's not often that I get to hang out with so many creatives, so this in and of itself was a treat. Lin Oliver and Stephen Moser reminded us that this isn't high school, and in this group it's cool to stick out your hand and say hi.
Our first speaker was award winning author/illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka who talked to us about the highs and lows of the the biz, and about changing gears. In 2005 his book, Punk Farm, was going to be turned into a movie by Dreamworks, but then in 2006 the movie 'Barnyard' came out, so his movie deal was scrapped. Personally, I would have preferred Jarrett's rock star farm animals to whatever 'Barnyard' was any day. I mean, really, can anyone yet explain to me why the boy cows had udders?

Jarrett shared with us the process of turning Lunch Lady into a graphic novel.

Then he showed us his new video with multiple cameos from well known kid's lit stars. It's a must see for any children's book junkies: BOOK BY BOOK: the making of a monkey man

Jarrett said he was working at a camp for kids with cancer when one day he had just read a bad review, and bumped into Paul Newman, the camp's founder, who told him to not pay any attention to reviews. Newman said nothing good comes from reading reviews. The good ones will give you a big ego, and the bad ones tear you down. Jarrett also mentioned that at his very first conference he was sitting all alone at lunch, and none other than my Illinois chapter's very own Esther Hershenhorn came over and befriended him. I can see why he's always remembered this since I was fortunate enough to meet Esther last November at my first local meeting. She's one of the most supportive and encouraging people you will ever meet.

Then it was time for my first breakout session with Tamson Weston, Senior Editor at Hyperion. She said she's always loved music lyrics, and she still loves the rhythm of the words. She talked about how wonderful it was to work with Adam Rex on 'Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich' because of how receptive he is to feedback.

My second breakout session was with Caitlyn Dlouhy, Editorial Director at Antheneum Books, and imprint of Simon & Schuster. She likes picture books with a twist and feisty characters. She publishes based on voice, and not plot so much because she says she can help or change the plot, but she can't create a good voice. She said that revising is just as important or more important than writing.

We were then back in the ballroom for lunch, the highlight of which was the delicious mini cheesecake. Jay Asher gave a wonderful keynote speech titled "How to Sell a Book in 12 Years or Less. He broke down his journey year by year and agent by agent. In 2003 he wrote the first 11 pages of Th1rteen R3asons Why, but didn't know if he wanted to spend time on such a serious topic. He talked about the importance of entering the SCBWI joke contests, and how Henry Winkler was once in the audience when Jay won, and later asked if Jay would be interesting in doing a show, which didn't happen, but it's still a cool story. He gave an amazing speech that had everyone caught up in the emotional moment when he thanked his wife for supporting all his efforts towards his first published book. She broke down in happy tears, and many in the audience shed a couple too.

My last breakout session was with Timothy Travaglini, Senior Editor for G.P. Putnam's Sons. He's looking for: great voice, narrative tension, a strong first line - first paragraph - first chapter. Someone asked if he's ever regretted passing on a book that later became a big hit with a different publisher. He says that he knows a lot of people who have passed on books that became popular, and that none of them regret it. He says that if he had worked on it the stars may not have aligned the same way for him. There are so many intangibles in the process. The book was fated to go where it did. This was especially encouraging for me to hear. I love that it's all about creating the best work. He also said that it's not just about getting published, it's about staying published, and for that you have to keep at it.

We were then all back in the ballroom for our final speaker, Richard Jackson. He said that we should write not as teachers, but as artists. He said, describe what you see, either actual or imaginary. He said, so many books today are written like movies, but there's so much less to imagine in a movie.

Wow, I really need to learn how to summarize with fewer words. I'll write up Sunday in the next post.

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