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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Excellent Writing Tips from the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators

I love going to writer’s workshops and meeting with people in “the know”
Authors, agents, editors and publishers; these are my type of celebrities.
A few weeks ago I attended the Society for Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators Conference in Scottsdale, AZ. 
At the beginning of the conference, the following quote was read:
There is vitality, a life force, energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action.  And because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.  The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares to other expressions.  It is your business to keep the channel open.  You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.  You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that activate you.
Keep the channel open.
-Martha Graham

In other words, keep going, keep writing and realize you have something wonderful to share.
Some other great tips:
Teen author and Senior Editor at Katherine Tegen Books Claudia Gabel reminded us to avoid editing your story while writing it. 
This is something I’m guilty of.
You see, writing my first novel was like falling in love.  If love is blind, then I wrote my novel with my eyes closed.  I didn’t really understand what was happening to me; through me, because I was so caught up in the story.  Before I realized it I was attached, addicted and totally in love.  All I could think about were the characters in my book and how each word and sentence brought them alive. 
 I didn’t worry about editing, word count and query letters.
But that was then.
Falling in love usually means some sort of heartbreak.  I’ve received a few of those in a little thing called rejection letters.
Now that I understand the process, writing has a different feel to it.  Like dating again after a botched relationship, I’m a bit more cautious. I need to let go of the heartache (rejections) because writing needs to be uninhibited, carefree and full of passion.
Hence, my hole falling in love analogy again.
So, I need to be reminded to avoid editing while writing.  This is a great tip for me.
Another tip is from Eve Adler of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.  She says to read as many books as possible; from the classics to New York Times best sellers.
My gym time is my reading time and I always have a book in hand.  The counselor keeps telling me it's not really a workout if I'm reading a book, but I disagree.  I'm breathing heavy and sweating, doesn't that count as something.Currently, you can find me on the stair-stepper sweating to the novel The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.
Aibileen is my hero.
I really enjoyed hearing from Calista Brill, Editor of First Second Books.  She shared ideas of graphic novels and how they are pushing the limits of children and YA writing.  I’ve meet with a couple authors in this genre and I really like the angel this style of writing offers.
Jill Corcoran, an agent with Herman Agency put a beautiful face on what a living, breathing and successful agent looks and acts like.

I tried to write down everything she said, from how to write a query letter to reminding us that ultimately, we the writers are in charge of our career.  
Jill’s blog can be found here.
Francesco Sedita, vice president and publisher of Grosset & Dunlap and Price Stern Sloan says that we write because we love it. 
With all the critiques, suggestions and competition, this is the most important thing to remember.  “Stop over thinking and just write already.”

Francesco shared his own story of growing up with a name like Francesco.  He used humor to prove a wonderful point:  there really is a story in everything.
Amelia Anderson from Chronicle Books demonstrated how children's books are so much more then just books.

She takes children's literature and turns it into board books, greeting cards, arts and crafts and more.  Think paper dolls gone wild; cut-outs, mobiles and games all from stories we love to read.
The conference introduced me to many new friends of SCBWI.  Truly, authors are the nicest group of people you’re going to meet, like Michelle Rock-Parker, regional advisor of the SCBWI Arizona Chapter.  
And my sweet friend Sarah, one of the hardest working author's I know.  She is such an inspiration.
So, here I go again.  Write, edit, query; three little words that seem to make up much of my world.  Hopefully one day the word published will be in there too.
Linking up to:

Jenny Matlock


  1. I LOVED reading The Help! Amazing story...loved it! Writing children's literature is one of my "dreams" not even sure where to start, but thanks for sharing a bit of your story!

  2. Good that you are continuing to write children's books. Besides decorating, I also love to write children's literature...primarily for preschool age children. Keep writing and don't stop. Would love to read a copy of your book when it is published. Do you have a writers group to work with? Thanks for sharing. Decgal

  3. excellent post! thanks for sharing! i love your blog! i'll be back!..... blessings...s...

  4. While I don't write books, I do blog and I think a lot of these tips cross over to all types of writing. Great post -I loved it!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this! I would love to go to a conference like that. Amazing. I loved that quote you began with as well. I'm feeling more inspired. -Thanks for the perfect 'E' post.

  6. What a wonderful and inspiring post!! I know I will keep coming back to it again, especially when I am feeling "blocked." Thanks so much for writing this!!!!

  7. Thanks for sharing that quote in your comment on my recent post. What wonderful things you learned and thanks for being willing to share them with a few of us wannabes out there!

  8. Carry on!

    You are so motivated and talented, that I'm sure it will happen for you...

  9. Sounds like an enjoyable and enlightening experience. Good luck with your writing!


  10. Just in from a reading and talk by Colm Toibin. Went with my book club. He had much to say that I think you would have loved, but was interesting on how nivels come from within, not from current affairs. I'm still pondering this and all else! Book Club ladies also raving about The Help.

  11. I'm guilty of editing as I go too. Its hard! Every Nov. I participate in National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write 50,000 in one month with the goal of not editing at all and just getting in the habit or writing daily.

  12. I never edit when I write. Especially when I'm using Dr. Wicked and doing a big word count goal.

    This looks like an amazing event. And the weather was amazing now, too!

    I found this really fascinating. It was a look into the publishing world I've never known much about.

    Thanks for linking to Alphabe-Thursday and sharing this with us.