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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

Over the weekend I attended the JambaLAya Kidlit Conference in New Orleans.  You can read Part One here.

Many of the notes I took at the conference not only apply to me as a writer, but could also be advice for my own students as writers.

My friend Denise Gallagher is an illustrator and she takes notes in sketches.  Here is Ernest Gaines’ advice delivered by author Freddi Williams Evans.

Denise Gallagher’s notebook

Bullet points from Freddi Williams Evans’ presentation:

  • Choose interest over trends.
  • Narrow down your topic.
  • Show some.  Don’t tell all.
  • Add kid appeal.
  • Present the truth.
  • Pay attention to details.
  • Use your voice.

Jennifer Laughran from Andrea Brown Literary Agency represents an impressive list of authors, ones I admire and follow like Kate Messner, Linda Urban, and Nancy Castaldo.  Jenn is hilarious.  Along with her humor, she presented ideas around creating your own brand.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are the meaningful themes, subjects behind my writing and life?
  • Who is my audience?
  • What is my tone?
  • What is my Big Dream?

She reminded us to “Be a mensch!” Ok, new word.  It means to be a good person.

  • Meet your book sellers.
  • Make friends with librarians.
  • Boost fellow authors.

We also heard from Grace Kendall, an editor with FSG Books for Young Readers/ Macmillan who reminded us of the 25+ questions to ask yourself about your manuscript.  And from Laurent Linn, art director at Simon & Schuster who took us through the steps from concept to book cover.

I was in awe of these giants who were easily 10 or more years my junior.  I am such a novice in this book making business, but they each made me feel like it was doable.  If my goals are in the right place, and I have a heart for children, there is room in this kidlit world for me and others like me.

If you are writing for children and ever have a chance to attend a regional SCBWI conference, go.  You will be glad you did.

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

Over the weekend I attended the JambaLAya Kidlit Conference in New Orleans put on by the SCBWI Louisiana/ Mississippi region.  I am still such a novice in the field of children’s publishing.  I learned so much as well as networked with friends, new and old.

One of the perks of a regional conference is the agents and editors who attend offer to accept unsolicited submissions following the conference. This is both good and bad.  Good because I can polish up a manuscript and send it off.  Bad because I can polish up a manuscript and send it off.

Academy of the Sacred Heart, New Orleans.

The conference took place at The Academy of Sacred Heart in uptown New Orleans on St. Charles Ave.  The building breathes of history and catholic girls.  The library had many nooks for students to tuck into to read (and editors to critique).  I was welcomed by authors such as Angie Thomas and Jason Reynolds folded out on the librarian’s desk.

I signed up for a critique from editor Catherine Frank.  She sat sweetly in the corner of the library.  I took a deep breath and tried to relax.  Maybe I tried too hard to relax because the conversation with Catherine was easy and fun.  We laughed.  We shared our love of musicals.  Wow!  She had tickets to Hamilton for that night! And she told me she adored verse novels.

Then she said I had to make some changes if I wanted it to sell.  The breath caught in my throat.  I don’t know if I can do that.

“Of course you can.  You’re a good writer.”

She had me in the palm of her hand.  The teacher pleaser in me will go back to the manuscript (Did I mention I’ve been writing this one off and on for 10 years?), and  make the g.d. revisions.  I’ll let you know if I get a book deal.  It may take another 10 years, though.

This book writing business is hard work.  A Louisiana author and friend, Johnette Downing, reminded us, in her wonderful presentation about writing “From the Roots Up: Culture as Character,” that we are in the service of children.  A little poem from her talk:

Be the river.
Write what you know.
Write what you love.
Let the river flow.

The conference experience was too big for one post, so I think I’ll write part two tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

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