I’ve returned from a whirlwind of a weekend in Texas with a handful of kid lit industry professionals. (And ate some amazing handmade puffy tortillas drizzled with warm butter and honey. These are not them.)
Texans know how to put on a conference. I took a few notes and pictures to share with you.
Author/ illustrator Dan Yaccarino opened the conference. He has published over 50 books for children including the new The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau and is responsible for creating TV shows Oswald and The Backyardigans. He spoke on the importance of saying YES to challenges and of asking questions in order to grow. In short, he was a total delight and should consider motivational speaking. J
Jen Rofe of Andrea Brown Literary Agency has a soft spot for middle grade stories and “adorkable” characters. (Neversink – which I’m giving away on Friday! – and A Diamond in the Desert are by her clients). She encouraged us to ask “So what?” of our characters and their actions. Why should we care? Does that plot point matter to the story and why? Her power point presentation included examples from literature (Hunger Games) and film (Dirty Dancing). The lift, anyone?
Heather Alexander, an editor with Dial Books for Young Readers, reminded us that we are selling our work and to consider what makes our manuscript unique and fresh. We should examine our manuscript’s selling points, what makes it stand out from others like it. Ms. Alexander read an upcoming picture book, Dragons Love Tacos, and helped us create a sales handle for it. She also used an analogy of the Millennium Falcon to drive her point home. You’ll have to hear her talk to find out why. 😉
Kathleen Ortiz, subrights director with Nancy Coffey Literary, covered author websites and whether or not you need one. She recommended acquiring a domain name in YourName.com, saying if you do nothing else pre-published, at least secure your name. I had to slip out for the majority of her talk for my manuscript critique with freelance editor Sarah Cloots.
We learned about the ins and outs of jacket design from Charlesbridge art director Susan Sherman. It was fascinating to see how reversing an image, or adding a border, affects cover design and alters the book’s target audience. (ex: Vinnie and Abraham)
Jenne Abramowitz, editor with Scholastic (trade paperback Ghost Buddy etc.), wowed us all with her presentation on chapter books. She said if you want to write for this audience, be prepared to produce a manuscript every 3-6 months and keep the plot linear. Children in this age range (7-10 years) have moved on from easy readers and are discovering fiction. We don’t want to confuse them with complicated subplots and flashbacks.
Connie Hsu of Little Brown Books for Young Readers enjoys editing hilarious or dark humored picture books or middle grade novels, and young adult books that lend themselves to illustration. She focuses on acquiring novelty projects, such as the very cool Kaleidoscope. Ms. Hsu, energetic and fun, gave us a fantastic talk on diversity in literature.
Here’s a picture of me and Mandy taken at the end of the (long) day. Behind us is author Lynne Kelly, whose debut novel Chained releases May 8th, a story of a Indian boy who befriends an elephant. I, for one, cannot wait. And I’m still regretting my choice of dangling earrings below.
Happy Wednesday and lots of Xoxo.