Luckily, I did take awesome copious amounts of notes and got an opportunity to write an article about the wonderful experience for the SCBWI Canada East blog dated Friday, June 26 which you can read at the link here. I also got critique sessions for two novels I am working on with author Bruce Coville and agent Heather Alexander, new directions for a picture book and novel ways to present Malaika's Costume during its 2016 release thanks to author and scholar Kari-Lynn Winters, two first page critiques read to a panel consisting of Beach Lane Books vice-president and publisher Allyn Johnston and Scholastic executive editor Cheryl Klein, and an awesome critique circle which included authors Ishta Mercurio and Lena Coakley. However, I have also pasted the text below. In my next few blog posts, I will updating what I have been doing in my writerly life. Happy reading.
Stepping out of my comfort zone was something I felt ready to do at the SCBWI Art of Story Conference Montreal on May 29- 31, 2015. I had just been on the tail end excitement of the February NYC conference, my very first SCBWI event, in which I had been a bit shy to participate in any critique sessions. Instead, SCBWI NYC left me inspired and thirsting for opportunities to pitch, propose, and have my work critiqued in front of my writing peers and professionals. At Art of Story Conference, I had these opportunities-- to give me a chance to hone in on some of the ideas I have in development. Of the three tracks, I selected the one for Picture Book writers:
- Lily Malcolm, executive art director and associate publisher of Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House
- Allyn Johnston, vice-president and publisher from Beach Lane Books
- Heather Alexander, literary agent of Pippin Properties
- Kari-Lynn Winters, author, playwright, and scholar.
Each speaker brought her perspective to almost fifty published and aspiring picture book authors.
My first Picture Book session was “What makes a picture book good… and how do you know?” in which both picture book authors and illustrators were in attendance. The presenters, Heather Alexander and Lily Malcolm, gave an overview about what they looked for in an author and/or illustrator. What Alexander looks for in a writer is someone who has career longevity and a few strong stories. Malcolm indicated that she looks for illustrators that have a “memorable style”, something brand new, and hits “emotional highs”. The presenters also provided examples of picture books that do “get it right”.
Afterward, Heather presented a workshop called “Picture Book Voice” to the authors in order to capture the five main parts of voice—diction, perspective, character as voice, dialogue, and interior monologue. She provided several examples of books that do these things correctly. She also had warnings for those of us who write in first person. Some take home points were: No first name intros. Needed: A rise and fall in plot. Modern kids usually like modern stories.
Kari-Lynn then presented two back-to-back workshops that were complete with exercises and demonstrations. The first was called “The Straight Scoop on Picture books” in which she provided more lists including the 7 deadly sins for picture book authors and 10 techniques for authors. (By the way, I love the lists.) Some short points I took home are: A story needs a spark. Leave the lessons and teaching out of the story. Hook the reader in. Don’t be repetitive.
In “Getting Your Act Together”, Kari-Lynn talked about ways to spice up your readings and presentations. As a teacher who teaches drama among other subjects, I especially appreciated this session. Kari-Lynn let us in on how she secretly gets teachers and kids to love her presentations. I think the one thing that I will definitely remember is that puppets are great.
In “Now Let’s Read Aloud!” session, Allyn Johnston presented a helpful picture book syllabus with a wide range of titles and styles. Johnston described what has worked for many successful picture books and we had an opportunity to browse through her collection to see for ourselves.
A great experience for all. Looking forward to the next event.
-- SCBWI Canada East blog dated Friday, June 26, 2015