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Indiana SCBWI Spring Conference Wrap-Up

Kerry Martin, Mary kole, Lisa Yoskowitz, and Rebecca Kai Dotlich at the Panel Q&A (questions & answers)
April came to a close for Indiana SCBWI at our Spring Conference for Children's Writers and Illustrators in Indianapolis. We welcomed the spring weather, and renewed our spirits with inspiration as well as information coming from experts in the field of children's writing and illustrating.

Our speakers included--
Lisa Yoskowitz, editor at Disney*Hyperion Books for Children,
Kerry Martin, Book Designer for children's picture books at Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
Mary Kole, literary agent for children's writers at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and
Rebecca Kai Dotlich, poet and children's author and Golden Kite Honor recipiant for her picture book, "Bella and Bean."

We kicked off the week-end on Friday evening with open mic readings by attending authors, and portfolio reviews by illustrators who were there. A great way to get some quick feed-back from other children's writers and illustrators, as well as from the speakers.

Saturday morning got us into the meat of the conference.

Rebecca Kai Dotlich started us out with a peek into her writer's studio. She talked about how she writes, and her journey to publication--the ups and downs, rejections and then the acceptances--and gave tips for aspiring writers.

Lisa Yoskowitz then talked about creating suspense in our stories. Some advice she gave--
*Stay true to the world and the characters that you've created.
*Create strong characters that will make the reader care about what happens to them.
*Introduce conflict, to stir up the plot, and to stir up the characters
*Keep the stakes high; good suspense stirs up the reader's imagination.

Mary Kole talked about what an agent does, and how to choose an agent that's right for you. She shared some tips on writing a query letter to an agent, including--
Always follow the agent guidelines.
Personalize your query to the agent.
Include what you think the selling point of your manuscript is, who your audience will be, and the word count.
Include a short bio related to your writing.
Be brief and professional.
She then read some query letters submitted by attendees, and talked about the strong and weak points of each.

Other breakout sessions to chose from (such a difficult decision!) were offered--
Rebecca Kai Dotlich, on A Banter of Basics, for beginning writers.
Lisa Yoskowitz, on Marketing your Manuscript to Stand Out in the Sluch Pile.
Kerry Martin, on How to Make the most of Your Illustration Marketing, using some real-life illustration submissions as examples.
Mary Kole, on what Separates Aspiring Writers from Published Authors.
And Kerry Martin again, on The Lauguage of Picture Books, interesting to writers as well as illustrators.

All of our speakers listened to anonymous First Pages of a manuscript submitted by attendees, and looked at illustration submissions. The speakers commented on whether they would be drawn in by that first page and continue reading, and why they would consider an illustrator based on their illustration sample.

In between sessions, four published Indiana authors were spotlighted and we heard a five-minute account of their journey to publication.

And at the end of the day, all of the speakers formed a panel to answer questions from attendees.

Sunday morning highlighted the writer or illustrator intensives, with another opportunity to receive input on manuscripts or portfolios.

Part of the value of the conference experience was to meet and talk to other children's authors and illustrators who were attending the conference, which adds to the value of the conference. Great feed-back after the conference confirmed that attendees came away encouraged, and committed to their work.

Thanks to all of the speakers, and the wonderful volunteers who helped make the week-end a success. Happy writing or illustrating to all!  Read More 
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What Are Your Stories?

On Saturday Indiana SCBWI hosted Esther Hershenhorn, who talked to us about ‘Getting Your Stories (plural) Right.’ The Character was Esther herself, former Regional Advisor for Illinois SCBWI and current board member for SCBWI, award-winning author, speaker, and writing coach. The setting was the beautiful Benton House in Indianapolis, IN. The Plot…

Esther talked about the two stories you tell as an author: the story you have to tell your readers, and the story you’re living as a writer. These stories need to intersect meaningfully.

There are 3 elements of story: character, setting and plot. Of these, Character is everything!

I Character—Who?

Get to know your character. Ask yourself ‘What’s on his iPod?’
You need to know two things that about your characters (yourself and your story character): what your character wants (the physical plotline), and why he wants it (the emotional plotline).
Ask yourself: Why do you write for children? What do you want out of it?

II Setting—When and Where?

You live in the character’s book world, but you also need to stay current in the children’s publishing world. Learn from others, through libraries, book sellers, teachers, editors and others. Read children’s literature. Keep a reader’s journal. Write down the books you read.

III Plot—How?

Plot is characters in action, overcoming obstacles, by cunning and craft. Events are linked by causation. Things happen for a reason. Every scene, every character, etc., matters.

Esther’s description of plot, put simply, is:
Oh—Oh, my!—Oh, dear!—Oh, no!—Oh, yes!

In story, there must be action. The character must act against an obstacle. Then he re-acts with accompanying emotion. This is the emotional plot line.

Your plot as a writer asks three questions:
What do you want?
Why do you want it?
How do you get it?

In conclusion: Write from who you are. Write true to yourself.

Finally: Never throw out the beginning pages of your writing—it’s where the heart of your story is.

More on the ‘rest of the day’ later!  Read More 
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Focus on the Novel--Indiana SCBWI Conference

Focus on the Novel, the Indiana SCBWI Spring Conference for children's writers, took place at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond this past Friday evening and Saturday. An inspiring week-end was spent with speakers Stephen Roxburg, founder and publisher of namelos, and Lisa Graff, middle grade author and former editor at FSG.  Read More 
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Focus on the Picture Book in Indiana

An inspiring conference for children's writers and illustrators was presented by Indiana SCBWI this past Saturday at the offices of Children's Better Health Institute (CBHI) in Indianapolis. CBHI was a wonderful host--special thanks Read More 
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Ghostwriting and Revision

This past Saturday Indiana SCBWI hosted an event for children's writers on Ghostwriting with Sara Grant, Editor at Working Partners in London. Sara talked about their projects and gave tips on sending an application, but she also offered a wealth of knowledge on writing the novel and Read More 
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Writing a Picture Book--not as easy as it looks!

Last week I had the opportunity to meet April Pulley Sayre when she gave a talk about writing and her picture books in South Bend. I love the simplicity of her picture books, and the way that she presents facts in such an interesting & fun way. She makes it seem so easy, but  Read More 
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