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Critique Across Missouri!


Missouri SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) is sponsoring Critique Across Missouri, a week-long event during the week through June 13th. Critique groups are forming across the state to bring children’s writers and illustrators together to share each other’s work and offer feedback. All genres are included, and everyone is invited to participate, members and non-members alike.

Writing is a solitary business, and getting together with others who understand what you do is a great perk. My focus is on writing picture books—poetry, fiction and non-fiction. People who aren’t immersed in writing for young children often think that writing a picture book is quick and easy. Because the story is, for the most part, uncomplicated and simple, with a single focus. Only another picture book writer really knows the truth. Well, maybe your spouse, or your best friend, too.

They understand that finding the perfect word can take many revisions, that picture books have rhythm, and that writing a well-crafted story in such few words is an art, and can be more difficult than writing for the older crowd.

Picture books and poetry are meant to be read out loud, and a critique group is the perfect audience. Better yet is to have someone in your group read your manuscript out loud. You can hear the rhythm the way someone else hears it. Do they stumble anywhere? Some words are pronounced differently by different people. Sometimes it’s because of the rhythm you’ve created, and sometimes it’s just that there is more than one way to pronounce a word. This is the place to find out.

In a critique group, we tell each other what works in our manuscripts as well as what isn’t working or what might help to make it better. But besides the actual critique that we offer each other, we share the highs and lows of the business. Personal notes from editors, acceptances and rejections. No one understands the joy and the pain of trying to create a work of art than another artist—both writers and illustrators.

Besides critiquing manuscripts, we also share marketing tips and writing or illustrating tips with each other. Sometimes someone will suggest the ‘perfect place’ to submit your manuscript. We also share picture books that we like in some way, and how it brings home the writing tips that we’ve heard at events or conferences for children’s writers and illustrators.

Critique Across Missouri is a good way to get feedback from writers who haven’t formed that personal connection to you and your writing, because you are probably going to be meeting with some writers who aren’t in your regular critique group. So it’s a fresh point of view for your work.

The week is already in full swing, but it’s not too late to join in the hype. Connect with other writers or illustrators who you know this week, in person or online, or even by Skype, and share a manuscript to critique. Or read some picture books, novels or poetry and share your thoughts on the writing or illustrations. Share your experiences in marketing, and writing cover letters or queries. Or just schmooze with others who do what you do, and understand where you’re coming from.

This week is dedicated to critique groups for children’s writers and illustrators in Missouri. Don’t miss out on the perks!  Read More 
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Inspiration from the ‘Seeds of Success’ Conference


Last month I attended the Missouri SCBWI Fall Conference, Seeds of Success, in St. Charles. From the perspective of a picture book writer, I think it was one of the best conferences that I’ve attended. Here are just a few of the helpful and inspiring nuggets that I took home from the conference speakers.

Jodell Sadler, agent for children’s writers and illustrators, Sadler Children’s Literary Agency, talked about writing picture books.

She shared with us Twenty Tools for Writing Picture Books.
Among the ten verbal pacing tools were:
Repetition—Repetition rallies the reader, and can be used to highlight the emotional growth of your main character.
Rhythm—Rhythm is the ‘sound’ of the story; use words, repetition and onomatopoeia to create rhythm; use short and long sentences.

She also gave us ten visual pacing tools, which included:
White Space—Find emotional hot spots and see how you can pull back on words to let white space fill in with visual clues.
Poetry—Use literary devices to go beyond rhyme

She told us, “A good picture book is written with attention to musicality and language.”
Check Jodell’s website for information about her online class, Pacing Picture Books to Wow!

Steve Sheinkin, author of non-fiction books for children, told us that when you write non-fiction you should "begin with a mystery."
Start making a ‘witness’ list—begin by reading, and work toward primary sources.
Keep a really good list of where you find your information.
Keep following leads, and question credibility.

Finally, cut yourself off—and write!

Nancy Gallt, agent for children’s writers and illustrators, Nancy Gallt Literary Agency, told us what she looks for in submissions.

Some of those were:
a story that transports her
a book that makes her feel inspired
childlike concerns
honest voice
strong plots with internal consistency and a fully imagined world

She advised us to research the agency and the publishing world, and to proof-read our manuscript before submitting it.
Regarding picture books in verse, she said: “Writers of picture books in verse are poets first.”

Cecily White, middle grade and young adult author, talked about the different stages in development, and the differences between middle grade and young adult books.

Among other things, she said—
In middle grade books there is a more hopeful ending.
Love in middle grade is undefined, and is more activity based—they do things together.
Middle grade characters reflect the ‘ideal selves’ of the readers.

If you write for this age group you need to ‘think like a gatekeeper’—parents, teachers or other adults who oversee what the middle grade child is reading.

Debbie Gonzales, curriculum specialist, talked about the common core and what teachers want.

Some of those things are:
inspiration
knowledge of topic
a story that is plotted to perfection
a well-researched book
a creative approach to the theme

She said that the writer should make an emotional connection—with your reader, and with your story.

Keep your eye on the Missouri SCBWI website for future programs. The 2015 Fall conference will be at the beginning of November—details will be on the website closer to the date.  Read More 
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Pre-Conference Prep—Are You Ready?!

2013 Missouri SCBWI Fall Conference

Ok, so you’ve signed up for that conference for children’s writers, and you’re psyched! One more week—are you ready? You’ve got paper/ pencil/ e-tablet, the conference schedule, directions to the conference facility, someone to watch the kids…. But are you really ready?? Here are five things to do ahead of time to get the most out of your conference experience.

#1—Read! If you haven’t done this already, now is the time to start!

• Read the conference website once again to make sure that you haven’t missed anything. Check the time. Are you in the same time zone? What time is check-in? Make sure to arrive a little before the conference starts to have time to pick up your packet, get something to drink, talk to friends, and find a good seat.

• Read the speaker bios on the conference website, but also read about them online. Check their blogs, tweets, facebook page. You can often find past interviews with the speakers online, too. In the case of an editor or agent, find out what books they’ve represented, what books they like and what they’re looking for.

• Read the speakers’ books—books that they’ve written, edited, represented, or books that they like or recommend. Check them out from your local library or look for them at your local bookstore.

#2—Prepare what to say if you’re asked about yourself as a writer, what you write or what you’re working on.

• Do you write picture books, non-fiction, middle grade novels or novels for teens? What about magazines? Are you a new writer, or have you been working at it for awhile? Decide what to share about your writing self with others you meet.

• What is your current project? Do you have something ready to send out? If so, prepare your ‘elevator pitch,’ in case an editor or agent should ask about it. You have about 60 seconds, or the time it takes to ride an elevator to the next floor, to leave a good first impression of your work, and leave them asking for more!

#3—Be ready to network! You may have an outgoing personality, or perhaps you’re more on the quiet side. But this is the place to meet others like yourself, with the same struggles and goals.

• Talk to others to get the most out of your conference experience. Talk to the person sitting next to you. Talk to people who you don’t know at lunch. You’ll be surprised what you take away from meeting other writers and illustrators. And you may just make some friends for life.

• Wear your nametag throughout the conference. I like to see name tags because I’m not always good at remembering names, and it’s nice to be able to call someone by name later if I forget.

• One of my personal experiences: I met my critique members at an SCBWI conference. We were all looking for a group of ‘serious’ children’s writers, and found that we lived within a 2-hour time span from each other. We agreed to meet in the middle, at a library, and have been meeting every other month since then for ten years. And even though I recently moved out of state, I continue to meet with them through Skype.

• Another personal experience: More than once I sat next to an editor who gave me their business card and invited me to submit my work.

• Yet another personal experience: By talking to others during breaks I met published authors who were not speakers and picked up writing tips from them.

• And finally: I met other struggling writers and learned how they organize their day to find writing time.

#4—Make a list of questions. Think about what you want to learn from the speakers, from your critique, and from the conference in general. Speakers need time to eat, go to the bathroom, re-group and just plain breathe! So be sure to ask your questions during the times allowed, such as at the end of your sessions, during a Q&A panel discussion, or during your critique time.

• First, ask yourself: What are my goals for the conference? What do I want to ‘take home’ with me when the conference is over? Are you looking for writing tips, feed-back on your manuscript, someplace to submit your work, or something else? Then, consider what you need to do beforehand to get what you’re looking for.

• Do you have specific questions that you’d like to have addressed in one of the sessions that you’ll be attending? If so write them down. There is usually time for questions at the end of the talk, or if there’s time, you can ask the speaker immediately following their talk.

• If there is a speaker panel assembled for Q&A, this is the perfect time to ask general questions and get feedback or opinions from all of the speakers.

• If you’re getting a manuscript critique, make a list of questions to ask at your face-to-face time with the person doing your critique. Is there something that you’re not sure about in organizing your manuscript? Do you have questions about places in your writing? Are you wondering about the marketability?

#5—Organize ahead of time! Don’t wait until the last minute to think about what to bring with you. Start getting things ready now!

• Get your note-taking tools together! Bring a pad of paper or two, a portfolio or something to write on (you won’t always be at a desk or table), extra pens or pencils (in case one breaks or runs out of ink, or you lose one), or an electronic device to take notes on. Bring a highlighter to use with handouts, and to highlight your personal schedule on the program that you’ll receive. DO NOT record the speakers presentation without permission, and DO NOT take pictures of power point slide presentations. These are the property of the speaker.

• Bring a shoulder bag or tote bag with lots of room! One with several pockets is ideal, with room for writing tools, books, handouts, wallet, keys and business cards. Leave your purse at home! You’ll want to have hands-free to be able to check out the freebies and handouts, browse books at book sales or displays, pick up your lunch, etc.

• Bring some money along for purchasing books—books by authors and books on craft and marketing. Authors are always happy to autograph their books, and there is usually time set aside for autographing.

• Plan to dress casually. Bring a sweater or jacket in case the room temperature is too cool. On the other side, you might want to layer your clothes in case it’s too warm.

• If you signed up for a critique, bring a copy of your manuscript along, just in case you need to refer to it.
• Bring business cards with your name, website, email and contact information on it to share with others you meet. You can print these inexpensively from your computer at home.

• If you are a published author, bring along business cards, promotional postcards or brochures to have in case someone asks for them. At many conferences there is a table where these can be left out for attendees to pick up. It’s an opportunity for editors, agents, teachers, librarians and readers to find out more about you and your books.

I hope these tips help you to enjoy your next conference even more! I’ll be attending the Missouri SCBWI Fall Conference for children’s writers & Illustrators, Seeds of Success, on September 6-7th. I’m getting organized little by little! I’ve been reading about the speakers who will be there and I’m looking forward to reading their books, which I just brought home from the library.

I hope to see some of you at Seeds of Success next week-end!  Read More 
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Missouri SCBWI Fall conference Line-Up is Impressive!


Missouri Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators has something for everyone! Whether you're new to writing or illustrating children's books or a published author or illustrator, if you write picture books, middle grade novels, or young adult novels, or if your interest is in illustrating children's books, this is the place for you on September 6th and 7th!

What?
Missouri SCBWI Fall Conference: Seeds of Success

Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators conference

When?
Saturday, September 6th—8:00 am to 9:30 pm
Sunday, September 7th—8:30 am to 11:30 am

Where?
Lindenwood University, Spellman Center
209 N. Kingshighway Street - St. Charles, Missouri 63302

Last Day to register: August 20, 2014!

Who?
—featured speakers:


Jodell Sadler—Agent
Nancy Gallt—Agent
Elena Giovinazzo—Agent
Krista Marino—Editor at Delacorte (YA and MG)
Deborah Halverson—freelance editor, author, writing instructor
Guiseppe Castellano—Art director at Penguin group
Josh Stevens—Publisher
Dan Yaccarino—author/illustrator
Carolyn Mueller—Author/Illustrator
Heather Brewer—Author
Amanda Doyle—Author
Steve Sheinkin—NF Author
Cecily White—Author
Nancy Polette—Author (on writing biographies for children)
Debbie Gonzales—Curriculum Specialist

for authors—First 5 Lines
for illustrators—postcard evaluations

Sunday Intensives (choose one):
1—Deborah Halverson: How to Build Your Own Teenager: Techniques for Writing Believable MG/YA Characters
2— Debbie Gonzales: The Anatomy of a Teacher’s guide: A Hands On Approach to CCSS Project Creation
3— Jodell Sadler: Ten Tips Workshop for Writing Your Heart into Picture Books
4— Guiseppe Castallano: A Conversation with an Art Director
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Meet Middle Grade Author and RA for MO SCBWI, Kim Piddington!


My special guest this week is Kim Piddington, author of middle grade (MG) fiction, and the current Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) in Missouri. Kim is a great promoter of reading, writing, and children’s literature. She has served on the executive board of the Missouri Center for the Book, is a National Writing Project Teacher consultant, and is on the executive board of the Language Arts Department of Southwest Missouri (LAD) which holds one of the largest and longest running writing contests for children.

Welcome, Kim! You are such an active participant in promoting reading and writing for both children and adults, and I appreciate that. Can you tell us what made you want to write for children?

I always wanted to write. I started emulating the authors I was reading when I was in elementary school. I took tons of creative writing courses in college. But no one ever counseled me how to make a living at it. After college, I packed my pencil and notebook away until my inner writer was reawakened by the bNational Writing Project/b (NWP) in 1997.

You have a teaching background. Did teaching influence you to go back to writing?

I think after teaching MG children for 20 years- the MG voice is what is firmly entrenched in my head! I write MG exclusively. I’ve written one historical fiction, one fantasy, and am working on a contemporary fiction.

In California, I taught 7th grade English for 5 years, then I moved to a self-contained 6th grade class (teaching all subjects) for 10. I moved to Missouri and finished off by teaching 5th grade English for 5 years. I was writing my first book at that time, and my students would come in at lunch to read my chapters as I finished them. It was very eye opening for me to see what words and concepts they stumbled over.

Do you work on one project at a time or more than one?
More than one.

What are you working on now?

My agent suggested some revisions to my fantasy, so I’m working on those. I also started a contemporary MG to keep me going when I hit the revision wall.

How did you meet your agent, and what do you think helped you to ‘connect’ with her?

I met my agent, Lori Kilkelly of Rodeen Literary, at the 2013 SCBWI MO Fall Conference. I had sent in a query, synopsis and the first 5 pages of my fantasy to be critiqued. She really liked it, but I told her it was a work in progress and it wouldn’t be finished for several months. Then she told me she’d checked my webpage and saw that I had a historical fiction manuscript finished. She wanted to read that while I worked on the fantasy. I was actually afraid to send it to her! But thank goodness I did, because she loved it and signed me based on that book.
Moral of the story: personal connections really help and make sure you have a webpage!

How do you feel having an agent benefits you, personally?

I love Lori! She makes me feel like she is my biggest fan. She is positive, a great person to bounce ideas off of, and thanks to her, my manuscript is sitting on the desks of editors at places like Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, etc—places I had no access to without her. She really looks out for her clients—sending us links to writing advice, sending us news tidbits that pertain to the industry, and she even checks on and likes my facebook posts. Did I mention I love her? I feel very lucky!

When, and why, did you join SCBWI?

I used to take my students to a conference that featured great children’s authors every year. In 2010, my historical fiction manuscript had just won first place in the Pike’s Peak Writing Contest, Children’s Category—and I had no idea what to do next. One of the authors there suggested I join SCBWI—so I did. About six months later, Joyce Ragland asked me to be ARA (Assistant Regional Advisor) for SCBWI in Missouri. When she stepped down in 2013, I took over as RA (Regional Advisor).

SCBWI has opened so many doors for me—I’ve traveled to both Los Angeles & New York to attend the national conferences, learned a ton about the craft of writing by attending SCBWI workshops, and met the most fantastic people. And I met my agent at an SCBWI event. I think it’s safe to say I wouldn’t be where I am today as a writer without SCBWI.

I’m a long-time member and great supporter of the Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). Can you share some reasons why you would recommend membership in SCBWI to other children’s writers and illustrators?

Writing can be lonely—SCBWI offers you an opportunity to meet up with others who have the same goals/dreams as you. They provide top-notch “training” for writers & illustrators via their conferences and workshops. You get the opportunity to have your work critiqued by the best in the business, which could eventually lead to representation. And you meet fantastic, interesting, caring people.

Is SCBWI a good fit for self-published writers as well as traditionally published writers?

SCBWI recently created an annual award specifically for self-published authors. And ANY author can benefit from the craft lessons that are such a big part of every SCBWI event. SCBWI also offers opportunities to network—which is invaluable when you have a book to market.

What are you working on now for Missouri children’s authors and illustrators?

Currently, we are working on the SCBWI Fall Conference. I’m so excited about our lineup—I really feel we have something for everyone.

In addition, we are working on choosing the finalists for the PB mentorship program with David Harrison, as well as running a scholarship contest for both writers & illustrators that is tied to the fall Conference.

I’m looking forward to the fall conference myself, which features three agents, two editors, several published authors, an art director, two author/illustrators, and a curriculum specialist! There is something for everyone, from picture books to middle grade and young adult. Critique spots are filling up fast, but there is still a chance to snag a critique with an agent, an editor, and a portfolio critique with an art director or author/illustrator!

Kim, you are also a National Writing Project (NWP) Teacher Consultant. What can you tell us about that?

The NWP focuses the knowledge, expertise, and leadership of our nation's educators on sustained efforts to improve writing and learning for all learners. The NWP is a network of sites anchored at colleges and universities and serving teachers across disciplines and at all levels, early childhood through university. We provide professional development, develop resources, generate research, and act on knowledge to improve the teaching of writing and learning in schools and communities.

The National Writing Project believes that access to high-quality educational experiences is a basic right of all learners and a cornerstone of equity. We work in partnership with institutions, organizations, and communities to develop and sustain leadership for educational improvement. Throughout our work, we value and seek diversity—our own as well as that of our students and their communities—and recognize that practice is strengthened when we incorporate multiple ways of knowing that are informed by culture and experience.

I have been a NWP member for 13 years. It shaped me as teacher, reminded me I was a writer, and gave me the skills (after serving as the Ozark Writing project Youth Coordinator and hosting an annual MG conference for over 500 students for several years) to plan and organize events for SCBWI. I’m still active in this organization and think the work they do is important and inspiring.

You are a member of ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents) and several local writing groups including the Springfield Writers’ Guild and the Ozarks Writers League. How are these professional organizations important to you as a writer?

All of these organizations help me stay connected to other writers, as well as provide opportunities to get work critiqued, and learn more about the craft of writing. ALAN holds a conference each year at the end of NCTE, which is amazing! Dozens of successful and up & coming YA (young adult) authors in every genre speak either individually or on panels AND you walk away with an amazing box of books that would retail for 5 times what you paid for the conference. One of my “author dreams” is to be invited to speak there some day!

What can you tell us about the other projects/organizations that you are involved in that have to do with writing, children, education, etc.?

I served on the executive board of the Missouri Center for the Book for a brief time. They have a GREAT program- letters about literature- for school children. They also chose which Missouri book will represent the state at the National Book Festival.

In addition, I am also on the executive board of LAD which holds one of the largest and longest running writing contests for children. There are over 70 categories, k-12, and they receive over 5,000 entries each year. I love judging- it’s amazing to see the work these students produce.

Outside of writing, what other interests do you have?

I’m married and have two beautiful daughters. One is getting married in the fall and the other is heading off to college—so I’m spending as much time as I can with them now.

I love gardening (weeds sprout overnight in this weather), baking, and traveling. I also have several horses and a passel of dogs & cats—so I spend a lot of time scooping poop!

Thank you so much for sharing some of your writing life with us here, Kim!

Kim lives with her family in Ozark, Missouri. Readers can find out more about Kim on her website.  Read More 
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From ? to Children's Agent/Editor/Author/Illustrator


For a writer of children’s books, attending a conference for children’s writers and illustrators is like going to Disney World is to a child. Where else can you find so many other adults who are excited about reading and writing children’s books!? Being involved as a volunteer heightens the excitement even more. This past week-end I attended the MO SCBWI Fall Conference for children’s writers and illustrators at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO.

When looking for some inside scoop about Krista Marino, editor at Delacorte Press, for my introduction, I found an interview by newswoman Nancy Churnin who asked the question, “What made you want to be an editor?” Krista’s answer was this:

“I love to read, but more than that, I love to escape. I love the idea that the fantastical could be real, that there’s more to the world than what you see around you, and that a story can take you there. It can transport, it can transform, it can soothe, or inspire. A story and a book can change you. How could I not want to be a part of that??”

Listening to the speakers as they told us how they came to be editors, agents and authors of children’s literature, there seemed to be a common thread among those who were there—they did not start out to be where they are now.

Regina Brooks, founder and president of Serendipity Literary Agency, studied engineering in college and has a degree in aerospace engineering. She wanted to be an astronaut. After taking a publishing class at Howard University she switched to children’s publishing, and later became a literary agent.

Lori Kilkelly graduated from college with a degree in speech communication. She later received her post graduate degree from the Denver Publishing Institute and went on to become one of two agents for children’s authors at Rodeen Literary Management.

Dan Santat, illustrator and author of children’s books, graduated from college with a degree in microbiology and was accepted into dental school before he had the courage to tell his father that he wanted to be an artist, not a doctor. His father was very supportive of his decision and Dan went on to graduate from the Art Center College of Design.

Matt De La Pena, children’s author of Young Adult books for teens and reluctant readers, secretly wrote poetry in high school. He had no goals to attend higher education, and when he was accepted into college on a sports scholarship, he had already succeeded by becoming the first family member to go to college. College was where he became a reader. Having been brought up to feel no emotion, reading gave him a ‘secret place to feel.’

Lisa Yee, author of middle grade and young adult books for children, wrote ads and other things before turning to children’s books. Attending an SCBWI conference for children’s writers and illustrators was a turning point that changed her outlook.

Judy Young, children's author, received her degree in speech and language pathology. She taught in the public schools, frequently using poetry to help her students improve their writing skills in special language classes and regular classes. She continued to work as a teacher while pursuing her writing, and eventually retired from teaching to become a full-time author.

Nancy Polette has been an educator for over 50 years. She has taught students in Kindergarten through 8th grade, and continues to teach as a professor of education at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO. During this time she has also had over 150 books published, including two novels for middle grade and two picture books. School Library Journal describes her as “an educator with imagination, creativity, and an appreciation for the intelligence of children.”

My own background is in nursing. My favorite field is pediatrics—and I especially loved being a school nurse. It was not until I had five of my six children that I decided to try my hand at writing for children. I wrote while raising my kids and working part time as a nurse.

Other children’s writers that I know have been, or still are, a doctor, a dentist, a zoologist, a veterinarian, an accountant, a farmer, parents, teachers and librarians.

So what makes a person turn to writing for children? For me, sometimes I think that I just don’t want to grow up! But I imagine that it has a bit more to do with our love of reading, and our love for children.

A book can make a difference. Krista said it so well—“…It can transport, it can transform, it can soothe, or inspire. A story and a book can change you.” It opens up a world of possibilities to a child. And how could I not want to be a part of that!  Read More 
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Missouri SCBWI Fall Conference Connections

Rich Davis, Illustrator

Do you write for children? Illustrate children’s books or magazines? If there was only one thing that you could do to help your career as a children’s writer or illustrator, my advice would be to connect with the Society of children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). Become a member; attend programs in your area hosted by your local chapter of SCBWI, which are open to non-members as well but discounted to members.

I’m still new here in Missouri, and one of the best ways that I could think of to meet other children’s writers was to attend the MO SCBWI Fall conference. Of course there was much to offer besides meeting people. The conference featured Heather Alexander, an editor from Dial Books for Young Readers, and Quinlan Lee, a literary agent from Adams Literary Agency which represents exclusively children’s authors. Other keynote speakers were Suzanne Morgan Williams, children’s novelist, and Rich Davis, children’s illustrator.

There is much to gain by attending a conference, both from the speakers and from the people you meet there. At the best, it opens doors to publishers and agencies that are normally closed to unsolicited manuscripts. Here are just a few ‘pearls’ gained from the SCBWI Missouri conference.

Heather Alexander, editor:
The way to make your work stand out is with exceptional writing.
Writers make their writing exceptional by having a responsibility to their readers.
A writer reads, observes, imagines, interprets, listens, and thinks.

from Quinlan Lee, agent:
Agents know publishers. Her plan is to match the editor with a great story.
What to look for in an agent—knowledge of the market, reputation in the industry, passion for their work, commitment to your work.

from Suzy Williams, author:
“Writing is a journey; the road is not always straight, but the results can be surprising.”
Write what you want to know. Write from the inside out. And “Take risks.”
She gave a great workshop on revision.

Rich Davis, illustrator:
Art serves all subjects in school—we remember so well with pictures.
We are most creative when relaxed.
His ‘Pick and Draw’ card game was a great way to inspire creativity in both writing and illustrating.

Sue Bradford Edwards, nonfiction author:
Read today’s nonfiction for children, in books, magazines and online.
Connect your topic to the school curriculum.
Research your information well; use primary sources and sources published in the last five years.

I came away from the conference feeling inspired and connected to children’s writing and writers. Now it’s time to follow up, re-connect, and write!

To find out more about SCBWI and the MO SCBWI chapter, follow these links:
www.scbwi.org
www.moscbwi.org
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Warming up to children's books in MO

Greetings from O’Fallon! It’s been a summer of emptying boxes, finding things and re-discovering other things, and everything else that it takes to move from one state to another. We’re finally settling in, and I’m beginning to make a few connections to the world of children’s books here in Missouri.

My first stop, shortly after moving in, was to the Middendorf-Kredell Library in O’Fallon, where I visited the children’s department and met the librarian and staff there. I’m lucky to be just ten minutes away from this beautiful new branch of the St. Charles Library District.

The O’Fallon children’s librarian gave me the name of the owner of Main Street Books, an independent bookstore in near-by St. Charles. I made a visit to Main Street Books a couple of weeks later, and met Vicki Erwin, bookstore owner and fellow SCBWI member. The warm, cozy atmosphere, like most independent bookstores, feels like family, and I have it on my list to return soon and browse through the stacks. (www.mainstreetbooks.net)

Wherever there’s an SCBWI member, there’s a smiling, friendly person ready to share children’s book-related information. Vicki gave me the link to the St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance. I was amazed at the number of independent bookstore in the St. Louis area. Checking their schedule of events, I found that several children‘s authors were on the books doing author appearances at various stores, including Jarrett Krosoczka (the LUNCH LADY graphic novel series), author/illustrator Peter Brown (CHILDREN MAKE TERRIBLE PETS and YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND!), and Jack Gantos (JOEY PIGZA and ROTTEN RALPH). My calendar is filling up quickly! (www.stlindiebook.com)

I enjoy doing author visits to schools and libraries, as well as visits to bookstores. I stopped at the Mid Rivers Barnes & Noble bookstore in St. Peters, where my son’s family lives, and met Shelly, who schedules the activities there. I just added an author story time and a book signing to my calendar during Educators Week on October 22nd. My daughter’s family recently moved from north of St. Louis to Fenton. I contacted the South Roxana Library where they visited before they moved, and offered to sign copies of my books. I'm looking forward to doing an author visit there sometime in the next several months.

Of course, the one place that I KNOW will connect me to other children’s writers no matter what state I’m in is SCBWI (http://www.scbwi.org ). I’ve registered for the Missouri SCBWI fall conference (http://moscbwi.org/Home_Page.html) on November 5th in St. Charles, which is just a hop over from O’Fallon. I’m looking forward to meeting an editor, an agent, and of course other children’s authors and illustrators.

I’m beginning to warm up to this new home state of Missouri. No pun intended (or maybe so), since except for the past few days, the temps have been in the 90’s and 100’s ever since we moved here!
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