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