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
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:
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.