Journey Through Workshops

New York 2019 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference

What do I share about two days of workshops and presentations, when I’ve agreed to the SCBWI policy ‘to not share what isn’t mine to share’?

Wonder and passion are excellent descriptors of my experience in my first session. Title: The Picture Book: It’s Not Writing. It’s Not Illustrating. It’s Riveting Emotional Theater! Presenters: Marla Frazee – illustrator, author and teacher; Allyn Johnston – VP and publisher, Beach Lane Books/Simon and Schuster; Ruben Pfeffer – agent and founder of Rubin Pfeffer Content. We hear how an agent and editor feel when they first read THE script. The script that gives them tingles. The script they read over and over again. The script that stops what they were going to do next. They take care of this first by putting the next steps in motion for THE script.

I hear the awe and respect in their voices as these presenters read picture books that excite them, and that they’ve read over and over, for years. I hear their passion as they point out all that touches them about this book. All that excels and rockets this over most other picture books. This changes my perceptions and perspective, changes my understanding.

I hear the wonder and passion Marla Frazee shares while she discusses her process for a few projects, start to finish. She shares her love and interpretation of the text. She shares the direction and misdirection of her thoughts while sketching thumbnails and larger images. She starts over in one example, to better match the expressiveness and direction of the text.

We hear the passion these people share with the writer. We hear best practices to work as a team. What they share is eye-opening and affirming. We hear the commitment needed from every member involved with a book.

Takeaways I can share, we’ve heard them many times from excellent kidlit people. At the very least, take 8 sheets of paper and fold them in half. 1) Create a picture book dummy for your picture books. 2) Read your book aloud at least 10 times. Why? How many times is a parent, teacher, older sibling or other person going to be reading aloud a favorite picture book? Like many of you, I record most later drafts. When I listen to the recording, I usually find many things to improve. I listen to someone else read it aloud. Hint, I do this with everything I write, no matter the genre.

Commitment, excitement, and exploration describe the afternoon session. Writing for Young Readers: Chapter Books and Young Middle Grade Novels is presented by Alyson Heller, senior editor Aladdin/Simon & Schuster; and Tricia Lin, assistant editor Aladdin/Sime & Schuster. They share examples and definitions of chapter books, young middle grade novels, older novels, and early readers. We hear the commitment and excitement they bring to their work and to the team involved with a book. We hear about the commitment writers need to have for writing, and for creating the end product with a team.

We explore voice, character, and themes in chapter books and mid grade novels. We work with writing prompts that help us find motivations, and develop characters. Writing exercises help us explore a good fit for our talents, tendencies, and skills.

We feel excitement as we brainstorm, work on exercises to explore concepts, and have group discussions. We work in small groups with people from around the country and world, and an editor joins us for a short time. We network and explore ideas. We exchange business cards and say farewell until next time!

Journey in New York 2019, Second Blog

Please see my guest blog at SCBWI WI for more information.

Charlene Avery at Golden Kite Gala NY SCBWI 2019

We’ve arrived at the Grand Hyatt (next to Grand Central Station) in New York City for SCBWI’s Golden Kite Awards. Are you wearing your golden high tops? Golden gown, top, vest, necklace, a tie or gold t-shirt? Welcome!

The stage has tables displaying the Golden Kite winning books and trophies, between beautiful bouquets of flowers. A few of us Midwest authors and illustrators take seats in the front row. Lin Oliver introduces Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Sotomayor captivates us with many topics, while using no notes. She’s presented a gift by illustrator John Parra. He illustrated her words for the children’s book We Are The Change.

Introductions are made for each Golden Kite Award winning person and book. There is much variety but every book contains part of the author and illustrator. Each book required many drafts, research, passion, skill, more research, plus the heart and soul of the contributors.

Hey look, it’s Meg Medina. She’s introducing Angela Dominguez who wrote Golden Kite winning Stella Diaz Has Something to Say. Thank you Meg for gracing Wisconsin’s SCBWI Fall Retreat in 2018. Congratulations again on your Newberry Award, and so many other well-deserved awards and honors.

Jessie Oliveros and her posse after winning the Golden Kite award for The Remember Balloons.

Jessie Oliveros and her Posse

Cheers to Brianna Capra from Wisconsin for showcasing her illustrations here! Bravery and much thought went into choosing what to display. A few others are also displaying here at the Illustrator Showcase at NY SCBWI 2019.

Illustrator’s Showcase

Ahhh, the autograph signing for Golden Kite Winners! There are lengthy lines as expected for Jane Yolen, also for Jessie Oliveros and others. I wonder . . . is there a line or not for the next author? What’s different and why was it difficult to distinguish? Ahhh, Justice Sotomayor is there with the seated author. The oddly shaped line is comprised of the U.S. Marshals doing their job and having space around them. The seated author needs a few moments before she resumes, no problem! Whew, what an experience. Thank you U.S. Marshals for doing your jobs well!

Tonight we frequently heard about perspective and planning, perspiration and research, perseverance and teamwork. I’m still synthesizing all the information. Thanks for joining me, there will be at least two more blogs regarding the sessions I attended at NY SCBWI 2019. Good luck with your journey!