SCBWI Conference

On Saturday, I attended a one-day SCBWI {Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators} conference here in town. About 130 people attended, writers and illustrators. The food was hideous, actually worse than hideous, but it is what it is. It made me appreciate all the more the many conferences put on by RWI and the numerous RWA conferences I attended in years past. Yes, having coffee and tea available for X number of hours costs money, but sometimes it's money well served!

And for those who do wonder where their entry fees go--flying the various editors/agents into town, paying for their rooms, paying for their food, and sometimes paying them for their time. It pays for the conference room, the art illustrator room, the tables, the microphone system (yes, each mic has an additional fee), and the video system. The professionally presented folders given to each attendee, the paper fliers inside the folders, the name tags {though I did think it a little crass to request the plastic name tag holders to be returned. Yes, I know they cost, but really?}

And, of course, the food . . . which ran out. I happened to be table 11 out of 13 tables and by the time I went to get my food, there wasn't much left . . . except onions. Who in their right mind would have a bushel of sliced purple onions for a bunch of women to put on their ham/turkey/ beef sandwiches?? Okay, there were men there, too, but would you eat onions if you wanted to talk to an editor? More tomatoes, please.

Onward to the presentations:

There was one art director who went over the process of matching illustrator to author, and how they design the roughs into finished product. I've seen this presentation before, but it still brings the point home about how the text is only 50% or less of most picture books. Prior to this conference, I had the revelation about picture books . . . they are similar to screenplays--very pared down to allow for illustrator interpretation.

Then there was an editor who specialized in early readers: 5000 words and about 80-90 pages. Think Magic Treehouse books. There are illustrations, but it isn't so picture heavy as picture books. They are used more to break up the text and help the reader enhance the story.
One major thing I took away from her talk was to keep the early chapters shorter. At the early reader age, kids are very proud to say, "I read a chapter!" I remember this when my daughter was first reading. Yes, dear, you read a chapter . . . it was only a page and a half, but it was a chapter!  Once the reader is intrigued and invested in the stories, the chapters can become longer.

Another editor from a different house talked about action, action, ACTION! Unless you've been living under a log, you would realize that everything in today's world is instantaneous. Video games are action packed . . . and if books aren't action-heavy then you've lost your reader even before you start! This is a tough age to write for--early middle grade.

And the last speaker was an agent, who talked about reasons for rejections. Like we need to hear that, right? Well, this was a little different take on the topic. The reasons an AGENTED story is rejected by an editor. This agent shared intensely detailed reasons for picture book rejections. It really gave the audience some valuable insight as to the depth an editor views the story.

There it is in a nutshell.

Later, Peeps! I have a picture book to finish!


Susan said...

Hey, was my friend Susie Lunsford Morgan there? She writes adorable books!

Margaret Golla said...

I didn't see her, Susan. We're FB friends, but there wasn't a whole lot of mingle time with the way Anna was cracking the whip to keep everything on schedule . . . Though I thought the 'pitches' section could have been pared down, time-wise.

Marilyn said...

Romance writers do tend to have a bit too much fun at their conferences, don't they?

Margaret Golla said...

That they do, Ms. M!

I wonder if this lack of fun is just a regional thing. I might need to attend a national SCBWI conference to find out.