Monday, April 30, 2012

The Agent

What conference is complete without an agent? We were fortunate enough to have Ty King, from Writer's House. The first thing she did was take off her shoes.

So tip #1:
Public speaking is best done when barefoot.

Then she began with her great tips:
She talked about becoming a working writer. A working writer is what all writer's strive for (someone who is getting paid for writing!) She recommends you be professional, responsive, and communicative (communication is very important).

She also said you need to understand your role (what is expected from you by your agent) and your rights (so you don't get taken advantage of).

She recommended that if you have a Blog, you need to be professional. Actually, this was mentioned a few times: Don't write anything negative about someone else, it will come back to haunt you and never ends well.

Let's talk RIGHTS:

*Print and publication (what countries will you give them?) If they publish in another country, it may be beneficial. But don't sign away rights just to sign.

*Audio rights.

*Electronic, such as ebooks and aps. (You don't have to grant these).

*Dramatic (plays, movies)


Keep your letter brief, and let them know your project. They get a lot of submissions straight off the first draft. That is a no-no.

When looking for an agent, you want someone who will be able to represent everything you write, or who has other agents in house who can represent your other writing.


Biggest Mistakes New Writer's Make:

They do not edit their work enough. They send it in way too early. Most agents or editors do not have the time to take on a project that will take a lot of time and energy. So be submitting too early, even if you have potential, you will be rejected.

They do not research where they are submitting. Editors and agents get a lot of paper to go through. If the project does not fit their house, you are wasting their time no matter how great it is.

Example: They only publish picture books 0 - 5 (Applesauce). You send a picture book geared for 6 - 9 year olds, or even worse, a chapter book. Even if they love it, they can not publish it.

How do you avoid that? Before submitting, research the books they sell. Then go to the library and read them. If their whole line is about animals, don't submit a book about diggers.

Hope you learned something today! Stop back later this week to learn about writing a chapter book, tips from Jan Blazanin.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The W's of Writing, I guest blogged

Come on over to Rena Traxel's blog and enjoy learning all about the "W's" of Writing!

She has a great month of blog posts from guest bloggers, working their way throught the alphabet! Enjoy.

More from the conference!

SCBWI-IA packed us with great editors, authors, and an agent.

Kari Pearson from Abrams was full of color, literally! She had on this amazing yellow top that sang energy. She edits picture books for ages 0 - 5, at the Appleseed division. She also helps with Comic Arts.

So, on to the notes:

When querying, make sure you let the editor know that you know that they know their stuff. Research them. Tell them how much you loved what they edited. Congratulate them on the book that won an award. Let them know you are learning to wind-surf too! It's OK to stalk, just don't over stalk.

Have some sort of online presence. Facebook is good. Twitter is good. Author website once you are published is a must (not necessary before). Blogs are nice, but not necessary. Keep it managable. You don't have to do everything.

Don't be afraid to keep in touch. If she invites you to submit, send an email asking if she's had a chance to look at it. She recommends every few weeks. Be respectful (don't email daily. Every few weeks, is once every 2 or 3 weeks.) Editors get busy and do appreciate a reminder here and there.

Editor's Considerations:

1.) Quality of Work
2.) Marketability
3.) Who are you? (And yes, sometimes being a debut author can be marvelous!)

"Quality is always paramount."
She gets excited about good work, and loves to be excited.
Being new can be an asset! They love to discover you.

This is close to quality in importance
Books are a business
Editor looks at context, where does your book fit in?

What books are similar?
How did those books sell?
Does it fit their list?
What category does it go in to?

Who are you?
Introduce yourself with your work!
Don't take it personally. A "no" is not about you.

If they are INTERESTED, what happens?
It goes to an editorial meeting and they ask:
     Does it work?
     Does it fit our line?

Then it goes to a business meeting, where they look at marketability?
     Does it fit?
     Can we sell it?

If the answer is "yes" they will make an offer!

An advance is based off of what they feel the projected sales will be.


I was fortunate enough to have Kari review my work. My picture book I sent is for an older age then she buys, but it was great hearing from her.  I wrote for 6 - 8, she busy 0 - 5. (Another reminder to do all your research before going to conferences. I saw picture book, but didn't think to look deeper.) But I enjoyed having her review it.

What I learned:

*Sometimes a picture book is a chapter book! She loved my character and smiled and laughed, but told me she wanted more from him, and more from each experience. She thought it would translate beautifully to a chapter book.

*She noticed it was still RAW. This had gone through 3 critiques and was written in February. I never send anything out that is this young, but loved the MS and wanted feedback, so I did dedicate time. However, the fact is, it didn't have time to bake, and was still showing. This was a good reminder that you can not RUSH the process.
So if you write something great, don't send it out, yet. Wait a month, revisit it. Then, put it away a few weeks, edit it again. THEN, put it away a few weeks more. Do this until you can not find anything else wrong with it. Do NOT look at it the day after, or a week after. You need to forget about it, so when you look at it, it is like looking at someone else's work.

*Do not write your query letter in third person. Let you shine through.

Here are some of her notes on my MS:
*Not sure about format. Seems like a picture book, but the language is older. Mismatch.Wow! Such an eye opener. Who are you writing too? And yes, my audience is 6 - 8, so it's on the line. I was hoping for an older kid PB, but was a little off on my judgement.

*HOOK:  Lots of funny things! I liked it. Good characterization.
This is huge for me. I challenged myself last year to begin writing character driven stories.

*WRITING: Lots of great details/ingredients! A little undercooked.
Oh-oh, can't rush art! Even when other things are in place.

Remember, publishing is about people! Make sure they know you, and make sure you know them!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Publishing meets Amazon

The second speaker for our conference was Marilyn Brigham, editor from Marshall Cavendish. It was very interesting hearing her speak, especially since they were just bought up by

Was she scared? At first. But she feels it is a good thing. And YES, they are still going to sell hard copies, as well as ebooks. Only the children's division was sold. She said Amazon is not getting their hands dirty in their day to day business, which is important, so you don't have to worry about the branding changing.

My favorite quote from her is:
"Take risks." She said that a lot. She wants writers to write what they want to write, and she wants to read it.

Important tidbits:

*Consistency. Very important in every genre. Don't start with a red car and end with it being blue, unless your MC paints it. If you have a rhythm, keep it. Don't change format, or voice. Keep it consistant.
*They do not buy board books
*They do not need picture books (but you can send them, just know it's a hard sell)
*Don't need Young Adult
*They want: Stand Alone Middle Grade Fiction!!!!!!!
*For chapter book series, they want a strong voice, strong character and strong hook

Writing is hard work!!!! (yes, yes it is. Actually the first draft is easy, it's the editing that I think is hard work, and making sure you let your MS simmer instead of sending it out right away).

And I will end with her quote:

"Take every chance you can get to get published!"
ie: Take risks!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Writer's Conference

OK, if you are a writer, and you haven't been to a writer's conference or workshop, think about what type of writer you are. Are you a hobby writer (just for fun) or do you want to be a professional writer? As with any profession, you have to move your knowledge forward. The best way to do this is to join a writer's group, and keep informed on when their events are.

If you write children's books, is the perfect place to start. Each state has something going on, or you can travel for regional conferences. Invest in yourself and go. You will learn so much.

So let's start with the Iowa SCBWI Conference in Bettendorf that I attended last weekend.

I drove almost 6 hours on a beautiful sunny day from South Dakota to go. I stopped at the Family Museum to do some research for a children's museum we are building in Sioux City, and then headed to the Lodge, where the conference takes place. Part of attending conferences is getting to know other authors. I had the privilege of going to dinner with Barbara, Barbara, and Barbara.

The conference started bright and early with Brett Wright, the assistant editor from Bloomsbury.

Here are my takeaways:

*Find a hook for your book!
*Catch the reader's attention right away. (First pages are vital to getting your book published! Start where the story starts, not at the beginning of the character's life or day.)
*First sentence! Though Brett will read the first 20 pages before he says "no."
*Create a sample sell sheet, see below to know what you need. This will help you sell your book and show you have thought it out. The information can be used in your query.
*Middle Grade should be 30,000 to 40,000 words.
*A long synopsis is a no-no.
*Proper formatting is a must!

Age Level

Handle: 1 line description about the book
Author Information

Selling Points

Books it will compete with, and/or compares to:

Check back later for more tips from the writer's conference, including questions to ask yourself before you start writing!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Poetry Finals!

When I entered the March Madness Poetry Contest, I never expected to make it to the Final 2. I was hoping to just make it past Round 1. Somehow I kept winning, and now it's the last, and most challenging round yet!

The person who I beat out last round (Greg Pincus, who is an amazing writer) got to pick out my seed word for this round. I had 36 hours to write a poem using this word.

Here is my word:

Don't ask me how to pronounce it.

First thing I did was google it. I learned it means Penniless. So I automatically thought of my poor child, who always wants to spend money. To be without a penny.... were the first words that came to me. You see, I was feeling very sorry for my poor child who always wants things (who happens to have many pennies saved, but would never admit it.) So I wrote.

See how needy he is?

My poem took me in the direction of making this not so overly dramatic child work for the money they need to buy a video game. 

I wanted to keep it child friendly, not overly long, and dramatic. If you read it aloud, be sure to do it with lots of drama in your voice.

So you can go check out this poem, and my competitors Bovine poem, at

Voting goes until 9 pm Thursday night.

Then be sure to go through and read the past poems we've written.

I was blessed with the words:


It's been a blast! I'm honored to have made it this far. We will see how I do against a farting balloon.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"April Fool, Phyllis," An Interview with a Book.

From the LaCroix Family Home:

I'm here with Phyllis! Phyllis is the star of "April Fool, Phyllis" written by Susanna Leonard Hill and illustarted by Jeffrey Ebbeler.

When Phyllis first got here, she told me "I need to rest." So she found a pillow and took a nap. She woke up in time for a bedtime story with Billy. Then she cuddled up on her own and went to sleep.

When I asked her for an interview, she told me play first, talk later.

After she played, she made new friends.

Then, she finally agreed to an interview with Sherlock (above).

So Phyllis, tell me, what is it like to be a travelling book?

It's great! I'm going all over the world visiting different families, states and countries! It's wonderful to see how much fun a book have!

Why April Fool's Day when there are so many holidays?
Because it's my favorite. There is nothing better then a laugh. I like to have fun. And it's great that no one knows if you are telling the truth that day.

Tell me about the Scavenger Hunt in the book.
Every year we get to go on one. I love looking at clues and finding the treasure. Don't you think the treasure in this book is worth waiting for?

I do Phyllis!

So Sherlock, tell me what you liked about the book.

Wait, I thought I was the one asking questions.

Yes, yes you were. Now I am. Really, it's been a long trip, and I want to know.

Well, I loved the way everyone worked together to prank each other, and how they all ended up being the fool. And I loved the Scavenger Hunt. I have to admit, some of the clues really had me, they were good! I think all families will want to read this again and again, all months of the year.

Why thank you Sherlock.

Thank you Phyllis for visiting us!

There you have it! Don't you love how polite she is? She is now off to the East Coast for the next part of her tour!