The Master List: 2010 SCBWI LA Conference

I’ve finally posted all of my notes from the 2010 SCBWI LA Conference!

For your convenience I have listed below and linked all of the keynote speeches and breakout sessions I attended to their corresponding posts. Be sure to bookmark this page for future reference!

2010 SCBWI LA Conference Keynote Speech and Breakout Session List:





To learn more about the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and their events visit them online at:

SCBWI LA 2010 – The Quick Take Away

The SCBWI LA 2010 conference was a treasure trove of information! And the goldmine is coming, but it will take a few weeks to type everything up and post it all, so keep checking back for new articles and notes. But in the meantime here’s a taste.

The Digital Revolution:

  • We are in the middle of a digital revolution, and writers and illustrators may find themselves with a new name: Content Creators. But don’t be afraid of what is to come. Books are not going away. Agent Rubin Pfeffer stressed that the new media is “not instead of, but in addition to!”
  • Rights are a big issue right now. Be sure you have an agent who will have your best interests in mind. (Agent Panel)
  • The story comes first. Don’t add extra apps, media, animation, etc. if it doesn’t serve the story. (Editor’s Panel)
  • You want to have an online presence before you sell your book, because after you sell it you won’t have time to set one up. (Jill Alexander, Author)

Trends, The Marketplace, and What Editors are Looking For:

  • Funny middle grade boy books are hot hot hot! If you have one, editors and agents want to hear from you!
  • “If you want to write to the trends, then the vampires win.” (Justin Chanda, Editor)
  • Every house is looking to make a graphic novel. They just haven’t quite figured out how to do it, but we’ll bumble through anyhow. (Nick Elipulos, Editor)
  • The ideal author is one who is talented, dedicated, reliable, strategic, collaborative, and appreciative. (Stephanie Owens Lurie, Editor)

Writing, Storytelling, and Craft:

  • The purpose of fiction (and art) is to rediscover a new landscape. To show the reader the world in a new way, by estranging them from the familiar. (M.T. Anderson, Author).
  • “The emotional resolution is your truth. Feel your way through the story.” (Marion Dane Bauer, Author)
  • “Comedy is tragedy. It just happens to be wearing clown shoes.” (Sid Fleischman, Author)
  • Experimental fiction is actually not experimental at all. These techniques have been used for years, and in fact may be perfect for children! (M.T. Anderson, Author)
  • Voice is what makes your story, how it is told, what it conveys, and how it maintains our interest, powerful. (Jennifer Rees, Editor)
  • Concerning Non-Fiction: There are mistakes that alter the truth of a book, and there are those that do not. We all make mistakes. No book is perfect. (Non-fiction Panel)
  • Think about your own excellence, and write toward that. (Jennifer Brown, Editor)

Inspirational Words of Wisdom:

  • “Fill yourself up to overflowing and then give it back.” (E.B. Lewis, Illustrator)
  • ‘Not bad, pretty good,’ is the best compliment you will ever get from an 8th grader on your book. (Gordon Korman, Author)
  • “Throw your heart over, and follow.” (Gennifer Choldenko, Author)
  • “If you put art into this world, you will get beauty in return.” (Ashley Bryan, Author/Illustrator)

Keynote Speeches, Panels, and Breakout Session Notes – COMING SOON!

I attended the following keynote speeches and sessions (listed below). Please stay tuned for detailed notes on each of these amazing presentations. I will update this list with links as new articles are posted, so bookmark this page!




  • Non-Fiction Panel: Why Narrative Nonfiction is Hotter than Ever
  • Carolyn Mackler Keynote: For Richer or Poorer – Writing Through Good Times and Bad
  • Rachel Vail: Seeing Your Characters From the Inside Out
  • M.T. Anderson: Literary Experiment in Books for Children
  • Gennifer Choldenko Keynote: Kill the Bunnies – Writing Novels for Today’s Kids
  • Rubin Pfeffer Keynote: Are We Now A Society of Content Creators?


  • Rachel Vail Keynote: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters
  • Paul Fleishman Keynote: Surviving the Novel
  • Editors Panel #2: A View From the Top – 4 Publishers Discuss our Industry
  • Jennifer Rees: Your Voice is  Your Voice – Keeping it Real
  • Jill Alexander and Michael Bourret: Your Manuscript is Ready But Are You?
  • Ashley Bryan Keynote: A Tender Bridge

Learn more about SCBWI at:

If you went to the conference, I’d love to hear some of your quick take-away’s as well! Please share!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Conference Junkie

This post is entitled “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Conference Junkie” or Ten Tips for Attending the SCBWI LA Conference (which I have a feeling a good number of you readers are going to be attending). So as a four-year veteran of the Sunny Side of SCBWI, I thought I’d offer the following insight:

1. Out Dress Fancy Nancy – Be yourself! You don’t have to out-dress Fancy Nancy or anyone for that matter. Yes, it’s true professionals will be roaming the hotel and having cocktails at the bar, but that doesn’t mean you have to put on your suit and tie. The conference is a creative and welcoming environment so wear something that makes you feel like the fantastic writer/illustrator that you are! But do take into consideration the fact that you’ll be sitting for many of the events. And note that though it may be a broiling 100+ degrees outside in the California sun, the conference rooms are often arctic cold, so bring a sweater or at least have one up in your hotel room to grab between sessions.

2. Diary of a Wimpy Conference Attendee – Be sure to bring a diary, or a journal, or a notebook, or your own personal bar-napkin filing system. I often treat myself to a special notebook before the event to keep all my notes organized. You’re going to hear lots of great advice and you’ll want to keep track of it all. I organize my notebook by day (Sat, Sun, Mon, etc.) and I’m sure to write down the name of the sessions I attend, and the presenters. As you can tell (from this blog) I’m an avid note taker. But you’ll be surprised how much you forget in a week or two, so it’s great to have a resource to return to.

3. Nick and Nora’s Infinite Research List – It’s a great idea to research the presenters before the conference, but it’s true you can spend hours and hours researching the long list of SCBWI Faculty. Instead, I suggest you narrow down your list. Skim through the faculty bios at the SCBWI website and see who is of interest to you. Who writes/reps/publishes books like yours. Who’s speaking about areas of interest to you – revision, marketing, submissions, etc. Try and read some  interviews or blog posts about those specific faculty members. If you have time, go to the library and pick up some of the key-note speaker’s books. Target your research and if you have extra time expand your list. Don’t forget the plane ride is a great time to read too!

4. The Bathroom Games – If you’re male, then you’ve got a leg up in the bathroom department. Usually the ratio of men to women at the conference is about 70-30. So when the sessions end, the line out the ladies room could resemble an arena where you fight to the death. A few tactics to help avoid the bathroom battlefield include: 1) Try leaving a session a moment or two early so that you’re the first in line. 2) Go up to the next level of the hotel and find a less frequented bathroom. 3) When a break is a little longer than normal head up to your own hotel room where there is no line. 4) Don’t drink anything all day (kidding!).

5. The Very Friendly Caterpillar – One of the most rewarding things about attending an SCBWI conference is the friends you will make. I always feel like I’m headed to camp when I go to the conference. This is because of the amazing friends I’ve made over the years. In fact, I even have an online critique group made of writers I’ve been bold enough to say hello to. So don’t be afraid to turn to your neighbor and strike up a conversation. You may be about to make a life-long friend!

6. Where The Wild Costumes Are – Let the wild rumpus begin! And by rumpus I mean Saturday night costume gala! Yes, it is a costume party!  Think Halloween and get out your finest wig, cape, or princess dress. The party is always color themed so if you’re not in the mood to get out the super-hero spandex you can simply wear a colored tie or scarf, or you can go all out and dress as Marie Antoinette or the newest Space Invader. I saw Jay Asher (author of Thirteen Reasons Why) dressed as Austin Powers last year. Wear as crazy an outfit as you feel comfortable with. But yes, you can go all out!

7. The Little Writer That Could – I think I can! I think I can! Yes, indeed, you can! Everyone’s dream is to be published, but don’t expect miracles from a conference. This is about education and making connections. And the best thing to do (rather than hocking your manuscript) is to bring a professional business card. And when you make friends and acquaintances and they give you their business cards be sure to write down when and where you met them and some important details to help you remember who they are later.

8. Harriet the Portfolio Spy – If you’re participating in the portfolio show it can be really educational to become a spy. Find a place near your portfolio, but far enough away for people to not realize you’re watching them. During the show watch how people react to your book. Are there certain pieces they laugh at, smile at, pull their friends over to show them? What piece makes them lose interest and move on to the next book? You can also follow an editor or art director around as they move through the portfolios. (Remember you’re a spy, so don’t get too close). Watch how they look at portfolios, notice what catches their interest.

9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Manuscript Critique – If you’re getting a manuscript or portfolio critique make sure you keep your cool. Yes, it can be nerve wracking, but take a breath and be prepared to listen. Remember the professionals reviewing your work read and edit books for a living. Don’t defend, but listen. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but at least consider it. Editors and agents are real people too, just like you and me. Have a discussion, be polite, ask questions. And when it’s all said and done, sleep on it. When you go to revise you need to remember that this is only one persons opinion, and no one knows the voice of your book better than you. So take their comments to heart, but don’t let it overpower your own point of view.

10. If You Give an Editor a Cookie – AWKWARD! Okay, don’t really give an editor a cookie. But after the conference do take the time to send them a thank-you note. Send them to all the presenters, agents, authors, organizers, etc. You won’t get many responses, but it does show your appreciation and makes you a part of the community. I personally have received a few responses from thank-you notes, and even a manuscript request once. So you never know what can happen!

Always have fun!

Hopefully I’ll bump into a few of you at the end of this month! Please come over and say hi!

SCBWI Agent Day: The Quick Take-Away

I just spent the day in Newport Beach, at the Orange Country SCBWI Agent’s Day. This great event included presentations by four fantastic kidlit agents including Mary Kole of the Andrea Brown Agency, Kevan Lyon of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, Rebecca Sherman of Writers House, and Brenda Bowen from Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. Each presentation was filled with gems and insight, inspiration and the cold hard facts. I will be blogging shortly with notes from each speaker, but in the meantime I thought I’d give you a few fun quotes, thoughts to think about, and the quick take-aways from the event (as pointed out by Ms. Bowen herself):

What I learned at Agent Day:

  • It takes a village to make a book.
  • Show don’t tell.
  • Agents are looking for that “swept away” feeling when they read your submission.
  • Beware of conference polish – this is when the first ten pages are amazing, but on page eleven… everything goes south.
  • Don’t be too weird, just be weird enough.
  • We are writing good books for bad children – don’t moralize your stories for kids.
  • Make sure your query letter sounds like you.
  • Be profitable to your publisher.
  • Publishers Marketplace is a great resource. It tells the truth, but it doesn’t always tell the whole story (more on this soon).
  • Don’t take it personally if someone passes on your book.
  • Don’t take it personally if it takes six weeks to read your submission.
  • Queries are like shopping. You may like what you see on the hanger but you don’t know if you’ll really like it until you try it on.
  • When you feel like putting your pen in your eye balls, you know your book is done.
  • E-rights are a hot topic, and the terms change every day.
  • iPads are good!

Please be sure to stop back soon when I cover each session individually, including sizzling topics like:

1) Mock Agent and Editor Negotiations by Brenda Bowen and Rebecca Sherman.

2) Rebecca Sherman Debunks Common Myths about Agents.

3) Mary Kole Breaks Down the Market and How to Make Your Submission Sing.

4) Kevan Lyon Reveals the Inner-workings of the Client-Agent Relationship.

5) Insights on What Each Agent is Looking for Right Now!

2010 SCBWI Summer Conference Registration Opens

Yes! It’s finally here! It’s time to register for the SCBWI Summer Conference!

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators annual summer conference in Los Angeles will be open for registration starting Wednesday, April 21st (that’s tomorrow!!). This is a must-see event for anyone who is serious about a career in children’s literature. This years event will include editors and agents from leading publishers in kidlit, as well as the insights of great authors and illustrators like: M.T. Anderson, Carolyn Mackler, Rachel Vail, Gail Carson Levine, Ashley Bryan, and many more!

For full information on speakers, workshops, special events, portfolio and manuscript submissions, and registration please visit: 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference Webpage

Sneek Peek At SCBWI Summer Line-up

Yesterday, I was at the SCBWI Southern California writers day, a day packed with great speakers and inspiration. But at the end of the day we got a sneak peek at who will be attending the SCBWI LA Summer Conference. To wet your appetite here’s some of the powerhouse authors and illustrators that will be in attendance:

  • M.T. Anderson
  • Marion Dan Bauer
  • Ashley Bryan
  • Gennifer Choldenko
  • Gordon Korman
  • Gail Carson Levine
  • E.B. Lewis
  • Loren Long
  • Carolyn Mackler
  • Rubin Pfeffer
  • Jon Scieszka
  • Rachel Vail

Other exciting opportunities will also include premium workshops on: Digital picture book illustration, young adult masterclass, pro-track, creating a picture book, and graphic novels masterclass. Also manuscript consultations and portfolio reviews will be available as well!

And so much more! Take a more in-depth sneak peek at: SCBWI 2010 Summer Conference Flier