Those of us who were in Austin this past weekend got lucky—the ALA announced the 2009 awards after the writers and illustrators had already agreed to attend the Austin SCBWI conference, Destination Publication. So, we had both the author and illustrator for the Caldecott Honor winner, All the World. We had the author of the Sibert Honor winner, The Day-Glo Brothers, and we had the author of the Newberry Honor winner, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. Of course, they might have chosen to attend the Austin conference instead of the New York conference anyway, because Liz Scanlon, Chris Barton, and Jacqueline Kelly are all from Texas. Yee-ha!
Liz Scanlon and Illustrator Marla Frazee gave an outstanding presentation on their collaboration for their beautiful picture book, ALL THE WORLD. These two women stole the show by sharing their emails from their editor, Allyn Johnston of Beach Lane Books, and their hysterical responses to her suggestions. If they ever gave up being an author and an illustrator, they could have a great career in stand-up.
Marla’s advice to picturebook writers was to write text that allows chemistry to develop between words and pictures. As an example, she played a fabulous slide show of her process in creating the illustrations for Seven Silly Eaters.
Jacqueline Kelly, author of the Newberry Honor, THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE, had this advise for writers who struggle with finding enough time to write: Keep a time diary for ten days. You will be amazed at how much time is wasted.
Chris Barton, author of the Sibert Honor, THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS, warned us all that to be successful writers, we need to be hard-headed, but in an educated way.
Kirby Larson, athor of the 2007 Newberry Honor, HATTIE BIG SKY was there to talk to us as well. Unfortunately, I had to be out of the room during her presentation. I’ll have to dig around in blogs of the other attendees to find out what she had to tell us.
Several other writers came to share their expertise with us. Jennifer Ziegler, author of ALPHA DOG and HOW NOT TO BE POPULAR, mentioned that when prewriting, it is helpful to note in your outline your characters’ moods at the beginning of the scene and at the ends of the scene.
PJ Hoover, author of THE FORGOTTEN WORLDS TRILOGY, suggested that when authors have school visits, they should take something more unique than bookmarks or postcards to hand out to the kids—give them something that has your information on it that they will want to keep.
Shana Burg, author of A THOUSAND NEVER EVERS, told us that in revision, it is important to make sure that each scene is creating an emotional reaction and that the action of the story is sequential.
Sarah Lewis Holmes, author of OPERATION YES! was there with her editor, Cheryl Klein. They gave a presentation on the author/editor relationship. Cheryl said that it was her job to be the readers’ advocate. She needs to identify what the reader wants to be feeling in each scene. Sarah admitted that her revision letter was overwhelming at first because there was so much to be done. Her advice is to read your entire revision letter completely, go back and make notes in the margins, then put it away for a while. In the end, Cheryl said, it is not important if the problems get solved by the writer following the editor’s suggestions or if they get solved by the writer coming up with a new solution. All that matters is that the problems get solved.
Thank you to Mark McVeigh of the McVeigh agency for his riveting address, and thank you to Andrea Cascardi, Stacy Cantor and Nathan Brandsford for sharing their time and expertise with us.