Recently, I attended the 2011 SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC. It's always interesting to hear about trends, publishing shifts, new editors and art directors, and learn from the veterans, such as illustrator and writer, Jules Fieffer, and editor, Patricia Lee Gauch. I love running into other writers I know, as well as meeting new ones. Since I tend to remember things in bullet points, I created a list. I hope some of these will amuse and inspire you too:
*RL Stine (Goosebumps series), reading fan mail from a boy: “Dear RL, I’ve read 40 of your books. Can I ask a question? Why are they so boring!” RL did a tour in China, as his books are now pubbed in Mandarin. He said that the bookstore in Shanghai was as big as a Walmart.
*RL Stine getting weepy when recalling how Ray Bradbury shook his hand and told him he would help a lot of people. RL confessed, “I never wanted to be a scary guy, I just wanted to be funny.”
*Sara Zarr YA fiction writer extraordinaire (Story of a Girl), revealing that it took her ten years of struggle, and three unpubbed novels, to finally break through.
*Patricia Lee Gauch veteran editor: “Picture books are horizontal events. Feel the swells, the waves. The idea should not come from your head. Don’t overthink.”
*Jane Yolen author of around 300 books (!!!!!) saying that, of late, she is getting some rejections, saying that her work is too literate! Translation: perhaps there is a trend away from lyricism?
*Editors showed more art text hybrids, which to me, is very exciting. These books have less illustration than graphic novels, but are a sort of extension of the Hugo Cabret concept.
*Jeanette Larson VP & editorial director at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: “Even though Borders may close and B&N is struggling, teens still want books on paper, and children’s books are still relatively stable.”
*Jeanette Larson: “Editors and publishers used to bitterly complain about superstores like Borders, but now we are shouting that we hope and pray they’ll stick around.”
*Andrea Cooper senior editor at S&S: “I spend a lot of time on Amazon before pitching a book that I’m interested in. I’m researching whether there’s another book out there that’s too similar, or finding out whether a trend has reached its tipping point.”
*Jules Feiffer veteran illustrator (who, at 80, is as clear-headed and energetic as many 20 year-olds. He illustrated The Phantom Tollbooth): “If you show you’re angry, or ranting about an issue, you’ll turn readers off. Go through the backdoor and hook them before they know what hit them.”
*Jules Feiffer: “As you age, imagination often increases. There’s no end game in the creative life.”
*Sara Zarr: “Keep cultivating your imagination. The problems and holes in your WIP are always solvable.”
*Lenore Look author of funny middle grade fiction (Ruby Lu series): “Things get messy! I choose topics that are inherently not funny—funerals, school trips to historical sites.”
*I was happy to see my students at the conference—their first. They learned so much in two days!
There was so much more, but this list is getting long. Which of these really resonates with you? What was the one piece of advice you heard at a conference or event that has always stuck in your head?
I write YA as Catherine Stine and NA fiction as Kitsy Clare.
I also teach creative writing. Head over to my website at http://www.catherinestine (DOT) com for info on my workshops and events.
I hang out in NYC, Philly and in the western Catskills. I've been known to illustrate and paint a picture or two.