Catherine Stine's IDEA CITY

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Friday, February 3, 2012

SCBWI Winter Conference & Agent Tips

 I attended the SCBWI Winter Conference last weekend in NYC, and I wanted to post some highlights for those of you who couldn't attend. The conference was completely sold out, and mobbed. But the opening speaker, author Chris Crutcher made the early trek uptown so worth it.

He has worked for years as a counselor in alternative schools that educate kids who've gotten kicked out of regular schools. So, he knows troubled teens (and talented, quirky kids) up-close. His writing, as was his speech, is raw, hilarious and heartbreaking. His novels have been on "banned" lists. Seems as if some of the best books are on those lists! They've also been ALA winners. Check out all of his novels.

There were agents galore at the conference. Here's a shortlist, noting their preferences:
Ken Wright from Writers' House particularly loves non-fiction. He also likes "voice-driven" YA.
Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary gushed about thrillers-YA sci-fi thrillers, whodunnit thrillers, and any kind of extreme page-turner.
Jennifer Laughran from Andrea Brown Literary wants clever, sarcastic, witty, high-concept novels. She's particularly seeking middle-grade novels, as "YA is somewhat saturated."
Regina Brooks of Serendipity Literary is interested in multicultural stories, and she's also seeking topical stories culled from what's in the news.
Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown Agency is seeking literary and compelling YAs, whatever the genre.

Author Cassandra Clare, author of the Mortal Instruments was the keynote speaker. Her topic was YA love-triangles, and she had tons of diagrams with arrows to show all of the directions that triangle vibes could flow: from guy to guy as friends, from guy to guy as total enemies, from the girl, who keeps the guys both on the hook, on and on! One thing she cautioned against when writing a love triangle, is not to make the girl too indecisive. Better to have a reason that she can't choose the guy she really wants. Perhaps it's forbidden love, or the guys are brothers or.... Get the picture?

I'm glad I went to the conference. It inspired me! I think I've gotten enough material and fire to keep me going for a couple of years. What's your latest, greatest inspiration?


  1. Ahh! I bet you had a blast of fun! Are you just on an information overload?? I'd love to hear Clare speak, I enjoyed the Mortal Instruments series tremendously. I especially loved Simon's character.

    An interesting thought on the YA market being saturated. Although, I agree on many levels, I say who the heck cares. Teens love to read, there's no getting around that fact. If we writers don't keep providing materials for them to read, then shame on the market. I say we YA writers must keep writing! :))

  2. Thanks for sharing highlights. I hope to be able to go to this one year.

  3. One more thing on the YA market. I've been reading YA since I was a YA and even before I was a young adult. My thought, YA will never die out. There will always and forever be room in the genre. We just may need to follow inventive routes of publishing!

  4. Thanks so much for the info, Catherine! :-)

  5. Candy, I hear ya!
    Thanks for the other insights too. Kelly, if you can't get to NYC there's one in LA in early August. Good swimming pools and spa with that one!

  6. I'm really inspired lately by writers who show an ease and relaxation in their writing voice. It's a subjective thing, but it has to do w/ being conversational, a little chatty (but not wordy). With those voices in my head I am not so precious about every little sentence I write. Right now Gish Jen is a favorite. And for kids' writers, it's E. Nesbit!

  7. Conversational, but not wordy, wow, that's a challenge! Helen, I will have to check out the authors you mention.

  8. So great you got to go to this! Hubby hasn't let me go to any of the big ones yet, but I'll be at the Orlando regional in June. Having small kids makes it tough to steal away by myself for the weekend, but thanks so much for the run down and what agents are looking for! :)

  9. That would be way awesome to go, but at least WIFYC is close by and happening later this year. :)

  10. Thanks for sharing your SCBWI insights! I love those conference.
    Just wanted to stop in and remind you about the That's YAmore Blogfest starting tomorrow. I'm looking forward to reading your excerpt.

  11. I love Cassandra's books and I'm currently reading Clockwork Prince.

    I wanted to attend the conference, but didn't go in the end. My query buddy went and is writing up notes for me from Cassandra's talk, since my wip has a romance triangle in it.

  12. Jesse, thanks, I haven't forgotten! Post up soon.

  13. Wow, Sounds like you had a great time at the conference!And I love those love triangles!I've read Cassandra Clare's books. Can't wait to read Clockwork Prince.