Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser’s valuable leadership and passion for children’s books reminded me why we recommend writers and illustrators join the Society of Children’s Books Writers & Illustrators. In fact, we link to the SCBWI at the top of our agency Submission Guidelines. We encourage authors/illustrators to join as a first step before querying agents or finalizing manuscripts. Time and time again, our clients tell us about the wonderful support SCBWI gives to pre-published and published writers. Joining SCBWI and attending their national/regional conferences will likely be one of the best moves you’ll make along your journey to successful publication.
For those writers and illustrators that weren’t able to attend the SCBWI Summer Conference---we're sharing a quick view from the conference. It’s impossible to cover every topic and speaker, and these are just a handful of highlights we felt would be helpful to new writers and illustrators. Be sure to mark your calendars for the SCBWI NY and LA conferences in 2013!
Publisher of his own imprint at Scholastic for 15 years, Arthur Levine’s opening keynote set the stage for inspiring writers and illustrators to create authentic books with an intimacy between author and reader that is timeless. Examples included Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann, Mirette on the Highwire by Emily Arnold McCully, The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, How Are You Peeling? by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers, and The Arrival by Shaun Tan, among many others. Arthur Levine reminds writers to ask themselves the question he asks when he reads a new manuscript? "If you were going to recommend this book, would it be the BEST book of its kind?"
Illustrator Portfolio Showcase
I had the honor of being one of five judges for this year’s SCBWI Illustrator Portfolio Showcase. The judges viewed 160 illustrator portfolios organized by Priscilla Burris, David Diaz and team. We then narrowed the selection down to around 20 portfolios and discussed each Portfolio together. We looked at style, color and range of images that would appeal to editors and agents. We tried to identify the strongest portfolios that showed the greatest possibilities. Juana Martinez Neal was selected as the Grand Prize Winner---she had been selected for the mentorship program last year and her amazing portfolio sparkled with joy and life. Her textured trees filled with vibrant whimsical birds flew right off the page ready to tell their story!
|Judges (from left to right) Deb Warren, Jennifer Rofe, Neal Porter, Tamar Brazis, and Stefanie Von Borstel with portfolio for SCBWI Portfolio Grand Prize winner Juana Martinez Neal|
Honors were awarded to Mary Jo Scott with her charming scenes that whisked me away to Italian cafes and red wagon adventures. Nancy Armo’s expressions on her trouble-making bunnies and dancing duck sparked my imagination. Mary Lundquist’s sweet bear, bunny and mouse reminded me of some of my favorite classics renewed. Congratulations to the Portfolio Winners, selected Mentorship Winners and all the wonderful participants!
Nonfiction for All Ages
There was new energy for nonfiction writers who heard editors including Bonnie Bader (Penguin), and Laura Godwin (Henry Holt) speak about their love of publishing quality nonfiction. Buzz around the recent Common Core State Standards met with lots of mixed thoughts – some editors excited about the opportunities to sell and publish more nonfiction books and others unsure it will impact their publishing programs. There seems to be a gap in quality older nonfiction for middle grade and young adult readers. Attention writers: Full Circle would love to see more submissions for nonfiction of all ages, especially middle grade and young adult with a unique voice!
In her “Up to the Minute Survey of Market Needs and Trends,” Deborah Halverson, freelance editor and author (and former Harcourt colleague and friend!), reported the consensus from most publishers is that the picture book market is improving after some tough years. The dominant trends are shorter, character-driven stories. Picture books must have a distinct voice and be fresh, going beyond the basic storyline of getting ready for bed or going to school, for example. Neal Porter spoke about the power of indie bookstores to propel picture books in today’s market. He shared the example A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip and Erin Stead, which he noted had a 4,500 copy first printing and was not initially supported by the chain bookstores.
Diversity in Children’s Books
At the Golden Kite Luncheon, Lin Oliver announced a new SCBWI initiative to bring more diversity to children’s books. She noted the new Children’s Book Council Diversity Committee and the need for children of all ages to see their faces and hear their voices in the books they read. Full Circle has long been a supporter of diverse voices and talent and we’re excited to actively work with the SCBWI in this new initiative!
The Hippie-Hop dance truly was a groovy time -- where else could I have boogied with an industry icon like Jody Fickes Shapiro?! For a closer look at the SCBWI 2012 Summer Conference, please be sure to visit the official SCBWI Conference Blog --- we’ll see you at the conference next year!