Friday, July 29, 2011

In the News This Week

Fridays on the SCBWI blog, I share snippets of and links to some of the publishing/media-related news I've read during the last week that I found interesting, helpful, and/or fun.

This weeks news includes PW's coverage of Comic-Con (with plenty of pics), children's book on stage, more on Google+ (including a list of writers you can add your name to), a handy list of stores selling e-readers, a YouTube plan for Banned Books Week, a relocating NYT staffer on moving print books (or not), and more.

Kids, Comics, and Comic-Con International 2011 (PW)
Comics aren’t just for adults at Comic-Con International. Big announcements for children’s comics share time with blockbuster movies and roaming hordes of costumed fans. This year there were announcements about new books for Raina Telgemeier and Kazu Kibuishi, and Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman plans a book collecting his first kids' series, Super Dinosaur.

San Diego Comic-Con 2011: Kids' Books at the Show (PW) 
The 42nd annual Comic-Con International took place this past weekend, with more than 130,000 fans flocking to the San Diego Convention Center for a peek at what's new and next in the worlds of comics, books, and movies. As in years past, the presence of children's book publishers at the show continued to grow—read on for our round-up of photos from the show.  

Children's Musicals Find a Happy Home in New York (ABC)
The crowd attending a hit musical recently on the Upper East Side weren't shy about loudly offering their thoughts. "What are they doing?" asked one. "I want to dance," said another. And, most worrisome for producers, one patron was heard offering this critique: "I want to go home." She was, it turned out, in the minority. She was also about 4.

10 Brick-and-Mortar Stores That Sell eReaders (GalleyCat)
This week Toys”R”Us announced that they will begin selling Amazon’s Kindle and OfficeMax announced that they will begin selling Barnes & Noble’s Nook.

Writers on Google+ (GalleyCat)
After our first couple weeks on Google+, we’ve met a whole new crew of online friends. We want to help writers with similar interests connect on this rapidly growing social network. If you want to meet other writers or readers on Google+, add your name to our new directory. In the comments section below, just share your name, a description of your writing and a link to your Google+ profile. Unlike our Twitter directories, you must opt-in to this new list.

Banned Books Week Features YouTube Read-Out (PW)
For Banned Books Week (Sept. 24-Oct. 1) this year, booksellers and their customers can proclaim their support for free speech on the Internet by joining a worldwide read-out of banned and challenged books. For many years, Banned Books Week has featured readings from challenged titles in bookstores and libraries. This year people can participate no matter where they are–in bookstores, libraries and their own homes–by posting a video of themselves reading their favorite banned book on a special YouTube channel.

Sophomore Slump? One Month In, Google+ Sees A Traffic Minus (TechCrunch)
Tomorrow, it will be exactly a month since Google+ was first unveiled. In that short amount of time, they’ve managed to sign up well north of 10 million users, which is amazing. Of course, the easiest path to tens of million of users is to start with hundreds of millions of users. Just ask Buzz or Wave. Still, kudos to Google—phase one of G+ was clearly a success.

Nook iPad App Will Sell Magazines & Children’s Books (GalleyCat)
After Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo cut iPad app links to outside eBook stores to comply with new Apple App Store rules, some content is beginning to return. Barnes & Noble will sell magazines and children’s books within the Nook iPad app very soon.

HOW TO Connect Your LinkedIn Profile With Twitter For Better Networking (AllTwitter)Both Twitter and LinkedIn are great for networking with professionals, co-workers and business associates. But rather than flipping between the two networks, they’ve made it easy to connect to one another in order to leverage both at the same time. Here’s how.

Print Books: Should They Stay or Should They Go? (NYT)
At the end of the week, I’ll be moving west and writing about technology from The New York Times’s San Francisco bureau. I’ve lived in New York City for 15 years, and over that time have amassed a lot of stuff. My personal belongings are strewn about the city, piled up in my apartment, stuffed into drawers at my office and stacked in a storage space in Brooklyn.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The 40th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference ...There's an App for That!

Here's some exciting news for conference-goers--the Summer Conference has gone mobile!

Attendees can now download Guidebook for free. This app allows you to quickly and easily keep track of the conference schedule and create your own personal schedule plus it gives you quick access to conference tweets (#LA11SCBWI), maps and more!

The app is compatible with the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android devices.

There are three ways get Guidebook:
  • Download it from the Apple App Store or the Android Marketplace.
  • Visit from your phone's browser.
  • Look for an email from SCBWI HQ with an image to scan with your mobile phone.

The SCBWI 40th Annual Summer Conference guide is listed under the "Download Guides" section of the app. I've already been playing around with it on my iPhone, and it's cool and easy to use. If you're attending the event--get the app! It's sure to enhance your experience.

Friday, July 22, 2011

In the News This Week

Fridays on the SCBWI blog, I share snippets of and links to some of the publishing/media-related news I've read during the last week that I found interesting, helpful, and/or fun. (I missed last week because I was on vacation.) Click titles to get to the full articles.

Today's news bits include collections of stories and posts related to just three topics: Google+ (you'll find helpful guides and tips), Borders (don't miss the going-out-of-business sale), and Harry Potter (who, surprisingly, is still not quite as popular as Jesus--at least on Facebook).

Google+: The Complete Guide (Mashable)
Google+: It’s the hot social network on the block. In just three weeks, Google’s competitor to Facebook and Twitter has amassed more than 10 million users, and its users are sharing more than 1 billion pieces of content daily. It’s become a hotbed for early adopters, tech luminaries, marketers and businesses around the world.

How Is Google+ Like Twitter And Facebook? [INFOGRAPHIC] (AllTwitter)
Google+ is the newest social network on the block, and it’s gaining a lot of momentum. But it’s very much an unknown quantity for a lot of people, as many of its features are still being explored.

HOW TO Tweet Your Google+ Posts Automatically To Twitter (AllTwitter)
A big Twitter management app has just added connectivity to Google+ for those of you who want to integrate your two accounts. Learn how below. ManageFlitter allows Twitter users to monitor which of their followers is active and which isn’t, in order to choose who is worth a follow back and who isn’t. And now they’ve added Google+ functionality, too.
How To Use Google+ Hangouts (eBookNewser)
Ever wish your writing group or book club could include readers from around the world? Last night we experimented with the Hangouts section of the new Google+ social network, coming up with some simple tips for using Google+ Hangouts to connect with readers and writers online. Using Google+ Hangouts, writers can quickly assemble spontaneous but private conversations in “live multi-person video” chatrooms.
Borders Sale Approved (PW)
In the end, Borders went the way of other large retailers like Circuit City and Linens 'n Things. At Thursday's hearing, Judge Martin Glenn said that he will enter the sales order for Borders's liquidation and going-out-of-business sales starting Friday. "This is a very bittersweet day in the history of this company," said Borders attorney Andrew Glenn. "We obviously didn’t get to where we wanted it to be, a full going-concern sale. Let’s just hope that people are reading books after this."

How Bookstores Can Survive in a Post-Borders World (GalleyCat)
Is the Borders’ liquidation the beginning of the end for independent booksellers? The American Booksellers Association (ABA) doesn’t think so.
This morning Google made an announcement of magical significance: the Harry Potter eBooks, which are being released for the first time this October, will be available via its Google Books platform. That sounds like it should be a given, but in the case of Potter it isn’t — author J.K. Rowling is selling the books exclusively through Pottermore, a site that she launched with much fanfare last month.

JK Rowling 'writing hard' on new work (Guardian)
Start all the clocks and plug the telephone back in: JK Rowling has provided a shred of comfort to the millions of mourners lamenting the release of the final Harry Potter movie with the revelation that she has written "quite a lot" of new material and has plans to publish it.

The news that Sarah Odedina is to leave Bloomsbury Children's Books after 14 years came as a shock on Monday, as London publishing was winding down for the summer. Odedina, who has published all of the Harry Potter titles, will take the reins as managing director and publisher of a to-be-named children’s fiction list at Bonnier, the privately owned Swedish media group whose U.K. operation already includes the illustrated children’s publishers Templar and Autumn. Odedina’s start date has not yet been announced and she has agreed to stay on at Bloomsbury until a successor has been named.  
Jesus Daily fans rejoice as they tackle their toughest competition yet to hold on as Facebook’s most engaging page: Harry Potter shattered box office records, but the noise on the film’s social networking home could not successfully outshine the long-standing number one contender.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

SCBWI TEAM BLOG Pre-Conference Interview: Brenda Bowen

Brenda Bowen
With 25-plus years in children’s publishing--as editorial director of Henry Holt & Books for Young Readers, Scholastic Press, Disney/Hyperion, and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing--Brenda Bowen began agenting at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates in 2009.

She reps a slew of talented writers and illustrators of picture books, graphic novels, and middle-grade and teen fiction (as well as a few authors who write books for grown-ups). Plus she's written a number of award-winning picture books under the name Margaret McNamara (and is herself repped by Greenburger).

With her wealth of experience and perspectives, who better to serve as faculty at the 40th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference? Here Brenda clues us in on a session she's presenting, offers advice on critique meetings, and gives some helpful Dos and Don'ts.

To learn more about Brenda Bowen, visit her website.

At the SCBWI Summer Conference you're doing a session called "The Art of the Deal: A Publisher and An Agent Take It to the Mattress." Sounds exciting! Please explain what we're in for. (I'm assuming it's in no way a tie-in to the poolside pajama party.)

Alessandra Balzer and I are taking it the mattresses in the metaphorical, or Godfatherly, sense. We're going to duke it out over an acquisition: she'll be the gracious-yet-determined acquiring editor, and I'll be the rapacious-yet-equitable agent. We've come up with one fabricated acquisition and we'll take our audience through the process from submission letter to winning bid. Along the way there'll be a few hiccups, just to keep it interesting and informative. This is a session for people who want to know exactly what it takes to sell and buy a book.

You have decades of editorial experience and are a writer yourself. How does your background effect your agenting style?

Decades! Yes, I suppose it's true. The editorial experience allows me help the author to get her book into shape to show a publisher. I like to make the book as strong as possible without wringing every drop of creativity from the author so that there's something left to give when the editor asks for more changes. Having been an editor for so long also enables me to interpret what publishers are saying (e.g., "Fish on the table!"). Being a writer myself allows me to see things solely from the author's point of view. I can sympathize with their emotions--from torrents of unchecked rage (as a result of, say, a bad review), to childish elation--"They like me! They really like me!" (as a result of a good one).

Are you open to taking on new clients? If so, what areas interest you most? (I read conference notes on someone's blog that said you're not big into YA--true?)

Yes, I am open to new clients, especially in middle-grade and YA. I am big into YA and always have been, what I'm not so into is YA paranormal.

You're doing manuscript critiques during the conference. Can you offer some advice to writers on getting the most from a critique meeting?

Honestly, I think writers should use the time to get whatever they want out of the critique. If you, dear Writers, only want to hear about the good things in your manuscript--say so. If you want brutal honesty, gird your loins. If you want to hear about the market, go ahead and ask. If you want to know what the editor is looking for, lead with that question.

Finally, please offer some Dos and Don'ts for interacting with agents in a conference environment.
  • DO remember that agents can't read manuscripts on the spot.
  • DO listen: If an agent says, I am just too worn out to hear your pitch right now, don't pitch right now.
  • DO bear in mind that agents are as open as possible at Conference, but may be less accessible when they're back at their desks, so if an agent says, Go ahead, talk to me, then...
  • DO take advantage of the fact that at SCBWI you can have a real conversation, in person.
  • DON'T think that one agent's opinion is every agent's opinion. Publishing is extremely subjective.
  • DON'T only ask about ebook royalties.
  • DON'T post photos of agents dancing in their pajamas. Please.
  • DON'T forget that we need you as much as you need us.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Blog Tour Stop Guest Post: Deborah Halverson on Serving Up Subtext

Deborah Halverson
I'm thrilled to host day two of Deborah Halverson's blog tour for WRITING YOUNG ADULT FICTION FOR DUMMIES. Deborah is also the author of YA novels HONK IT YOU HATE ME and BIG MOUTH. She was as an editor at Harcourt for a decade before leaving to write full-time and now maintains, an advice website for writers, and works as a freelance editor. For more about Deborah, visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

Below is Deborah's craft-oriented guest post offering a remedy for flat fiction. Find similar helpful instruction in WYAFFD.

SERVING UP SUBTEXT, by Deborah Halverson

Alright, you’ve done your due diligence and shown your manuscript to your critique group, your trusted colleague, or your hired editorial gun for feedback on its strengths and weakness. You sincerely want to hear what they say, good or bad, because you’re committed to doing whatever is necessary to make your story great. You’ve put on your thickest skin, you’ve picked up your favorite pen, you’re waiting for the feedback, totally ready to revise . . . and then somebody goes and calls your manuscript “flat.”


What in the world does “flat” mean?

And how in the world do you go about, er, unflattening it?


A “flat” manuscript has characters who say and do things in a wholly expected, straightforward manner. They don’t surprise readers, they don’t keep readers guessing about their sincerity or their plans or their motives. And their behavior and actions are equally straightforward, supporting exactly what the character just said. What you see is what you get with these folks, and a manuscript filled with characters saying and doing what seems like the logical thing to do without doing it in a way that intrigues anybody lacks subtly, richness, pizazz. It feels “flat.”


A great solution for “flat” is subtext. Subtext refers to what’s going on behind the spoken words. When your narrative beat (the bit of exposition that separates two snippets of dialogue) offers action that directly undermines or contradicts what’s being said in the dialogue, the reality behind the words is the subtext. For example,
“So that’s it, then,” Trish said. “I’ll run for class president, and you’ll be my campaign manager. That’s our play.”
“I knew you’d love it!” Beth flipped open her notebook and started writing wildly. “We’ll get posters made, and buttons. Gotta have buttons. Oh, and stickers. People love stickers. I’m telling you, you’ll be on that student council with Tom in no time.” She ripped a blank page out of her notebook and gave it to Trish along with a pen, and then went back to her list. “Campaign speech, slogan, t-shirts…. I’m so glad I came up with this! It’ll be a lot of work, but if we stay focused we’ll pull it off.”
“Oh, we’re focused,” Trish said, rubbing the side of her pencil lead on the paper to pick up the texture of the bumpy tile table beneath it. “We’re totally focused.”
The subtext here is their relationship and Trish’s letting Beth be the workhorse while she herself gets the glory. Her random doodling demonstrates her lack of commitment to the work despite her verbal pledge that she’s up to it. At this point, readers can guess at Trish’s motives: She may be oblivious to the mismatch of her words and actions, or she may not be willing to face the truth behind that mismatch (it does make her a rotten friend, after all), or perhaps she’s deliberately encouraging Beth’s misperception of their relationship because it works in her favor. Regardless of Trish’s awareness or motives, she is implying one thing with her words and implying something else entirely through her actions, and readers will pick up on that.

Creating a subtext is a rich and deliciously teasing way to tell a story. It puts readers “in the know” while leaving characters clueless. And I ask you, What young person doesn’t love knowing more than everyone else? Subtext is a great way to give your young adult fiction depth. When kids clue in to those contradictions, they start
  • questioning, which means they are interacting with the text. Good 
  • realizing, which means they’re probably feeling pretty darned clever. Great. 
  • anticipating, which means they’re acting on that extra knowledge of theirs to guess at the next plot development . . . which is further interaction with the story.

When you can get a young reader to interact with your story, you’ve hooked her. Score!


Here are three ways to create subtext in your story:

1.    Contradict spoken words with body language or behavior

See the Trish and Beth example above.

2.    Contradict a character’s perception of a setting with the realities of that setting

Consider two teens cruising down the highway in peppy electric car on a road trip to the national high school band competition:
“Wait, what did that sign say?
“Compton, next exit.”
“I’ve heard of Compton.” Kelly turned on her blinker and started to change lanes. “So it must be a big town. There’s bound to be a Starbucks. Let’s turn off here and get a latte. I totally need a caffeine hit.”
Kelly’s ignorance of Compton’s notoriety conflicts with the reality of that city’s ranking by the FBI as the 8th most dangerous city in the United States. Readers will know why Compton’s name strikes a bell thanks to popular music, news, and the story description on the back of the book. Peppy, preppy Kelly, on the other hand, has no idea.

3.    Contradict one more obvious meaning with a second less obvious—and wholly different—one

This exchange seems to be about a boy driving his car too fast to show off for his girlfriend. But when we know that in other scenes he’s tried to push the girlfriend into having sex with him, there’s rich subtext:
“Stop the car,” she said. “Now.”
“Because I don’t want to go so fast, that’s why.”
“You’re such a chicken.”
“I’m not a chicken.”
“You are, too,” he said. “You always make me pull over when it starts getting fun. Where’s your sense of adventure? Where’s your joy in life? There’s a totally wild turn up there. Trust me, you’ll love it. Just a little further—”
“I said no!”
Contradictions throw motives into question, inject undertones of secretiveness and deceit or fear and hesitation, help flaw main characters, expose relationship histories, and lay the groundwork for rewarding revelations. The end result is a young adult story with more depth—both emotional and intellectual—and a plot with more complexity.

There ain’t nothin’ “flat” about that.

Monday, July 18, 2011

More TEAM BLOG Pre-Conference Interviews. Plus: REGISTRATION CLOSES TODAY!

I just got back from a week-long vaca with the fam and it seems I've missed lots of action.

SCBWI TEAM BLOG has been busy bringing you more interviews with fab conference faculty.

Suzanne Young talked with agent Steven Malk and editors Alessandra Balzer and Julie Strauss-Gabel. Here is a bit of conference-related insight from each of them. Click on their names below to read the complete interviews.
  • Steven Malk on the conference mind-set: I think the key to making the most of the conference experience is to go in with an enthusiastic but relaxed attitude and not to put too much pressure on yourself.
  • Alessandra Balzer on her conference session: I’m going to debunk some myths that authors have probably heard about the publishing process and be very honest about the process that editors go through in-house for acquisition, and what my particular imprint (Balzer + Bray) is looking for.  
  • Julie Strauss-Gabel on picking conference sessions: I think it’s important to mix in some attention to craft, not just focus on selling.

Martha Brockenbrough chatted with author Bruce Hale. Here's a bit from their interview. Click his name to read it in full:
  • Bruce Hale on taking your writing to a new level: Get in touch with your passions, your hopes and fears from childhood. Chances are, what moved you then will move you now. Write about these things, not teen dystopia or vampires or whatever's currently trendy.

Last but certainly not least, Jolie Stekly had a conversation with Laurie Halse Anderson. Here's a snippet. Click her name to read the entire post:
  • Laurie Halse Anderson on challenged books: The first couple of dozen times my books were challenged, I took it very personally. I bawled like a baby and wasted untold days paralyzed by the thought that anyone would think I'd ever seek to harm a child. Then I got over myself.'s now or never time. Conference registration CLOSES TODAY at 5PM Pacific time. If you'd like to hear Steve, Alessandra, Julie, Bruce, Laurie and the other tremendous faculty at the 40th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference, click here to register. (Tomorrow it will be too late.)

And whether you attend or not, don't forget to visit the SCBWI Conference Blog for play by play through the event from my super-awesome TEAM BLOG.

Friday, July 8, 2011

In the News This Week

Fridays on the SCBWI blog, I share snippets of and links to some of the publishing/media-related news I've read during the last week that I found interesting, helpful, and/or fun. Click titles to get to the full articles.

Today's news bits include virtual book clubs (or critique groups?) made easy, more on the WSJ YA story, e-readers print habits, some love for publishers, a digital deal for Harper, and more.

Host A Virtual Book Club Using Facebook, Skype Or Google (eBookNewser)
Having a virtual book club has never been easier thanks to new tools from Facebook, Skype and Google. Today Facebook announced new updates that make it easier to chat with multiple people and to hold one-on-one video calls.

YA Author Apologizes To 'Wall Street Journal' Critic (NPR)
Debates over what material is appropriate for teen readers have been raging ever since the young adult--or "YA"--genre first emerged.But the argument took on new life in June, when Wall Street Journal children's book critic Meghan Cox Gurdon suggested that teen fiction had gone from dark to lurid.

Comics And Kids Book Apps Lead Top Grossing iPad Book Apps (eBookNewser)
To prepare for Mediabistro’s upcoming Publishing App Expo on December 7-8, we will be spotlighting the top grossing book apps every week–helping our readers discover and analyze successful content.
Twitter Tip: Don’t Auto-Connect Your Facebook And Twitter Accounts

Twitter has made it deceptively easy to connect your Twitter account to your Facebook account, but don’t be fooled. It’s usually not a good idea.  

Why You Should Own Your Domain Name (GalleyCat)
Having an online presence is critical for writers to market their work. In a recent blog post, author John Scalzi urged writers to purchase their own domain name online.

Tablet, E-reader Owners Also Print Junkies (MediaPost)
People who are heavy print magazine and newspaper readers might seem like the last ones to embrace gadgets like tablets and e-readers. But new research from Gfk MRI shows tablet owners are 66% more likely than the average U.S. adult to be big print magazine consumers and 54% more likely to be heavy print newspaper readers. Similarly, e-reader owners are 23% more likely to be print magazine enthusiasts and 63% more likely to get newsprint on their hands.  

Cherish the Book Publishers—You'll Miss Them When They're Gone (WSJ)
The Klondikers of digital publishing are rushing to stake their claims, inspired by tales of the gold to be found in the Kindle hills. A few pioneering prospectors have indeed struck it rich with light entertainments, most famously Amanda Hocking, who is a sort of Tolkien for our times (if Tolkien had been an avid fan of "Star Wars" instead of an eminent scholar of "Beowulf"). Her self-published e-books racked up so many sales over the past year that St. Martin's Press recently signed her for some $2 million.

Harper Children's Books Debuts Digital 'I Can Read' Series (PW)
HarperCollins Children’s Books is teaming with both the Apple iBookstore and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Bookstore to launch digital editions of its popular I Can Read early reader picture book series. Harper will set up I Can Read digital boutiques at each online store, launching with 80 titles with plans for more to come.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

SCBWI TEAM BLOG Pre-Conference Interview: Barry Goldblatt

Barry Goldblatt
A chat with agent Barry Goldbaltt kicks off my SCBWI TEAM BLOG interviews with 40th Annual Summer Conference faculty!

After years working in the rights and contracts departments at Penguin, Putnam, and Orchard, Barry opened Barry Goldblatt Literary in 2000, and set out to find writers whose work made him laugh, cry, scream and jump up and down. He's has been gleefully signing authors ever since--among them award-winners and bestsellers.

To learn more about him, visit his website or follow him on Twitter. Oh--and you can also come hear him speak at the SCBWI Annual Summer Conference! Click here to register.

You've been agenting for more than a decade now. How have the changes in the publishing industry effected your day-to-day work life?
I don't know that changes in the industry have had an impact on my daily routine, but the growth of the agency itself certainly has! Back when I first started, with just a handful of clients, I spent the majority of my time every day just reading--client manuscripts, sure, but also submissions and lots and lots of actual published books, usually as galleys. I needed that to get my feet solidly on the ground, to really know what was out there, what was selling (and to whom) in order to become a good, knowledgeable agent who could actually offer something to writers.

Now of course I spend a lot more time dealing with contract negotiations, royalty statements, and lots of other paperwork, and the reading time is a lot more difficult to come by. I also now have another agent working with me, and a full time assistant as well, so there's a lot more interaction with others on a daily basis as well.

Probably the one significant impact of industry changes on my daily work is the amount of it. The fact is, children's publishing over the last ten years has gotten bigger and for the most part better, and it's meant there are more terrific writers to discover, and more great books to sell and champion!

You're active on Twitter. How does participating in that community benefit you as an agent? Do you think it's a worthwhile for writers to tweet?

I find Twitter oddly entertaining. I tried the whole blogging thing as an agent, and it just wasn't for me. I angsted all the time over what to post, how often to post, was what I was saying of any relevance. But 140 characters? I can manage that, and if no one cares about a particular tweet, they'll just ignore it. But the Twitter community overall, especially as it relates to writing/agenting/publishing is both informative and useful, at least for me.

Is it useful for writers? It is, if you like doing it. I see some writers who are clearly uncomfortable with Twitter (or blogging or Facebook), but feel somehow obligated to do it. It's a tool, just like any other, and if it suits your personality, it's a helpful one. But it is by no means an absolute must. Many of my clients use it, to varying degrees: Cassandra Clare (@cassieclare) practically lives there, Jo Knowles (@joknowles) uses it to complement her blogging quite well, and Robin Wasserman (@robinwasserman) gets to satisfy a lot of her cultural interests and share her idiosyncrasies too (plus it led to her meeting Judy Blume!).

You've got an impressive list of clients (including Libba Bray, Holly Black, Angela Johnson and Lauren Myracle to name a few). Are you open to new clients? If so, what's the best way to approach you?

I am always open to new clients. I don't want to rest on my laurels, nor do I want to feel stagnant, and the best way to deal with that is to keep finding new writers to champion. My website clearly lists my guidelines, which are an emailed query with first five pages included in the body of the email.

You're doing manuscript critiques at the Summer Conference. Could you offer some advice to writers on getting the most out of a critique meeting?
I think the best advice I have for a writer in those meetings is to go in with an open mind and willing to listen. Do NOT go in expecting to hear "I totally want to represent you" as that's extremely unlikely, and will negate any useful information the agent/editor/writer you're meeting with might have to share. Also, remember as always, it's one person's opinion, and is not the be all, end all of the universe.

You're participating in a panel called "Four Agents View the Current State of Children's Books," as well as a breakout session called "What My Agency Does and How We Do It." Can you give us a taste of what you'll cover?

I imagine there will be a lot of discussion about ebooks and the future of print, because that's one of those hot button topics right now. In my breakout, I plan to give a snapshot into my agency's working philosophy, how we go about choosing what we want to represent, and then what we do to make sure those clients have the best careers possible.

Would you offer some general advice (or do's and don't) for writers on interacting with agents in a conference setting?

Remember that we're not scary, and we're not going to bite your head off if you come up and say hello. However, none of us want to be pitched, unless we're in an actual pitch session, and certainly none of us want to be handed a manuscript.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Sort-of Guest Post: The Boy Interviews Illustrator Loren Long

Loren Long
By the end of the school year, my son was pretty much over Kindergarten.

"What happened at school today?" I would ask as he'd saunter in from the bus.

"Nothing," he'd say. "Just like every day. School is always the same"

But on one particular day in May, Murray ran in from the bus, very excited.

"Loren Long was at school today. He taught us what art is!"

Before he met him in person, the boy was well acquainted with Loren's work--we have a stack of his picture books--OTIS, THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD, TOY BOAT, Golden Kite winner I DREAM OF TRAINS--and they are favorites in our house. And not too long ago, the Long family moved to my neighborhood (yay!), so it was convenient for the busy illustrator/author to spend some time at Madeira Elementary.

After Murray told me all about what he learned from his school's visitor, I asked if he'd be interested in interviewing Loren for my blog and he was enthusiastically game--as was his interviewee. Their conversation is below.

To learn more about Loren Long and his exquisite work, visit his website,

How old were you when you first started drawing? What was your favorite thing to draw? And how did you not need help when you were drawing on your own?

Legend has it that I started drawing when I was about four. That is to say drawing with the purpose of making a drawing look like something. My first favorite thing to draw was Snoopy. I suppose I would have needed help if the result mattered but as a little boy it was only for fun.

What is your favorite book you drew? Why do you like it the best?

It is hard to name my favorite book that I've done. They all mean a lot to me. I really like Otis because he is so much fun to draw and he is such a good friend.

The boy reads OTIS.

My favorite book is OTIS and my favorite character is Otis and it's a very nice story. Do you have a favorite character in your books?

Thank you! Otis is one of my favorite characters to be sure and I'm awfully fond of THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD as well. The Little Blue Engine is such a strong-minded, determined little train. I still think of her when the going gets tough.

I usually use crayons. What type of drawing supplies do you use to draw your books?

For art supplies I start with pencil and then do my final art usually with acrylic paints.

I like to draw ancient things like Egyptian stuff. How do you get to do drawing as a job?

I drew a lot for fun as a kid. When I grew up and decided that I wanted to be an artist for a job I got a little more serious and practiced more and more and tried to get better and better. I went to college and then to art school to help me get a job as an artist.

When you were at my school, you said you illustrated a book for Barack Obama and you went to the White House and your sons wore ties. Can you tell me more about that?

Doing the art for OF THEE I SING was an honor and something I'll always be proud of. President Obama invited my two sons and me to visit him at The White House. President Obama was friendly to me and my boys. He asked them questions and told us how proud he is of our book which was written in the form of as a letter to his daughters. We met the President in the Oval Office and it was an experience I'll never forget!

Tell everyone that the new OTIS AND THE TORNADO book is out soon.

My newest book, OTIS AND THE TORNADO, is out soon--this September 6th, 2011.

Thank you for coming to my school, showing us how to draw Otis, and answering my questions.

Thank you Murray. I enjoyed visiting your school, Madeira Elementary. What a great school! And thanks for the questions!

Friday, July 1, 2011

In the News This Week

Happy holiday weekend, friends. Before you don red, white and blue, view parades, and marvel at fireworks, check out some of this week's news stories. Fridays on the SCBWI blog, I share snippets of and links to some of the publishing/media-related news I've read during the last week that I found interesting, helpful, and/or fun. Click titles to get to the full articles.

This week's tidbits include dwindling library budgets, tons and tons of tweeting, John Green signing and signing and signing, a literary agency repping self-pubbed authors, ALA in pictures, eReader stats, THE GIVER on the big screen, census news on your future audience, a psychologists weighing in on GO THE F**K TO SLEEP, and more.

In Lean Times, Schools Squeeze Out Librarians (NYT)
Budget belt-tightening threatens to send school librarians the way of the card catalog. Students at all six high schools at the Martin Luther King Jr. campus in Manhattan must share the resources of one library. The schools superintendent in Lancaster, Pa., said he had to eliminate 15 of the district’s 20 librarians to save full-day kindergarten classes.In the Salem-Keizer school district in Oregon, all 48 elementary and middle school librarians would lose their jobs under a budget proposal that faces a vote next week.

200 million Tweets per day (twitter blog)
Halfway through 2011, users on Twitter are now sending 200 million Tweets per day. For context on the speed of Twitter’s growth, in January of 2009, users sent two million Tweets a day, and one year ago they posted 65 million a day.

YA Author John Green to Sign All Preorders of Next Novel  (PW)
After revealing Tuesday on a YouTube video that the title of his next novel is The Fault in Our Stars, YA author John Green made a second announcement that has some of his 1,140,780 Twitter followers, 61,714 Facebook friends, 525,676 YouTube subscribers, and other fans buzzing today. Not only buzzing, but also rushing to preorder The Fault in Our Stars, even though its tentative pub date isn't until May 2012, and the cover art hasn’t designed yet. Within hours of the announcement, the book shot to #1 on and, where it remains on both sites as of press time.
ALA 2011: Photos from the Show (PW)
The Big Easy played host to librarians, publishers, and writers who ventured to New Orleans June 23-28 for the ALA's annual conference. Library Journal reported that attendance was down this year, with 20,186 attendees and vendors at the show, but there was no shortage of excitement for children's books. The Newbery-Caldecott banquet bestowed top honors on Clare Vanderpool, winner of the Newbery Medal for Moon Over Manifest, and Erin Stead, who was awarded the Caldecott for A Sick Day for Amos McGee
For the iPad, Books That Respond to a Child’s Touch (NYT)
There may never come a day when book apps, as interactive books for tablet computers are known, are more appealing to children than games. But the apps are getting more engaging. The latest book apps to appear on my iPad include The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore ($5), Angelina Ballerina’s New Ballet Teacher ($1), The Wrong Side of the Bed in 3-D ($3), Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! ($4) and Cars 2 Storybook Deluxe ($6).

Specific Media Buys Myspace, Timberlake Takes Stake (Online Media Daily)
Marking the end of a social era, ad network Specific Media on Wednesday announced the acquisition of Myspace. And in a strange twist, music star-cum-actor Justin Timberlake is also taking an undisclosed ownership stake in the company, and is expected to play a key role in re-imagining the MySpace brand.
While financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, multiple reports put it at about $35 million--far less than the $580 million News Corp. paid for the then-high-flying site back in 2005.

eReader Adoption Hits 12% In U.S. Says Pew Research (GalleyCat)
The share of adults in the United States who own an eReader doubled in May 2011 to 12 percent from 6 percent in November 2010, according to the Pew Internet Project. Tablets haven’t seen the same level of growth in recent months. In May 2011, 8 percent of adults report owning a tablet, up only 1 percent since and 3 percent since November 2010.

Bridges giving 'Giver' another shot (Variety)

Jeff Bridges and producer Nikki Silver are taking another stab at a bigscreen version of Lois Lowry's young adult novel "The Giver." They had been developing a feature version of the popular book for nearly a decade before it wound up at Warner Bros., which ponied up nearly $1 million to set up the tome with Red Wagon's Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher in 2007.

Twitter and Publishing: How the Industry is Faring (PW)
Last week, PW’s article “The Top Five Twitter Feeds for the Six Largest Publishing Houses” asked publishers to send us data regarding their Twitter feeds, and, on June 6, we ran an initial article featuring a small sampling of imprints on Twitter. While these previous articles were meant to show a basic overview of publishers' presence on Twitter, the table below is meant to be as an inclusive listing of publishers as possible of varying sizes and in a full range of categories. 

A Gateway to Great Books on Your iPhone (NYT Gadgetwise)
Penguin Classics, that more-than-1,500-titles collection of English-language literary classics, has a new free app for iOS devices available on Tuesday. The paperback publisher, celebrating 65 years of the Classics collection this year, has created a catalog of its titles (which basically includes every author you have heard of, ever) and put it into an easily searchable database.

DGLM Elaborates on Plan to Rep Self-Published Authors (PW)
After announcing on its blog Tuesday that it would be working its clients through the digital self-publishing process, literary agency Dystel & Goderich has had publishing insiders buzzing. What did the announcement mean? How would the agency take commissions from authors who are self-publishing? Would the agency become a publisher itself?

Census estimates show minority babies now outnumber white babies, part of sweeping race change (WaPo)
For the first time, more than half of the children under age 2 in the U.S. are minorities, part of a sweeping race change and a growing age divide between mostly white, older Americans and fast-growing younger ethnic populations that could reshape government policies.
Why Has Go the F**k to Sleep Struck Such a Nerve With Parents? (HuffPo)
I admit, it's funny. And there's another thing I like about Adam Mansbach's Go the F**k to Sleep: It exposes the underbelly of parenting -- that dark, secret part of us that needs a little time to ourselves when we can do grown up things -- or maybe just crawl into our own bed for some desperately needed sleep.