Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Gems from Greenville

For those of you who were unable to attend the SCBWI/Emrys conference this past weekend in Greenville, I thought I would share some highlights. It is impossible to recreate the jam-packed Saturday, but here are a few gems:

  • From Melinda Long, author of How I Became a Pirate and Pirates Don't Change Diapers: Use your childhood memories. Keep a running list of memories for possible story ideas.
  • From Stephanie Greene, author of Queen Sophie Hartley and many, many other books: The beginning of your book is the writer's promise to the reader. (Will there be excitement? Humor? Pathos?) The opening is the point at which the character's life is changing.
  • From Eleanora Tate, author of Celeste's Harlem Renaissance, Thank You Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and tons of other books. When editing, pull out "weedy" words.
  • From Lindsay Davis, junior agent with Writer's House: Make sure that your cover letter shows you are familiar with the agent's work. Look at their website for a client list. They also are attracted to books in which the character has a unique voice and which jump from the page and effect the reader. Make sure that you as the author believe in your character.
  • From Donna German, publisher of Sylvan Dell Publishing: Read her website totally before submitting. She can always tell if someone has followed submission guidelines or not.
  • From Mark Johnston, author of I Love to Smell my Daddy's Socks and The Secret Agent: When you write, be aware that some things (like bodies of water, time, fire, color, buildings, clothes) are symbols. There are no right or wrong symbols, but they must ring true in your story. Pick the details that will matter to you; from specifics move to more specifics.
  • The efficient coordinator of the conference, Jo Hackl, has agreed to make available several resources which she assembled for this conference. E-mail me at if you are interested in receiving either a sample cover letter or sample letter to an agent. I will let you know as more become available.
  • Amy Thomas has an excellent handout "Fun Tips for Manuscripts" on her website at:
  • One further clarification from Stephanie Greene (who is also the regional advisor for SCBWI-Carolinas) about picture book length. She notes that the current accepted length for a picture book is between 300-500 words. She states, "Shorter is better in the picture book world."

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