Monday, October 8, 2012


I'm taking a break from my giveaway series, but will be back soon with more great books for you to win. Meanwhile, for my friends who are writers who weren't able to come to the SCBWI Carolinas conference, here are a few conference highlights. For my blog followers who might wonder why writers spend time and money attending writing conferences, read on!  

My favorite part of the conference was a writing intensive with Helen Hemphill, director of the Whole Novel Workshop at Highlights. Here are a few pointers:

  • Use scenes for each new setting and every important event.
  • All scenes should bring the story forward. “Good scenes create dilemmas and tension, and leave questions unanswered.”
  • Don't use too much backstory. "Only tell the reader what he needs to know at that moment and to understand the bigger story. Nothing else.”
  • Follow the RUE rule: Resist the Urge to Explain. 

I jotted down several pet peeves from the agent's panel featuring Sarah LaPolla, Jennifer Rofe', and Liza Pulitzer Voges:

  • A writer not educating herself about the books the agent represents or wants.
  • "Dear Agent" queries.
  • Writers who try to educate agents about the market or the importance of books. 
And one tip for picture book writers: Agents like illustrator/author combinations.

During the "First Pages" session, one of the panelists, Molly O' Neill, editor at Katherine Tegen Books said:
  • Don't start with a character who is a loser.
  • Avoid too much choreography (the character went here, did that).
  • DO NOT include art notes in picture books. The words should make the reader see what is happening.
  • Trust your writing.
  • Put a balance of emotion and action on your first page.
  • Use relevant details.
  • Don't let lovely language get in the way of the story.

I spoke with Molly briefly about my book and the market for historical fiction. Her advice: "Write a book that will resonate with modern readers."
Anna Olswanger, an agent with critiqued 20 pages of my manuscript Half-Truths. From this I gained: 
  • Don't dump information into the dialogue.
  • Pump up Kate. Lillie is nice and feisty; Kate is flat. 
  • Perhaps move the time period up (from1950) to closer to the civil rights movement. 
  • She thought it was marketable because it takes "place at the early beginning of a pivotal time in history." HOORAY! That's what I've been shooting for!
And last, but certainly not least, I enjoyed re-connecting with Earl Davis, a long-time supporter and ex-Regional Advisor of SCBWI-Carolinas. It was a pleasure to see him again.


Anonymous said...

Very nice points! I enjoyed seeing Earl again, too! :)


Carolyn Abiad said...

I missed out on Helen's workshop, so I'm glad to see your notes here!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, DOnna and Carolyn! I know at a conference like this, you always want to be in two places at once.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

"Good scenes create dilemmas and tension, and leave questions unanswered."

Oh, good info!

Linda Phillips said...

Thanks for the rundown, Carol. And I'm most sorry to have missed dear friend Earl Davis.

Sarah Bracey White said...

Thank you for your generosity in sharing tidbits from the SCBWI conference. They are of value to all of us. Good luck with your historical fiction.

Linda A. said...

I loved your key points. A great one page overview. Makes it easy to keep the tips handy.

Linda A.

Clara Gillow Clark said...

Thanks for sharing the notes, Carol! Really excellent tips. Yay for the thumbs' up on your w-i-p!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks friends, for leaving all of these comments!! It is fun to get feedback from cyberspace. And yes, Clara, I was excited that someone in the publishing world got what I was trying to accomplish with my WIP!

Kit said...

Wonderful Carol, Thank you for taking the time to give us such an organized list. Loved hearing about your manuscript in progress.

Kit Grady

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kit, for stopping by. I am truly learning what it means to be "in progress"!

Vijaya said...

Carol, what a wonderful critique ... I agree with Molly's comment about making HF relevant. It's impossible to be in two places at once, so I appreciate your notes. I've posted some tidbits as well on my blog.

Jean said...

Sounds like it was well worth your investment of time and money.

Just what a conference should be.

Thanks, Carol.


Young Authors Program said...

I love the info. on pic books, Carol! I will store those in my notebook. Still sad I missed it, but after reading your blog I feel like I was there too :)

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks LInda and Jean. YOu can read another blog about the conference

Carol Baldwin said...

Oops, I mean to say, Thanks Dorothy!

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Carol,
I enjoyed seeing you at the conference. Sorry we didn't get time to chat.

Thanks for asking how my presentation went.

You are a good friend.

I really enjoyed the gathering at your home for Joyce. That was fun.

I'm glad you got good feedback on your novel...Hurray! I can't wait to see it in print.

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Joan. You are a FANTASTIC encourager!

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