Friday, June 11, 2010

SCBWI FL Mid-Year Workshop Part 3

Saturday was the last day for the conference. It started with a general assembly, which is where I got all the books signed for my GIVEAWAY! (Did you enter yet?)

Then I headed to the Picture Book Track. There was some great information in this session, some even applicable to novel writing!

First up was Alexandra Cooper from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. She talked about getting out of the slush, and her first point was to know who you're pitching to. Then she went through all the imprints at S&S, talking about what they focus on. She also said they recently had a visit from the head buyer for Borders. The buyer said that they are not looking for anymore bedtime books or "it's okay to be me" books. They are interested in good read alouds with big illustrations. (Alexandra emphasized that since Borders isn't interested in something, an editor is unlikely to acquire it). Alexandra said she loves funny books, and she's always looking for a book that has a new way of looking at things.

Important point – Picture books being acquired now are 500 words and under, even as low as 250-100 words. So cut, cut, cut!

Finally, Alexandra said that they sometimes will reject a perfectly good manuscript that just isn't a good fit (which goes back to the "know who you're pitching to" comment).

Tammi Sauer was up next, and she had some great lists of things she makes sure are in her manuscript before she sends it out. She had three lists, and here they are:

Does my manuscript:

  • offer a variety of scenes?
  • have a rhythmic feel?
  • have a read it again quality?
  • rely on pictures to tell the story?
  • cut to the chase (not bogged down by description.dialogue)?
  • have a universal theme?
  • warrant someone spending ~$20 per copy?
10 Must-Have Ingredients:

  • Emotion
  • Characters people can relate to
  • Plot
  • Words that sing
  • Good pacing
  • Page turn-ability
  • Humor
  • Low word count
  • Plenty of illustration possibilities
  • Originality
Tammi's Top Ten Secrets (I'm not going to give all of these, since they're SEKRIT, but I'll give my four favorites):

  • The right character is ARF: Active, Relatable, and Flawed
  • The problem or conflict has to be a BIG DEAL to the main character.
  • Up the tension: Follow the story arc: Problem, Obstacle 1, Obstacle 2, Obstacle 3, BLACK MOMENT, Climax, Resolution (with change/growth)
  • Amp up the humor – but realize that sometimes too funny is less funny.
Tammi also said, Ask yourself, "What could go wrong?" and then "How can I make it worse?"

  • Try to tell as much as possible in as little as possible.
  • (One of my favorites for the day) If you're thinking about writing a rhyming picture book: "Try it in prose to see where it goes." (Awesome)
Finally, Dan Santat gave us a mini book trailer training! Yay!

  • He started by saying that no book trailer will make someone buy a book, but it will make them AWARE of the book.
  • If you're confused or having trouble, look for tutorials on You Tube.
  • You can find some hints on his website:
  • Always end the trailer with the release date, cover of the book, and website (if applicable).
  • Step 1: Insert raw footage.
  • Step 2: Trim out useless bits. Also, if using stills, it's always better to have a still move (called the Ken Burns effect).
  • Step 3: Add text.
  • Step 4: Add sound (voice-overs add a nice touch).
After the group closing, it was time for the critiques. I had two.

My picture book was with Alex Flinn, who's book Beastly has been made into a movie coming soon! Woo! After the picture book day, I knew my PB wasn't ready, but Alex did like the premise and the main character. So, yay! Not a total throwaway. LOL.

Then came my critique with the amazing Cynthia Leitich Smith. I was sooooo nervous about this one. Happily, she LOVED the first 10 pages of LURE. YAY! She had a couple of minor suggestions, but mostly thought it was great. She even asked if I had an agent yet. I was so excited! She is so super nice. If you have a chance to attend a conference where she's speaking, you should GO!

So there are my notes from Saturday. I hope you find some of that helpful. Tell me in the comments what your favorite nugget is!

And don't forget to enter my GIVEAWAY! It ends at midnight TOMORROW!

Here are a couple of friends' blog posts from the conference. You should follow them! J

Karen Strong (her first page summary)


Cynthia Leitich Smith
Harley May

See you on Monday with GIVEAWAY WINNERS!!!



  1. Heh. Sometimes "too funny" IS less funny. This should be the motto for my revisions. Thanks for these recaps!

  2. Hi Larissa, thanks for all the tidbits. Every thing helps. Glad you had such a good time. What great authors to have critiquing! And I'm so glad about LURE. I told you!!! Have your feet touched ground yet? I have my local SCBWI conference tom. morning.


  3. Hi Carrie! Glad there was something helpful for you! :) Can't wait to see your cover!!!

    Laurie! I'm hoping to get your crit done tonight, and I need to email our group about the schedule. LOL. It has been a crazy week, and no, my feet haven't touched ground. I'm still trying to convince myself she really said all those nice things about my ms. :O I can't wait to hear all about your conference!

  4. Thanks for linking, Larissa.

    It was great meeting you and excellent recap!


  5. Thank you for posting about your experience. I'm so jealous! Sounds like such a postive time for you and lots of stuff to take away. I'm going to try to go to the Miami one. Okay, now I'm going to read your other posts.

  6. Thanks so much for the recap, especially for those of us who never get to make it to events like these. These tips are excellent!