Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First Pages

One of the sessions I attended at SCBWI-LA was on “First Pages,” or what some of us call, “the hook.” Three YA books were recommended as examples of great first 500 words: 

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Chime by Franny Billingsley

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan 

Los Angeles

Author Nathan Branford’s blog, “Five openings to avoid,” offers tips on how not to start your first pages. On his post, he writes: “I am saying that you should think once, twice, and five thousand times about using these.” So take a look.

Here’s a treat if you want to take a peek at the Spring 2012 children’s books posted by Publishers Weekly.

"Search through your childhood memories and rediscover what it felt like to live in the world of a child; the joys, the fears, and the dreams." -- Audrey Wood

Friday, August 26, 2011


More notes from the SCBWI-LA conference. Bruce Colville was one of the keynote speakers. He’s written so many books I can’t even list them. Go to his website to find out. Notes I took during his speech:
  • Take your art and yourself seriously as a business person.
  • Pay attention to contracts. 
  • Pay attention to your royalty statements. Learn to negotiate. Provide for your retirement and insurance.
  • Never throw anything away, i.e., drafts, half-finished manuscripts, ideas, notes, etc.
  • Scare yourself. Take on assignments that challenge and scare you. Take risks. Go further.Make your own rules. (There’s no right way – each path is different for each book).
  • Don’t be afraid to show your heart. Put it in your writing. Explore the unfinished cord. Give kids something they can’t stop thinking about. An image you cannot forget.
  • Our words have an effect that ripples on. You don’t know what effect your words will have. Don’t start with a message. Start with your own heart. Start with a great character.
  • Polish those pebbles until they shine.
  • Unlock the heart and free the spirit.
 Pretty good advice, don’t you think?

Richard Peck and Lupe Ruiz-Flores

Newbery Medal winner (A Year Down Yonder - 2001)  Richard Peck was also a keynote speaker. His talk is always inspirational. I love his books and I bought his latest one, Three Quarters Dead, and had it autographed.
Booksigning lines

 A writer who isn’t ‘serious’ isn’t a writer at all.” – E.B. White

Friday, August 19, 2011

My pic with Judy Blume at SCBWI

I consider myself very lucky to have attended the SCBWI’s 40th anniversary conference. The speakers were inspirational, accessible, and offered great advice on the writing and publishing process. Wendy Werris summarized it well on the Publishers Weekly blog. Take a peek at her article covering the SCBWI-LA conference. Enjoy. By the way, I was thrilled to have taken a picture with none other than the great, famous author, the surprise guest speaker, Judy Blume of numerous books including Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I also met and took a picture with actor/author Henry Winkler (The Fonz!)

Judy Blume & Lupe Ruiz-Flores

 We start writing books on the day something different happens." -- Judy Blume at the SCBWI-LA Conference

Lin Oliver (Co-founder of SCBWI), Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Henry Winkler

Special 40th Anniversary Dessert

Monday, August 15, 2011

Attendee at SCBWI-LA

I’m back! I attended the SCBWI-LA conference from August 4-9 after which I took a side trip to Albuquerque. There were 1,342 people in attendance at the conference, forty-nine states and twenty countries represented. Impressive, right?  

Book Store at SCBWI-LA conference
The keynote speakers at the conference were inspirational, as usual. The writer and illustrator workshops were packed every day. I took advantage of a round-table critique discussion where each table consisted of only nine people and an editor. I also signed up for a “First Page” critique workshop with about twenty people in the class. 

SCBWI-LA Conference

One of my favorite workshops was “Sources of Tension and How to Use Them” conducted by Donna Jo Napoli, author of so many books including Alligator Bayou, Bound, and Zel. She mentioned plot, character, setting, and timing as sources of tension and gave us examples for each. In plot, a writer needs to tighten the screws, make the situation worse. She mentioned “ripples,” and how a writer needs to disturb the flat surface to be disrupted. 

Donna Jo Napoli and Lupe Ruiz-Flores

“Challenge yourself as a writer,” she told us. “Your greatest job as a writer is to make the reader TRUST you. Show, don’t tell, so that your reader reads and believes what your character feels, thinks, and does.”  I met Ms. Napoli at the Highlights Foundation Writers’ retreat in Chautauqua a few years back and have since become a fan of her books. More to follow later once I get all my notes together. 

“Art is really the language of feeling.” – Steven Kellogg

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Story Structure

When you think of story structure, you automatically think of a story having a beginning, a middle, and an end, right? Well, here’s an interesting blog that adds a bit more to story structure. Brian A. Klems’, “The 5 Essential Story Ingredients,” posted on the Writer’s Digest blog lists the following five and elaborates on each: (1) Orientation (2) Crises (3) Escalation (4) Discovery and (5) Change. He points out what makes a story a story and not a report. Very interesting stuff. See for yourself.

 And I won’t bog you down with blogging about entering writing contests … except … one last time. Here’s another great blog that addresses this topic. It’s a guest column by author Janice Hamrick posted on Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents Editor’s blog. The title: “Contests: The Writer’s Fairy Godmother.”

School Visit

"Local clubs and organizations often use volunteers to create newsletters and publicity pieces. This is an excellent way to bolster your confidence and give you published work for your portfolio." -- Writing Tip from Writer's Digest Weekly Planner