Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thank you!

Thank you to SCBWI Midsouth RA, Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, the conference committee – Genetta Adair, Sharon Cameron, Susan Eaddy, and Courtney Stevens – and all of the Midsouth volunteers for your hard work to make this year’s conference a success.

Book Drive

This year’s conference book drive benefited Book ‘Em. This organization provides tens of thousands of books to needy children in Nashville every year. Thank you to everyone who donated books and a special thank you to David Arnold for coordinating the book drive.

Cheryl Zach Scholarship Winner

SCBWI Midsouth RA, Kristin O'Donnell Tubb with Judy Rawles

Congratulations to Judy Rawles, winner of this year’s Cheryl Zach Scholarship, a conference scholarship in honor of SCBWI Midsouth's founder, Cheryl Zach.

More Photos from the Conference

Monday, September 23, 2013

Photos from the conference

Everything I needed to know I learned at the Midsouth Fall Conference.

I must say that there were so many things to be gleaned from this conference. I am inspired, enlightened, recharged, and now I have a to-do list that's a mile high.

Here's a few things I learned or relearned at this particular conference (brace yourself):

1. Every page in your dummy picture book needs to have an action in it, whether it's subtle or dramatic.

-Loraine Joyner (Senior Art Director at Peachtree Publishers) 

2. "Never give up. You'll come across something that only you can write."

-Jay Asher (Author of Thirteen Reasons Why)

3. A distinct, authentic, relatable voice is probably the most important element to writing a good children's picture book.

-Lisa Cheng (Editor for Running Press Kids)

4. “This is not the music business, there are not high stakes, we don’t make that much money, and someone already has your idea."

-Micheal Bourett (Agent of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management) in response to a question from the audience asking if we need to worry about others stealing our ideas or stories.

5. “I’ve had your postcard on my bulleton for 1.5 years and have been waiting to hire you."

-An Art Director told Ms. Susan Eaddy (freelance illustrator)

6. It takes chocolate, fastfood, vodka, friends, and an unwanted dog.

-Answers from the artist/writer panelists to the question, "How do you buoy yourself when you are at the bottom of the cycle of despair?"

7. Orient all the pictures in your portfolio the same way.

-Bonnie Bader (Editor & Chief at Grosset & Dunlap) and Loraine Joyner (Senior Art Director At Peachtree Publishers)

8. A wrong agent is worse than no agent.

-Micheal Bourett (Agent of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management)

9. "Please do not info dump."

-Lisa Cheng (Editor for Running Press Kids) on telling your audience too much when introducing a new character.

10. Be consistent  when you send out your mailers.

-Loraine Joyner (Senior Art Director At Peachtree Publishers) & Lisa Cheng (Editor for Running Press Kids)

11. Read, read , read.

-Jordan Brown (Editor at Walden Pond Press and Balzer + Bray) on what you can do to advance your career

Phew… are you still with me? Well, imagine all that good advice x20. After the conference was over, my head was buzzing about things I needed to do, how to better my craft, which houses better fit my style, and as always I felt the loving support that always happens through my connections at these conferences.

Can't wait to see you all next year. :)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Illustrator's Intensive - Intensely Amazing

Illustration intensives are relatively newish and I am so grateful. The purpose of the intensive is to bring you back to art school (only the knowledgeable professor is replaced with a savvy and important art director).

We were privileged to have the fabulous Ms. Loraine Joyner, a Senior Art Director from Peachtree Publishers. We picked from three delightful stories (that are either published or almost published from Peachtree), and these were the spreads we came up with to illustrate a portion of the text for the story.

We were lucky that Ms. Joyner was articulate, critical, while being very nurturing when giving her critiques. And I have to say that the Midsouth needs to pat itself on the back again because we were told by Ms. Joyner that the Midsouth has "…an amazing level of talent."

And here's proof:

Heather Dent
Illustrated by Amanda Driscoll
Illustrated by Susan Eaddy

Illustrated by Meridth Gimbel
Illustrated by Kathryn Gogliotti

Illustrated by Cheryl Mendenhall
Illustrated by Maureen O'Brian 
Illustrated by Kris Sexton
Illustrated by Danaye Shiplette
Illustrated by Mary Uhles

A few notes from our Agent/Editor/Art Director Panel

 Number one piece of advice:  

Jordan Brown:  Read all that you can!

Lisa Cheng:  Research, research, research!

Michael Bourret:  Find a great agent.

Note:  All panel members are looking for multicultural stories.

Is it okay to query an agent if you've been rejected by them before?  

Michael:  Yes, but the fact I've turned something down previously does not color my feelings about new work.

Josh Adams:  The time to submit is when you are ready.  We are several authors who we are happily working with that we turned down the first time around.

Should I hire a copy editor before pitching?

Bonnie Bader:  I don't think a copy editor is necessary.  Proofread what you send in.

What are some of your author/illustrator pet peeves?
Bonnie Bader:  Being late on a manuscript and coming up with excuse after excuse.

Josh Adams:  Not listening.

Lorraine Joyner:  Don't make excuses (in regard to deadlines)!

Michael Bourret:  I can forgive anything except dishonesty.

Lisa Cheng:  I encourage writers to contextualize what I'm saying (referencing editor feedback).

Jordan Brown: Finding Your Voice

Editors and agents always say they are looking for a great voice.  What does this mean?

Voice is important because it is the first major element of your book that the reader is going to experience.  It will be as present on the first page as it is on the last.  It is the most vital way to new writers to distinguish themselves.  From an editorial perspective, it is the hardest thing to teach.

Voice is the way we have of connecting with your story by way of your character.

The most vital thing we can learn about a character is what is important to that character.

How does your character describe the physical experience of emotion?

How can you make your voice stand out?  Read a lot - read as much as you can for the age group you are writing for.   Think about who your narrator is telling the story to.  Cut down on description as much as you feel you can.

Writing Leveled Readers

Bonnie Bader, Editor-in-Chief of Early and Beginning Readers at Grosset & Dunlap spoke about writing leveled readers. These books use the Guided Reading Level system to help parents, educators, and kids choose books.

To see the books, visit www.penguinyoungreaders.com

Lisa Cheng: The Ups, Downs, and Pitfalls of Pacing

Lisa Cheng, an editor with Running Press Kids, discussed pacing with MidSouth Conference attendees.

A few highlights:

There are many pitfalls with pacing.

Raise your stakes as you write.  Introduce conflicts and ask yourself how to give the conflicts meaning.  Show repercussions.

Don't end at the climax; show what happens as a result.

Chapter cuts and placement are important.  They are the basis of structure and pacing.

Common Core Curriculum

Beth Frerking, high school librarian and president of the Tennessee Association of School Librarians speaks about the Common Core Curriculum.

The Common Core Curriculum is a set of standards, not curriculum, per se. Standards are the goal and the curriculum is how to get there. There is an emphasis on math, reading, & writing.

Essential Shifts:
Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction.
Reading, writing & speaking grounded in evidence from text, both literary & informational.
Regular practice with complex text and its academic language.

Beth gives the example of students reading The Diary of Anne Frank. Previously, students would read about World War II and the Holocaust before reading the book. Now students read the book first.

Questions in a book's educational guide should be text dependent. They must take the student back into the text to answer the questions. 

For more information visit:

Common Core Standards

Tennessee Department of Education

Student Achievement Partners

Read Tennessee

Meet your friendly neighborhood bloggers

Meet your 2013 Midsouth Blog team!

Meridth Gimbel is an illustrator & writer who lives with a verbose husband, two precocious toddlers, and a paper eating corgi. You can find her art and stories at www.OctopusInkIllustration.com

Amanda Morgan is a writer living in Nashville, TN.  You can visit her online at http://www.amandakmorgan.com or follow her on twitter @amandakmorgan.

Rae Ann Parker is the author of the Middle Grade novel, The Devil’s Backbone. She is represented by Emily Mitchell at Wernick & Pratt. Visit her website at http://www.raeannparker.com and follow her on twitter @raeannparker.

 Bethany Griffin is the author of Handcuffs, Masque of the Red Death, and Dance of the Red Death.  Visit her online at http://bethanygriffin.com and follow her on twitter @_bethanygriffin.

5 Keys to a Healthy Author-Agent Relationship

Author Bethany Griffin and agent Michael Bourret talk about the author-agent relationship.  They have worked together since 2010.

Their 5 keys to the Author–Agent Relationship are:


Michael says If an agent makes an offer & what they see for your career is not what you see for yourself, maybe they’re not the right agent for you. 

You should trust your agent’s advice – on the project you’re writing, submissions,  and how the agent represents your work.

Bethany says Humor and communication are important with your agent.

To learn more about Bethany's books, visit her website here. Michael is with Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. Visit their website here.