Monday, September 28, 2009

Winners for Fiction manuscript and Illustrator Contest

A HUGE congrats to all of the winners! :)

YA Winner: Cheryl Mendenhall

MG Winner: Janice Erbach

PB Winner: Karen Akins

The winner of the illustrator contest (for two years in a row!): Kristi Valiant

Honorable Mentions:

Jessica Young

Darcy Cleaver Maloney

Wanda Collins Johnson

Shellie Braeuner

Kurt Hampe

Mary Hartmann

Kathryn Knight

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Safe Haven Totals

The Midsouth region added a charitable aspect to this year's conference:  a book basket, where attendees could donate new and gently used children's books.  Also, a full novel critique by Michael Stearns of Upstart Crow Literary was raffled off.  (Thank you, Mr. Stearns!)  Our collection totals were:

-318 books collected
-$785 raised

Fantastic!  The books and money will go to Safe Haven, a nonprofit organization assisting homeless families in Middle TN.  

Our End-of-conference Faculty Panel

Faculty Panel includes Caroline Cooney, Chris Richman, Kaylan Adair, Cheryl Klein, Shelli-Johannes Wells, Patrick Collins, and Marietta Zacker.

Q: What makes a mss stand out?

Marietta B. Zacker:  Really, really good stuff!  It really is about that stuff that makes my spine tingle…stuff that I can’t put down.  Read your novel out loud, and not to your husband or spouse or children, but read it out loud and see if that’s how it makes you feel.  Get out of your head and be a real critical voice.  I respond to queries and things that have been written in a really fresh voice.

Cheryl Klein:  Specific markets that haven’t been reached before, subjects that haven’t been done before….

Chris Richman:  Books that speak to me, resonate with me emotionally.  I look for quality writing across the board.  The best stuff combines…fabulous writing, fabulous concept, fabulous execution. 

Kaylan Adair:  hat I’m looking for personally is voice.  I’m waiting for the thing that crosses my desk that makes my spine tingle.  The subject matter is not as important, but I want to love this character and be invested in his journey. 

Patrick Collins:  I’m looking for great art and a great style.  I’m looking for something that really speaks to me emotionally and gives me a connection to the character in your sample.


Q:  What makes a good book great?

Caroline Cooney:  My editor wants a great character with whom she can fall in love and for whom she can root or she wants a terrific plot and a great concept….

Kaylan Adair:  Voice…what I think is a great book might not be what people sitting next to me think is a great book. 

Chris Richman:  If all of a sudden I care, I know it’s special.

Cheryl Klein:  You can’t fix character and you can’t fix voice.  You can teach plot…what distinguishes great characters and great voices is realism.

Shelli Johannes-Wells:  You have to know your target audience and how it will sell.

Marietta B. Zacker:  Ditto


Q:  How do you feel about stories tied to specific current events?

Chris Richman:  Remember that if it hinges on the current event, chances are you’re going to date your book.  For inspiration, sure. 


Q: For middle grade fiction, is there a preference for first or third person?

Cheryl Klein:  No.


Q.  What is your all-time favorite book and why:

PC:  The Fur Families.  It’s cozy.  I love it for the emotional aspect. 

SJW:  Tummy Girl.  I choke up every time I read the last line.

CK:  From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  The Westing Game.  It’s one of the best plots I’ve ever read.  The Gardener:  David Small and Sara Stuart.  It’s about making beautiful things. Dodo Gets Married:  Unique

CR:  The Twits. It was gross and funny and I wanted to see the monkeys to win. Also, Maniac McGee. 

KA:  Dooley and the Snort-Snoop.  It’s hilarious.  Follow My Leader.  About a boy who had a seeing-eye dog. 

CC:  The Lost Queen of Egypt.  I checked it out so many times, the library gave it to me.

MZ:  Esperanza Rising.  Talk about voice!


Q:  Should authors mention marketing ideas in query letters?

MZ:  If it’s pertinent.  You shouldn’t have to say, “By the way I think we should do X,Y, and Z for marketing.”  Your work is to write.  Your work is to sell yourself.

SJW:  No, but I think it’s important for every author to have a platform. 

CK:  Don’t mention that you’re willing to help promote your book – you’re expected to do that.  It would be nice to know if you’ve been a teacher or librarian.

CR:  Yes, include if you have a platform, like you’re a volunteer firefighter and your book is about firefighters. 


Q.  What makes your publishing house unique?

KA:  Candlewick is independent, and it’s very editorially driven. 

CR:  Upstart Crow is new, we’re hungry, and we love great books.

CK:  AA Levine is high on literary quality. 

PC:  Henry Holt still feels like a small publisher. 

MZ:  (Nancy Galt Agency) It’s a very personal business for us and we treat it as such. 






Karen Akins: Conference Comments

“This was my first SCBWI conference. It was more than I expected. I got to meet so many talented writers and illustrators. It was incredible. The speakers’ willingness to impart their knowledge was helpful and inspiring.”

Hannah Dills: Conference Comments

“My favorite part of the conference is spending time with my writer friends and meeting new ones. Genetta, Sharon & Susan have provided a great forum for this conference. The faculty have been excellent.”
photo: Kristin Tubb & Hannah Dills

Mary Ann Rodman: Conference Comments

“I learned how to write more efficiently from Caroline Cooney. It’s always great to be with the friendliest bunch of writers ever.”

Cheryl Klein: Principles of Plot


1. The story of the book is what happens in the book. The plot of the book is the deep structure of those events.

2. We can identify a plot by a change. If you don’t have a change, you don’t have a plot.

3. The protagonist is the person to whom the change happens and in whom the change occurs. Who changes in your plot?

4. Two dimensions of the plot are the Action Plot and the Emotional Plot. Some authors call them External Plot and Internal Plot.

5. Your story will begin when one of these changes does.

6. And while the entertainment of a book may come from its Action Plot, the deeper emotional effect and meaning of the book comes from its Emotional Plot.

The key structures of this speech are in a post on Cheryl’s blog.