MY LA ADVENTURE – PART FIVE – AGENT PANEL AND GARY PAULSEN

Agent panel

SUNDAY

SCBWI LA 2011 was a great mix of learning and inspiration.

Fortunately I steered clear of the X-bar celebrations that carried on after the Pyjama Ball. So I was up bright and early Sunday morning to listen to agents, Tracey Adams, Barry Goldblatt, Marcia Wernick and Tina Wexler talk about the Current State of Children’s Books

HOW IS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AFFECTING AGENCIES?

Tracey Adams – always look for best ways to work with companies doing the best work. Working with new publishers.

Barry Goldblatt – nothing new, just the way things are done is new.

Marcia Wernick  – digital book is more supportive of print book. Doesn’t think it replaces way stories are out there. For agents, most of our job is to be your advocate or business advisor.

Tina Wexler – agent helps you plan career, manage business.

IS THERE A GENRE THAT’S DRYING UP?

Picture book authors and illustrators will be pleased to know that none of the agents thought picture books were at risk, despite the current e-publishing concerns.

Tina Wexler and Marcia Werner

All the agents were very generous with their information sharing but if there was one criticism I had of this panel it was that the conversation seemed to stray from the topic at times and never quite get back onto it.

I was interested to know how much editorial input the agents give, but Tracey Adams was the only one who really got a chance to respond to this topic. Her comment was:

I help the author get the manuscript ready in its best form to submit. I respect role of editor. Ready to submit doesn’t mean ready for publication.

SOME OTHER QUOTES FROM THE SESSION

Barry – I don’t go out with a manuscript unless I love it. Nothing is more exciting to me than letting an author know you have just sold their first book.

Marcia – in illustration portfolios I look for character and emotion.

Marcia – Voice helps you envision a character, get a sense of who they are.

IF YOU COULD FIX ONE THING IN THE PUBLISHING BUSINESS, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Agents had different views on this topic, but some of the answers were:

  • Higher royalty for e-books
  • Book stores come back.
  • Royalty cheques more regularly.

I would have liked this panel to go a bit longer so we could have got more of a sense of each agent’s differences, but seeing the topic was The Current State of Children’s Books, there wasn’t really room for that sort of discussion.

The next session was Gary Paulsen’s keynote speech. I have been a big fan of his books for some time so I knew this would be special…and it was.

GARY PAULSEN

Gary Paulsen’s life as a child was incredibly hard. He was one of the ‘unprotected’ children that Donna Jo Napoli talked about on the first day of the conference.

He was the son of alcoholic parents and was totally independent by the time he was 7 1/2 years old.

He said that school didn’t work for him. He hardly attended school and it was thanks to caring librarian that he developed a passion for reading.

He has an overwhelming belief in young people that drives him to write.

His intense desire to tap deeply into the human spirit and to encourage readers to observe and care about the world around them has made him popular with young readers and earned him many awards.

Nova Ren Suma, Julie Strauss-Gabel and Michael Bourret

Gary Paulsen moved me with his stories, but he also inspired me to reach deep inside myself and be the best writer I can be.

The next session I attended was an editorial conversation between agent, Michael Bourret, Editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel and author, Nova Ren Suma. I came away without session notes but with the feeling that writing can be a rewarding and fantastic experience when an author, editor and agent work together as well as these three appear to.

Next on the agenda

My series of LA Adventure blog posts will continue next Tuesday when I talk about my session with Krista Marino, Perfecting Your YA Voice. I learned a lot from that one.

See you back here then.

Happy Writing:)

Dee

BACK FROM LA

Lin Oliver in conversation with the amazing Judy BlumeI’m back from 2011 SCBWI LA 40th Anniversary conference and it was FANTASTIC!

So many wonderful authors and illustrators. So much great information. Two of my favourite writers, Gary Paulsen and Judy Blume had some inspiring words for all of us.

The inspiring Gary Paulsen

Stay watching! This week I’ll be blogging every day about my amazing LA  adventures and sharing some of the things I learned.

Happy writing:)

Dee

HOW DOES READING HELP YOU WRITE BETTER? – TUESDAY WRITING TIP

Some time ago, I wrote a post about editing and mentioned how reading Steph Bowe‘s, Girl Saves Boy helped me find my ‘character’s voice’. Just reading someone else’s words can spark great ideas and can help you identify the weaknesses in your own work.

I know some writers who refuse to read books in the same genre they are writing because they don’t want to be influenced by them or seen to be copying, but as well as showing you better techniques, reading someone else’s work can spark gems of creative brilliance and give you something great to aspire to.

I’m currently writing a survival story about a tween and a teen stranded in the Australian outback. I travelled Australia for almost two years in tents with my husband, the family dog and two toddlers, so the outback setting  for TEXT ME WHEN YOU GET THERE is very familiar to me.

But I wanted this book to be more than just an action packed read – I wanted it to leave the reader with a strong sense of setting, the strength of the human spirit and a connection to the characters. Even though I had the plot figured out, I knew there were still many layers to be added.

So I went back to read other survival stories for kids/YA. I pored again through Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (an old favourite) and Wendy Orr‘s wonderful new survival story, Raven’s Mountain. Both novels are set in an area that I’m totally unfamiliar with yet they still managed to make me feel as if I was actually there fighting for my life against the obstacles the characters were facing.

Reading both these great books again and thinking about how they were crafted, helped me identify the following weaknesses in my own manuscript:

  1. Main character doesn’t make enough observations about himself – this would help reader see how he grows throughout the story.
  2. Compare the outback setting more to his home – this will help reader connect with how out of his depth the character is in his new surroundings. Make observations about the things that aren’t there as well as the things that are.
  3. Use road signs to identify where the MC is for the reader.
  4. The MC is stuck in life-threatening situations without any adults present. Give him permission to do risky things that parents wouldn’t want him doing because that’s how they are going to survive – perhaps he keeps hearing Mum’s voice in his head. Jack and his sister are on their own so they would be more introspective – nobody to talk to except each other and when they fight, they would have nobody left to talk to.
  5. Apart from fear of outback hazards like dingos, snakes etc, there would also be phobias that kids might experience in a normal environment like fear of the dark.
  6. Need more sensory detail in terms of smells and taste.
  7. More description needed about physical state and injuries.
  8. Need more lighter scenes where kids are mucking around like they would at home – this will help add tension to the darker moments.

This is just a hint of the improvements to my manuscript that were inspired by reading Gary and Wendy’s books. I haven’t included specifics because I didn’t want to give away too much of the story.

But hopefully this will help you see that reading other books isn’t copying what other writers do. It can generate ideas and teach you things about your work in progress and the way you write.

I’d love to hear about books you have read that inspired you to write better. Feel free to leave your comments at the end of this post.

Next week at Tuesday Writing Tips we’re looking at how Critiquing Can Help You Write Better. Hope you can join us then.

Happy Writing:)

Dee

P.S. the pics for this post are from our “Around Australia trip” Hope you enjoy them.

Here are another couple I just had to include for the ‘cute’ factor even though they have no relevance to the story. Pic 1 is camping at Hogwash Bend. Pic 2 is with a baby kangaroo at Oodnadatta.

Here’s one last one I had to include of a Goanna who used to drop in every afternoon to play with the boy’s Lego.