Since there was no Scratch in February or March I promise this April Scratch will be filled to the brim with interesting news and helpful information. If you are a living, breathing being you are probably holed up in your house hiding from the pollen in an attempt to keep breathing and remain living. Hopefully the info in this Mega-Scratch will help you make the most of your writing time. And since April is national poetry month you can work on a nice poem about the yellow dust raining down from upon high (maybe that is where Phillip Pullman got his inspiration from!). Enjoy!
Our next regular meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 26th at 10 a.m. in the College Station Barnes & Noble. April is National Poetry Month so we will be talking about, you got it, poetry. Please feel free to bring a poem to share and discuss. It can be one you have authored or one you enjoy written by someone else. We'll also discuss news and provide encouragement. Gentle critique begins at 9:30 a.m. Bring copies of 5 double-spaced pages of your work in progress. Those who have time may go to lunch at a local restaurant afterwards.
Note: Our meetings are open to members and non-members. If you are interested in SCBWI or children's literature in general attending is a great way to meet our community and get your feet wet.
SCBWI Brazos Valley Conference Re-cap (Brazos Valley Bloomed!)
I'm very happy to state that the Brazos Valley Blooms conference celebrating the first 25 years of the Brazos Valley SCBWI chapter was a great success. Many thanks to our RA Liz Mertz and everyone on the conference committee for all the hard work. And thank you to everyone who donated items for the silent auctions. For those of you who were unable to attend, here is a quick recap of the day's events.
Panel on the history of Brazos Valley's SCBWI chapter
Founding members Kathi Appelt, Donna Cooner, Debbie Leland, Kathy Whitehead and Liz Mertz told the crowd about how our chapter started out as a small writing group and then, at the insistence and persistence of the members was eventually incorporated into the SCBWI family. Pretty impressive considering that we are one of only five chapters in all of Texas and two of them are nearby Austin and Houston!
Character Matters - Kathi Appelt
Award winning author Kathi Appelt walked us through a dynamic talk about the importance of creating fully developed characters with controlling beliefs and goals. We broke out the whiteboard and markers for this one!
Writing with Pictures - E.B. Lewis
"Artistrator" E.B. Lewis gave us an invaluable look into the way illustrators think about and perform their craft. He showed us several examples of "before and after" illustrations from students in his classes that helped clearly illustrate (pardon the pun) key factors illustrators should consider. He also cleared up one of the biggest misconceptions among would-be children's authors by stating that, if you go the traditional publishing route, you will not get to choose or directly communicate with the illustrator.
Going from Idea to Manuscript - Karen Boss
Editor Karen Boss (Charlesbridge) spoke about avoiding major no-no's in children's books such as didacticism and nostalgia and led us in an exercise designed to have us think about our main character from a different angle.
Lunch and Cake
During lunch people mingled and talked and we feasted on a 25th anniversary cake made by yours truly. A big anniversary for a group of creative people deserves an big and creative cake! It was so big we only ate our way through the 2 and the 5 was later served at the Twin City Mission soup kitchen in Bryan.
The Journey to Writting a Buzz Worthy Novel - Donna Cooner
Founding member Donna Cooner gave an emotional talk in which she explained how she took personal experiences and shaped them into her novel "Skinny." She then gave us all a taste of life as an author in the social media age explaining how she turned the online attention she got from "Skinny" into her next novel "Can't Look Away."
Perseverance through Process- Jennifer March Soloway
Up and coming agent Jennifer March Soloway helped us see the publishing process from an agent's point of view. She hammered in what Karen Boss had previously stated: don't resist, revise! While we were waiting for the illustrator break out to wrap up Jennifer March Soloway held an impromptu Q&A candidly answering many specific questions about the submission process.
Our guest speakers read several submissions of 150 words across all genres. Hearing honest critiques from authors, an illustrator, agent and editor was a great learning experience for the audience. Afterwards the panel answered a variety of questions from the audience.
And then we all left inspired and ready to read, write and draw. See you next conference!
Why go to a Writing Conference?
Did the above re-cap pique your interest in attending a writing conference? There are a plethora of reasons to attend, whether you're just starting out or are an experienced writer and conference goer. Though the reasons below were written regarding our Brazos Valley Blooms conference they are applicable to most writers conferences. If you're interested in learning more about conferences, how to choose one and how to make the most out of one check out episodes 44 (March 24th) and 45 March 31st) of the Writing for Children podcast.
A conference is full of a self-selected population that loves exactly what you love. What better place to make new connections and reconnect with old ones? Yes, you could potentially find an agent or get a contract at a conference. But more likely you will meet a new writing partner, someone to start a critique group with, or even a future mentor. Note: It is best to go to conferences alone or at least with the tacit understanding that you will be breaking away from your conference buddy in order to make new connections.
While many newcomers may be attracted to the larger conferences on the calendar (such as SCBWI's summer conference in LA and winter conference in New York) smaller conferences shouldn't be avoided. They can be less overwhelming and offer more opportunities to connect with fellow conference goers and talk directly with speakers (in the Writing for Children podcast the host points out that contact between speakers and the audience is purposefully restricted at larger conferences).
Do you have any tips on choosing or attending writers conferences? Please share them in the comments or on our Brazos Valley SCBWI Facebook group! And check out Upcoming Events below for a list of upcoming conferences both near and far.
Crystal Kite Award Voting
Voting has commenced for this year's Crystal Kite Award. Check out this year's nominees and cast you vote (open only to SCBWI members) here: https://www.scbwi.org/crystalkite-results/
Brazos Valley Reads: Jennifer Clement, Prayers for the Stolen—Clement will read from her novel on Thursday, April 6, at 7 p.m. in the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center, College Station, Texas. Clement will meet with readers and sign books following the event. More information at Brazos Valley Reads.
Meet the Authors Day at the Clara B. Mounce Public Library—Saturday, April 29, 2017, 10am – noon, 201 E. 26th St., Bryan, Texas. To be involved as an author, contact Peggy Noynaert at 979-209-5622 or email firstname.lastname@example.org by April 24.
Artist Reception for fellow member Candi Fite—5 p.m.-7 p.m. May 27, at Back Lot Gallery, 308 S. Park St, Brenham, Texas 77833.
Workshops & Craft
Texas Library Association Conference—April 19-22 in San Antonio, Exhibits Only one-day pass is $25. SCBWI Texas chapters have booth #2405. Brazos Valley authors at TLA include Kathi Appelt, signing in the author area 10:30-11:30 April 20, and Sherry Garland, signing in booth #1232. More details here.
We will have an SCBWI Brazos Valley table at the festival. Please contact Liz Mertz at email@example.com as soon as possible if you want to participate. The hours will be from 9 am to 2 pm, so we could set up shifts if we have several members sign up. For more details, keep an eye on the website http://brazosvalley.bookfestival.network/
Thanks to everyone in the group for sharing these resources over the past few months.
Kid Lit 411 is chock full of information for writers and illustrators across all genres of kid lit. Check out the Facebook Group and sign up for the e-newsletter.
The Creative Penn Podcast hosted by Joanna Penn. While she isn't a children's author she does offer good insights into writing and marketing. Also she is an indie publisher and has a great UK accent. Episodes can be heard via podcast or watched via Youtube.
Writing for Children Podcast I mentioned this one earlier in the scratch. Covers lots of topics specific to kid lit and has lots of useful links in the episode notes. Episodes are short and to the point.
Latinx in Kid Lit has lots of interviews with Latinx writers, illustrators, agents, you name it (if you're confused about the term "latinx" then check out this cute video...I was confused too!)
The Horn Book free newsletters are a great way to stay up to date with the world of kids publishing. This falls under one of those "things every new author ought to know" category along with the School Library Journal enewsletters.
What I'm Reading
I came back from the National Latino Children's Literature Conference with a list and stack of books to read a mile high. Here are some of the one's I'm most excited about so far.
Juana Y Lucas
The 2017 Pura Belpré winner is a super cute chapter book about a girl in Colombia learning English (the book is written in English with Spanish words scattered throughout). Check out the SLJ review here. This book was recommended to me by Karen Boss who spoke at our Brazos Valley Blooms conference.
The Smoking Mirror: Garza Twins Book One
When I asked around for authors that delve into indigenous culture someone suggested I check out David Bowles' Smoking Mirror series. Turns out David Bowles was actually at the conference! During his presentation he pointed out that many publishing companies that specialize in Latino literature have shied away from science fiction/fantasy, considering it a niche within a niche. The story works in a lot of Aztec mythology. This series works in Book One won the Pura Belpré Honor Award in 2016 and Book Two was recently released. Here is a review of Book One.
I know the River Loves Me
One of the sessions I went to was about the work of author and activist Maya Cristina Gonzalez. We read through this bilingual picture book and I really enjoyed it. I love the environmental message in the book. It would make for a great read before Earth Day.
That's it for now. See you next Scratch!