A (Very) Few Juicy Conference Tidbits!


With pal and agent, Sally Apokedak at SM’17

Remember when I said I’d tell you all about Springmingle’17? And then really, I just told you about Patricia MacLachlan and Jacquelyn Mitchard and Cathy-on-a-Stick?

Well, today I’m going to deliver on that promise and tell you about the doings at the conference. Except I’m afraid I’m still going to direct you to another spot to get all–well, some; okay, just a few–of the details.

See, writer friend Sherri Rivers who’s over at GROG, a group blog made up of a lot of kidlit writers, asked if I’d share about the conference and of course I said sure. And then she asked a lot of questions about the conference and at that point, I ran into a bit of a sticky wicket. Because a. I am the worst at taking notes at conferences; I always assume I’ll remember stuff–and lots of times I do. But b. this was not one of those times.

This was the time I attended a conference with a very bad, no good, horrible cold. And so I was there, but perhaps I was not all there, if you know  what I mean. Even so, I remembered the keynotes and honestly, despite my very bad, no good, horrible cold, this was one of my most favorite Springmingles! Because even with a very bad, no good, horrible cold, I came away buzzing with eagerness to write, and maybe even a little joy blossoming in my soul again.

So I hope you’ll zip over to GROG–it’s an excellent blog with tons of great writing information so join in that fun!–and read “Flying High with SCBWI Southern Breeze.”

And now that the very bad, no good, horrible cold is gone, I have some writing to do. Hope this spring is busting out with all kinds of words for you, too!

Friday’s Fun Find: WIK’13 and an Agent Interview!

Southern Breeze SCBWI Writing and Illustrating for Kids is right around the corner (October 12th, since you asked), and I’m pretty darn excited about the faculty and workshops they’re offering!

ImageAnd I’m pretty darn excited that agent Jennifer Rofé, from Andrea Brown Literary Agency, is here today to share writing insights, wisdom, tips—well, it’s just a smorgasbord of writing stuff. Not all her writing stuff—you’ll have to join us at the swell conference for that—but I’ll bet it’s enough to hook you!

Jennifer, I see where you’re open to projects from picture books to Young Adult, but that Middle Grade is your soft spot. What is it about Middle Grade that especially hooks you?

Aside from the expected hurdles, I mostly enjoyed my middle school years; I recall having a pretty fun time. I later went on to teach 8th grade for a handful of years in my 20s. I haven’t yet bothered to pinpoint why this is, but there’s something about this time in life that I understand and connect with. As for what specifically hooks me — that twilight moment of the pre-teen and early teen years; being just on the verge of self-realizations and life-truths. Also, there’s more room in middle grade for outrageous and funny and zany. I like that.

Check out the speaker bio here (and Jennifer’s agency bio here) to find out more about what in a manuscript is a wow! for her. And now we have to know what makes Jennifer wince. What, in a query and/or a manuscript, just makes you cringe?

Here are some query faux-pas that make me cringe:

* Misspelling or not including my name.

* Queries for materials that, per my bio (and online interviews), I am not interested in.

* Beginning a query with a question, like “Have you ever wondered…?” or “What would you do if….?”

And the biggest cringe for me:

* Writers “educating” agents on the current market. For instance, “Books about bullying are currently popular” or “The market for paranormal romance has cooled off.” It’s not necessary to do this in a query.

I always include that I’m a member of SCBWI when I query. Do you think that makes a difference to an agent? And if so, why?

It does make a difference to me because, namely, it shows that you’re invested in the industry that you want to be a part of. Also, members have typically attended conferences, so they generally have more knowledge about the industry than those who aren’t members or don’t attend industry conferences.

Are you a member of SCBWI, too? And what has the experience meant to you?

I am a member, yes. I don’t know how to say more other than I love SCBWI. I love the community it creates, I love the educational opportunities it offers to writers and illustrators, I love the connections it encourages and fosters between writers/illustrators and industry professionals, and I love the children’s lit family I have because of SCBWI. Our community is blessed to have this organization.

Jennifer will be presenting two, two-part workshops at WIK: The “So What” Factor, examining plots of successful books, and “Ten Things Nobody Tells You About Publishing” (and thanks so much for telling us!). So maybe you could give us a peek at one of those things we should know? Or maybe share a “So What?” insight?

I’m not sure where in the #1-10 spectrum this one will fall – it might even be #11 – but how about this:

Your second contracted book — it might be one of the hardest ones you ever write. Try not to sweat the angst too much; you are in good company.

Thanks, Jennifer! And thanks so much for stopping by! I can’t wait to see you at WIK—and hear more about those ten things I absolutely need to know. Unless you want to expound a little bit more now? Maybe? No?



WIK is a great place to get inspired, get tips on your craft, and learn about the business of children’s publishing. It’s also an opportunity to meet editors, agents, and an incredibly supportive network of working writers and artists. This annual conference is hosted by the Southern Breeze region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). To find out more or to register, visit https://southern-breeze.net/

 And for interviews from more presenters at WIK’13, check out the schedule I posted here. But honestly, I think it’s MUCH more fun to check out the presenters up close and personal! (Early registration continues through September 10th, and it’s not too late to register for a manuscript critique as well! Hope to see you at WIK’13!)

Editor Katherine Jacobs Answers Your Writing Questions

7526163ec544a115faeb352335de435cI know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, oh, I hope she picks my question. And now you’re thinking, wait a sec. I didn’t send any questions for editor Katherine Jacobs.

But I sent a couple questions about books, and publishing, and writing. I was lucky enough to pick Katherine from the hat of professionals who’ll be presenting at the upcoming SCBWI-Southern Breeze hosted Springmingle conference here in Atlanta (February 22-24th). So you’ll get answers to your questions. Or at least the five questions I asked.

1. What are a couple of your favorite reads from childhood? And do they influence what you look for in a manuscript today?

One of the most influential books of my childhood was The Giver. It was the first science fiction or dystopian story I had ever read and it made a big impression. I think that it taught me the power and art of an ambiguous ending. I still prefer when complicated novels leave something open ended or up for interpretation rather than tying it all up in a neat bow.

I also really loved prairie stories when I was a kid: Little House on the Prairie, Sarah, Plain and Tall, and the American Girl, Kirsten. I believe these stories taught me that you can take ordinary slices of life and make them extraordinary through the telling.

2. What is the ONE aspect of a manuscript that will grab you immediately and make you say, “Yes. This is the story I want to edit.”

The number one thing I’m looking for when I’m reading manuscripts is an emotional connection to the work. I expect stories to make me feel something whether it’s joy or sorrow, horror or delight. Usually, I think that’s achieved through a character I love or relate to or recognize.

3. What, if any, trends do you see in children’s publishing? Do you like what you see, or NOT like what you see coming along?

I’m very enthusiastic about the future of children’s publishing. I think it’s a growing genre that every year attracts more respect from the literary establishment and attention from the general market. One trend that I like in particular is the emphasis on the interaction between text and illustration, whether that’s in picture books, middle-grade fiction, nonfiction, or the growing graphic novel category.

4. I know all those writers attending Springmingle 2013 will want to know the answer to this question (BEFORE we send our manuscripts!): What’s your biggest pet peeve in a manuscript?

I don’t like manuscripts that talk down to the child reader. I think that kids are a diverse and smart bunch, and I like submissions that respect them and realize they are capable of great emotional and psychological maturity.

5. And finally, can you give us a little peek at what you’ll be speaking on at Springmingle? Inquiring writers want to know!

I’ll be speaking about myself, Roaring Brook Press, the in-house acquisition process, and I’m hoping to have a new talk about character ready for the Springmingle conference.

So there you have it. The answers to all your burning writing questions. Didn’t I tell you I knew what you were thinking?


77a9521da74d2374a25df2e5733c39e4It’s not too late to sign up for this wonderful conference! You’ll see Katherine Jacobs and all these other wonderful authors, illustrators and an agent, too, who are visiting blogs to answer even more questions:

Jan. 21: Will Terry, illustrator, at Elizabeth O. Dulemba’s blog

Jan. 22: Beck McDowell, author, at Bonnie Herold’s “Tenacious Teller of Tales”

Jan. 23: Nikki Grimes, author, at Gail Handler’s “Write From the Soul”

Jan. 24: Jill Corcoran, agent, at Donny Seagraves’ blog

Jan. 25: Chad Beckerman, creative director, at Laura Golden’s blog

Jan. 28: Katherine Jacobs, editor, at Cathy C. Hall’s blog

Jan. 29: Mark Braught, illustrator, at Vicky Alvear Shecter’s “History with a Twist”

Jan. 30: Carmen Agra Deedy, author, at Ramey Channell’s “The Moonlight Ridge Series”


Oh! I almost forgot. You’ll see me at Springmingle 2013, too. So please join us for a weekend of fun and writing. You and I both know you want to come.