Friday’s Fun Find: Doraine Bennett! (And WIK ’12!)

The Southern Breeze region of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is sponsoring their annual conference, Writing and Illustrating for Kids, ’12, come the weekend of October 19th in Hoover, Alabama. Besides being a TON of FUN for writers, it’s also a great learning experience, no matter where on the learning curve you write. And many of the speakers are touring right now on Breezer blogs to give you a taste of what you’ll get at WIK’12. Which is why the lovely and talented Doraine Bennett is here with me today. Wheee!

Doraine, I can hardly wait for WIK’12 to get here! What’s been your experience with WIK?

 Before my first WIK, someone told me this conference was like drinking from a fire hose. I’d say that was pretty accurate. There are more classes than you can get to, more people than you can connect a name to, and more information than you can possibly absorb in a day. It’s wonderful!

 From attending the conference to speaking at the conference! Wow, that’s quite a journey. Can you share a little about your publishing journey and success?

 Honestly, I feel a bit like I came in through the back door. An acquaintance called me one day to ask if I wanted her job as a sales rep for a book distributor to schools in my geographical area. I wasn’t really looking for a job, but it was all about children’s books and libraries. In her position with the company, she kept being asked for books to meet the Georgia history standards in elementary schools. Most major publishers do not market books that fit the needs of only one state. So, I took her job, she opened a publishing house to publish books that meet those needs, and I became her first author. My State Standards books are in most of the elementary schools in Georgia. And six of them are on the GADOE list of featured books for the Common Core Standards.

 I continue to write for State Standards, but I also have books with three other publishers. These have come as a result of sending in proposals to the publisher before I wrote the books. I like this route into the publishing world, as you aren’t spending as much time on speculative writing that may or may not find a home. Although I do have several of those type manuscripts out looking for a home.

Your workshop is called “Nuts and Bolts.” This sounds like a great introduction to children’s publishing! Can you give us a glimpse into the specifics of the workshop?

 We will be talking about the basics of submitting a manuscript, the differences in the trade market and the educational market, how to target a publisher, and how to network.

Here’s the last question, Doraine, so you’re going to have to think hard! What’s the best piece of advice you can give to a pre-published writer?

 Hone your craft! Taking online classes, attending workshops, finding a critique group. All these are excellent ways to become a better writer. Submit your manuscripts. They will never get published if they are sitting in a file folder somewhere on your computer. Be professional. Children’s publishing is a small world. Really. You’d be surprised. Don’t be afraid to take risks, to walk a nontraditional path, to try something new and unexpected.

Thanks SO much, Doraine, for stopping by today! I’m sure I’ll see you at WIK’12—and I hope I’ll see y’all as well! If you want to see a schedule of the conference, check out the Breezer website for details, and sign up soon!

And if you want to get an inside scoop on the speakers and what fantabulous stuff they have planned for you, check out these fellow Breezer blogs and look for WIK’12:

 Aug. 15 Sharon Pegram at Writers and Wannabes

Aug. 16 Sarah Campbell at Alison Hertz’s blog, On My Mind

Aug. 17 F.T. Bradley at Laura Golden’s blog

Aug. 20 Chuck Galey at Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog

Aug. 21 Jo Kittinger at Bonnie Herold’s blog, Tenacious Teller of Tales

Aug. 22 Irene Latham at Robyn Hood Black’s blog, Read, Write, Howl

Aug. 23 Vicky Alvear Shecter at S.R. Johannes’ blog

Aug. 24 Doraine Bennett at Cathy Hall’s blog

Aug. 27 Virginia Butler at Bonnie Herold’s blog, Tenacious Teller of Tales

Aug. 28 Jodi Wheeler-Toppen at Diane Sherrouse’s blog, The Reading Road

Aug. 29 Ellen Ruffin at Sarah Frances Hardy’s blog, Picture This

Aug. 30 Donna Jo Napoli at Writers and Wannabes

All in all, it’ll be more fun than a barrel of monkeys, so come join us! (Though I’ve always thought a barrel of monkeys would be more dangerous than fun. Maybe just one monkey in a barrel. One of those tiny little capuchin monkeys. Yeah, that kind of fun.)

Finding A Last Minute Gift for a Writer

Hear that? No, not the jingle bells. That other sound interrupting your happy holiday mood. It’s a tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.

Yeah, that’s the holiday clock, reminding you that you still haven’t found the perfect gift for the writer in your life, and time is running out! Fear not, friends. I have the most splendifereous idea: give a writer’s conference!

 Your children’s writer will look great in a writer’s conference–it’s a one-size fits all! All you have to do is find a writer’s conference, and that’s easy-peasy if you check out this link at the SCBWI website. My region, Southern Breeze, has a conference coming up in February. It’s called Springmingle and registration is going on right now. And oh, my jolly jingle bells! If you’re an illustrator, you need to read about the Liz Conrad Scholarship RIGHT NOW.

You can also shop here, at the Poets & Writers listing of conferences, if your children’s writer writes for adults as well. Finding the write gift is as quick as a click.

See? You’re already done! Now you have time for all the merry-making you can handle, so dash away, dash away, dash away all!

(Um, you know to come back after, right? See you in 2012!)

Finding Flitting Picture Book Ideas with Jo S. Kittinger

In keeping up with Picture Book Idea Month, another SCBWI Southern Breezer stepped up to share how a couple of ideas came to her. Jo S. Kittinger has written a ton of children’s books, she’s a Co-Regional Adviser for Southern Breeze, and she’s a much-in-demand speaker. How does she ever find time to get a picture book idea? I’ll let Jo explain how she catches up with her flitting ideas!

Picture book ideas are like hummingbirds. They zip through my mind on a regular basis. Some I catch and cage in my idea file, some get by before I write them down and are quickly forgotten, others land on my computer and demand to be written.

 Rosa’s Bus: the Ride to Civil Rights was one that landed in my office. On my phone to be exact. Donny Williams, who owned Bus #2857 before it was sold to the Henry Ford Museum, called me up out of the blue and asked if I could direct him to a children’s writer that might be interested in writing a book about the bus! He had worked on an adult book dealing with the civil rights movement and his editor was interested in a children’s book about the bus. It turns out that his editor declined the manuscript I wrote, as it was not what she had envisioned. But some time later, after Larry Rosler (editor at Boyds Mills Press) spoke at a Southern Breeze SCBWI conference, I submitted the manuscript to him and he quickly accepted it.

 The House on Dirty-Third Street, to be released Spring 2012 with Peachtree Publishers, was a humming idea that came from a slip of the tongue. My husband, Rick, and I were traveling and looking for an address when I stumbled trying to say 33rd Street. It came out Dirty-Third Street and I began wondering what type of place that would be. This picture book has been many years in the making. Thomas Gonzales created fabulous illustrations and I can’t wait to see the finished book!

Of course, there have been hundreds of idea birds that escaped, flitting past while I was pre-occupied. I’m sure 2-3 were likely award winners! Those seem to be the hardest to catch! But I’ve learned to keep a window in my mind always open to welcome ideas.

And P.S. I happen to know that Rosa’s Bus won a 2011 Crystal Kite Member Choice Award. So if I were you, I’d keep that window WIDE open and hope a hummingbird idea flits in!