Tuesday Tips on Photo Use and Conference Do’s

When last we spoke, I shared about the upcoming WIK’12 conference and the lovely Doraine Bennett’s writerly wisdom. PLUS, I gave all the stops on the WIK blog tour. But I completely forgot to add a great post from Bonita Herold and Janice Hardy over at her blog, The Other Side of the Story.

Even if you’re not close enough to attend our Southern Breeze SCBWI conference, you’ll want to read their “ABC’s of Attending of a Conference.” It’s chock full of tips (well, 26 plus a couple extra) and advice on conference-going. And I guarantee there will be at least a few do’s that you haven’t considered.

When you have all that good info in your head, zip over to read Roni Loren’s post about the use of photos on blogs, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr. She has some eye-opening information as well, specifically on copyrighted photos. Even if you’re sure about every photo you use, I guarantee there will be something you haven’t considered.

They’re both well worth a look and I’m sure you’ll be all the richer for checking them out. Much like Cathy-on-a-Stick who visited the Parthenon. In Nashville, TN. (But at least it’s my own picture.)

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 Few Writing Conference Gems

Oh, how I love that sparkly feeling when the writing conference winds up and you can’t wait to get out the door and back to your own little writing cubbyhole to write, write, write!

But there were so many gems that I have to share a few. And when I say gems, I mean shiny nuggets of advice and wisdom, plucked from the presentations. But I could use the word “gems” for the presenters themselves. They were quite brilliant, too!

In fact, I’ll start with agent Sarah Davies from The Greenhouse Literary Agency, because she has this delightful British accent, which makes everything she says brilliant. I know that’s terribly biased and rather embarrassing to have such a blatant prejudice. If I’m being perfectly honest,  a Brit could snatch my favorite handbag from my arm and I’d probably throw the matching shoes after him(or her). That’s how charming I think the British are. (Even now, I’m totally writing this in a British accent. And eating a Girl Scout biscuit.)

Anyway, back to shiny Sarah Davies and her gems from her talk entitled “From Ordinary to Extraordinary.” I loved this part of the subtitle of her talk: The Art of Creating a Great, Saleable Story. Yes, I love to write. But I absolutely want to sell what I write. So, here’s a few questions and the tips I gleaned from her talk. And P.S.  You should be asking yourself these questions before you write your story.

Who are you writing this story for? Know your target audience. What age, what gender will find your story appealing? Picture the kid that’s going to pull your book off the shelf and not be able to put it down. Write for that kid.

Is your concept unique?  You already know how important it is to write something original. So, step away from your vampire story. Unless there’s something so ridiculously unique about your vampire that your target kid reader will stay up all night to finish the book. But just to be on the safe side, do a search on vampire books before you write 20,000 words and realize that you’ve just basically updated Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Do you know your pitch? You should have an idea of your pitch, what you are trying to say, before you write a word. Not what’s going to happen, but your great THEME, or a focused intention, or an inspired concept.

That should be enough for now. I’ll bet you’re already thinking about something you might want to tweak, or re-write, or double-check. I know I had a moment, sitting in my seat, when I thought, “Oh, dear. Is my story extraordinary enough?” I was thinking it in a British accent. Maybe that’s why I didn’t feel quite so panicky.

But if you are panicking a bit, you might want to dash over to the Greenhouse Literary Agency website. You’ll find tons of great tips. Oh!  And read Sarah Davies’ blog, too, for insight into the business of selling your stories. And check out a few of the books she recommends:

BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver (Brilliant concept!)

THE REPLACEMENT by Brenna Yovanoff (Brilliant voice!)

WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET by Tricia Springstubb (Big story from small lives!)

Now, I’m off to polish my own manuscript and make it sparkle like a gem-encrusted bumbershoot! I don’t know what that means, actually, but imagine me saying it with a British accent and it’ll sound brilliant! (And P.S. Yes, that’s the very proper Sarah Davies, holding Cathy-on-a-Stick. She was a jolly good sport about it, even if she didn’t know quite why she was asked to hold a pic-on-a-stick.)