LA SCBWI Conference Part 3

And so the listening goes on....


They said lots! So I’ve squished some main points here.

They are looking…always…for new books:

With new voices,

That are beyond category,

That are brave and have heart

that speak to a universal, emotional truth

maybe it speaks to a moment in time eg Wonder by R J Palacio

that they will fall in love with and will be in love with after working on it

that are a marriage of a great voice and topic that is well written

that, if they are a picture book, have great rhythm – read it aloud to check

AND….All of them are looking for a long relationship with the author.


Keynote: Matt de La Pena

Writing (and Reading) on the Wrong Side of the Tracks


Matt de la Peña is the author of four critically-acclaimed YA novelsBall Don't Lie, Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here and I Will Save You —and the award-winning picture book A Nation’s Hope: The story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis. This year his fifth YA novel, The Living, will be released as will his fist middle grade novel, Curse of the Ancients
His advice ran something like this: Focus on what you want to write not on what you want the editors to read or hear. Make sure you know what is your point of view (POV). He grew up on the border of Mexico and San Diego with tight-knit families but not a lot of money or education. Sport was a haven for him until a teacher told him he could go to college and meet girls. Multi-cultural literature changed his life, starting with The Colour Purple.

Writing is all about how hard you’re working when no one is watching.’  


ANDREA PINKNEY - From Idea to Acquisition: Turning Your Brainstorming into Books.

Andrea is the best selling author of over 30 books and is the executive editor of Scholastic NY.

Advice for writing:

Write every day

Kill the committee  - or at least wave them goodbye

Writing is rewriting

Read everyday and widely

Depart from your comfort zone

She sees her job as an editor as being someone who holds the flashlight and tells the author where to dig.

CLAUDIA GABEL - First Pages, in Reverse: Successful Beginnings (& the Revisions That Got Them There!)

She suggests starting your novel on the day your character’s life changes.

At the beginning they know what they want but as they book develops they discover what they need. You’re always travelling from WANTS to NEEDS.


Comedy Comes From the Heart

Yes! The Fonz! A little older, without the leather jacket and very funny who has written books with co-founder of SCBWI, Lin Oliver. This was a highlight that my younger teenager self revelled in. Lin and Henry spoke about how comedy and pathos are closely linked. That from tragedy comes great and that comedy often skims the fine line between the two. They have written two series together – Hank Zipzer, which is inspired by the fact that Henry Winkler didn’t find out he had a learning challenge until he was 31 and so spent his childhood feeling stupid. Their next series together is Ghost Buddy.   

A few final observations....

  1. Digital is exciting! Don’t be afraid of it. It is a new way of delivering stories. In 2013 digital overtook backlist sales. Previously publishers were gatekeepers but now there is a true democracy. Authors can have a global audience with instant reactions and huge fan bases, but editors provide the scaffolding to make sure the book will stand.
  2. Even best selling authors get terrified about that first blank page of a new novel.
  3. Write from your heart, write about what matters to you and create the new trends.
  4. Make sure you know what the emotional core of your story is…courage? Self-acceptance? Loss?
  5. Write the first draft for you and in the second draft, work out what it needs.
  6. Write a strong book with a strong hook.
  7. There are more submissions and the competition is stronger so you need to push yourself further.
  8. Enjoy your writing. 

I would heartily recommend attending a conference if you can. For the fun and gorgeous members, the publishing giants and professionals in the same room, the parties, the books, and the time to indulge in this lovely thing we do.  

Lin Oliver, Co founder SCBWI.JPG