Friday, August 13, 2010

L.A. Woman

I have to say, my four-day trip to LA for the SCBWI Summer Conference was a whirlwind of activity and I truly loved every moment of it. When I sat down to write a nice summary of events, I realized how much happened and that I couldn't squeeze it all into a moderately-sized blog post. So I figured, why not just share the highlights? Here goes!

Top Five SCBWI-L.A. Moments

5) Introducing the faculty--The conference kicked-off the morning of Friday, July 31. There was a gigantic event in the main ballroom of the Hyatt, where everyone in the faculty was led out to the massive stage to introduce themselves. It was kind of nerve-wracking, because literally ALL the attendees were there, watching us intently, and we had to come up with a word that would either sum up our feelings in that moment, our hopes for the conference, or the meaning of life. Talk about pressure! Anyway, it was amazing to watch agents, authors, and other big publishing players, greet the aspiring writers. This is a large industry and oftentimes you'll know someone online, or through a colleague, or through an article in Publishers Weekly, but never had the chance to put a face to the name. Also, it was cool to hear everyone's word--from "hope" to "caffeine" to "dude" (that last one is mine, of course).
Me and Michelle Houts, author of

4) Think Like Packager workshop--regardless of how calm I might appear on the outside, I'm always nervous as hell when I get up in front of people. In fact, my neck usually breaks out into a bright red flush when I get close to a podium. Classy, huh? Well, luckily for me, I was able to work through it and deliver a really solid lecture about how packagers develop book ideas for teens and tweens. For a recap of my presentation, visit Ara Burklund's guest post on the Adventures in Children's Publishing blog

3) Meeting one of my former authors--I love telling people about how I came to be award-winning Middle-Grade author Michelle Hout's editor! It's one of those rare stories of finding talent in a heap of contest submissions. A few years ago, Michelle entered the Delacorte Press First Middle-Grade Fiction contest, along with hundreds of other people. I just happened to pick up her manuscript, which was tucked in a large pile of other entries, and I could not stop reading this sweet, charming story. It's about a farm girl named Libby Ryan, who is raising her first pair of steers for the Practical County Fair. The novel was a contest finalist, and after revising her manuscript, I eventually bought the book. Since then, The Beef Princess of Practical County has gone on to win the 2010 International Reading Association Children's Book Award for Intermediate Fiction, and is currently a finalist for the 2010 Buckeye Children's Book Award. I couldn't be prouder of Michelle, who I finally met for the first time at the conference. She's every bit as funny, smart, and kind as the characters in her books! I hope I get to work with her again someday...

2) Running into one of my old friends from college/The Heart & Soul Party--How is this for weird? My former colleague and good friend Krista Marino text messaged me on Saturday night, right before SCBWI's infamous annual dance party. I thought she was going to ask me to be her wing woman for the evening, but I could never had expected this: a girl I knew from my study abroad program in college was not only one of Krista's dearest friends, but she was also at the conference, too! Sarah and I went on a 5 month long group trip to London through Binghamton University's English Department. We had the time of our lives, but we also lost track of one another after graduation. I had know idea that Sarah was living in San Diego and used to work with Krista in California. It was soooo great to see her and catch up. And we had an amazing time dancing the night away with the rest of the conference attendees! I'd heard about all the costumes and the boogie-ing down, but seeing it for myself first-hand was incredible. Despite what you may think, children's books writers know how to RAWK!

1) The critiques--Evaluating an aspiring author's writing can be a difficult task, and not just because of the effort that's involved in reading their pages. There's the face-to-face discussion about their WIPs that can feel as awkward and strange as a blind date! However, I find the one-to-one critique process at conferences to be my favorite part of the experience, mostly because I get to talk with people about their story inspirations, writing goals, and the vision they have for their work. When I read the conference submissions, I never forget that there is a person attached to these words, and if anything, I'm usually pretty intrigued about why they decided to tell this particular story. So when it comes time to meet at a small table in a hotel banquet room, I'm really looking forward to hearing all about them. Sometimes you even find a project and author you connect with, and while that doesn't happen as often as I'd like, it's still worth the trip. Here's why--the writers are (most times!) thankful to have feedback from someone in the industry, even if it's the kind of constructive criticism that requires them to perform major alterations on their manuscript. They are in real need of communication and opinions and suggestions. Honestly, I feel so honored and privileged to provide them with whatever two cents I've got.

Case in point: I received this email right after one of my critiques, in which I told the author to pretty much change the entire concept of her book.

Hi Claudia,

I know you had tons of critiques and I don't expect you to remember mine, but I wanted you to know how grateful I am that my pages were assigned to you. I read over your comments and everything you pointed out made me feel a thousand times better about the new direction you suggested I take my story. I LOVE how clear you were, and I appreciate you mentioning the positives. More than anything, talking to you and hearing your true thoughts on leaving out the time travel really blew open my mind--in a great way-- on where this story could BEST go. Like you said in your workshop, you give editorial feedback in the best interest of the BOOK; I feel so privileged to have gotten that editorial experience first-hand.

I'm glad I waited to query this one out to agents. When I do, if it turns out to be "the one," it will be thanks to you. Seriously. I would never ever have known the best place to take this book without your advice.

Thanks again for the amazing feedback!

~An SCBWI writer

'Nuff said! :)

1 comment:

  1. Aw, thanks for posting links, Claudia! Your talk really did rock--I know I didn't put it in the recap, but I loved how you started off by showing us (and explaining) your tattoo. Glad you made it to L.A. for the conference this year. Hopefully we'll see more of you next summer. You ever work the winter conference writers' intensive day?