Linkup 2007 SCBWI Midsouth Conference

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Mid-South (SCBWI)

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2007 Midsouth SCBWI Fall Conference

(You can see fall Conference 2008 photos by clicking HERE )

This year's conference was on two days this year, September 15th and 16th. This year is a first for the Midsouth having a second half-day of conference time.

We arrived at eight-ish or so, to find a wonderful crowd of old and new friends milling about, just before opening remarks. After checking in, Frank and I went into the auditorium to listen to Lin Oliver's keynote address. Ms.Oliver talked about all the neat tips/tricks/advice she's heard over the years at numerous SCBWI conferences. She also gave a quick history of SCBWI, ...........and she should know, since she is the co-founder, and executive director. She said that of the many good things that SCBWI tries to represent, one of the best is the feeling of friendship and sense of belonging that comes with communication with others that create....or in her words...." Those of us that celebrate our own special brand of weirdness".

Lin Oliver is co-founder and Executive Director of the SCBWI. She is the co-author, with Henry Winkler, of the New York Times bestselling book series, Hank Zipzer: World’s Greatest Under-Achiever (Grosset & Dunlap), which has sold over two million copies. Her new book series, Who Shrunk Daniel Funk?, will be out from Simon and Schuster in the fall of 2008. Also a film and television writer-producer, Lin Oliver is Executive Producer of Louis Sachar’s “Wayside School” series, an animated show currently running on Nickelodeon. She has produced Emmy-Award winning films for Showtime, as well as a feature film based on E.B. White’s classic novel, The Trumpet of the Swan.

After the keynote address, we all dispersed to our respective breakout sessions. My first was with the Henry Holt Associate Art Director Laurent Linn. This session was "How publishers work and why". Mr. Linn gave a bit of his work background, some information about his publisher, and showed samples of Henry Holt's extensive list. Mr. Linn then went on to discuss the "behind the scenes" of the making of a children's picture book. He talked about the back and forth, during the book production process, between the publisher, author, designer, illustrator and marketing department. The more sets of eyes looking on during the creative process, the better the finished book will be. He said that he gets approximately 150 individual art samples a month. Laid out on a huge table, the stack looks quite formidable. Mr. Linn said he works a good bit with illustrators he's worked with before, but also tries to add in different illustrators, to keep the artwork for Henry Holt looking fresh and new, for each season.


Laurent Linn, Associate Art Director for Henry Holt Books, began his career as a puppet designer in Jim Henson’s Muppet Workshop. With the Muppets for 11 years, he became the Creative Director for Sesame Street, winning an Emmy Award. Laurent illustrates; reviews over one hundred books a year as a member of the Children’s Book Awards Committee at Bank Street College; and collaborates with noted editors, authors, and illustrators on picture books, middle-grade books, and teen novels at Holt.


My next session was a lively talk by Lin Oliver, on creating a series. This session was mostly for writers, but the information also could apply to graphic novel storytelling. I listened avidly as Ms. Oliver described the usual definition of a series, and it's components (Likable characters, it's "hook" or premise, and the individual stories of the series itself). She said that series are usually driven by sales to the children themselves, and in a proposal for a series, the writer should indicate their target market. Ms. Linn's extensive TV background, gave this talk a very "now" feeling.

Feeling a bit whim-shawed, but very energized, after trying to absorb such a variety of new information (and relying on a couple of pages of notes), we went to lunch, in Scarritt's "Harry Potter" dining hall. Each time we eat there, I expect the snowy owl of the movies, to come flying down the aisle.

After lunch, it was back up to the lobby to have our "Critique Group". The Illustrators' group, works more like a "show and tell" with each illustrator showing off a bit of their work,and talk about their current projects. Both published and pre-published gain a lot by just interacting. We all work a lot of the time in solitude, and just seeing another friendly, and more importantly understanding, face can do wonders for a feeling of isolation. And then we have such great discussions. I know I always learn so very much, each time I sit in on a session. We discuss the tools of the trade...."You mean Photoshop will do THAT?"....and how our projects are going...and possibly get advice on ones that might have stalled.

The time just flew....and it was off to my third session with Jennifer Wingertzahn, editor at Clarion Books. Her topic was on "Finding the right match for your manuscript". It was mostly geared for writers, but one nice piece of information she related was that a lot of editors have a say in who illustrates a manuscript the publisher has acquired, and thus do indeed look at illustration promo pieces that are sent their way. Ms. Wingertzahn said that you want your editor to be joyful about manuscripts that are accepted, since that same editor in effect becomes your cheerleader within a publishing house. You really want someone who loves your work....and is willing to get it thru all the hurdles of getting a book to print. If an editor rejects your manuscript...(or your artwork)...then it mostly means that it really "isn't right for their publishing house"...just like a rejection note says. So when you get a rejection notice, or don't get a call for an illustration job.....just turn around and send your work elsewhere. You never know when a "match made in publishing heaven" will happen.

Jennifer Wingertzahn has worked in he children’s divisions of HarperCollins and Random House, and is now an Editor at Clarion Books where she publishes picture books, novels, and poetry for readers ages 0 to 18. Some of the recent books she’s edited are Pretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story from Africa by Niki Daly; The Wonderful Thing About Hiccups by Cece Meng, illustrated by Janet Pedersen; Small Sister by Jessica Meserve; and Where the Great Hawk Flies by Liza Ketchum. Other authors and illustrators she’s worked with include Julie Downing, Tiphanie Beeke, Stacey Schuett, Deborah Davis, and Susan Katz, and she also serves on the faculty of the New York University Certificate in Publishing Program.

Then at the end of an already eventful day, those of us with individual critiques went to "judgement". At least I think that "critique" sounds very foreboding, for what is really a chance for fifteen minutes with someone with a ton of experience at evaluating artwork. This year, for me, the critique session was a wonderful opportunity to find out "how an art director thinks" in that crucial 5 seconds or so when they look at a mail submission/promo cards/tear sheet that has come into their slush pile. It gave me a window into how my promotional items might be viewed at that house and at other houses. It so helps to know what might go into file thirteen, or those things that might actually make it into an actual filing cabinet....or if I'm really lucky onto a bulletin board on the door.It was wonderful to get feedback from a very busy art director, face to face. It's mostly the only time you can get this much attention, from someone who is actually "in the know". It will help immensely in planning my future mailouts.

After this it was back home for the day....decompress a tiny bit...then back at eight the next morning. My session the next day was again with Mr. Linn. This time it was a discussion of the process that creates a picture book...from raw manuscript to finished a book on bookstands. Mr. Linn took several of the newest titles from Henry Holt and highlighted the illustrations during the entire process. From pencil sketches, thru changes, through finished artwork. Then the approval process, and then to working with the design of the book with text styles, cover treatment and binding design. He talked about the printing process (CMYK and the use of the Macbeth a room with color corrected lighting that is a standard in printing offices worldwide, to get the color "just right" no matter who or where it's being viewed)

After all this information, a few of the illustrators who were "brave" enough gathered together to have a "art screening" with the art director. We all put a couple of pieces of our artwork, (without our names/contact info) in a box, and pulled one out at a time in random order, and had Mr. Linn tell us his thoughts. Since the few of us there all knew each other's work....(just like writers remember someone else's story or "voice"), it quickly developed into a lovely round table discussion of just what would attract an art director's eye, what wouldn't and, most importantly, wonderful suggestions on tweaking to make our individual illustrations "POP".

Both the very informative talks by the speakers I had the opportunity to listen to,and the wonderful "face time" with the Associate Art Director Lauarent Linn made these two days something to savor in the weeks to come.

I was unable to attend (what I've learned was a very inspirational) set of talks by Jamie Adoff,

Jaime Adoff is the author of The Song Shoots Out of My Mouth: A Celebration of Music (Dutton Juvenile), which was a Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor book (2003), an IRA Notable book (2003), a New York Public Library book for the Teen Age (2003), a VOYA poetry pick (2002), and a CCB Best Book for 2002. The critically acclaimed Names Will Never Hurt Me (Dutton Juvenile) was his first young-adult novel and was named a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age (2005). His latest novel, Jimi & Me (Jump At The Sun), was the recipient of the 2006 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award. He lives in his hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio.


or a most informative brace of session by agent Ginger Clark....


Ginger Clark is a literary agent at Curtis Brown, LTD since the fall of 2005. She
represents science fiction, fantasy, paranormal romance, paranormal chicklit, literary
horror, and young adult and middle grade novels. Previously, she worked at Writers House for six years as an Assistant Literary Agent. Her first job in publishing was as an editorial assistant at Tor Books. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College. She is the Secretary of the Contracts Committee of the AAR. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their pet chinchillas.

but time is (even at two days) way too short to do everything I'd like.


But I can only just say HUZZAH to Candie Moonshower, Genetta Adair, and Tracy Barrett, and their team of wonderful volunteers for a LOVELY weekend. It always seems just like Christmas eve, right before the conference.....and like Christmas day during. And the gifts just keep on giving (in a real business sense) all thru the year.

I can't wait till next year.....

(For another look at this wonderful conference check out Kristi Valient's blog.)

Alison Lyne

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