by Marcy Collier
Kitty, Andrea and I attended the New Jersey SCBWI conference this weekend. Kitty taught a workshop on Fairytales, Legends & Tall Tales (which, BTW was awesome!) We branched out into different workshops, then were able to share and compare notes on the long journey home to
The Saturday keynote speaker, Dan Yaccarino was amazing. He said, “Challenge yourself. Don’t stand still. Your passion must come through in your work or kids will see through it.” He said he spent the first two years after art school dropping off portfolios to magazine publishers in search of work. The theme of his speech was to say – “YES!” He was presented with opportunities and new situations and said yes each and every time. As writers and illustrators we have to work hard and persevere and say yes to new situations and overcome our fears.
If you find yourself in a challenging situation, don’t back down and run. Have confidence in yourself to say, “yes I can do this.” You have to believe in yourself before others will have confidence in your work.
But as the agents stated in their panel, they expect an author or an illustrator to submit polished work. They have to fall in love with your manuscript or illustrations to make an offer. Do your research. Know your market. Don’t submit to an agent blindly. They can fix plot or pacing problems in a novel but they can’t teach you voice. Hone your craft. On a personal, observatory note, don’t be a pain in the butt. Don’t corner an agent/editor during the cocktail hour and demand an explanation on why they’ve rejected your manuscript six times. Don’t stuff an envelope in their hand and ask them to critique your manuscript. I almost feel like agents/editors should have an emergency air horn they can sound if they are stuck in that awkward situation and then a volunteer will come to their rescue.
As far as market trends, paranormal, vampire, angels, dystopian, and super powers are all dead. Do not start your story with dreams or car crashes where the main character wakes up and something terrible has happened. Make the stakes high. Create believable characters with realistic problems. Contemporary realism is becoming popular.
We got on the road at lunchtime so we missed both Kate DiCamillo’s closing remarks and the farewell to Kathy Temean as regional advisor. The bits I read on Twitter about Kate’s speech (#NJSCBWI) were both inspirational and heartwarming. And even though we don’t live in the
Jersey region, we are grateful for all of Kathy's hard work, dedication and making us feel so at home and welcome in her region. We will truly miss her as the NJ regional advisor!
But I had to get home in time to read bedtime stories, which of course included Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarion’s Boy + Bot.