Month: September 2014

Opening Lines With Richard Peck

Originally Published: June 2014

by Lauren Shapiro

It feels a bit like a revivalist tent show, as Richard Peck preaches the gospel that “you’re only as good as your opening line. Our readers do not read reviews or catalog copy and do not use the internet for examining publishers offerings. Our sales are the first lines. Is there a perfect opening line, yes, but it’s been used,” he says, with perfect timing.

“The first line needs to be a grenade. The story has to begin before you start. The story is already going, pulling out of the station and the reader runs to get on board. Do not begin little did I know when I woke up that morning or we were walking up the stairs when, or it was a little town where nothing ever happened. Francine Prose’sAfter doesn’t start with gunfire; it starts after the gunfire. E. B. White’s matchless first line of Charlotte’s Web is “Where’s Papa going with that axe?”  You don’t give your readers time to think on the first page.” (more…)

The Anatomy Of A Picture Book

Originally Published: May 2014

by Ellen Raskin

THE ANATOMY OF A PICTURE BOOK was the title of Julia Sooy’s talk given on May 17, 2014, in Tarrytown. Her presentation was part of the traveling SCWBI Roadshow. Sooy, an Assistant to Laura Godwin, Acquiring Editor and Publisher at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, explained details of the craft of the picture book.

She also shared her experience and knowledge of the practicalities of publishing picture books from the editorial stance, offering the theme “Picture Books by the Numbers”.

Following are important points she made. (more…)

So Your Character Walks Into A Plot Hole… And Other Common Traps To Avoid Manuscripts

Originally Published: May 2014

by K. Marcus

Brett Wright, an associate editor at Bloomsbury Publishing, prefaced his May 13th SCBWI Professional Series talk with why books are abandoned.  Wright shared some statistics from (See link below).

“28% [of readers] stop reading within the first 50-100 pages.  It is really important to grab the reader right away and keep them enthralled” and said “most of the story should be in place in the first 30 pages…everything and everyone should be introduced in the beginning otherwise it is like it came out of nowhere.” (more…)

Harold Underdown On Craft: Sharpening Your Re-Vision

Originally Published: April 2014

by Leah Heilman Schanke

Harold UnderdownOn April 8, Harold Underdown began his presentation by introducing the importance of Reader Response Theory in writing and editing children’s books. The theory focuses on the reader’s experience. While editors and writers also have a response, they primarily analyze plot, characters, setting, etc. But what happens when a child reads? It’s simply the response. The response differs individually because of what each reader brings to the story.

Underdown stated that Reader Response Theory is “every bit as important as what literary critics do in analyzing what a story means and how the writer accomplished it.” Underdown demonstrated by reading an excerpt of The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats without showing the illustrations. The response was the feeling of wonder and excitement. Underdown pointed out that the illustrations were not needed to “fall into [the character’s] story.” (more…)

Lin Oliver: Hearth Plus Humor Equals Comedy

Originally Published: February 2014

by Kristi Olson

Writers and illustrators who have attended a SCBWI national conference already know that Lin Oliver is one funny lady. The New York Metro Chapter was thrilled to welcome her to a Professional Series lecture, on the heels of another successful SCBWI Annual Winter Conference. (more…)

Man On Wire: The Importance Of Narrative Tension

Originally Published: February 2014

by K. Marcus

seanmcarthyMAN ON WIRE, the documentary about Philippe Petit’s high-wire walk between the Twin Towers in 1974 was used by Sean McCarthy, owner of the Sean McCarthy Literary Agency, as a metaphor for planning and creating narrative tension in the manuscript.

McCarthy focused on the manuscript’s first three chapters as those are read by agents and editors. This was a presentation from the traveling SCBWI Roadshow in Tarrytown on February 8, 2014.

Petit took 5 years to plan his high-wire walk.  While McCarthy is not suggesting authors and illustrators take that long, he did stress that preplanning plotting, pacing, external/internal conflict, motivation, stakes and character development is more favorable “than forcing it in later.”  In the first three chapters, it is necessary to “lay hints and groundwork for those reveals later on.”  There should be “one conflict at the beginning and it should be resolved at the end.” (more…)

The ABC Of It: Why Children’s Books Matter With Leonard Marcus

Originally Posted: February 2014

by Leah Heilman Schanke

Leonard Marcus, historian, author, critic, and curator of The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter at the New York Public Library (NYPL) began his presentation by simply defining an exhibit as storytelling in three dimensions. Marcus observed that when people think about children’s books, they primarily think about them in terms of their personal experience. Marcus places books in a larger context by considering:

  • How are children’s books a part of literature?
  • How are the illustrations a part of art?
  • What do the stories say about culture? (more…)

A Night With Three Agents

Originally Posted: January 2014

by Lauren Shapiro

This year’s highly anticipated agents panel was comprised of Laura Biagi of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Brenda Bowen of Greenburger Associates, and Bridget Smith of Dunham Literary.  The agents introduced themselves and then responded to questions posed by Bridget Casey, of SCBWI. (more…)

A Story In 1,000 Words Or Less

Originally Posted: January 2014

by Lauren Shapiro

“It’s hard to write a story in 1000 words or less, preferably a lot less, that has character development, conflict, and rising action,” said Deirdre Jones, Assistant Editor at Little Brown Brooks for Young Readers. “But,” she says, “it can be done.”  At the SCBWI meeting on November 12th, she presented her theory as to how. (more…)

2013 Illustrator’s Boot Camp: Creating Characters

Originally Posted: September 2013

by Stephen Martin

There are many ways to draw a cat. It is the illustrator’s responsibility to take the author’s words and infuse that cat with traits and visual appeal to create a character that children will care for and relate to.

Patrick Collins, creative director at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, started his morning master class by showing examples of illustrations in different styles, from the very realistic to the highly cartoony, and demonstrated how he put an illustrator’s characters and an author’s words together. (more…)