character

First Pages with Agent Saba Sulaiman and Editor Kate Prosswimmer

by G. Myrthil

SCBWI Metro’s On-the-Road series returned to the First Baptist Church of White Plains, NY on Saturday, May 13, for a positive and informative First Pages workshop. Saba Sulaiman, literary agent at Talcott Notch Literary, and Kate Prosswimmer, associate editor at Sourcebooks, teamed up to critique a dozen or so first pages, ranging from picture books to YA, chosen at random from audience members’ submissions. Saba and Kate were lucky—all the first pages were really strong. Yet they still had helpful feedback and advice to share.

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Novel Writing: Soup to Nuts

by Lauren Shapiro

Perhaps because Stacey Barney was formerly an English teacher, her presentation seemed to flow from a lesson plan on successful novel writing at the Tuesday night SCBWI Metro NY Professional Series.

Ms. Barney says there are only seven stories she’s been told – Overcoming the Monster; Rags to Riches; The Quest; Voyage and Return; Comedy; Tragedy and Rebirth – and the writer’s challenge is to make these stories feel fresh. Her advice on how to do that is, “Voice is always the first place to start. If the voice isn’t working, nothing else is. Establish the voice right away. Voice is paramount and character is a close second. Character and voice go hand in hand.” There are many things she can help with as an editor, but “I can’t give an author a voice.”

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Pixels to Platform: Marketing for Creative People

by Divya Chand

“Author Platform” is a phrase that is often heard but seldom understood. It generates an unlimited number of questions for all writers. Luckily for the crowd at the SCBWI Metro NY Professional Series, Pixels to Platform, Gabriela Pereira was on hand to answer those questions and demystify the core tenants of any successful author platform.

Gabriela Pereira is an MFA graduate from the New School and the founder of diymfa.com, a website that provides authors of all stages a place to delve deeper into the “how to” of writing  and “gain knowledge without the college””. While undercover as a graduate student, she learned the inside scoop on MFA programs, invented a slew of writing tools all her own, and developed a new, more effective way for writers to learn their craft.

On Tuesday, Gabriela shared her knowledge and showed the crowd the building blocks of a strong and successful platform. She shared with us the basic purpose of a platform as well the ABCs of creating one. Per Gabriela, the platform is a marketing structure meant to the connect the author with the readers and the fan base.

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First Pages with Heather Flaherty and Maggie Lehrman

By Orel Protopopescu

Heather Flaherty, a Literary Agent at the Bent Agency, and Maggie Lehrman, a Senior Editor at Abrams Books for Young Readers, (as well as a YA novelist) addressed a rapt crowd at the Huntington Public Library on October 16, 2016 as part of SCBWI Metro NY’s On-the-Road series.   Rapidly making their way through a pile of first pages, ranging from picture books to YA fiction, they were in remarkable accord, zeroing in on what made (or detracted from) an opening that worked.  Published writers and beginners benefited from their expertise.

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The Ins And Outs Of The Graphic Novel: Calista Brill, Judy Hansen and Andrew Arnold in Conversation About Graphic Novels, From Concept to Published Book

by K. Marcus

Judy Hansen of the Hansen Literary Management, LLC, a literary agent specializing in graphic novels, strongly recommends that “if you want to learn how to create graphic novels and comics, both known as ‘sequential art’, the best resources to begin with are:”

Understanding Comics by Scott Mcloud

Making Comics by Scott Mcloud

Comics and Sequential Art by Wil Eisner

Then move on to “cutting edge” graphic novels and focus on their lettering and ballooning:

Amelia Rules! (series) and The Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmy Gownley to look at paneling, ballooning & lettering and Hereville (series) by Barry Deutsch to see paneling & ballooning. And continue to read, read, read. Calista Brill, senior editor at First Second Books, added, “Sometimes people think of comics as ‘books light’ but they are very sophisticated and kids who read comics learn to pick up on these flourishes.”

Andrew Arnold, designer at Roaring Brook Press/FSG and a comics/graphic novel author/illustrator has “learned to never underestimate how smart kids are.”

Judy Hansen went on to say that “kids comics have commercial viability and have a great possibility for ancillary rights development.”

But graphic novels aren’t only for children. There is a market for adults as well. In both age groups, Calista Brill said, “the text and art should combine to make something greater than itself.” “A panel in a comic book doesn’t want to be perfect, something should be missing so it then directs you to the next panel.” The author/illustrator needs to think about text placement and how that leads the reader through the story.

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Crafting a Dynamic Character

by Gae Polisner

Kelsey MurphyEditorial Assistant Kelsey Murphy of Balzer & Bray led a wonderful workshop at the SCBWILI on Saturday April 13, at the Huntington Public Library on Long Island. The workshop was on “Crafting a Dynamic Character.”

Ms. Murphy provided a four-pronged outline on how to craft dynamic characters, explaining that, to draw in readers – and prospective agents and editors! – realistic characters (1) must have a want, (2) must change, (3) must be emotional and reactive, and (4) must be specific (not stereotypical or clichéd).

Using examples from both participants’ own two-minute writing exercises prepared on the spot, as well as from well-loved picture books and works of young adult and middle grade fiction, Ms. Murphy walked the audience through each prong of character building, helping us to see how it is done, and why each prong matters.

“A character will change, while still being that character at the core.”

Always coming back to prong one, that a character must have wants in order for the reader to connect—and to build plot—at the outset of a story, Ms. Murphy explained that a writer should even know the wants of her secondary characters: “A character that wants for nothing is dull.” She explained physical wants versus emotional wants, active and overarching wants to build characters from the ground up—and to view their personal history through these statements of want.

Elaborating that showing, not telling, the history leading to those wants is key to a well-told story, Ms. Murphy stated: “A character with a want has power and will encounter conflict either in pursuit or in lack of pursuit of the desire itself . . . and the backgrounds to those wants give the book momentum and energize the story.”

Carrying these precepts over to picture book writing, Ms. Murphy shared that simplicity of focus in picture books matters. At the core of a picture book, there should be one central idea “blown out” via repetition or exploration or upending of classic tropes—bringing them to a funny or unusual setting, while the simple want of the story remains clear. “She wants a frog!” Ms. Murphy exclaimed, alluding to one of her favorite picture books her house has recently acquired.

Following the workshop, Ms. Murphy generously fielded an audience Q&A session and took writers’ individual questions.

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Gae Polisner is the award-winning author of THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO and THE PULL OF GRAVITY (fsg/Frances Foster Books). She lives on Long Island with her husband, two sons, and a suspiciously-fictional looking dog she swore she’d never own. When she’s not writing, she can be found in her wetsuit in the open waters off the Long Island Sound.

 

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 goodreads.com. (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…)