Author Jessica Bayliss worked as a psychologist for years before beginning to write in her spare time. As her writing projects grew into novels, she discovered that the same principles she used as a therapist helped her more deeply understand her characters. At the May Professional Series, Bayliss explained the core model she uses as a psychologist, and how writers can use that model to write more believable characters.
Our stories include both an action plot–what is happening in the character’s external world– and an emotional plot–what is happening to the character internally. The Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) model relates the two. In the CBT model, a character has thoughts about their particular situation. Their thoughts generate emotions. Their emotions, in turn, drive behavior.
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.”
The SCBWI Tuesday Night Professional Series wrapped up 2016 with Nicole de las Heras and Maria Mondugno speaking to an enthusiastic audience about what makes a good portfolio.
Nicole de las Heras loves pairing the right artist with the right manuscript and collaborating with artist and editor. She has lots of opportunities to do this as an Art Director at Random House Children’s Books, where she oversees board books, picture books, leveled readers, and early chapter books. Emily Winfield Martin, LeUyen Pham, Brigette Barrager, Josie Portillo, Ruth Sanderson, and Mike Boldt are among the artists she has worked with. Another thing she loves about her job is finding new talent.
As soon as she could write her name, Maria Modugno got her first library card. A lifelong reader, she worked at a number of publishers before joining Random House in 2012 to specialize in picture books. The books she has edited include The Napping House and stories about Toot and Puddle, Pinkalicious, and Splat the Cat. She avoids acquiring too-long picture books and tests potential acquisitions with an egg timer.
For the third consecutive year, SCBWI Metro NY and The New School’s Writing for Children MFA program co-hosted an agents panel held at The New School. Linda Camacho of Prospect Agency, LLC, Susan Hawk of The Bent Agency and Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger Inc. were the featured agents. Adria Quiñones, a 2015 winner of SCBWI’s Emerging Voices Award, was the moderator.
The panel discussion began with what each agent is looking for. Linda Camacho said she doesn’t want to rule out any category but picture book representation is limited. Andrea Somberg also expressed a preference for MG and YA and emphasized that “diversity is a key word.” Susan Hawk is very open, joking that “you never know when you’ll read that amazing sports book.” She represents all categories of books for children and is “drawn to writing that is emotional.”
Jennifer Baker, panel organizer for We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) and 2013 winner of the SCBWI On-the-Verge Emerging Voices Award, led a panel discussion on craft and world-building. She asked whether outlining played a role in establishing the rules of the world and fantastical elements. Do you outline or not?
Heidi Heilig, author of The Girl from Everywhere, said she outlined a little, then wrote, then outlined again, going back and forth. She shared that her musical theater background provided training in setting rules that it’s okay to have singing in a scene. She had to have rules for her novel to put restrictions on characters’ powers, otherwise all powerful characters would be boring. “It’s good to know where the boundaries are and to play with them.”
Debbie Ridpath Ohi aka @DebbieOhi @inkyelbows and inkygirl, is not only a picture book author/illustrator but a Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Instagram-mer extraordinaire. She gave a social media master class on February 16 for the Tuesday night professional series. (more…)
Agent Joanna Volpe, our January Professional Series speaker, likens a writer’s career to a long journey requiring a team to provide support along the way, just the way the fellowship of the Ring supported Frodo’s journey to Mordor in Tolkien’s books. She and the other members of her agency, New Leaf Literary & Media, are that team for their author and illustrator clients.
Heather Flaherty of the Bent Agency, Alexandra Penfold of Upstart Crow Literary, and Alec Shane from Writers House were the featured agents at this year’s Agents Panel, co-hosted with the New School’s MFA writing program and held in November at the New School. The event was introduced by Caron Levis from the New School’s creative writing program and moderated by Gina Carey, a steering committee member of Metro-NY SCBWI, and Co-Regional Advisor Bridget Casey. Questions came from both the audience and the moderators. Here are some highlights:
Is an agent necessary?
All three agents: Yes! It’s a tough business and the complex contracts are usually familiar only to those in the industry. Agents also have unique relationships with publishers and editors. Agents protect writers’ rights so that writers may concentrate on writing.
We all love a good picture book. But how does it get to be good? The first Professional Series presentation of the 2015-2016 season featured two thirds of the staff of Paula Wiseman Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Division): Editor Sylvie Frank and Editorial Assistant Sarah Jane Abbott offered us a window into what happens after a publisher acquires a picture book.
Frank brought two books, Tammi Sauer and Liz Starin’s Roar! (to be published on October 6th), and Curtis Manley and Kate Berube’s The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read, to illustrate the editorial process. Over the course of six revisions, from the first manuscript edits to first sketches to the page breakdown to the final version, attendees saw how an editor and art director help the writer and illustrator refine their ideas. (more…)