Alison, Steph and I went up to the Fairfax area to the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI New Member Welcome on Sunday. This is a smallish event, but one worth going to. After all, three years ago, I met our very own Sarah at one of these events. She overheard me talking about my critique group with the woman sitting next to me. I had only been in the group a few weeks, but we were small then, and needed more members. She tapped my shoulder, said, "Excuse me, did I hear you say you were in a critique group in Charlottesville?" and the rest is history.
Sunday's event featured a panel of authors Amy Thomas, Caroline Hickey, Laura Nielsen, and Paulis Waber. SCBWI Regional Director Ellen Braaf moderated. The discussion topic was The "Bunny Eat Bunny" World of Children's Publishing. Authors and illustrators will share their inspiration, motivation,and expectations and help you find yours.
One of the things that stood out to me about expectations was when Caroline said that she expected it to get easier once her book was published, but it gets harder. You have to sell your book and continue improving.
Ellen asked about mistakes the authors had made. Amy mentioned that she had to do a major rewrite because she didn't know all the questions she should be asking her editor. In the end, the book was better for it. Lisa said you have to be able to pitch "of the moment" with a hook, even if you don't necessarily write that way. Laura's mistakes were primarily private ones, except once when she was lost on the way to a school visit, arrived just before her presentation was to begin, and met with a hysterical librarian. Paulis said her mistake was not starting as an author earlier in life. Ellen mentioned going through all the work of making up a dummy of a picture book to show she understood pacing. While that's a good exercise for yourself, an editor doesn't need it.
Ellen asked the panel what motivates them, what do they see as the rewards of writing. Amy loves to see her work in print. Caroline likes getting emails from readers who related to her character and felt the story was about them in some way. Laura got to speak at the school where she went to second through fourth grade. Paulis is motivated by her own improvement. Ellen enjoys beginning with a huge amount of information and finding a way to boil it down into an article or a book kids will want to read.
Among the do's and don'ts the authors mentioned, Caroline said she makes sure she's wearing either her writing hat or her editing hat. She even does each task in different places so she can write without self-editing, and edit with fresh eyes. Paulis said to not look over your shoulder too much to see what others are doing.
In addition to the discussion, we had some time to meet new people and catch up with some we already know. I've been following the Longstockings blog for some time, so I was glad to meet Caroline in person. And the volunteers served delicious cake and strawberries. What's not to love about an afternoon talking about books and eating cake? Oh, and I almost forgot, Steph won an SCBWI tote bag as a door prize. Congratulations, Steph!