Thursday, April 11, 2013

SCBWI Houston 2013

As you might have seen from my previous posts about going to writers' conferences, I am a big fan.  I went to another great one last weekend.  The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators chapter in Houston holds is annual conference out in Katy, and it was another really fun event.

I had two incredibly positive critiques from lovely Houston author, Joy Preble, and from Sara Sargent who is an editor at Balzer + Bray, an imprint of Harper Collins.  They both gave me a lot to think about on how to take my YA novel forward.  Their suggestions included redefining the ages of the protagonists - at the moment it is sitting right between Middle Grad and Young Adult fiction, making it a difficult sell for publishers.  I was also told to front load the novel with some of the mythology which permeates the rest of the book.  These were certainly the most positive and useful pieces of feedback I've had, and so I have been busy putting their advice into the next revision of the book.  Thank you, Joy and Sara, I'm very grateful!

Other great things about the SCBWI conference in Houston:
  • a fantastic,  funny presentation from picture book writer and illustrator, Peter Brown
  • meeting old and new friends from Austin and Houston
  • hearing in fine detail how to approach literary agents from Josh Adams of Adams Literary
  • winning a weekend at The Writing Barn in Austin in the silent auction - how wonderful it will be for me and three writing friends to go away for a weekend retreat together where we can do nothing but focus on our work.
The other very exciting thing to come out of the weekend was that Sara Sargent nomination my novel for the Joan Lowery Nixon Award which is administered by SCBWI Houston in memory of that wonderful author.  At each Houston conference, each member of the faculty is asked to choose the best of the pieces they critiqued and those form the shortlist.  Since Joan died, Newbery winner, Kathi Appelt, has taken over judging the shortlist and she will pick on of our manuscripts to win.  The prize winner will then be mentored by Kathi over the next year as he/she pulls the manuscript into order read by submisison.

The six nominees this year were: Melissa Morphew, Mike Giles, Jennifer George, McCourt Thomas, Maria Ashworth - and me!  Congratulations to all of them.  I was thrilled to be nominated for the second year in a row, and will be sending my pages off to Kathi as soon as I can draw breath.