Writing Advice for Beginners: Coffee and Conversation Flashback Friday Round Two

Last week, I kicked off a Coffee & Conversation Flashback Friday series where we revisit awesome nuggets of wisdom shared by editors, agents, art directors, authors, and illustrators throughout the years here at As The Eraser Burns.

Missed it? No worries, here’s the link for the first round of writing advice for beginners.

Writing Advice for Beginners: Coffee & Conversation Flashback Friday 01

Ready for round two? Okay, let’s go.

What advice for beginners do you wish you would’ve followed?

From author Monica S. Baker:

Do not send out a manuscript until the last fat lady has sung, swinging by her toes from the balcony!  I wasted much time, energy, cash…and probably goodwill by sending manuscripts out too early. The first picture book I ever wrote is so God-awful that I have a special file for it, where it won’t contaminate other manuscripts.  I can not believe that I imposed it on the publishing community. As my teens would now say, “My bad!”

Monica’s Coffee & Conversation Interview.

From author Sandy Asher

“Writing is rewriting.”  Don’t know who first said this.  I wasn’t listening.

Sandy’s Coffee & Conversation Interview

From author  Alexis O’Neill

Rejections are not personal (even though they feel like it.) A good book will find a good home eventually. It’s just that no one has a crystal ball to pin down the date of “eventually.”

Alexis’ Coffee & Conversation Interview

From author  Amie Rose Rotruck

Just finish the book.  The reason why my first, still unpublished book took so long to finish was I kept refining the first few chapters.  Finish the book entirely, THEN start revising.  If you’re taking a writing class where you have to focus on first chapters, that’s fine for one class, but don’t do the same first chapters again in another class until you’ve finished the book.

Amie’s Coffee & Conversation Interview

From author Jim Murphy

See above.  Focus on the project and see it to completion.  Then send it off and start working on another project.  Don’t get bogged down worrying over one project (I have a friend who has been working on one project for over ten years).  Also, learn to revise.  You would be surprised at how many writers can’t or won’t revise.

Jim’s Coffee & Conversation Interview

From author  Jacqueline Adams

I wish I had understood how the learning curve works, and that you may think you’re doing everything right, but a year or two later you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come. Because I was working hard and applying what I’d learned up until that point, I couldn’t understand why I was getting so many rejections. Later, when I’d learned more, I could see the flaws in some of those early stories. With other stories, the problem was that I was sending them to the wrong places—and that was true even though I was doing my homework. It takes a while to develop a feel for those kinds of things. If I’d realized that, I might not have gotten so discouraged.

Jacqueline’s Coffee & Conversation Interview

From author/illustrator  Susan Detwiler

I wish I’d had that first book contract looked over by a lawyer specializing in publishing copyright law; I was just so excited to have a picture book to work on that I would have signed anything.

Susan’s Coffee & Conversation Interview

From author/illustrator  Lulu Delacre

Hmm…the advice I give is the one I’ve always followed: believe in yourself, be persistent, do your best, be flexible, and you’ll get there!

Lulu’s Coffee & Conversation Interview

From author/illustrator  Vonnie Winslow Crist

Set aside time every day, if possible, to work on your skills and artwork. Always be ready in case an opportunity pops up unexpectedly (most of the time I was, but I did let some great jobs slip through my fingers). And I wish I’d focused on children’s illustration earlier in my career.

Vonnie’s Coffee & Conversation Interview

From illustrator Rebecca Evans

Join SCBWI and go to the events!

Rebecca’s Coffee & Conversation Interview

From illustrator Joan Waites

Always keep working on new portfolio pieces-something that you truly love to do. This will show in your work. It’s really hard to balance the paying work with doing new art for your portfolio, but make the time if you can.

Joan’s Coffee & Conversation Interview


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“I enjoy, in the summer, getting back to writing in my own voice.” –Mike O’Brien

I really like this quote, since summer is such a lovely time to relax, renew, and think about what truly makes you happy, as a person and as a writer or artist. It’s also a great time to grab a journal, kick back on the porch with your favorite beverage of choice, and scribble out a story just for fun.

Imagine that. Writing for fun!

With that in mind, here’s some fun first lines just screaming to be used as …

Summer Writing Prompts

Continue reading

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Writing Advice for Beginners: Coffee and Conversation Flashback Friday Round One

In the many years I’ve been blogging here at As The Eraser Burns, we’ve posted lots of Coffee & Conversation Interviews with editors, agents, art directors, authors, and illustrators. Within each are brilliant nuggets of advice that deserve a revisiting. So today, I’m starting a Flashback Friday series of posts with answers for various questions from those who have taken a turn in the C&C cyber chair.

Writing Advice for Beginners: Coffee & Conversation Flashback Friday 01

Continue reading

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Our Annual MD/DE/WV Regional Conference has a New Home!

Awesome news for those of you who are planning on attending our next SCBWI MD/DE/WV 25th Annual Regional Conference … it will have a new home! Here’s the announcement our co-regional adviser, Kathy MacMillan sent out with all the details:

25 and Still We R(ev)ise

We’re excited to announce that our MD/DE/WV Annual Conference will have a new home in 2018.  Though we have loved the beautiful Claggett Center, which has housed our conference for many years, we are simply outgrowing it!  (But we can’t quit it completely – be on the lookout for a writing retreat at Claggett in Fall 2018!).  After researching and visiting several facilities in the area, our committee has selected the Maritime Conference Center in Linthicum Heights, Maryland as the home of our 2018 Conference. It’s got a big, bright, beautiful facility, easy access from public transportation and BWI airport, and plenty of comfortable hotel rooms, so we hope you’re as excited as we are! Continue reading

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Crafting Dynamic Characters with a Character Development Chart

Cha-ra-cter: the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.

Chart: record the progress or development of.

Cha-ra-cter chart: a super awesome way to develop your characters in order to write a super awesome book.

With July’s blog theme being It’s all about the Character, this is the first in a series of posts about how to create dynamic characters with enough juice in their back pocket to fuel a dynamic story. A good place to start is, well … where I usually start, and that’s by filling out a chart I’ve created for my main character, antagonist, and important minor characters. Continue reading

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Upcoming SCBWI Events

Happy Friday, everyone, I hope you’re having an amazing summer! Ours has been wonderful but a recent Wal-Mart trip reminded me how fall is just around the corner, as proved by their stuffed Back to School aisles. But that’s cool, we have many awesome SCBWI events coming up this autumn, both for our region and others. So grab your calendars and get ready to make some notes! Continue reading

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Congratulations to Debbie Levy, winner of the 2017 Crystal Kite Award for the Atlantic Area!

Happy Friday, everyone! This post is long overdue, but major congrats and a mighty woo-HOO to regional member, Debbie Levy!

Her book, I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, has been chosen by SCBWI members as the winner of the 2017 Crystal Kite award for the Atlantic area, which includes Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Wash DC, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland!

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent her lifetime disagreeing . . . with creaky old ideas. With unfairness. With inequality. She has disagreed. She has disapproved. She has objected and resisted. She has dissented!

Disagreeable? No. Determined? Yes! Ruth Bader Ginsburg has changed her life, and ours, by voicing her disagreements and standing up for what’s right. This picture book about the first female Jewish justice of the U.S. Supreme Court shows that disagreeing does not make you disagreeable and that important change can happen one disagreement at a time.

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Ages 5 and up

Again, congratulations, Debbie! And if you’d like to read more about the winners in all fifteen regional areas, click on this link.

Happy writing and drawing, everyone, and I hope you’re having an amazing summer!

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Guest Post: Karen Leggett Abouraya

Happy Summer and welcome June! In keeping with this month’s theme – Diversity – we are fortunate to have Karen Leggett Abouraya’s contribution to ATEB!

Karen Leggett Abouraya, a member of SCBWI MD/DE/WV, is a veteran journalist and children’s author who lives in Silver Spring, MD. Her first book, Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books, written in collaboration with illustrator Susan L. Roth, won a CABA award in 2013.  Karen is also the author of the picture book biography, Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words and an active member of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, D.C.  handsaroundthelibrary.com @LeggettAbouraya facebook./com/handsaroundthelibrary

Take it away, Karen~~ Continue reading

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Happy Book Birthday, Meg Eden!

Congratulations are in order for area member Meg Eden on the release of Post-High School Reality Quest.

Buffy’s your typical cosplaying, retro-gaming, con-going geek girl, but as her high school graduation approaches, she finds she has an unwelcome guest in her mind: <>the text parser.
Narrating her life like it’s a classic adventure game (cough Zork cough), the text parser forces her to interact with the world through a series of a typewritten commands: Finish school.
Go to party.
Fall in love.

At first it’s pretty cool. It’s not easy making the transition from high school to college. It’s not easy dealing with roommates. It’s not easy being in a new relationship with her lifelong crush. Buffy makes some huge mistakes along the way, but the text-parser lets her fix all of them.

It’s like having superpowers…until the text parser won’t shut up.

Buffy is desperate to get rid of it, but no matter how many times she tries to restart or reset, the text parser won’t go away. Before long, her life starts to crumble: her friends grow apart, her roommates turn against her, and her boyfriend falls into a deep depression. Buffy’s life has become a game, but how can you win when there’s no final boss?
Continue reading

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So you want to be a writer? A Beginner’s Guide.

People have often said to me, “I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I’ve never tried because … [insert excuse.]”

So you want to be a writer? Here's some Tips for Beginners.

If you’re one of those people, I totally understand where you’re coming from. 100%. For most of my life, I never thought it was possible for someone like me to write anything worth reading let alone be published until a major a-ha moment after being hospitalized with a migraine changed my mind. And now? I can tell you with complete certainty that yes, it is possible for you to be a writer because you have something no other person in the entire world has:

Your own unique voice. Continue reading

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