I hope you didn’t miss the conference On the Road to Sparkling Children’s Literature last weekend; it was quite a wonderful event! And if, like me, your focus is on picture books — writing or illustrating or both — the offerings from our visiting faculty were extremely valuable. Here’s a little taste:
Emma Ledbetter, Associate Editor, Atheneum BFYR, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
Lights, Camera, Picture Book!
Emma’s talk was delightfully stimulating and gave us insights into the workings of a successful picture book. She compared the best ones to a cinematic experience, and went on to explain how creating a picture book is also like a puzzle, that the pieces can be rearranged to improve the pacing. She used examples to show how pacing is key; that if the flow is right it can have a musical quality, a rhythm, and creates the atmosphere of the book. I found her example books to be VERY helpful and inspiring. Her warm, buoyant personality and bright passion for the picture book as an art form stood out as special; she was very accessible and down-to-earth.
Ella Kennen, Agent, Corvisiero Literary Agency
Make It Soar! Writing Books for the Young Child
I found Ella to be a wonderful, inspiring speaker, and quite fun. I loved the way she reinforced her talk with graphics and the use of key words to help us remember the main elements of the presentation (theme+character+context=story, for example). She gave us some great advice about the nuts-and-bolts of a good story, such as her declaration that we should be MEAN to our main character, because that’s what creates conflict, which is necessary for plot, and that the story arc can be a roller coaster shape. Ella Kennen is also the blog manager at Rate Your Story. Check it out! http://rateyourstory.blogspot.com/
Kirsten Hall, Founder, Catbird Agency
How to Make a Picture Book — and Sell It!!
Kirsten is very enthusiastic about creating and promoting picture books, and she electrified the authors and illustrators in the room with her presentation. The boutique kid lit agency she founded is really hot — if you read Publishers Weekly Children’s Bookshelf you’ll see her name nearly every week — and her ideas about book development and ways to get your picture book noticed are brilliant. Plus, she loves humor and is extremely easy to talk to. Kirsten gave us concrete, workable suggestions for ways to make our books stand out and sell, such as the Pitch Sheet. The examples of books she’s helped create and place with publishers were terrific. There is also a completely upbeat way about her approach which encouraged us all. In fact, several members of the audience had a turn to stand in front and pitch their book dummies, and then Kirsten and the rest of us engaged in a rousing group critique/advice session; quite a bit of talent was in the room! There was spontaneous applause.
As always, I came home from the conference a bit tired but completely pumped and ready to work on my next picture book!