Coffee and Conversation with #Stillwerevise Presenter, Alex Ulyett

Time for the final Coffee & Conversation with presenters from our 25th annual SCBWI MD/DE/WV 25 and Still We R(ev)ise 25th Annual Conference! Joining us today is Associate Editor, Alex Ulyett, who’s going to be quite busy at the conference with three presentations! But first, if you’ve missed any of the other previous interviews, here’s the links:

Alex Ulyett

Alex is an Associate Editor at Viking Children’s Books, where he acquires and edits fiction and nonfiction for kids and teens. Some of his current authors include David Arnold, Deborah Noyes, Lisa Bunker, Cristina Moracho, and Arvin Ahmadi. Before coming to Viking, Alex studied English at Princeton University and worked at Basic Books and Writers House. 


The Character Iceberg, Saturday 1:40 – 2:30pm

The best books are portable friends, with characters that challenge, comfort, and surprise. But how to create characters who leap off the page, who seem to go on living long after the story ends? The “iceberg” is a metaphor that gets thrown around a lot—from Hemingway’s passage on writing (“The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water”) to Freud’s apocryphal quote on psychology (“The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water”)—but how can we use this idea to create characters with rich inner lives and histories? In this workshop, we will explore the iceberg model to find specific strategies for crafting complex, memorable characters.

Agents and Editors Panel, Saturday 3:40–4:30pm

With Celia Lee, Penny Moore, Quressa Robinson, and Alex Ulyett.

First Pages Plus, Sunday 9:00-12:00pm 

Intensive Workshops (pre-registered)

Agent Penny Moore and Associate Editor Alex Ulyett speak about what they look for in the first pages of a manuscript—and what they don’t. Then, they’ll review YOUR anonymous first pages live. All attendees who submit a first page are guaranteed to have it reviewed at this event. At the end, Penny and Alex will answer any questions you might have about first pages, writing, publishing…or anything else you want to ask them!

And now on to the interview!

What was your favorite book as a child? As a teen? And now, as an adult?

I loved series when I was little, like The Bailey School Kids and the Clue books. I started reading Harry Potter when I was eleven, and the final book came out a month after I graduated high school, so I quite literally grew up with Harry Potter, and I can think of few other books that are so dear to me. As an adult, some of my favorites include Never Let Me Go, The Secret History, and Middlemarch.

You magically find a $100.00 bill in your box of cereal. In what frivolous way would you spend it? (Key word: Frivolous!)

I’d get a day pass to a spa and go in the pools and the steam rooms and the other things you go in at a spa.

Nice! Okay, you’ve been locked in a bank vault Twilight Zone style, so you finally have time to read!  Your glasses are fine, so what’s the first book you crack open? 

This might sound pretentious or clichéd, but honestly: War and Peace. I read Anna Karenina five or six years ago and absolutely loved it, so I wanted to read this as well. But then I started working in publishing, and the idea of starting a 1,200 page book for fun just seemed laughable . . .

If you followed the career path you chose for yourself in high school, what would you be doing for a living now? 

If we’re talking early high school, I would have been an architect or engineer. If we’re talking late high school, I would have been a professor.

For one day, time travel is a reality and you can visit any famous deceased author or artist you want.  Who do you pick?

Geoffrey Chaucer. I’d want to know all about life so long ago, and I figure he’s the earliest English speaker I’d have a hope of communicating with (if we both spoke slowly and deliberately). Any earlier, I don’t think we’d understand one another’s language.

What’s your favorite motivational quote?

I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.” —Sylvia Plath

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

I sing a classical chamber choir, so I enjoy learning my notes and practicing my music to prepare for rehearsal each Sunday.

If you could sum up your best advice for new writers or illustrators in only four words, what would it be?

Work hard, take breaks.

Time for the lightning round! What’s your favorite…

 Book to movie adaptation? The Lord of the Rings

Music to listen to while working?

Book title? The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Book cover? The Goldfinch

Pair of shoes? Well-worn boat shoes

Guilty pleasure? Coke and fries

Line from a movie? “His world had vanished long before he ever entered it, but he certainly sustained the illusion with a marvelous grace.” —The Grand Budapest Hotel

Thanks so much for stopping by, Alex, and we’re looking forward to seeing you at the conference!

Happy writing and drawing, everyone!

About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two awesome boys, wife of one fantastic husband, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She loves run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
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