I attended the Spring SCBWI Dakotas conference this past weekend in Sioux Falls, SD. It was a terrific conference with great speakers and many kudos go out to Chris Rylander (RA) and Mary Scarbrough (ARA) for organizing such a great conference. Presenters were Kerry Sparks, Agent; Chris Rylander, Author; Jacqueline West, Author; Emilia Rhodes, Editor. There was also a breakout session in which one could take in a first pages sessions with a panel of authors or hear from Nathan Gassman, Art Director at Capstone. While there was a great deal of information shared and many lessons learned, there were a few nuggets of information I thought many of you could benefit from as well.
Kerry Sparks, Associate Agent at Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, represents picture books, middle grade and YA. She was a wealth of information and said a really good hook is essential as well as anything that makes you stand out.
Chris Rylander is the author of the newly released MG novel, THE FOURTH STALL. I purchased my copy at the conference and am anxious to read it as I've heard wonderful reviews. Chris is one cool guy, and it is a blast to listen to him speak. He's learned a great many lessons throughout his writing and publication process and says the driving force behind publication is to be obsessed (though not creepy:-)) and be persistent (but not hound). I couldn't agree with Chris more when he says you must "commit yourself and give it everything you've got."
Jacqueline West is the author of THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE, a MG fantasy series, that sounds awesome. Volume One: The Shadows debuted in 2010. I look forward to reading my autographed copy of that as well. Jacqueline discussed the challenges in writing a series and said it is imperative to consider deadlines, plot construction, character development and the recap.
Emilia Rhodes is an editor at Alloy Entertainment. She discussed YA trends and said publishing is highly subjective, so it is all about finding the right person with the same vision for your particular project.
Thank you all for your words of wisdom and expertise. I believe I can speak for all when I say I came away from the conference with a renewed sense of motivation and focus.