Monday, April 27, 2009

Speakers at the Spring SCBWI-Dakotas Conference

I promised to write specifically about the speakers I heard at the Spring SCBWI-Dakotas conference, and I apologize for the delay. Life seems to be getting in my way lately.

As I indicated prior, the conference was wonderful and the speakers very enlightening. For me personally, Tim Gillner was fantastic. He is the Art Director at Boyds Mills Press and spoke to the creative process involved in taking a PB ms from conception to birth. It was very interesting to hear how the process goes once it leaves the writer's hands. For those of you out there who write PBs, I thought I'd share what Tim said about the sheer volume of submissions at Boyds Mills Press. Out of the 500 or so manuscripts received per month, 20 or so make the first cut through the initial readers to the editor. Out of those 20, the editor may consider purchasing one. Once the editor, in this case Larry, has five manuscipts, he takes them to the publisher who may buy one of the five. Pretty scary when you think about it but how wonderful to be that one! The one thing Tim said that really stuck with me and spoke to the morals of Boyds Mills Press is, "We publish from the gut and the heart. The bottom line isn't the dollar bill; it's is it a worthwhile project." I hope to be one of those worthwhile projects one day. For more information about Boyds Mills Press and it's imprints, visit

Martyn Beeny, South Dakota State Historical Society Press, spoke about their submission policies and list. He really opened our eyes about the fact that history happens on many levels. If any of you out there are interested in the heritage of SD and the surrounding Great Plains, the website for the SDSHS Press is Emails can be directed to

Mary Scarbrough, an author living in Brookings, SD, spoke about the nuts & bolts and great ways to get your foot in the door. Mary gave concrete, hands-on advice about writing. Some of her suggestions included the following: make a small investment in at least one market guide, join SCBWI as you will benefit from both a craft and marketing standpoint, and find a good critique group. Mary also suggested that the quickest route to publication is nonfiction as the biggest chunk of magazines is nonfiction, and the how-to is a big part of it. Mary also suggested that some of the most important pitfalls of beginners include a weak beginning, too much back story, conflict and control (e.g., force your character to take action). Mary summarized her speech as follows: "Ensure a strong beginning, jump into the middle of the action, use strong conflict and put your main character in control." To learn more about Mary Scarbrough, visit

Author Susan Thompson Underdahl spoke of her journey as a new author from patients to plotlines. She is a clinical neuropsychologist and author of two young adult novels, The Other Sister (Flux, 2007) and Remember This (Flux, 2008). Susan was so inspiring and really gave voice to the importance of persistence. Susan talked of writing on her lunch hours as it was the only time available between her work and family. She definitely showed me what is possible with even minimal time. I know I for one sometimes just abandon what I had planned for the day if something gets in the way, thinking I don't have much time. Now, after listening to Susan, I know I will utilize whatever little bits of time I can grab far more often than I did prior. For more information on S.T. Underdahl or her books, visit You can find submission guidelines and information about Flux at Submissions should be directed to

I hope you all have access to a conference in your area soon. They are definitely valuable, and the time and money is well spent.


  1. Hi Karin. Just a quick note to point out that the SDSHS Press website is actually and that our email is not the one you have listed which no longer exists.
    Thanks and I'm glad you enjoyed the conference.

  2. Thanks so much for clarifying those addresses for me, Martyn. Hope all is well with you.


  3. Karin...terrific post on the conference. Thank you for sharing your experience and the information you obtained. Well done!

    Best wishes,