As a writer, I like to attend at least two conferences a year to keep up-to-date on the publication industry and to make contacts. My first for 2010–Destination Publication: An Awesome Austin Conference for Writers and Illustrators, hosted by the Austin, Texas, regional chapter of SCBWI.
Held Jan. 29-30, the conference started with an optional Friday night dinner at the historic home near downtown Austin of writers Greg Smith and Cynthia Leitich Smith. I recommend participating in an event like this, especially if you’re from out-of-town as I was and don’t know many people at the conference. The social time gave me the opportunity to meet fellow writers and conference faculty, making the following day of speakers and presentations much more enjoyable.
On Saturday, attendees heard from editors, agents, and writers through presentations and private, previously paid critique sessions. As with most conferences, there was a wealth of information. Presenters agreed that the publishing business is an industry in transition and it will take time to see how it all pans out. Agent Mark McVeigh encouraged the audience not to “fear digital media,” saying that when the price of the Kindle reader drops and kids buy it, the industry will start to change. Authors will make more money on the books they sell and will sell more books.
The morning keynote by Newbery Honor author of Hattie Big Sky Kirby Larson (a favorite here at The Damsels), kept us all chuckling as she talked of her journey to publication. Especially encouraging to me was the message to keep at it when you have a block or rough patch in your current work-in-progress. “When I’m feeling really frustrated, I need to stay put,” Larson said.
Other sessions I enjoyed included Arthur Levine/Scholastic editor Cheryl Klein’s discussion of books for children and young adults, and former Farrar, Straus & Giroux editor Lisa Graff’s presentation, “Write Like an Author, Revise Like an Editor.” One of Graff’s points gave me much to think about: “As you read through your story, you should have an emotional reaction to it.”
I learned a lot from illustrator Marla Frazee and author Liz Garton Scanlon as they discussed their collaboration on the 2010 Caldecott Honor winning picture book, All The World. Since I knew nothing about working on picture books, it was interesting to learn about the decisions an illustrator makes in depicting a story or that an author makes in rewriting stanzas. All The World is a lovely book. Check it out.
Finally, local Austin authors reported on their recent successes in publishing. One of these, Jacqueline Kelly, is the 2010 Newbery Honor winner for her historical novel, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. The Damsels will devote a week to Kelly and her book in March. As usual, there will a contest for an autographed copy of Calpurnia. Don’t miss it!