SCBWI Summer Conference Recap – Part 2

            Three speakers made a huge impression on me at the SCBWI Los Angeles conference. First there was Ann Angel, non fiction writer extraordinaire who spoke about finding the narrative voice within nonfiction. Ann suggested telling your nonfiction “story” as if you are on the character’s shoulder and to show the reader how the story is relevant to their life.

Her newest book, Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing
, recently won a Crystal Kite award.


            I also had the pleasure of sitting in on a workshop by Diane Muldrow about the Pacing of a Picture Book. Diane is not only the editor for Golden Books; she is also an author as well!

            The best piece of advice she gave was to include art directions in a picture book manuscript. This goes against the conventional wisdom of leaving it up to the illustrator, but with the word counts of picture books getting smaller and smaller by the day, the new format for manuscripts makes sense.


            And finally, the highlight of the conference for me was Richard Peck. He is not only a legend in young adult and children’s literature; he is also one of the most kind and generous of men. His speech was inspiring, funny and poignant. Here are a few sound bites.

On the important of reading widely:

            “We must be able to recognize the past as it will come around again.”

On writing:

            “A writer must banish herself from the page.”

On the importance of literature for young people:

            “Unless you find yourself on the page, you will go looking for yourself in all the wrong places.”


            Richard has a new book coming out this October titled Secrets at Sea and will be visiting Houston at the end of October 2011. Don’t miss him!



SCBWI Summer Conference Recap – Part 1



Yesterday I got back from the SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles. I returned with a pile of laundry, a pile of books and a pile of inspiration. Don’t worry; I’m only going to share the inspiration.



The conference kicked off with the always entertaining Bruce Coville. I love listening to Bruce as he is a master of the craft of writing. Here are a few of his great ideas.


-Take your art seriously.

-Learn to read your royalty statements.

-Learn to negotiate.

-Give yourself daily goals.

-The only thing that will make your work better is repetition – write, write, write!

-Don’t be afraid to show your heart on the page.


Erzsi Deak head of Hen and Ink Literary Agency


Erzsi burst onto the publishing scene only a few months ago but already she’s got a pocket full of deals and a hen house full of talented authors and illustrators.


Erzsi ran a super workshop on how to pitch your material. After a few warm-up exercises, we all tried pitching our projects to the workshop participants. It was a great exercise and a wonderful help for running into editors in the elevator!


Here are a few of her guidelines:

-The pitch should be a one or two sentence description of your book that tells us what it is.

-The pitch must contain:

            >the hero

            >the antagonist

            >the hero’s primary goal

            >core conflict

            >what sets your book apart


By the end of Bruce’s keynote and Erzsi’s workshop by brain was mush – and it was time for lunch!


A big kiss goes out to the Houston RA Vicki Sansum for nominating me for a SCBWI Conference Scholarship. There is no way I would have been able to attend without her and the help of the SCBWI head office. You are all wonderlicious – THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!


Interview with Andrea White

Andrea White, author of the award-winning novel Surviving Antarctica is publishing the first of of her new series, the UpCity trilogy this summer. Part fantasy, part science-fiction, Windows on the World, is the story of thirteen-year-old orphan Shama Katooee who lives in Low City, DC in 2093. When Shama is mysterious selected to attend an elite private school, she learns that she has the ability to travel in time. Recently I visited with Andrea about her book, her life in Houston and her advice for aspiring writers.


Where did you grow-up and where do you live now?


I grew up in Memorial in Houston. We hardly ever went downtown. We had a drainage ditch in the back yard which we called our bayou. We caught crawdads there. I got to ride in the Salt Grass Trail twice. The trail ride was an unexcused absence from school but it was worth it. I loved Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Lord of the Rings, Pippi Longstocking, Elouise, Madeleine…I liked reading, then jumping on the trampoline, in that order.


What is a normal “writing” workday like for you?


I love to write so much that it doesn’t take discipline to write. I usually get to write two to three hours a day. A great day of writing for me is four hours. Until recently, I wrote in a comfortable chair in my bedroom. Lately, I’ve moved to our garage apartment. But since our son is going to live with us this summer I’m heading back to the bedroom.


You’ve written both for middle grade and young adult audiences. How does your writing process differ as your audience changes?


All of my previous books have had an historical core: Robert F. Scott, Winston Churchill and Chernobyl. Although my latest book is set in the Twin Towers, the substantive core of this book is a philosophical question: is the amount of suffering in the world hardwired? In the world of the book, a group, named the Time Designers, think that they should use their time machine to go back and change time to reduce human suffering. Another group, the Time Fundamentalists, think that the amount of suffering in the world cannot be reduced or changed.


Who are your favorite writers and why?


I read so much that it is always the last great book that I read that is my favorite. I just finished Doc, A Novel by Mary Doria Russell, about Doc Holiday and the Earp Brothers. I loved it.


What advice would you give aspiring writers?


As to advice to aspiring writers: write! Ignore the negative voices and get what you have to say down on paper. Then, join a writing group and share it with others. No matter what the outcome, writing will enrich your life.


What are you working on now?


I’m working on books two and three of the Upcity Chronicles Trilogy.


To discover more about Andrea you can visit her website and blog at http://andreawhiteauthor.com. Her novels are available at your local, independent bookstore or your favorite online bookseller


This interview also appeared in the August 2011 edition of the Houston Banner.