3 S.R. Johannes: SCBWI Midsouth Conference (Part 1 of 2)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

SCBWI Midsouth Conference (Part 1 of 2)

This weekend, I am at the Midsouth conference. It is amazing as most conferences are. Here are some of the things I took away from today:

Caroline Cooney - tips on writing character and great stories

  • character has to be sympathetic
  • characters without friends - know that emotion takes over the plot line
  • adults have the habit of taking over action
  • must make the logical thing illogical to do
  • if you have a conflict - you must know what emotion it is attached to
  • every conflict you create takes away from something - be sure it does not take away from main plot line
  • If you are stalled - visualize a scene as if on stage as a film director - what do you see, where are you, who is with you
  • stay alert to ideas around you and how you can transform the into books
  • names matter - cannot have similar names
  • action story - needs to have a deadline in the story
  • speed counts - learn to write fast
  • first draft are always bad
  • 3rd person is always better than 3rd person and present tense
  • you can do anything for 15 minutes - force yourself to to write, set a time, take paper and pen with you so you utilize every minute. don't wait to get in front of your computer
  • books are like pottery - some come out misshaped, some cracked, luckily with books, you can always reshape them
Chris Richman (Upstart Crow Agency) - the agent relationship

A great agent:
  • shares your writing
  • are the gateway to editors - trust yours will do the right thing
  • control the money - editors pay agents who take their royalty and then pay you
  • should beleve in your work wholeheartedly
  • looks for more than just a sale, looks at your career, writing style
  • keeps in contact and keeps you up to date
  • know trends
  • knows what editors are looking for
  • buffer between writer and editor - good news comes from author, bad news comes from agent
  • tries to sell your work
  • should not charge a reading fee
Some agents don't like to tell writers where they are subbing until the book is out. they know the editors and have built relationships. If you take on an agent, you need to trust they are on same page as you and are doing the right thing

ask your agent...
  • what is your percentage?
  • do you revise? if so how much? what about for this book?
  • how many clients do you have?
  • Can you speak to any of their clients?
  • what genres do you rep?
  • who will you sub to?
  • where do you see my career?
The original excitement can wane. If things go bad, talk it out first. give your agent a chance to improve before you dump them.

  • you do not want more than one agent unless you need one for a different genre outside children's.
  • when i revise, i need to get the book to a point where I think it will sell. that does not necessarily mean perfect
  • some agents are becoming more promotional b/c money for marketing is dwindling
Tomorrow I will post some key takeways from the amazing Cheryl Klien and Caroline Cooney's writing activity.


storyqueen said...


This sounds like a great conference. Both speakers gave lots of great tips!


Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Man, I SO wish I were there! I love Caroline Cooney's books and would've loved to have heard her talk. Thanks for posting what you got out of it!

Christy Raedeke said...

Excellent takeaways! Thanks Shelli.

Kelly said...

Great information as always, Shelli! Thank you for sharing what you've learned at the conference! Love the Agent questions as I'll be looking for an agent in a few months!

Sara Tribble said...

I love, love, love your blog!

It's full of greatness and these tips are awesome! I will def. keep this link in my inbox for references!

Lazy Writer said...

Thanks for sharing what you have learned. It's all helpful information. I look forward to the next installment.

Christina Farley said...

This was so helpful! Thanks for sharing. I found the agent question interesting.

Jennifer B. Bailey said...

Hi Shelli,

Can I ask a couple clarifying questions? First, what was Caroline Cooney meaning to say about characters without friends? Second, is she saying that different characters in the same novel should not have similar names? Also, can you clarify the statement about 3rd person being better than 3rd person and present tense.

Thanks so much for posting these notes. I'll do the same with my WIK notes....

Solvang Sherrie said...

Great tips -- thanks for posting these notes. How cool that you got to be a presenter in the midst of such great company!

Shelli said...

jennifer -
1) caroline says that any other character can take away from the story unless the character is pertinent

2) i mistyped - 3rd person is better than 1st person - she feels 1st person limits you in one character's head.

Shelli said...

sherrie - it was awesome!

kelly and christinia - agent session was very helpful.

lazy writer, story, christy, vicki, sara - glad they helped. the conference was awesome!