Monday, February 2, 2009

Conference notes

Not only did I survive my first conference, I had fun. Here are some notes. Enjoy!

From, Kathy Dawson's (Dial Books) breakout session:

  • Write what you don't know.
  • Write something you'd want to know.
  • Write about something that happened to you as a kid.
  • What do you wonder about?
  • Details should advance plot or reveal something about the character.

She looks for the gasp factor and for truth.

The story should have ARIA. Action, rhythm, intrigue, adventure.

She says the picture book market has been hit the hardest in this economic climate. She likes 1st person. Profanity in a story is okay.

From Michelle Nagler (Bloomsbury)

She is not looking for fantasy. Debut fiction is strong at this house. Historical girl books have done well. Picture books should be strong and bold.

She looks for:

  • Surprise
  • Captivating- hook first
  • Realism of character voice
  • Hooks like, BOYS ARE DOGS

What she is NOT looking for:

  • High fantasy
  • Quiet literary
  • Early readers
  • Non-fiction
  • Biography
  • Anything close to curriculum

Her wish list:

  • Books with mystery elements
  • Suspense
  • Fast paced
  • Chapter book series
  • Contemporary middle grade
  • Edgy YA
  • Big on series

What she looks for in an author:

  • Professionalism
  • An author she can help develop
  • An author who edits his/her work
  • Someone who is open to revision
  • Someone who is passionate
  • Someone who is respectful

What she really likes:

  • Urban fantasy
  • Contemporary

Swearing in a book is okay. Responds only if interested.

Jennifer Rees (Scholastic):

What she likes:

  • Distinctive voice
  • Memorable real characters
  • Secrets
  • To be kept guessing
  • Out of the box
  • Writing that takes risks
  • Lyrical writing

She says your cover letter should read like a jacket flap. Know the market. Satisfy your inner child.

My favorite, she says to, "Write as though you're writing a love letter to yourself."

What Bruce Hall says about first lines:

  • Should have humor
  • Surprise
  • Plunge in midstream
  • Pose a question
  • Foreshadow

He says to remind the ready of beauty. Make them laugh. Say what is forbidden. My favorite: "Hold up the mirror."

Character musts:

  • Strong desire
  • Be active
  • Be flawed
  • Make them squirm
  • Get gross

He says, tell them the truth. Go the extra mile. Dig deeper. Take chances. Write what you love.

My favorite: "Hope triumphs over despair."


  1. Fantastic notes! Thanks for sharing.
    Good seeing you at the Saturday dinner. I know the wait is tough, but your publishing story is still an inspiration for me.

  2. Hi Danette!

    As you can see, I'm here now! Thanks again for these great conference notes. See you on the blueboards!

  3. Hi Danette,
    Thank you so much for sharing this information!

  4. Thanks for posting! (btw, I'm still WIDE awake :) I so wish I could have been there!

  5. These were really interesting. I definitely agree with Bruce Hall that characters need to be active, be flawed, and have a strong desire, though I don't know if my characters--especially my girly ones--"get gross", ha ha.

  6. Thanks for posting, Danette, and welcome to the world of blogging! :-) Natalie