SCBWI Springmingle 2015: Top Five Reasons You Should Go to Conferences

The Nerdy Chicks are members of The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and one of the benefits of being in this organization is getting to attend great conferences on craft. Last weekend I attended Springmingle, a conference hosted by the Southern Breeze chapter of SCBWI. It is the first time I’ve been to this particular event, and it was fabulous! I think conferences are an important aspect in the life of any professional. Why? Here are my top five reasons you should consider going to conferences, whatever your profession:

20150314_2152391. Rejuvenation.  Getting away from your obligations at home and finding time to focus on your career brings new energy to your work! I left this conference with tons of ideas I never would have come up with had I spent the weekend alone in my office. Here I am with my pal Robyn Hood Black.

2015-03-15 21.33.402. Expert Advice. A great conference has great speakers and this one had a wonderful panel of experts. Tips from these fabulous faculty members follow.

20150314_0908543. Inspiration. Having people who excel in their careers share their stories is inspiring. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more inspirational speaker than author Meg Medina, pictured left, whose marketing talk has me rethinking my forward path.

2015-03-17 08.36.314. Connections. Making new friends among your colleagues is a consistent conference perk. Sometimes you make a connection with an industry professional that leads to a career advancement, but this should not be your sole purpose in attending an event. Usually the benefit of going to conferences is going to have a less direct impact, but a positive one nonetheless! I was thrilled to meet my Facebook freind Jen Swanson, pictured with me here, in person.

CAGfwexWgAARWAF5. FUN! Nothing is more energizing than having a chance to hang out with your tribe. These people choose to do what you do. They love what you love. In my case, this means they spend their days with words, books, and the creative spirit. And hey, when you get a bunch of creative spirits together, you’re bound to have a blast. We had fun Saturday night with a literary trivia game hosted by The Middle Grade Mafia. Members Kim Zachman and Lela Bridgers are pictured here with agent Karen Grencik. 

Some bits of conference wisdom:

Thank you Southern Breeze for including me in your tribe, and helping me celebrate the launch of The Boy Problem!

Thank you Southern Breeze for including me in your tribe, and helping me celebrate the launch of The Boy Problem!

Author Meg Medina reminded us not to edit ourselves too early, to focus on craft before marketing, and that the “most touching place you can travel is inside of you.”

Editor Neal Porter says he asks “WHERE’S THE STORY?” of all PB manuscripts.

Art Director Giuseppe Castellano said that illustrators should keep sending post cards featuring their art, but not to expect a response because he gets so many. Still, he never knows when one will really move him. He was, by the way, the most gregarious industry professional I’ve ever seen at a conference.

Agent Karen Grencik advised everyone to, “Practice your skill and get your work out there.”

Editor Elise Howard highlighted the differences between big publishing houses and small ones. She said she’d love to find a funny novel to fall in love with.

Art director Giuseppe Castellano, pictured here with poet Robyn Hood Black, hung out with attendees, answering questions and chatting well after the scheduled events ended!

Art director Giuseppe Castellano, pictured here with poet Robyn Hood Black, hung out with attendees, answering questions and chatting well after the scheduled events ended!

I always think it is valuable to know what these professionals do NOT want to see as well. So don’t send…

Karen Grencik a mass email query.

Giuseppe Castellano an email with a claim such as, “Your search for the perfect illustrator is over!”

Elise Howard a note telling her what moral or lesson your story holds. Also, spell her name right.

Neal Porter an email addressed to Mrs. Neal Porter! The panel agreed that incorrect spellings of names like these reveals that you don’t pay attention to detail, and are therefore not someone they would want to work with.

Springmingle was a great event with a fabulous faculty and put together by a host of talented volunteers from the Southern Breeze chapter of SCBWI. Another perk of the conference was that it was held in the Decatur Library and their wonderful staff could not have been more helpful and professional. If any of you are considering going to conferences, I advise you to take the plunge!

Marcie Colleen: How Rejection Leads to Stellar Revision

image (3)Today, we are happy to be hosting Marcie Colleen on Nerdy Chicks Rule. Author and Education Consultant, Marcie Colleen, is an expert on creating highly acclaimed Teacher’s Guides that align picture books and middle grade novels with the Common Core and other state mandated standards.  She is the Education Consultant for Picture Book Month and the the Curriculum Developer for Time Traveler Tours & Tales. Her work with Picture Book Month has been recognized by School Library Journal and the Children’s Book Council.  Visit her at www.thisismarciecolleen.com.

Scroll to the bottom of this post to learn about a great new online picture book class from Marcie and Sudipta!

How Rejection Leads to Stellar Revision

Rejection is inevitable.

Writers face rejection.  Often.

Sure we can try to avoid rejection.  Maybe slavishly follow trends. Maybe self-publish. Maybe give up.

After all, rejection hurts.  It stings.  We should try to avoid it at all costs, right?

Wrong.

In fact, we should welcome rejection. Allow rejection to become part of our journey.  Why?

There is value in rejection. Rejection can make us better writers.

Here are three ways rejection can lead to stellar—publishable—revisions.

Shine a light.

Ever receive a rejection and think “well, they clearly didn’t ‘get it’”? It happens. After all, writing (and reading) is subjective. But what happens if you receive rejection after rejection from editors or agents who didn’t seem to “get it”? If you are seeing a pattern, it’s time to revise. In fact, the unwritten rule is if two to three people give you the same feedback, definitely revise.

This happened to me while first subbing The Adventure of the Penguinaut. Several rejections referred to the manuscript as a “flightless bird who wants to fly” story.  Problem was, I never wanted to write a story about a penguin who wants to fly. As those rejections so clearly stated, this concept has been done. . .a lot.

So, what was the issue? Did all of those editors just not understand my story? Or was there something flawed in my plot that led them to believe my theme was different than intended?

Upon closer examination, I realized that I had mentioned flying five times within The Adventure of the Penguinaut. No wonder they all thought flying was important to my protagonist.  I then tightened, stream-lined, and focused my story more on Orville’s need for independence.  And the next time we went out on sub with The Adventure of the Penguinaut not one editor misunderstood it and it triumphantly sold to Scholastic.

“The drawer” is good.

Rejection is upsetting. If you are like me, a rejection can send you under the covers with chocolate, wine, and a box of tissues.

Rejection leaves me not wanting to look at the manuscript for some time. With a sick feeling in my stomach, I cram it into the proverbial drawer and tearfully wonder how long I will toil on this one silly story.

image (2)It took me over two years to write The Adventure of the Penguinaut and, during that period, I think it spent more time in the drawer than on my desktop. What a long and tedious process!

But, with each critique and each rejection, I needed time away. And even though I thought I was taking a break from the story, what I was really doing was allowing my brain, my heart, my inner muse to subconsciously think through the issues so that when I took the manuscript out of the drawer again, I knew what needed to be done. Sometimes it is less about finding your story than it is to let your story come to you.

Rejection slows down the process, for sure. But when I read my original draft of Penguinaut, horribly titled The Glimmering Iceberg in the Sky, I am thankful for those two years of development.  No way was my first draft ready for publication. Thank you to all of the gatekeepers who slowed me down and saved me the embarrassment of anyone reading The Glimmering Iceberg in the Sky.

Eye of the tiger.

Lastly, rejection grows us as writers. As novelist James Michener said, “Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.”

Writers learn so much from rejection—about ourselves, our work, the market, the business. Rejection forces honest assessment. It makes us shine sunlight on our shortcomings so that we can address them. It forces us to read our words the way others see them, not in the perfect form that we as authors imagine them to be. Even authors who choose to self-publish should, from time to time, submit themselves to rejection. Writers who have never experienced rejection are no different than children who get awards for everything they do and are never told “no.”

Rejection pushes. Rejection sharpens. Rejection gives writers something to prove.

It’s time to learn to cherish rejection. It pains at first. It’s ok to grab the chocolate ice cream and a spoon and hide under the covers for a day or two.  But then comes the realization: this story just isn’t up to snuff. That is a powerful and freeing moment—freeing because, making a story better is entirely within our power. We can’t change publishing, but we can change the quality of our work.

Oh, and chocolate is absolutely still appropriate (check out “The Sweet Taste of Rejection”—a past post on this very idea http://writeroutine.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-sweet-taste-of-rejection.html )

(Also, for more advice in this vein, check out this post from Kami: How No Helps You Grow)

revision chickStarting on April 13, 2015, Marcie is going to be teaching a new online course in Picture Book Revision at Kidlit Writing School. This course will be co-taught by Sudipta and by Agent Susan Hawk of the Bent Agency as well.

Successful picture book authors know that the real writing starts after the first draft is written. This course will teach you the fundamentals of revising your manuscripts starting with Action, Beginning, and Character– and then, as with other courses in the A to Z series, literally taking you through the alphabet. Each topic will be explored in depth, both in the lessons and in the discussion forums and webinars. The writing exercises that are a part of the course are designed to help you apply the lessons to your own writing seamlessly and immediately. By the end of the course, you will never look at writing (or RE-writing) a picture book the same way again!

For more information and to register for this awesome course, please visit the registration page. If you sign up by March 27, you will get a FREE 20-minute manuscript review with either Marcie or Sudipta!

 

Happy World Read Aloud Day (Week)!

World Read Aloud Day this year was on March 4, 2015, but like many authors, the Nerdy Chicks have been celebrating by connecting with classrooms all week long. We read to kids in Ohio, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Texas, California, and many, many more! Here are some of the photos from our #WRAD15 celebrations!

skype on computerWRAD15 7 Kami SkypeWRAD15 6 skype3 WRAD15 5WRAD15 4 WRAD15 3 WRAD 15 2 WRAD15 1Skype with KKinard

Ten Things I Wish I’d Learned Ten Years Ago

It’s been a rough start to 2015 for me – too much awfulness to share here. Through it all, though, life goes on, and that has meant that I’ve had to find ways to move forward. Easier said than done.

Probably because I’m having such a stormy time, I’ve been very introspective of late, and I have realized that, despite the turbulence, I’m better suited to deal with it now than I had been in the past. That’s because with age comes wisdom, and I am wiser today than I was a decade ago. Here are ten things that I know now that I wish I’d known ten years ago:

1. Forgiving is easy. It’s forgetting that is hard. You always hear people talking about things they can never forgive – how silly is that. It is very hard, when faced with someone truly remorseful, to withhold forgiveness. The problem is that you can accept someone else’s sincere remorse – and still feel hurt. And until you can forget the thing you’ve already forgiven, it’s impossible to move on. Knowing this doesn’t make it easier to do – but, at least, now, I know what needs to be done.

image2. Strong and stubborn are not the same thing. Most of us are raised to believe that consistency is a sign of strength – that when you make a decision, you should stick to it. This is especially true if you’re a parent – you’re told that once you say something to your kids, you can never back down. But refusing to back down regardless of the circumstances is just pigheadedness, not strength. In fact, it often takes a lot more strength to reverse yourself and admit that a different path of action is the wiser thing to do.

3. It doesn’t matter what they say – pay attention to what they do. I blame this inclination of putting more stock in words than actions on being a woman. I have a tendency to talk everything to death, on the assumption that a verbal contract is binding under the law. But people can be careless with their words, and often the words that are treated as the most binding are the ones that were said in the heat of the moment and probably shouldn’t be honored (see 2 above). For me, I’ve learned that I often don’t give people enough credit for the good things they do if they say a single hurtful thing to me – something that I work every day to change in myself.

4. Distance – more than time – heals all wounds. In the immortal words of Elsa, “Let it go.” Remember that things don’t need to be talked to death, and sometimes walking away does more good than the most honest, open, unrestrained conversation. You know how you shouldn’t sweat the small things? Given enough distance, everything is small. (I may be paraphrasing FROZEN again there….) One more thing: for time to heal wounds, the clock has to start – and that can’t happen until you stop talking it to death. That’s why distance is so much more important. No matter how loud you’re shouting, it’s impossible to be heard 10 miles away.

5. There is a big difference between need and want. A need is something that you physically cannot live without. Oxygen. Water. Food. Bon Jovi. A want, on the other hand, is something that you like to whine that you need but you really do not. You don’t need your kids to be nice to each other – you just want it. You don’t need your coworkers to respect you – you just want it. And in most cases where you’re having a rough time, learning to label the things you want properly as wants and not as needs reduces the amount of stress that not having them will cause. (It seems a lot of the wisdom I’ve gained has to do with words and talking…hmmm…)

6. If you’re going around in circles, it is your own responsibility to get off that ride. No matter how many times you punch 2 + 3 into your calculator, the answer is going to be 5. If you want a different output, you need to change the inputs. When your life is a hamster wheel of the same disasters, get off the darn wheel. You cannot wait for another person, a particular set of circumstances, or a force of nature to push you off the wheel – you have to make that choice yourself. Again, this isn’t easy – humans are creatures of habit, if nothing else, and we like our hamster wheels. But, sometimes, you have to make yourself break out of your comfort zone and change the inputs.

7. If you have to put yourself first, you’ve made the wrong choices. So often people talk about how others in their lives aren’t making them happy, how they need to put themselves first. Well, first, putting yourself first isn’t a need, it’s a want (see 5). Second, the truly happy people I know are the ones who do for the people they love and trust that those loved ones will do for them. Now, listen – happy doesn’t mean without complaints. It’s still annoying when your husband doesn’t take your dreams seriously, or your kids expect a chauffeur who will do his duty in silence, or your mother complains about your housekeeping skills instead of praising your career. But when you are generous with yourself – and you’ve been generous to the right people – the math works out in the end and your bucket should be full.

8. Trust, but verify. Trust is one of those funny things – it’s too valuable a thing to be careless with, and yet if you can’t freely give it, your relationships won’t work. This goes for your friends, your partner, your children – you cannot live in a place of suspicion where every motive is constantly questioned (if you did, you’d end up with no friends, no partner, and children who avoid you). And yet, with age, you learn that blind trust is meaningless and anyone who demands blind trust…well, he is probably deceiving you. So here’s the one subset of “putting yourself first” that is ok – never be ashamed to verify facts that are important to you. And never let someone else make you feel guilty because your “mistrust” uncovered his deception – it isn’t mistrustful to verify. It’s just smart.

9. Very little in life will actually kill you. Talk about perspective. You hear the phrase “it’s killing me” tossed around constantly. Really? It’s killing you that your daughter talks back? When’s the funeral? It’s killing you that your boss eats all the blueberry muffins in the break room? Should I start on your obituary? These things aren’t killing you. They’re annoying you. Just like it is important to know the difference between need and want, you need to acknowledge the meaning of the words kill, slaughter, and dead. And then you need to understand that the old saying that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” pretty much means that almost everything in your life has the power to make you stronger (because almost nothing will actually kill you!). Keep the correct outlook on life and watch your stress level plummet. Or even get slaughtered.

image

10. The sun truly will come out tomorrow. This goes along with 9 – very little will leave you dead, and no matter what, tomorrow is a new day. As dark as it gets, the sun always rises. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I know these sayings are trite and clichéd, but they’re also true. It’s important to remind ourselves that, no matter what, there is always tomorrow, and that that is a gift.

I know I said ten things, but here’s one more that is so meaningful to me that I had it tattooed on my body (and, no, I won’t tell you where):

image

BONUS: Love heals all. The worst times in my life happened when I forgot this very simple truth. That’s why I got the tattoo – I never want to forget again that no matter how much pain there is, love will heal it all.

Curriculum Guide Celebration Giveaway!

20150213_154554I’m excited to announce that free downloadable curriculum guides are now available for  THE BOY PROJECT  (Scholastic 2012) and THE BOY PROBLEM (Scholastic 2014)! Both books have themes that tie in with today’s middle school curriculum and both are common core aligned. The guides are full of fantastic reading, math, and science activities that can be used alone or separately. I feel like I can brag about I didn’t create them myself. :) The talented Marcie Colleen created the guide for THE BOY PROJECT (click HERE to view) and the great teachers at EDUCATORS R&R created the guide for THE BOY PROBLEM (Click HERE to view). These guides are also available at all times on my website http://www.kamikinard.com. 20150213_154943To celebrate the completion of these guides I am giving away five classroom reading packs that go along with the themes from THE BOY PROBLEM.  These can be used for reading circles, book clubs, or any of readers who enjoy these books!  Each kit includes a heart-shaped box and seven:

  • cupcake containers with a dove chocolate heart
  • cupcake tattoos
  • signed bookmarks
  • cupcake erasers (scroll down to see a cute video featuring these)
  • hairy mustaches
  • fortune telling fish
  • and one top to create your own shoe box lid predictor as seen on page 185
  • Winners will also receive a free 20 minute Skype visit for your class or for a small group.

(Pssst: If you win and need more than seven of the items above let me know and I’ll see what I can do!)

To enter just enter the short form below. Contest ends on midnight EST on February 28. 

This giveaway is over! Congratulations to the winners:

Kim, Janet, Suzy, Karen, and Debbie. An email has been sent to each of you. Leave a comment here if you do not receive it. Thank you to all who entered! Winners were selected using the Random Number Generator at Random.org. 

3 easy ways to double your entries, tweet about this giveaway and tag me @kamikinard, give it a shout out on Facebook and tag my author page, or leave a comment! 

Whether or not you enter the giveaway, you can still get a free Skype visit from myself or Sudipta for World Read Aloud Day. Click HERE for details.

Good Luck Everyone! And if you want a closer look at the erasers that come with the prize pack, check out what Mr. Etkin’s class did with them last year. Bet you didn’t know erasers could dance!

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Harper Lee

Harper LeeHarper Lee, born 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama, has been on the mind of the literary world ever since it was announced this week that her second novel will be published over fifty years after her first. Lee penned the iconic Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. It is hard to get her off of my mind these days. Her interesting life included editing her college’s humor magazine, a stint in law school, and being close friends with Truman Capote, who she helped with his research for In Cold Blood. She dedicated many years of her life to honing her craft before publishing To Kill a Mockingbird.  Find a more complete biography HERE. It was hard to find quotes from Harper Lee that did not come from her famous novel. And eventually I gave up trying because the quotes from Mockingbird are so good. Reading them reminds me of why her novel has touched so many, and why the world hopes to see a second novel from her. 

Harper Lee Quotes from To Kill a Mockingbird:

  • I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks. 
  • You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. 
  • I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
  • People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.
  • The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.

And here is one about writing!

  • Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself…It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent. 

Get Ready for World Read Aloud Day!

World Read Aloud Day 2015

World Read Aloud Day 2015

Wednesday March 4 is World Read Aloud Day! If you haven’t heard about it before, it is a global program designed to get children reading. Many authors help celebrate World Read Aloud Day by volunteering to Skype, and read, with children across the country. Last year the Nerdy Chicks had virtual visits with over fifty schools. In honor of World Read Aloud Day this year we will be available on March 4, 5, and 6 for virtual classroom visits. To find out more about World Read Aloud Day, visit the LitWorld website by clicking HERE.

New this year we have forms to make signing up to have us visit your class easy! If you’re interested in having one or both of us read for your school, just scroll down to find forms for both of us that you can fill out right here on the blog. OR just click on the shareable links above each form. Clicking on our photos just below will lead you to our websites so you can find out more about us and the books we  write. And please share the link to this post with educators you know!

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 Fill out this form to schedule a visit with Sudipta or click on this LINK.  Scroll down to schedule a visit with Kami.

 Fill out this form to schedule a visit with Kami or click on this LINK.