Sunday, August 15, 2010

9 Conference Round-Up: WriteOnCon Day 1

If you missed WriteOnCon, don't fret. We've got you covered. The free online conference was packed with terrific advice and knowledge for kid lit writers. But first, we want to extend a HUGE thank you to the founders: Jamie Harrington, Elana Johnson, Casey McCormick, Shannon Messenger, Lisa and Laura Roecker, and Jennifer Stayrook. And another BIG thank you to all the agents, editors, authors, and industry professionals who shared their expertise and knowledge. For FREE. This is truly an incredible community!

In keeping with the three-day event's schedule, we'll share separate posts to cover the individual days. Each segment of day one is listed below with a link and a brief synopsis or snippets. Read on and write on!

Tuesday, August 10th

Welcome Keynote by author Josh Berk [vlog via Lisa and Laura Write] Josh advises that other people should critique your work and tell you what's wrong with it. He says you should take a risk and write about people different than yourself. Write what you're compelled to write, and stick with it.

Myths and Misconceptions by literary agent Holly Root [2-part vlog via Literary Rambles] Holly says you're submission should be memorable- a good story will do. A package loaded with glitter isn't necessary! Stay current on what's working and selling right now. A good title will catch an agent/editor's eye intially, but it often changes before publication. A submission that fits a trend is less impressive than something surprising and fresh. Print isn't dead, nor are stories. There are just more options for reading. Take part in social media that suits you. Writing a second book is particularly challenging.

Refining Your Craft With Each Book by author Janette Rallison [post via Lisa and Laura Write] Janette reminds us that writing must be a habit. Make sure your characters have motivation and goals. Put your reader deeply in your character's head through point-of-view. Provide a satisfying ending. Read a lot.

Give Yourself Permission by editor Molly O'Neill [post via Lisa and Laura Write] Molly believes being a writer can only happen if you actively choose to do it. Give yourself permission to do the many acts Molly lists in order to pursue writing. Write on!

Demystifying Illustration [3-part vlog via Literary Rambles] Plussing the story means enhancing and bringing text to a new level through the illustrations. Storyboarding maps out the illustrations, ensuring the flow and pace of the text. The total publishing team works hard to make a manuscript sing.

Bringing the Funny by author Rachel Hawkins [post via Lisa and Laura Write] Rachel encourages us to make sure jokes are actually funny by letting others read our writing. Funny has to be sprinkled throughout if you're going to use it. Don't be afraid to use a variety of humor, from dry to physical gags.

Becoming a Career Author by literary agent Catherine Drayton [post via Elana Johnson] Catherine says you need a serious mentor and brutally honest people around you. Write in a genre that feels natural to you, and keep learning all the while. Keep your day job, but make time to market yourself, too.

Writing Middle Grade by author J.S. Lewis [post via Elana Johnson] J.S. Lewis says the passions of your childhood must be accessible to write middle grade. Inundate yourself where your target market is today. Keep up the action, as to not lose their attention.

Voice by literary agent Elana Roth [post via Elana Johnson] Elana points out that though it's hard to pin down what makes a voice work, you can start by having one in the first place. Spread out details about your characters to keep your voice going. 'The stronger the voice, the better it will be heard.'

The transcript for the live chat with literary agent Suzie Townsend can be found here.

Writing a Query Letter by author Jodi Meadows [post via Elana Johnson] Jodi shares a formula for writing a winning query. She explains why a query is the window to your manuscript. Jody says to go for the most basic- but biggest - elements of your story.

In Defense of a Less Than Huge Advance by literary agent Michelle Wolfson [via Elana Johnson] Michelle says that a less than huge advance will indicate scant marketing funds, so it's up to you to deliver a good book and then build your audience. Authors with big advances whose book ends up tanking may have a hard time working again in the future. An advance somewhere in the middle may lull you into thinking you don't need to work hard to promote your book. Bottom line- even if you get a less than huge advance, capitalize on it by being the dark horse and emerging victorious.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before a Revision by editor Kendra Levin [post via Elana Johnson] Kendra says to make sure all of your protagonist's actions and choices are tied to their primary desire. Map out your plot to verify you have structure, whether it's a traditional one or not. Raise the stakes for your main character. Keep your reader in mind. Several other revision tips are discussed. 

Pie in the Face (how characters react to situations) by Rosemary Clement-Moore [vlog via Shannon Messenger] Rosemary says to consider all of the senses. Make sure your characters actions are truly reactions to what happens to them. If there's a big emotional turning point, you'll spend more time on the reaction. If not, move on.

The recap for the Panel of Professionals chat with Elana Roth, Kathleen Ortiz, and Martha Mihalick can be found here.

The vlog for the Working with Agents and Editors workshop with Mark McVeigh can be found here.

Happy Conferencing!


  1. Thanks for posting this, Marissa. I registered for the conference but missed the entire thing because my family went on vacation. I was bummed I couldn't participate but at least I can read it all now. There was SO much information. Now I just have to find the time!
    ~KaraLee (previously known as JayceeKaycee)

  2. Thanks much. This is a great recap. I LOVE the idea of an online conference. I didn't sign up, because I'm not a children's writer, but I ended up reading and watching 90% of it because everything was so useful and well done.

    You provided an incredible service here. I hope there will be more of these to come--in all genres.

  3. Thank you so much for this. I was so sad at being out of country and missing this. I can't wait for next years. :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  4. Thanks for supporting the Con! I totally agree with what Anne said that SO MUCH of what was said ended up being for ALL writers. and not just children's book writers--I think that was my big unexpected surprise for the conference!

  5. Kara and Angela, welcome back from vacation! Trust me when I tell you that even being in front of the computer for those three days, I still couldn't keep up with all the great posts and vlogs.

    Anne, you make a great point- the information coming out of WriteOnCon will undoubtedly help many writers out there, kid lit or not. Now the writing community knows that children's writers are the most giving people on the planet.

    Jamie, thanks again for all your hard work putting WriteOnCon together. You ladies rock!

  6. I for one DID attend the WriteOnCon, and it was great!! I have to confess I played in the Forums more than reading the "talks"/articles as they happened; I knew I could always go back and read the info later. In the Forums I got a lot of constructive feedback for revision on my queries and novels, and even connected with some gals for some manuscript swapping. I critiqued others' excerpts and discovered what fellow writers are writing. Neat!

    On another note...I was interested to read/follow the link about Bowker introducing a manuscript submissions services. I'd be curious to know if anyone has tried this, and what their experience was. By the way, I saw that the $99 fee to have agents and editors read your query and excerpt is for a LIMITED time: 6 months. I'm wondering if this is the wave of the future, since the slush pile is growing so huge. Nice, for the agents/editors to have everything online and tidy, no envelopes to open, etc.

  7. Thanks so much for posting this conference round-up! :)

    I was in and out but missed most of the conference because of the day job.

    This is great!

  8. Thanks for posting this. I tried to read most of it at lunch breaks or work, but forgot that I hadn't watched the Holly Root Vlog. It was great.

  9. Learnt SOOOOOOO much from this!


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