This post is a continuation of my musings on the SCBWI Eastern PA's Fall conference held in Lancaster last month.
I choose a session on Book Promotion for my third workshop. Since all of my work so far has been published in magazines, journals or anthologies, this might seem like an odd choice. But I am the eternal optimist. Publication is right around the corner. And the presenter, Mara Rockliff had an intriguing title for her workshop—“Book Promotion for the Rest of Us.” I wanted to know who “the rest of us” were! Mara explained that she supports her family by her work as a mid-list writer. She told participants they could be successful without being the next big thing (although that would, of course, be nice). She talked about using our time as writers effectively and the fact that many promotional opportunities have no proven track record so the best things to do are the things that a publisher asks us to do, or that we want to do because we enjoy it. I almost fell out of my seat laughing when she played Mike Jung's ukulele/song video at his release party for GEEKS, GIRLS AND SECRET IDENTITIES. If you haven’t seen it, this is the one link you MUST visit today. I laughed so hard I cried. Literally. And this is a correct usage of the word literally. I almost fell off my chair—in public.
After lunch we were treated to an editor/agent panel that read first pages of attendees manuscripts. Mine was not one of the ones chosen at random but I still enjoyed the panel, getting a flavor of the panelists’ personalities and preferences. Writers can often find some list of what agents and editors say they are looking for online. Seeing them react to the actual words in front of them is even more revealing. In general, their reactions reminded me that beautiful writing is no replacement for telling a good story. If the first page of your novel doesn’t give the reader something to care about, whether it's an exciting plot question or a fascinating character, it’s time to rewrite! Get the hook up front. In the case of picture books, the first page of a manuscript should have introduced the (memorable) character and problem at a minimum. They are still looking for short, under 500 word picture books.
I also chose to have a professional critique of one of my picture book manuscripts from author Sandy Asher. Her generous advice and encouragement to SUBMIT will be a personal writing journey prompt for 2013. After all, even if a writer has written the best manuscript ever, it’s unlikely the agents and editors will sense the magnificence as a disturbance in the writing force and seek it out. So—find your voice and be fearless.
A big thank you to two amazing people--our SCBWI chapter RA's, Marilyn Hershey and Francesca Amendolia. Sure enough, they organized another great event for our region. These women rock!