More great volunteer summaries from Spring Spirit 2016 are below!
If you couldn’t make it to Spring Spirit this year you missed a lot—like Bruce Hale singing to us (really). Or maybe you were there but missed a few sessions because you couldn’t be in two or three places at once. (And if you CAN be in two or three places at once, call me, I have questions.) Anyway, don’t fret! We’ve got you covered. Our volunteers have written lots of summaries for your notes, or to give you a few more reasons to make sure you get there in 2017!
Mirrors, Windows, and Walls: Diversity in the World of Children’s Books with JaNay Brown-Wood and Gayle Pitman by Karen McCoy
This workshop examined how American culture influences publishing in ways we don’t often realize, and vice-versa. The presenters showed a study that demonstrated how the amount of books about white children outweigh all others, especially books with Asian American, African American, Latin American, or Native American children. One wise attendee pointed out that biracial children were not represented, pointing to a group that often goes unseen, even among the commonly marginalized. Through a few workshop exercises, it was evident that the feeling of being different was paramount to many people’s experiences. Examples of books were also used to demonstrate some of the default settings that people inadvertently bring to reading or writing, including some prejudices that might be overlooked. It was such an active and productive conversation that it was a shame the session had to end—and it’s evident that these kinds of conversations need to continue.
Work/Life Balance: Organizing for Success with Tim Myers by Karen McCoy
This workshop explored how writing and life inevitably affect one another—and how to keep hope and focus when that happens. One of the most poignant moments in the workshop was when attendees were asked to list their top three writing goals, and read them aloud. This introduced the idea of intrinsic versus extrinsic goals. Mr. Myers was clear that extrinsic goals weren’t necessarily bad, but that intrinsic goals were directly related to vision, which often has a longer lasting impact. This point was beautifully illustrated when Mr. Meyers quoted a line from Tina Fey’s daughter, which eventually made it into the show 30 Rock. “I want to go to there.”
The truth of the matter is, as artists, we get to follow what we care about. And we all are going through life at our own pace. The key to balancing both work and life is knowing that when they inevitably collide, they can feed into one another and allow us to thrive.
Buy My Book! Promoting Your Book Once Its Published with Penny Warner by Suzi Guina
When Penny Warner, author of the popular Code Busters series, whirled into the room for the last break-out session of the day, her energy perked up the roomful of wilting attendees. Penny generously shared her most successful book promotion tips, which revolve primarily around school visits. Here are just a few:
- Sends out a letter of introduction to the principal, all teachers in her targeted grade levels, and the librarian/media specialist.
- When she’s secured a visit, she sends out a pre-order form for her books and asks that they be passed out to all the students.
- She comes to the school in character, brings cute book swag, plays code games with them, and sneakily teaches them writing tips.
- She brings more books to sell on site.
Because she does not charge for her visits, Penny’s goal is to sell books at the visits and to introduce kids to the magic of her books. For more tips and plenty of resources, visit her website pennywarner.com.
Contract Negotiation: What to Look for in a Contract with John Rudolph by Suzi Guina
For many of us, publishing contracts seem like esoteric, indecipherable documents. Agent John Rudolph of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management dispelled this notion with his clear, clause-by-clause breakdown of a typical publishing contract.
In addition to outlining the main clauses, John also highlighted certain clauses to pay special attention to and how writers or their agents might negotiate better results. He explained the different types of royalties, how to maximize promotional support, and how not to get locked into waiting for one book to publish before you can sell or publish another. Our brains may have hurt after the session, but we walked away with a clearer understanding of what to expect from our contracts and publishers.
Early Reader Interactivity and Young Reader Comprehension with Tim Myers by Sally Spratt
With his vast background as an author, poet, teacher and senior university lecturer, Tim Myers brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to his class. Tim began by explaining how children of various ages interact with and comprehend the text. He gave examples of the many things a child must learn in order to read, which is why reading is so important fundamentally. Once children can read, they begin to learn more skills, one of which is how to sit quietly and lose themselves in the story.
As authors writing for children, we need to keep in mind that our reader is making their own imaginative responses that come from responses to language. Let the reader retreat into a world of their own senses. This should be the guide for our writing, using words charged with power. Comprehension levels vary from child to child, reading levels and guidelines should not dictate what you write. A powerful reminder that we as authors should not write to what the market dictates, or to comprehension and reading abilities. Each child will read at their own rate and comfort levels.
As an example of not following the comprehension or reading guidelines, Tim shared words and phrases used in several popular books: pliable, inertia, seized up, bowels, and transfixed. We were to guess the novel. We were all wrong. We underestimated these words being understood in the text.
His lesson boiled down to:
1) Write the best you can.
2) The quality of your work is the only thing you should control.
3) Never underestimate the young reader—what compels them to read is motivation from a forward moving story and a topic/plot that interests them as an individual.
4) Don’t be afraid to choose words outside your comfort zone.
Jump Start Your Writing with Poetry! with Linda Boyden (Author/Illustrator) by Mira Reisberg
For those of us lucky enough to attend Linda Boyden’s Friday poetry writing workshop, it was quite the treat. Linda began by talking about her practice of writing a poem a day and how it helped her children’s book writing as a kind of warm up. She shared some lovely poems, both hers and others and then introduced some super fun and effective poetry generating techniques that participants loved. Workshop type presentations can either be a lazy way out for presenters to not have to prepare too much material or they can be inspiring, exciting, and helpful as this one was. Linda worked hard in advance to prepare different poetry writing packages that we used to inspire and generate poems. It was so much fun when people read their poems out loud. It was also a great reminder that there are many ways of writing poetry beyond the standard rhyming form. Bravo Linda!