Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What I Heard at the NJ-SCBWI March Mentoring Workshop

Well, apparently. I am not such a good listener. Tara went to an NJ-SCBWI Mentoring Workshop in February and she heard all sorts of things.

What did I hear?

Mostly, STAY AWAY FROM RHYME. An agent from Sheldon Fogelman Agency had this advice:

I would caution against using rhyme, which can lead to using words that are a better fit for the rhyme scheme as opposed to the narrative. It only takes one false rhyme to unravel all of the magic and rhythm of your story.

On this front, I am not at all deterred. I am quite confident in my ability to write in rhyme.

Another thing I heard from at least two sources is that it is getting harder to sell a PB manuscript unless the author happens to also be an illustrator.

This I found rather depressing. (No amount of confidence in the world is going to suddenly make me able to draw!)

The last comment that I heard repeatedly during the first page session was to "up the stakes". Take it up a notch. Go overboard even.

That one I will keep in mind as I work on new picture book manuscripts.

14 comments:

lightverse said...

Good for you about keeping with the rhyme. I love rhyme and like you, have no intention of giving it up.

But I like the rest of the advice. Thanks!

Paul Ă„ertker said...

Hop, hop, hop, hop.
Economic flop.
soon we'll be ...
... back on top.

Z-Kids said...

Hmmm... I've always heard it's MORE difficult to get a book published as an author/illustrator. If a publisher likes one of your skills but not the other, they're more likely to turn the whole proposal down flat rather than work with the half they like...

Z-Dad

Kimberly Zook said...

Thanks for the feedback! I've been seeing a lot of author/illustrator publications these days for PB, and I was wondering if this was a growing trend.

By stepping it up a notch and going overboard, did they mean when it comes to writing or try to sell our manuscript to an editor? I've been reading lately that we should include a market analysis with our submission materials so the editor can compare our book to what's in the market and know that we are going to help market the book. Is there any other advice for going overboard?

corey schwartz said...

Thanks, Lightverse.

Paul, ha, ha!

Z-Dad, perhaps this is a newer reality stemming from the tough PB market. One agent at the workshop won't even rep an author unless he/she illustrates as well.

Kimberly, they were definitely referring to writing. If your character has a bad temper, make her tantrums have bigger consequences.

taralazar said...

Yes, I've overheard the same things lately--that agents/editors are more willing to sign author-illustrators than those who only have one of those skills. I think it's just pure economics. It costs less time and money to produce the book when you're working with one person instead of two.

And I hear "amp it up" constantly. If you're going to write a humorous picture book, they want you to be outrageously funny. Side-splitting and crazy! So that's what I'm doing. Taking my funny stuff and kicking it up a notch. BAM! (BTW, I got a similar suggestion on my MG novel, too.)

Kelly H-Y said...

Wow ... thanks for sharing the information. The piece about being an author AND illustrator ... yeah ... that worries me a bit! Hmmm ... do you think stick figures will be the 'in' thing in picture books in the coming years?! :-)

Rebecca said...

"Go overboard." Fitting, considering my latest PB WIP is about pirates.

a brilliant blog said...

your picture book is adorable! do another!!

Kasie West said...

It seems like we mostly hear the things we are the most defensive about. I always hear things in speeches that I'm already sensitive on. But, keep rhyming because I love a good rhyming book (oh, and so do my kids).

PurpleClover said...

I totally hear you. I also heard about both of these things a couple years ago and they depressed me deeply. So while I still write PB's I've started to move away from Rhyme and find agent's that take non-illustrating authors. Although the last pb I just queried I'm thinking of having my hubby try to illustrate (or I may take on the daunting task myself and see what I come up with). lol.

Katie said...

They always say that about rhyme. But then I always see new rhymers at the store. go figure.

Stick with what you love. You are obviously gifted with rhyme - it's just that most people are not. So his comments aren't really aimed at you :-)

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

Solvang Sherrie said...

Don't give up, Corey. You found success already, and you'll find more. Stick with what you love, and the rest will come. And no matter what they say, there's no tried and true one and only way to do anything. "You can go your own way..."

Beth Coulton said...

This was an interesting post to me, and I loved the responses. I too love to write in rhyme, and if there was a deterrent going on in the market towards it, it's not evident from the new books being published! Corey- two of my short ideas that I'll send you along with my PB manuscript are in rhyme....

I say go for it, whatever "it" may be for YOU. You know best what you DO best- follow your gut and your heart.

And something about "overboard" would be a great title for that pirate book....