What happens when 200 children’s writers and illustrators gather in one place for a whole weekend? If the group includes award-winning author Jane Yolen, editors Cheryl Klein (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic) and Meredith Mundy (Sterling Publishing), plus agent Josh Adams (Adams Literary), the result is literary magic! In a time when some writers’ conferences are struggling, our SCBWI Southern Breeze continues to thrive with top-notch conferences such as SpringMingle at the Atlanta Marriott Century Center. In addition to the headliners mentioned above, the conference included from Peachtree Publishers: Jessica Alexander, Editorial Assistant, Loraine Joyner, Art Director, Kenya and Kenyette Kilpatrick, Marketing. Also Peggy Shaw, a former senior editor for Dalmation Press and Intervisual Books.
A moving tribute to the late strongLiz Conrad, a much-loved and admired Southern Breezer who passed away last year was presented by Illustrator Coordinator, author, artist and best friend, Elizabeth Dulemba. This year Southern Breeze awarded scholarships in Liz’s honor to artists Kristen Applebee and Jeremy Evans.
A highlight of this year’s conference for me was the Book Launch. There were eight of us with new books within the past two years. I talked about my middle grade novel, Gone From These Woods, published August 25, 2009 by Delacorte Press/Random House. Other book launchers included Hester Bass, Doraine Bennett, Donna Bowman, Elizabeth Dulemba, Jennifer Jabaley, Irene Latham and Heather Montgomery. I feel very honored to be in the company of this talented group.
Other authors I enjoyed meeting and chatting with included Brad Strickland, who has a new book, Wicked Will, out under a pen name, Bailey MacDonald, and Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, whose book, Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different was published in 2008 by Delacorte Press. Kristin lives in Tennessee and is very familiar with the Cleveland, Tennessee area where my mother and other family members live.
So what did the publishing experts tell us this weekend? As most of us already knew, the odds of getting published are daunting. Jane Yolen said that if you’d asked her 20 years ago if you needed an agent, she would have said maybe. Today she says yes. Agent Josh Adams said he receives 6,000 submissions a year and might take on six new authors.
On the other hand editor Cheryl Klein, who has edited Harry Potter books, said our job is to create stories and hers is to edit them and though things are changing rapidly in the world of publishing, she believes our jobs are still to create and edit. Editor Meredith Mundy, who has been laid off twice from publishing companies is now with Sterling Publishing, which is owned by Barnes and Noble, and still feels optimistic. They are all looking for “crunchy characters,” “munchy” dialog, and high concept projects. They agree “quiet” is not being published these days. But Jane Yolen says quiet may be making a come back in children’s literature. She also says “go armoured into the marketplace.”
Overall, this was one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended. Here’s a great big thank you to Jo Kittinger, Donna Bowman, Heather Montgomery, Heather Kolich and everyone who worked to make this SpringMingle a great success. My only problem was I didn’t win the Joan Broerman book basket for my local library. But, hey, there’s always next year.