SCBWI NY: Post-Intensives Q&A Panel

Posted on Updated on

After the Friday Intensives (critique sessions) portion of the SCBWI 2010 Winter Conference, Lin Oliver led a Q&A session with Wendy Loggia (Executive Editor, Delacorte Press), Ari Lewin (Senior Editor, Disney/Hyperion) and Allyn Johnston (V.P. and Publisher of Beach Lane Books).

Here’s a run down of what was asked, what was answered.

Q: What are some common problems you see in manuscripts?


  • In picture books, authors try to rhyme, but rhyming is weak or forced
  • The voice is too old for a picture book narrator
  • In novels, authors start en media res, but then don’t go back and establish the who, what, where
  • It’s better to begin in a scene in the “normal” world and unveil the story slowly
  • Authors info dump, and use too much exposition
  • Authors show a lack of awareness of the market in what they choose to write
  • There are too many overdone themes


  1. Do market research
  2. Read IndieBound
  3. Don’t include art notes in picture books
  4. Read LibraryThing and Goodreads
  5. See what books are getting attention, winning awards

Q: What makes a good beginning? Where should a book start?


  • Start where it feels right for your book
  • You don’t have to start with a bang
  • Good writing will grab the reader
  • Picture books should start with a clear, direct statement (e.g., “Marcy was a chicken.”)

Q: Do revisions ever lead to the book falling apart?


  • Even with well-published authors there are times when it seems the book will fall apart (Allyn)
  • Sometimes it feels like it will fall apart in the outline stage (Wendy)

Advice: Be flexible and see things from a different perspective.

Q: What are some key phrases you use that writers should hear as warning signs that their work is not ready or not good enough?


  • “Who is this for?”
  • “Why would someone care about the place/character?”
  • “Put this on the shelf.”
  • “Is there anything else you’re working on?” (Though this shows the editor/agent sees some potential in you)


  1. Remember the quote, “In writing, nothing is ever wasted but the paper.” (Sid Fleischman)
  2. Commit to your writing career, not just one piece
  3. It’s a fine balance between hearing critique and continuing to believe in yourself as a writer

Q: What are the current trends in YA lit?


  • Paranormal
  • Dystopian

Q: Final piece of advice for writers?


  • Wait a day after critiques before making changes to your MS (Ari)
  • Write letters from your characters’ POV to other characters in the book (Ari)
  • Watch American Idol and learn from it — publishing is like American Idol (Wendy)
  • If you have a story worth being told, it will find the light (Wendy)
  • Be yourself; don’t take yourself too seriously (Wendy)

One thought on “SCBWI NY: Post-Intensives Q&A Panel

    Lisa Nowak said:
    February 4, 2010 at 12:13 am

    Great stuff. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s