Wendy Loggia

SCBWI NY: Post-Intensives Q&A Panel

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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?

Answers:

  • 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

Advice:

  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?

Answers:

  • 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?

Answers:

  • 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?

Answers:

  • “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)

Advice:

  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?

Answers:

  • Paranormal
  • Dystopian

Q: Final piece of advice for writers?

Answers:

  • 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)
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