Wednesday, June 17, 2015


by Jan Godown Annino

These are impressions that I feel almost everyone
felt. The dedicated artists & writers shared laughs,
love of books & stories & lively discussions 
through the weekend.
Perhaps being in magic Florida, helped!

My poetry crit partner Christine & I sat rapt all
Saturday. I was also lucky to soak up picture book
lessons on Friday.
Worth. Every. Penny.
The thrills + wisdom shared offset motoring 9 hours round-trip.

(With thanks to my dear hubby who made the trip too & our
generous local hosts who just moved into a big new house,
Brad + Sandy. The neighborhood elementary school is
Spanish-speaking & Sandy is a volunteer reader/tutor with
school stories to share, a bonus for me.)

Still applauding conference volunteers – including
Linda Bernfeld, Gaby Triana, Linda Shute & Curtis Sponsler &
my longtime SCBWI pal, Gloria Rothstein. They conducted
two auctions – live & silent, matched critique givers to
the artists & writers, arranged meals, transportation for
faculty, meeting rooms, onsite bookstore & much more.


You-Heard-It-Here-Today/ Picture Books –
Lee Bennett Hopkin’s JUMPING OFF LIBRARY SHELVES (illus. Jane Manning)
Alexandra Penfold’s EAT, SLEEP, POOP (illus., Jane Massey)
Rob Sanders’ RUBY ROSE ON HER TOES (illus Debbi Ohi)
Tim Miller’s MOO IN A TUTU (he is illus)
Douglas Florian’s HOW TO TRAIN  YOUR DRAGON (he is illus)
Irene Latham’s FRESH DELICIOUS, Poems from the Farmer’s Market &
Mika Song’s TEA WITH OLIVER (he is illus)
Bonus – how about that last author-illustrator’s name?

INFO bits on the detailed PROCESS to PUBLISHING
>An editor rejected books that another house published. When she
saw them between covers, she wished she discerned, in manuscript form
 what the other house perceived in manuscript form – the books turned
out quite  good & she wished she had pubbed them.
This is to help us understand how our manuscripts can be wonderful,
just not right at that moment for the editor/publisher we’ve sent it to.

>This same editor shared that when she was at a house where the sales
force wielded manuscript rejection power, one of her championed children’s
books was rejected. She eventually had it published by that house. How?
“There is a lot of turnover.”
She sent to back to the writer to keep working on it.  Later the editor
resubmitted it when the naysayer had moved on to another house.

>An editor said a picture book that she originally didn’t like, even
sort of derided to close associates, still had this kernel of emotion that
stuck to her.
She could never shake it from her mind. She went back. Looked at it.
Six years later she is publishing it, pleased with the results.

<Listening to an editor share how short  p.b. manuscripts can make her
heart beat fast – I feel I got it.  Revising. Short.

A successful YA author said her years of taking picture book classes
to learn to write 500 word manuscripts helped her write succinctly
(I will add successfully) in verse for the high school reader.

First lines that are direct & simple make all the difference in picture books.
Examples an editor shared that she loves -
“Hattie was a big black hen.”  Mem Fox
“The mice made a teeter-totter.” Ellen Stoll Walsh

Look up the SCBWI Edited By list to help find editors whose books you like.

Agents, editors, artists & writers! Even spouses, partners & children.
Too many to name, but here is one moment of many from the conference
that are treasures. He is poet, editor & poetry anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins, known
as The Pied Piper of Children’s Poetry.

Every faculty member was accessible, warm & funny. If I garbled my words
getting them out, or didn’t get any words out to those I intended to, it was my
own cold feet. Next time, Jan!

I feel good that at lunch I linked a writer I didn’t know before that much appreciated meal,into a nice conversation with an agent at our large table, because the writer had shared with me info about her work I knew the agent would like to know. Put on the spot, I am usually more advanced at promoting others than myself.

At a workshop an editor said spiffy remarks after
I read aloud from my fresh-scribbled words. They were three pieces
of brief writing in response to the unexpected writing prompt. I
blushed, floated. Haven’t quite landed, yet.

Orlando’s newish indy shop, Bookmark It, received a warm welcome.
I turned out to be their first conference book buyer (not just looking)
customer.  One of the best sellers of the SCBWI weekend is the book
cradled in my hand, in the photo,
I am so stoked that writer pals, especially Robyn Hood Black,
are represented in this huggy, chubby board book, longside Jane Yolen, X.J. Kennedy, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Kristine O’Connell George, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Alice Schertle & other children’s author luminaries. I am happy it winged it’s way, inscribed, to the dear baby in our family in Rhode Island, who celebrates his 1st birthday this very month.

We arrived in Orlando not long after visiting our family in CT & MASS during
days of a big ol’ eyetalyen wedding, so it was fun to reflect on very different cities.
 We saw a chipmunk in Boston and an otter in Orlando. We saw the pencil
sculpture in Orlando in a downtown art park.
And it strikes me as something Boston would be proud to own.

Consider the SCBWI-FL MidyearConference in 2016. Information on
it will be posted at the Florida site.

While I was in Orlando, several title eyedears & other creative writing
thoughts came to mind. My conference-inspired scribbles continue.  
 I’ve re-read & re-read notes from the two conference
critiques, have thought, made scribbles of phrases, lines, more.

One final summer presentation as a children’s author is on my
calendar. ( I visited a well-off private school one week & then drove over
to a needy community center program the next & I appreciated having
those contrasts.) The next event is at our lovely library.
After,  I expect to slack off non-manuscript writing (including here & my own blog)
to finish manuscripts & begin new project eyedears
that bubbled up as a result of this inspiring SCBWI-FL weekend.


  1. Sound slike a great conference, Jan. This is a fun write-up and I loved hearing the editor stories. Gives us all hope. Bravo and thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. There is so much to hope for. Appreciations for you & all the Groggers writers & readers.

    Go get what you want done, done!

  3. Great write up! I especially loved the info on acquisitions and how things can change with them. Glad it all went well!

    1. Hi Caryn,
      Yes, they were all Nourishing events

      And a bonus- never got lost in traffic.

  4. Thanks for sharing! The MORE FORTHCOMING! link isn't working for me.

    1. Manju,
      Hi there.
      You're welcome but also thank you for reporting the weak link.

      Here is the URL to cut & paste.

      But I just tested & at least at the moment the glitch is fixed.


  5. I felt like I was there. Love the tidbits you learned. I especially took to heart simple beginnings for picture books. Hmmm....makes me rethink one of mine.

    1. O Sherri, sweet to say that - thank you.
      I felt everyone from our GB was there with us in spirit.

  6. Thanks for sharing your conference experience, Jan! How funny about the manuscript being rejected at one house and accepted at the other. And that is a fascinating pencil sculpture.

    1. Appreciations, Tina.
      I often think of how I'll look for the just-right gift in a special shop, but not purchase it, 'cause it doesn't quite feel right for the person? But then later decide I should have bought it to send?
      Glad you like the pencils!

  7. Sounds like a great and inspiring conference (AKA "a fun time!") I'm looking forward to the LA SCBWI conference at the beginning of August. Will be my first time there after attending the Golden Gate SCBWI conference three years in a row. I always learn sooo much!

    1. "I always learn to much" is a gre8t phrase!
      Hope you learn too much in LA & in continuing with those regional events too!

  8. So glad you had a great conference, Jan! I really enjoyed the comments from the editors, as well as the photo with Lee Bennett Hopkins.

    1. Appreciations, Patty.
      Hearing from the editors & authors & agents in person is quite a rush. Mr. Hopkins' books are all through my shelves so it was a big fan moment for me.

  9. Jan:
    As always you share outstanding thoughts everytime you write a GROG post. I love the photo of you and Lee Bennett Hopkins. Thank you for sharing the fun conference experience with us.

    1. Appreciations Suzy! I think every Group Blog reader & writer would have taken away so much encouragement from the 2015 Florida SCBWi Mid-Year. Glad I could share some of it this way.
      (ps if you ever are in the Orlando area, the Leu Gardens will plant your gourd. There is so much Nature to see there, besides the fun theme parks...)