Tips from the Northern Ohio SCBWI

First, I e-mailed nhile, winner of the Writing Great Books for Young Adults drawing, but haven't gotten a response yet. Please e-mail me with your mailing address if you would still like the book.

Second, congratulations to Merna, winner of The Narrative Escape drawing. I will be contacting you as well.

As I mentioned before, I attended the Northern Ohio SCBWI conference this summer. My previous post about book packagers was based on a session there by Emma Carlson Berne. Today, I'm passing along some more miscellaneous tidbits from the conference. Hope these are useful!

On the Publishing Industry

When an imprint with a staff of nine takes on your book, you automatically get nine diehard fans who want your book’s success.  -- Martha Mihalick, editor at Greenwillow

An editor’s job is to be your ideal reader. Someone who has read thousands of books and likes yours. It’s also the editor’s job to tell everyone how amazing your book is. She talks to the art director, designers, sales team, etc. Martha Mihalick once even lent a cover model her shirt for a photo shoot.

In her nine years as an editor, Martha Mihalick has taken 1 manuscript from the unsolicited slush pile.

Publishing is about relationships. If editors know you and know you’re reliable, they will start calling you with work and asking about projects you’re working on. -- Emma Carlson Berne, author of Hard to Get

Writing Tips

One good way to test your children’s book. Have someone else read the book to a group of kids, and watch their reactions or better yet, their lack of emotion in a particular place where you expected or wanted a reaction. -- Eileen Robison, former editor at Scholastic and creater of F1rstPages

On building strong characters. Make a strong first impression. The clothes, manner of moving, and the first thing out of the character’s mouth should all establish her character. A side character’s first interaction with the main character should set up their dynamic.  -- Emma Carlson Berne (For more on first impressions, see this post on the Hunger Games)

On Picture Books

Characteristics of strong illustrations:
1. Creates strong, unique, and identifiable characters with their own personalities.
2. Captures emotional connection and interaction between characters through facial expression and gestures.
3. Has an intentional color palette that create mood and communicates meaning
4. Captures movement, action, and gestures, which are so necessary for most storylines.
5. The composition, type, and page design complements the story and emphasizes the action or themes of the story.
6. There is a dynamic between art image & text type on page: creates something new together, balancing the action with the story & creating an emotionally satisfying experience of reading
-- Anne Moore, Art Resource Buyer, Candlewick

Picture books with strong story and characters are always in demand. With strong charcters you can do series spin offs, stuffed animals, a movie spinoff, etc. But uniqueness is King. There are a lot of bunny stories out there. How is your bunny unique?  -- Anne Moore


  1. I found this description of building strong characters very useful. Thanks for posting the tips from the Conference.

  2. I love it all! These are perfect little snippets of advice.
    Thanks, Livia. :)

  3. Reading this made me feel like I was there again. :) Nice job.

  4. Good to see what nuggets you found @ the conference. Per my bunny comment, have you seen this article?? haha, same theme:

  5. Great suggestions! Reading some of what you learned at your conference just makes me more excited for the SCBWI conference I'm going to in January, since it's my first - it sounds like it was a great experience for you. :)