Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Westside Writers Schmooze holds an Expert Panel on Author Visits!

Best. Schmooze. EVER!!

Seriously. This November's meeting may have been the best Westside Schmooze ever -- and that's saying a lot for our beloved longest running schmooze in the region.

On Wednesday, November 10th, about 40 Westside Schmoozers gathered to hear an expert panel of a public librarian, an independent school librarian, and an independent book store owner speak on author visits: what they're looking for, the difference between these different venues, how we can get ourselves booked for author visits, and more. This genius panel was Lee's brainchild (awww, thanks, Rita!), designed to represent the three key sectors of the author-visit landscape. To this end, Lee invited the following all-star lineup:

Sharon Hearn, owner of Children's Book World, a full-service children's bookstore in West Los Angeles,

Elizabeth Abarbanel, librarian at the independent Brentwood School's upper campus,


Ann Wagner, Youth Services Librarian at the Santa Monica Public Library, main branch.

Our Panelists left to right:
Sharon Hearn, Elizabeth Abarbanel and Ann Wagner

From the moment the discussion began, it became clear how different these three categories of author visit are. A few of the eye-opening things we learned:

• Unlike schools, who pay for authors visits; and libraries, who give honorariums; bookstores never pay for visits. Instead, publishers offer to send
authors to them, and, if the bookstore agrees to host an event, the expectation
is that they will sell books. Local authors might approach a store to do an
event as well, but it works best if it's the author's first signing for a book,
because that is more likely to sell copies and draw a crowd.

• Schools look for ways in which an author's book or talk or personal story can
tie into curriculum. For example, if the book is historical it could tie into history, or the author talks about writing (or about how he or she became a writer) it could tie into English and creative writing, or maybe an element of your book and talk can be tied into Human Development (a class about growing up).

• School librarians and decision makers share information on listservs about how much authors have charged and how well their presentations went.

• Public libraries don't sell books (of course), or educate specifically. They also can't guarantee the kids in this setting will have read the author's work in advance, so they look for visits that are lively and interactive, and that will get their audience excited about the book and about reading. It's definitely a good idea to read excerpts during visits to libraries.

• Bookstores can sometimes coordinate with publishers to bring authors to schools--and set up pre-order sheets to send home with the kids. This type of visit can sometimes be quite large, with other schools bussed in.

• When bookstores are not involved, schools can still sell an author's books in conjunction with a visit -- sometimes through their PTA. Schools often get good discounts from publishers.

• Advice: Authors should definitely have Web sites through which schools can contact them.

• Best Piece of Advice of the whole evening: Watch other authors' presentations!

At one point during the Schmooze, a debate broke out on the merits of waiving one's fee for visits, with an eye to building brand awareness. This brought up the oft-cited advice: Should you decide to do a school visit for free or cheap, always indicate you have "waived your fee" (or provided an x% discount) to make clear you are providing something of value. To this, our expert panel hastened to add that you should also always make sure you have an advocate on the inside who will build enthusiasm and ensure the proper preparation for your visit. ("Free" does not equal a babysitting offer!)

Throughout the evening, Schmoozers also shared their own experiences with doing author visits, including fascinating descriptions from both Eric Drachman and James Otis Thach of elaborate video conferences, and visiting schools via Skype!

Here are a few more choice tidbits from the evening, from both our panel and Schmooze attendees:

Authenticity--the giving of yourself in what you share--is the best way to connect with kids.

If the kids have read your book, they will probably enjoy hearing "behind-the-scenes" stories about earlier drafts, inspirations, etc. Even if they haven't read the book, the real message here is that your book didn't come out perfect the first time. Rewriting is key, and everyone can do it.

Kids are so visual these days. Share your book trailer! Use PowerPoint! If you're an illustrator, draw! (Kevin Henkes has used old-fashioned slides! Patricia Polacco brought in her quilt!)

But: Avoid what Lee called "Death by PowerPoint." Your visual aids should not make sense without your presenting them. You are the most important visual aid in your talk. (Along these same lines, don't turn the lights completely off and stand to the side.)

This was a truly amazing Schmooze, during which we all learned so much! When it was over, many agreed that 95% of the information we'd heard this night was completely new to us. We didn't even know how much we didn't know!

For more excellent information on school visits, check out schoolvisitexperts.com by SCBWI's own school visits expert Alexis O'Neill.

Here, too, is a link from Westside Schmoozer Hannah Ruth Wilde showing how some authors have banded together to create an author visit contact site! www.authorsforschoolvisits.com

And the fun (and epiphanies) keep on coming . . .

NEXT month, on Wednesday, December 8th, the Westside Schmooze is having a hands-on workshop, "MAKE YOUR OWN PICTURE BOOK DUMMY," led by Special Guest Speaker Laura Lacámara!!

Laura is the author of Floating on Mama’s Song / Flotando en la Canción de
a bilingual picture book inspired by her mother, who was an opera
singer in Havana. Floating on Mama’s Song, illustrated by Yuyi Morales,
was released by HarperCollins September 1, 2010 and has already received its
first starred review--from Publishers Weekly! Laura also recently
illustrated The Runaway Piggy / El Cochinito Fugitivo, a bilingual
picture book for Piñata Books, an imprint of the University of Houston’s Arte
Público Press. The Runaway Piggy, written by James Luna, debuts November
30, 2010. You can learn more about Laura at her Web site,

As both a picture book author and illustrator, Laura is uniquely positioned to look at picture book manuscripts with an eye for both text and illustrations, and is the perfect expert to guide us in creating our own picture book dummies.

We'll see how our words work on the dummied-up pages, and learn how this technique can help us make our picture book manuscripts sing! For picture book authors (and illustrators, too!), fiction and non-fiction. Even if you don't write picture books, come! You will absolutely gain a new understanding of narrative structure through this creative process.

For this schmooze, Laura recommends you bring two (2) copies of a picture book text (or favorite poem, or whatever words you would like to work with)--one to mark up, and one to cut up--typed in 14-point font at 1-1/2 line spacing. It will be like a holiday crafts party, with cutting and pasting and storytelling, and the satisfaction of taking something home that you made with your own hands, from the heart.

As always, RSVPs are greatly appreciated to WestsideSchmooze@hotmail.com.

Until then, friends,

Cheers and Namaste,

Rita and Lee

p.s.: Our thanks to Eric Drachman for the photos!

Monday, November 15, 2010

SFV Illus SCHMOOZE: Nov 18, Thurs 6:30-8pm

History of a favorite Illustrator:
We all love to see what others are inspired by. Focus on one person, discuss period and time or history of illustration and or books. How has this person/or art work impacted contemporary illustration and/or children’s publishing. How does it inspire you and share what have you learned or gained from him or her.

LOCATION: Once Upon a Time Bookshoppe
2207 Honolulu Avenue, Montrose CA 91020
(between Zeke’s and Rocky Cola Cafe)
PHONE NUMBER TO STORE: (818) 248-9668
If you can't find st parking go through the alley, by Black Cow in a big lot.

RSVP to Jen Swain (818) 429-6906

To be removed from list, please respond with REMOVE in the subject line of message.
We won’t take it personally.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November 15th... Schmoozin' on the Westside

Join the Westside Illustrators Schmooze
on a field trip!
Monday evening, November 15, 7-9pm
1333 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, Ca 90403

The Westside Illustrators Schmooze is proud to
announce our November Guest Speaker!
Every Picture Tells A Story...

LOIS SARKISIAN...is the owner/founder of Every Picture Tells A Story..., the first Los Angeles gallery devoted to the art of illustration. For over two decades,the gallery has featured an extensive collection of paintings, drawings and lithographs from over one hundred classic and contemporary illustrators -- including Garth Williams, Dr. Seuss, Charles Schulz, David Shannon, Mark Teague, Mo Willems, the Brothers Hildebrandt, Hilary Knight and Maurice Sendak.
Every Picture Tells A Story has changed the historical perspective of illustration and continues to influence the world of art. It has created programming and outreach utilizing celebrity talent and continues to produce events that showcase reading and storytelling.
A publishing division of Every Picture Tells A Story..., Every Picture Press, has successfully created both children’s and adult illustrated books, including award-winning small-press publications, Painted Prayers and Rip Squeak and His Friends. and the landmark exhibition and biography, Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. She has consulted with numerous American publishers and worked with foreign publishers to introduce them to American book creations.
An exhibit of original art from the Every Picture Tells A Story... collection, curated by Lois Sarkisian and devoted to the subject of teaching tolerance, toured American museums and included stays in Atlanta, Chicago, Indianapolis and Los Angeles. The response to the artwork and the artists as well as the acceptance of the premise that children’s books can influence feelings and action in a positive way has inspired thousands of childrens and parents..
In addition to curating and publishing, Lois Sarkisian continues to consult on film and television projects for many independent producers and for both Dreamworks and Sony Pictures. She also devotes herself to a wide variety of cultural, environmental groups and political candidates who support vital children’s and women’s issues. Among the groups she has been involved with are Pediatric AIDS, Make A Wish, Big Sisters,and Wonder of Reading.
PLEASE RSVP SuzyBlock@gmail.com
0r SoozyEB@aol.com
seating is limited!

Be careful NOT to park in 'permit only' spaces on side streets!
Looking forward to seeing you all! ....Suzy
818 389 1950

Monday, November 8, 2010

Illustrators' Schmooze in OC

Let's schmooze!
Come share your best illustration and news of 2010.
Saturday, November 20
10:30 am
at the studio of Marilyn Scott-Waters

Contact me if you need directions.

Join us for lunch afterwards at a nearby restaurant.

See you there!

Veronica Walsh

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Westside Writers Schmooze meets to discuss "VOICE: The End-All Definition"

These books have it. Voice. So just what IS "it?"

Schmooze Recap: Part 1
Note: This first half of this Schmooze recap first appeared on Rita's personal blog at rhcrayon: The Blog! the morning after the October 13th Schmooze.

All right. So here's the promise Lee and I made to the world in our latest e-blast about the SCBWI Westside Schmooze.

Subject: The SCBWI Westside Schmooze -- Wednesday, October 13th at 7 PM

Does October mean thrills, chills, and suspense to you? Well, it should if you attend the next meeting of the SCBWI Westside Schmooze! Because on October 13th, at 7 PM, we will meet to unmask . . .

VOICE: The End-All Definition

That's right. Editors and Agents often say that while they can fix everything else in a manuscript, Voice is that one special quality a manuscript must have from the start, for them to fall in love. Yet when it comes to defining what Voice IS, even the greats flounder, with many falling back on the axiom "You know it when you see it."

What is THAT about? Are we in the business of describing things or aren't we?? At the next Westside Schmooze we aim to settle this mystery once and for all--AND come up with an End-All Definition--by showing great examples of Voice, analyzing WHAT IT IS, and sharing exercises that will help each of us find and perfect our own. For Picture Book through Young Adult, fiction and non-fiction. Let's do this. It's time.

Now, I'll admit I've been frustrated in my life lately, and I wrote this email with a mad gleam in my eye when the weather had taken a turn for the worse.


I think it's hilarious to set out to do "impossible" things--especially because (in my experience) 60-65% of the time, it totally works. Most of the time, the only reason anything is perceived as "impossible" is because it's unlikely you'll get enough people to back your vision. Once you have that, the thing itself is easy.

We had 41 people attend this Schmooze, and I really thought we were going to do it. Not come up with an "End-All" Definition like I'd advertised (that would be impossible!) but come up with a definition that we 40+ children's book writers could live with, which we would then throw down in cyberspace like a gauntlet to the world. I wanted to stir things up.

We had . . . an excellent discussion, full of impassioned, articulate insights. It's not true that no one knows what Voice is, or can define it in a few pithy words. Plenty of people can--and did tonight. It's just that every time someone put theirs out there, we all agreed with and then rebutted it. The spirit was willing, but the time ran out.

(Also, I think a lot of people like that Voice is an ineffable mystery and subconsciously sabotaged our efforts.)

I've been fed up lately with how no one can agree on what Voice "is," in a few blunt words, even though we do all recognize it when we hear it. Lee and I and Karol read examples from books tonight that gave everyone thrills and chills. Few people had the view of the room we did. 41 grownups turned into rapt little children, falling under a spell, every. Single. Time. Grr.


I had a vision of us gathering like tribal leaders that would go down in history.

Nathan Bransford, for your excellent post on Voice written May 10th of this year, I bow at your feet.


Schmooze Recap: Part 2

Here is a small sampling of the suggestions that came up during this night's impassioned discussion.

VOICE IS . . .

. . . authority. Letting the reader feel--through specificity of word choice and details used--that they are in good hands. That you, the Author, have Authorial Control.

. . . performance. Imagine your readers eating popcorn as your story unfolds.

. . . to writers what "Style" is to photographers: the subject matter you choose to show, plus "how" you show it. In photography, "'how" means camera/equipment settings. In writing, this means favorite writing techniques.

. . . soul.

. . . a figment of the Reader's imagination. It's what readers always SAY they like when--for any reason--they like what you've written.

. . . tone. (Which sparked a discussion on Mood as well, and whether these differ.)

. . . what makes your work unmistakably, recognizably yours, even when your name isn't given. (Examples abounded. David Mamet came up a couple times!)

. . . possession. That thing--the mysterious Muse--that takes us over as we write, for which we are merely the conduit.

. . . difficult to distinguish from masturbation--meaning: once you've found your Voice, how do you know when enough is enough? (From here we segued to the "Moderation" section of Nathan Bransford's excellent blog post on "How To Craft A Great Voice," which was an article we reference many times that night. Speaking of which, Rita also shared this comment Nathan Bransford wrote in the Comments section to that post: "I think voice is there when it's adjustable. Can you dial up or down certain elements? . . . [I]s it enough of an entity that you can think of it apart from the elements it's describing?")

. . . the Holy Grail.

. . . trending towards the sarcastic and snarky these days.

. . . determined by your audience. (For example, do you write for just one person? How well do you know your audience?)

On this, Rita also shared M.T. Anderson's fascinating suggestion--from Lee's exclusive interview on Lee's blog this summer: M.T. Anderson said that he imagines voice going TOWARDS the reader in MG, but coming FROM the narrator in YA and adult.

. . . when an editor or agent says, "I want your book!"

Throughout the evening, the group also discussed

the Voice of the author vs. that of characters,

whether authors each have one "true" Voice or whether each of one's works possesses its own. (One nice analogy was made to actors: some actors are highly visible and dependable in what they deliver, and some disappear completely into each new character they play.)

the helpfulness of "tone" and/or "mood" in defining Voice (is there a

the distinction between Literary Writing and Commercial, and so much more.

Mary Kole's blog was also brought up as an excellent resource for us all, in addition to Nathan Bransford's mentioned above.

We ended the evening by sharing some thought-provoking exercises to take home.

We also tried THIS fun exercise during the last minutes of Schmooze itself--
which you can do now, too!

Every Schmooze attendee spent two minutes writing down their own opening line to "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." (The moment when Goldilocks is at the bear's door.)

As the final moments of the Schmooze ticked down, volunteers raised their hand to share their opening lines, and we all marveled at the truly spectacular, different Voices that came shining through--and at the wildly different tellings of "Goldilocks" that each next Voice promised!

Have your own insights on Voice to share, or your own first line to "Goldilocks and the Three Bears?" Please post them in the comments; we'd love to hear from you!

your Schmooze co-Captains

Rita Crayon Huang and Lee Wind


Please join us at our NEXT Westside Writers Schmooze on Wednesday, November 10th
at 7 PM, when we meet to learn more about

Library, School and Bookstore Author Visits with Ann Wagner, Elisabeth Abarbanel and Sharon Hearn.

Most authors don't make their full income from book sales alone. Many see author visits (to libraries, schools and bookstores) as a critical part of their career.

So whether you're already published or just planning for the road ahead, come hear our expert panel discuss "What makes a good author visit" and "how do you, as an author, get that opportunity?"

Our expert panel: Ann Wagner is a Youth Services Librarian at the main branch of the Santa Monica Public Library. Elisabeth Abarbanel is a middle and upper school librarian at Brentwood School, an Independent School in Los Angeles. And Sharon Hearn is the owner of Children's Book World, an independent children's book store in West Los Angeles.

Hear what works (and what doesn't), find out what they're looking for and learn how to set yourself up for success. For Picture Book through Young Adult, fiction and non-fiction.

Hope to see you there!