I really enjoyed hearing Christian Trimmer speak at a recent SCBWI event at The Loft at Congress. Huge thanks to Christian, Linda Bernfeld, Laurie Taddonio, and Flora Doone for putting together such a wonderful event. And free, too! FL SCBWI rocks, and I’m so lucky to be a part of it.
Christian has been in the business for seven years, and absolutely raves about his authors, such as Mo Willems, Stacey Kade, and Robin Mellom. Right now, he said that Disney Hyperion isn’t actively looking for paranormal or much science fiction. He loves books with rich details that find the truth in relationships, like Ditched by Robin Mellom and Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford.
What do editors want? Christian said a great voice, authenticity, and honest emotions. Research helps make the world more believable. Pay attention to the details! This helps make sure that readers can see the scenes, too and adds a layer of credibility.
In almost all his editorial letters, he mentions character motivation. If you can’t see what drives a character, then neither will readers. When you create a character, you want readers to see themselves in that person. You need to have an emotional arc (which helps readers genuinely care about a character) and a narrative arc.
Here are some tips Christian shared with us:
* Build a network—it’s great for support (he could tell our local SCBWI is an extremely supportive group). Seek help with info if you need it.
* Make yourself stand out. Marketing and publicity love when a writer has an active blog and large online following.
* Seek out agents who rep books from authors you admire.
* If you receive several offers, make sure you chat with an editor on the phone before accepting to make sure he or she is the right one for you.
* You need to be prepared to sell books. You have to talk about your books, and try to get your face out in the community to teachers, librarians, and book sellers.
* Envision your entire career—not just selling one book.
* Set real deadlines and be disciplined enough to make them. Write daily!
* Everyone’s path is different.
* Aim to have a second book published about a year after the first one is out. Write at least one book per year to keep the momentum going.
* It’s good to have a couple manuscripts under your belt when you sign with an agent. You never know which manuscript will hit first.
Someone asked about boy books. Christian said boys don’t read as much as girls do. Humor definitely works, and when you have a boy main character, it can’t hurt to throw in a girl to widen your audience.
Besides a great voice and everything else I mentioned, what else is Christian looking for? He said he’d love to find a religious allegory (bible tales made relevant for today), and something about recent wars in Afghanistan or Irac and how they affected teens.
Christian was full of helpful information, and went out of his way to chat with everyone and answer questions. I hope we’ll have him at another event soon!
When you have a chance, check out my recent From the Mixed-Up Files...of Middle-Grade Authors blog post. There are so many middle-grade novels, it’s hard to know what to read next. If I love a book, I usually rush to pick up future novels from that author. But how do you find great new authors in the first place?
I often seek out books that friends rave about, plus anything that catches my eye on the Mixed-Up Files book lists (you can browse categories like reluctant readers, books for boys, fantasy/paranormal, etc. and if you scroll toward the bottom you’ll see all our past new release posts).
Since we love helping our readers discover great new books, I listed some of my favorite middle-grade novels that came out in the past couple of years by new authors (or authors who are new to this genre). I’d love to know what some of your favorite books are, too!