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This is my second post about the incredible 2014 SCBWI FL Regional Conference in Miami. There’s so much info to share with all of you, I had to break it into three posts! This one covers almost all of the general session, including an amazing agent panel. I’ll post again on Monday, February 24th with the editor panel plus workshops led by editors Laura Whitaker and Aubrey Poole. Click here to check out my last post about the Novel Intensive led by agent Jen Rofé, editor Stacy Abrams, and author Chris Crutcher.  
Agent panel--Jen Rofé, Deborah Warren, Ammi-Joan Paquette
Moderated by author Dorian Cirrone

Agent Panel

When sending a query, make it clear you're personalizing it to that agent.

Lot of success with author/illustrators, multicultural and historical (especially MG), and contemporary YA.

When asked how many editors she sends a manuscript to at a time and when she considers giving up she said she won't stop until she's exhausted every opportunity.

The fastest she sold a manuscript—3 hours! The longest it took was four years.

Often times, queries go to the bottom of the list because agents are busy with clients.

Wish list: commercial character based picture books. A country song book for YA. Books based on childhood, like a girl who is getting into stuff she isn't supposed to do, but nobody would expect that.

Don't send one query to tons of agents at once, and don't send over holidays. Loves when it's obvious that you've done your homework.

She also loves getting referrals from existing clients.

Specializes in picture books. She’s known for building brands and loves finding new talent!

She loves working with author/illustrators—it's her sweet spot. She’s having trouble with chapter books (they're usually franchises). Realistic fiction is really coming back and she's excited about that.

The client/agent relationship is like a marriage. She’ll never give up on a client—once you're on the team, you're there!

She loves to see good social networking in a client.

Wish list: Author/illustrators, multicultural, books based on childhood, a book about singing, or kids overcoming their obstacles.

She usually takes three to four weeks to respond to queries. For longer requested manuscripts it was two months, but she’s backlogged right now.

She looks for a strong opening in the sample pages and is especially drawn to precise pitches in a query that are snappy and compelling.

Picture books have been huge this past year—they just exploded. The last couple of years, it's been skyrocketing. Science fiction is slower.

When working on promotion, authenticity and what feels natural to you is important. An awkward presence is actually worse than no presence. In the pre-published stage, the focus should be on craft.

Wish list: books that do something really different, a different narrative structure, different POV. Sometimes, if it's challenging to find the right home for it, it's even more rewarding in the end. She loves unusual projects, books based on childhood—travel, unusual vacations, anything to do with food or baking or French food. She loves caves.

Chris Crutcher – Turning Real Life Into Fiction
Chris CrutcherGet out there and tell the best story you can tell (worry about audience/marketing later).

Looks for the juxtaposition of comedy and tragedy.

Crystal Kite award winner Augusta Scattergood and her editor, Andrea Pinkney, for Glory Be.

Augusta Scattergood and Andrea PinkneyShe shared the quote: It's never too late to be what you might have been.

What she first sent Andrea is considered the 'pre first draft'—they worked very hard together on it. In fact, when a kid asked Augusta how she learned how to write, she said her editor taught her.

Sara Pennypacker--Figure out what matters
Sara PennypackerAll authors have something at our core that we're trying to correct by what we're doing—something we're trying to make better. And connection is one of the most important things about books.

Write from the point of view of a character who feels deeply about things.

She loves Clementine—she'd just sit in a dark closet all day and listen to her.

Here’s what I learned during the First Page Critiques:
Kat Brzozowski

Loves when the first line of a book poses a question that the rest of the book will answer.

Try to keep character description off the first page unless shown vs told. If you tell on the first page, it gives the impression that there’s more telling throughout the manuscript.

Start in scene more than action.

Alex Flinn

Less description sometimes helps readers imagine how characters look.

Jen Rofé

Don’t start with an introduction (it isn’t interesting).

Peter Brown: My Curious Career
Peter BrownHe found the quote: "Good artists borrow, great artists steal."

He thought—pursue things that really inspire you and make it your own.

He started thinking about why he loved paintings and saw patterns in the things he loved.

Tiger ends up taking off his clothes right in the center of Mr. Tiger Goes Wild—he joked about having a nude centerfold in a picture book. :)

Lois Duncan: When a Dinosaur Goes to Hollywood

Lois DuncanNever give up. Learn from your mistakes and keep going!

If you can't sell something, put it in a drawer for a year or two and get it back in the market. If you really think it's a good book—keep it!

She wrote Hotel for Dogs and it didn't do that great...then she sold the movie rights about 35 years later. It went into successful movie, so Scholastic republished it.

Never burn your bridges.

The stories are really important. So go forth and write those stories!
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( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 20th, 2014 12:24 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for sharing your notes! Florida does such great SCBWI events.
Feb. 23rd, 2014 06:21 pm (UTC)
You're welcome.:) I feel lucky to live in such an active region! Our RAs actively look for great speakers at the national conferences. I think the FL sunshine in January and the fun atmosphere of a workshop on Disney property over the summer help convince speakers to join us.
Feb. 24th, 2014 12:22 am (UTC)
So true about the draw to FL in Jan!
Feb. 20th, 2014 12:35 am (UTC)
Mindy, Thanks so much for sharing your notes! It's a nice peek into what's happening at conferences when you can't attend. So much information, I'll have to come back and reread from time to time. Hm. Or, hehe, copy . . .
Feb. 23rd, 2014 06:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks
You're welcome! Feel free to copy it into a file so you can look back on it. :)
Donna Shepherd
Feb. 20th, 2014 02:19 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing your notes, Mindy. I appreciate it!
Feb. 23rd, 2014 07:58 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks!
You're welcome, Donna. :)
Feb. 20th, 2014 04:43 am (UTC)
Great tips -- thanks so much for sharing :)
Feb. 23rd, 2014 08:38 pm (UTC)
You're welcome, Robin. :)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


Mindy's head shot
Mindy Alyse Weiss
I write humorous middle-grade novels with heart and quirky picture books.

I'm an Administrator on the SCBWI Blueboard, the FL SCBWI Newsletter Editor and Critique Group Coordinator, and a proud member of From The Mixed Up Files...of Middle-Grade Authors

I've been married for twenty years and have two beautiful daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix pup who was rescued from the Everglades.

I've been published in Highlights three times and placed in the 80th Writer's Digest Competition.


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