Tuesday, February 25, 2020

2020 June Conference

We're sorry to announce that we canceled our June 13, 2020 Children's Writers of the Hudson Valley Conference due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

We are following recommendations encouraged by the state and federal government to cancel our event to discourage the spread of the virus. 

Please keep checking this website for updates and sign up for our newsletter for announcements on future conferences.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

2019 November Self-Editing Workshop

Our fall event was a self-editing workshop focusing on query pitches ran by Katherine Jacobs, a Senior Editor at Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group at St. James Church in the Mid-Hudson Valley. Katherine was engaging, informative and a pleasure to spend the afternoon with.

The first free writing exercise was to describe your work in progress and then using that writing sample, find words or phrases that get to the core of your story. We discussed what is the most important thing your reader needs to know about your story on the first page followed by another writing exercise.

We examined the first page of two published works and discussed the important information that we learned from them. Katherine then explained the written pitches for those two published works, one for a picture book and one for a novel.

Katherine Jacobs
Using information from our prior writing exercises, we worked on our own pitches.

There was a discussion on competitive titles and agents. Everyone left with a handout with more advice for their work in progress. 

We look forward to seeing Katherine again!          

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"Thanks again for organizing the workshop on Saturday. I found it SO HELPFUL! I am really excited about revising my picture book manuscript now." Caroline Nastro, 2019 attendee

Sunday, March 17, 2019

2019 June Conference

We were honored to have Alvina Ling, Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers as our opening keynote speaker. She spoke on her publishing journey and the importance of goal setting. Five steps for attaining your goals: do your research, outline a step by step plan, work hard and preserve, network like crazy and believe and hope in your goal and abilities. As Abe Lincoln said, “A goal properly set is hallway reached.” I love that!

Her workshop session reviewed the basics of novel structure: voice, character and plot. Voice: Who is the main character? Points of view: multiple or single. Tense, past or present. Prose or verse. Ways of making your character’s voice distinct was discussed. Character: learn about our character through physical descriptions,
action, self-discovery and dialogue. Plots: the seven basic plots and three simple plots were explored.

Eve Adler, Senior Editor at Sterling Children’s Books, picture book workshop talked about how to hook your readers with the right voice. Unfortunately, I was not in this workshop. If I find someone who can share their notes, I’ll add to this post.

Kate Brzozowski, Editor at Feiwel & Friends and Swoon Reads, discussed your writing voice in novels. Your writing voice is influenced by your tone, your diction, sentence length and access into the character’s head.

Emma Sector, Literary Agent at Prospect Agency, discussed the difference kinds of chapter books. Some are like graphic novels in the structure and art style, some are episodic with three or four different stories using the same main character and others are one storyline. Usual word count is 10,000 to 12,000 words with ten chapters. For a series potential, you need different secondary characters with a structure that can be repeated. Think Magic Tree House.

Our closing speaker was David Neilsen, storyteller and author of creepy, funny middle grades. He described ways to build the mood so the reader can be scared, why the reader has to identify with the character, and why children want to be scared. He discussed some dos and don’ts when writing to scare young readers. He closed his session by entertaining us with a reading.

We want to thank all of our attendees, without their support our conferences would not be a success! Thanks to our fabulous speakers: Alvina Ling 
(@planetalvina on twitter and @alvinaling on Instagram), Eve Adler, Kate Brzozowski, Emma Sector, and David Neilsen. A special thanks to Merritt Bookstore for all their heavy lifting to provide us with a bookstore, Panera for delivering our delicious lunches and finally, to our dedicated CWHV committee members.

For my live tweets during the conference, search #CWHV.

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"Thank you for another excellent writing conference in a welcome setting, with delicious food and lots of drinks.These conferences keep me focused on plugging along to my writing goals, and spur me on to work more diligently. And I always leave with new ideas to improve my writing." Catherine Cwiakala, 2019 attendee

Kate Brzozowski
Alvina Ling

Eve Adler
Emma Sector

David Neilsen

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

2018 October Boosting Creativity Workshop

We were delighted to have Sara Sargent, Executive Editor at HarperCollins lead her workshop, Sparking Creativity, at our 2018 Children’s Writers of the Hudson Valley fall event. She was enthusiastic and fostered a fun learning environment. Below is a sampling of some of the topics that we discussed.

Before you start writing, think about what you are writing, why are you writing it, who is it for and what is your goal. We talked about why writers get stuck and how identifying what makes us stuck is the answer to solving it. If you are feeling mired in your writing progress below are some ways to stimulate your writing muscles.

Some external ways to boost your creativity include changing your environment, create a vision board of the story you want to write, help someone else with their project and get your brain off your problems to name a few.

Internal ways to spark creativity include journaling or seeing a therapist to awaken that inner child or stir that pot! These were only two of the multiple suggestions. I picked my favorites.

Sara discussed elements for a good beginning: sense of intrigue, strong sense of place, compelling voice, good writing, compelling character and one good device.

Other topics discussed were how to fix your beginning, errors on the first page, tangible and emotion objects of the story and writing exercises to encourage creativity.

I left with three pages of handwritten notes and a three-page handout from Sara that also included additional writing exercises.

Thank you, Sara, for spending your Saturday afternoon with us. We received numerous compliments and look forward to having you as an encore presenter in the near future.

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"Thank you for hosting such a terrific workshop today at the Hampton's Inn Suites. Sara Sargent must come back again, for Part Two! Her presentation was so worthwhile." Mary Whetstone, 2018 attendee

"Thank you for a wonderful workshop. It is so nice to come to a workshop that delivers.  Yours did over the weekend.  Sara's insights are quite helpful." Patrick Watson, 2018 attendee

 "Just wanted to say thank you for all your effect and generosity in putting together a wonderful writing workshop session on Saturday." Roseann Crescimanno, 2018 attendee

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

2018 June Conference

June 9, 2018, the Children’s Writers of the Hudson Valley celebrated its 6th annual writer’s conference with old and new writing friends at the Hampton Inn  Suites in the Hudson Valley. 
Photo by Doug Dundas

Our Keynote speaker was Jennifer Donnelly, a New York Times Bestselling author, who spoke of her writer’s journey. It was inspirational to hear how long and how hard she worked on her first novel (over 10 years!). There’s hope for all of us! 

She also hosted a workshop on writing historical novels and discussed how her research led to traveling as she wrote her first novel, A NORTHERN LIGHT, winner of the Carnegie Medal, the LA Times Book Prize, a Printz Honor, and named “One of the 100 Best Young Adult Book  of all Time” by TIME Magazine. 

Lesa Cline-Ransome
Lesa Cline-Ransome, an award-winning  author, led a workshop on character exploration through observation, research and memory in non-fiction picture books. If you want your story to be authentic, research is crucial. A bonus to researching your facts is that it can stimulate your creative juices and lead to other ideas. The writing exercises were to write a story a 6-word story and write a first line based on a photo that she displayed. 

We broke for a delicious Panera's lunch, networking and bookstore. 

In the afternoon, Meredith Mundy, Executive Editor  

Meredith Mundy
at Abrams Appleseed, discussed the importance of the first line in your picture books. Your first line should leave the reader wondering what happened or why? The writing exercise was to take the first line from your manuscripts and rewrite them using the tips we learned in the workshop.         

Bess Cozby
Bess Cozby, Editor at Tor/Forge Books, led a workshop on world building in fantasy, science fiction and dystopian novels. She discussed the power of perspective and how characters are shaped by their reactions to time, place and the choices that they make. The writing exercise involved putting your characters in difference environments and how character choices were related to past or present experiences.    

Gary Giolo and Susanna Reich
Our closing speakers were Susanna Reich, an award-winning author, and Gary Giolo, a New York Times Bestselling author on writing biographies for children and young teens. They discussed primary and secondary sources for research, different methods of research and not leaving the writing behind. They closed out the session with music and song.

Additional manuscript critiques were done by Sarah LaPolla and Barbara Paulding.

Check out #CWHV for my tweets during the conference.

A special thanks to our faculty, Bess Cozby, Jennifer Donnelly, Gary Golio, Sarah LaPolla, Meredith Mundy, Barbara Paulding, Lesa Cline-Ransome, Susanna Reich; our book seller, Merritt Bookstore; the CWHV team and Kara Cerilli, an attendee who showed up with her camera and took pictures.

Our conference would not exist without the continued support from our hardworking attendees. The CWHV team thanks and appreciates you.

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“Thank you for organizing such a great, intimate conference. Please keep me on your email list. I would definitely attend future events. I was thrilled to meet Jennifer as I’ve been a fan of hers ever since I read Northern Lights.” Debbie St. Thomas, 2018 attendee.

Barbara Paulding
Sarah LaPolla

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

2017 June Conference

Our 5th annual June CWHV conference was an inspiring success! As always, our attendees were hard working and attacked every exercise with passion and due diligence. Our presenters were well-informed, personable and entertaining.

John Cusick, agent at Folio Jr./Folio Literary Management, schooled us with helpful tips on time management, creating a work space, how to persevere in our writer’s journey, the value of critique groups and what qualities they should have and how the “Love of your life” can mess you up! My favorite line: “Give your inner voice a name.” He explained why.

Sarah Jane Abbott and John Cusick
Sarah Jane Abbott, assistant editor for Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books at Simon & Schuster (Riveted), talked about what contributes to a picture book’s read aloud quality, audience participation, creating a plot arc, your story’s heart and meta books. She discussed character qualities and how to achieve them through writing devices (my favorite part!).

The writing exercises were graphing your plot arc, editing a picture book manuscript using the tools and techniques discussed earlier and giving your character a quality and showing it through writing devices.

Lunch with Brett Duquette
Brett Duquette, senior editor at Sterling Publishing, reviewed the plot arc elements for a novel, why more choices or complications are better for your characters, different ways to start a novel, and when to use a prologue. Favorite line: “Write to kill your characters; edit to save them.”

The hands-on exercise involved writing out a plot arc for your novel or WIP (work in progress).

Harold Underdown
Harold Underdown, independent editor, publishing consultant and founder of the well-respected Purple Crayon website, discussed reader’s response and revision tools. What is the goal of your text? Attendees received a handout listing helpful revision resources, questions to ask yourself about your characters and picture book and novel revision grids. My favorite line actually happened during our First 100 Words Panel: “The way we are reading these is like a parlor game for your amusement. We don’t really do it this way.”

The attendee participation was pairing up with someone who was not familiar with your story and reading your first page. What was the other person’s reader response? 

We closed out the afternoon with our First 100 Words Panel. John, Sarah, Brett and Harold read the first 100 words of randomly selected attendee first pages. Their first impression comments were insightful and helpful to all our attendees.

I tweeted writing tips and advice during the conference. Enter #cwhv in the search bar or go to my feed @val_marchini and scroll down.

We are indebted to our faculty and attendee writers who made our conference a wonderful event. Thank you John Cusick, Sarah Jane Abbott, Brett Duquette, Harold Underdown, attendee writers, Merritt Bookstore and the CWHV committee for your time, participation and investment in our conference!

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“As usual, it [the conference] was fabulous. I really appreciate the work you all put in to make this a stellar event! I especially loved the sessions by John Cusick and Brett Duquette.” Heather Versace, 2017 attendee

“I loved the 100-word critique session. Even though mine was not read, I found that session to be extremely educational. Lots of “lightbulb” moments.” . . . “Great speakers, venue, food, etc.” Judy Cooper, 2017 attendee

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

2016 October Robust Revisions Workshop

Our October event led by Emma Dryden, former Vice President and Publisher of Atheneum Books for Young Readers and Margaret K. McElderry Books, was an afternoon packed full of revision tips and techniques. 

From using highlighters to track your character’s wants or backstory to changing the font or size of type to trick yourself into seeing something differently to boiling down your synopsis from 10 pages to one sentence are a few examples of Emma’s revision tips.

She discussed creating a character purpose list. Every character in your story needs a reason to be there. If too many characters only serve one function, combine some of them together.

Comb through your manuscript looking for repeated words or phrases — change or delete them, remove stage directions, look for several adjectives in a row and pick the best one or replace them with more efficient prose. Check the last line in every scene, does it make the reader want to keep reading?

These are only a handful of Emma's revision techniques, I can't possibly list them all. I left with four pages of notes and a stack of handouts (40 pages!). Emma was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, personable and generous.

Thank you, Emma, for making our fall event successful and enjoyable, too!

Visit Emma's blog, Our stories, Ourselves, and her website www.drydenbks.com

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Emma Dryden