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, 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.

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, 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.” Karen 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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Saturday, March 12, 2016

2016 June Conference

Our June 2016 CWHV Conference, held at the Hampton Inn & Suites, was a wonderful success with knowledgeable and friendly presenters and a full house of excited writers.

Sylvie Frank, Editor, Paula Wiseman Books, started the morning with our first picture book session.  Attendees learned about “cubing.” Describe the topic, compare it, associate it, analyze it, apply it, and argue for or against it. The writing exercise involved using “cubing.” Remember your stories need conflict and tension, for example, in LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD, the mother says, “Don’t stray from the path,” that line gives the story tension.

Kelsey Horton, Assistant Editor, HarperCollins Publishers, ran a novel session. The opening topic was how a book makes you feel emotionally, using a sports reference, we have: pregame, start of the game, close game, bottom of the ninth, win or lose. The reader is on an emotional roller coaster. The structure of a novel starts with stasis, then the trigger, the quest with obstacles, a surprise, a critical choice, the climax, reversal and closure. The writing exercise was writing an elevator pitch.

After a delicious Panera’s lunch, we had free time to network with conference friends and faculty and visit the bookstore, courtesy of Merritt Books.

Emma Ledbetter, Editor, Atheneum Books for Young Readers led the second picture book session. She used I DON’T LIKE KOALA by Sean Ferrell to explain pacing a picture book and the placement of art and text. Paper, tape and scissors were passed out and attendees made a book dummy using their own manuscripts.

Matt Ringler, Senior Editor, Scholastic, hosted the afternoon novel session on character development. One exercise involved making a postcard bio. List name, occupation, birthplace, job title or position, wants, likes, challenges, obstacles, and a defining moment for your character. After creating two different characters, the writing exercise was to put them in the same scene.  Stand out line: A memorable character is there when you need him, right time, right place.

Our closing speaker was Gail Carson Levine, a novelist and a Newbery Honor award winner. Gail describes herself as a “pantzer.” She keeps files of ideas, notes and cut material from manuscripts; doesn’t use outlines and uses fairy tales to help her write. She prefers to end her chapters with her characters reacting to the cliff hanger. For character development, she starts with an idea of what kind of character could (blank) or couldn’t (blank) to further her plot.

Our good news: Tracy Marchini, a freelance editor, co-founder of CWHV, a former committee member and critiquer for our June conferences has recently signed with BookEnds Literary Agency http://bookendsliterary.com/ as a literary agent. Tracy is passionate about books, publishing and has already signed her first client! Congrats! She is actively seeking submissions.

Thanks to our presenters, Merritt Books, Panera, the CWHV committee and our enthusiastic attendees for another successful conference.

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"This was my first year at the conference, and I LOVED it! I think both the picture book sessions were helpful, well-organized, and inspiring. Both editors were knowledgeable, approachable, and energetic. Loved them!" Jamie Rabideau, 2016 attendee.


"Excellent novel workshops with both editors in the Hudson Room. The writing exercises in those workshops helped uncork some writing energy in me that has been seriously lagging lately.

Fantastic, real-writer-process talk by Gail Carson Levine. Loved her energy and her honest struggles with what it takes to get a novel into publishable shape, which we can all relate to, of course." Alison Formento, 2016 attendee. 



Kelsey Horton




Matt Ringler

Emma Ledbetter

Gail Carson Levine
Sylvie Frank


Friday, August 14, 2015

2015 October Inspiration for Writers Workshop


Attendees shared an afternoon with the affable Kendra Levin, a Senior Editor at Viking Books and a certified life coach for writers and artists (kendralevin.com). She opened the afternoon by discussing writing with intention and connecting with the ideal reader. To boil it down, successful authors "create for an audience of one" (Kurt Vonnegut). The exercise involved thinking of a character, being specific in the details and writing something for that character.

Attendees learned what their monster was that kept them from reaching their writing goals and also, what their character wanted to tell them after a meditation exercise.

Kendra finished the workshop with a discussion on goals. The final exercise was a schematic drawing depicting how to achieve your writing goals and record your progress. 

Thank you, Kendra, and our attendees for a wonderful afternoon!

"Thank you for all your hard work in pulling yesterday’s event together. It was inspiring having an afternoon to discuss the process and learn about better ways to work. Thank you. Your time was well appreciated." Frances Hollowell Ryan, 2015 attendee.

"I enjoyed the workshop with Kendra last Saturday--not only her, but the input from the participants, and the way the workshop was organized. Nice job to all who made it happen." Rachel, 2015 attendee.

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Kendra Levin discussing goals
Schematic drawing for goals



Tuesday, March 3, 2015

2015 June Conference

We were delighted to have Kendra Levin, Senior Editor at Viking Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House; Emily Feinberg, Associate Editor at Roaring Brook Press; and Stacy Whitman, Publisher of Tu, an imprint of Lee and Low Books at our June 2015 CWHV conference. 

Kendra kicked off her novel writing workshops with a three-page handout. Several exercises explored character development and getting to know your character by sharing a secret or receiving a gift. When building your character you are "building layers or unpeeling layers." Some exercises involved writing in a different perspective and stepping outside your comfort zone by writing in a different genre or POV; another exercise was to identify your main character. 

"The key to successful picture book writing is to learn to think visually," said Emily Feinberg, leader of the picture book workshops. One exercise involved working with shapes to help the writers think visually and to understand the importance of scene changes and page turns. Another exercise was to rewrite the first scene from your work-in-progress using a different perspective. In addition to other writing exercises, pagination, page turns and the acquisition process was discussed.

Stacy Whitman closed our conference with her presentation on multiculturalism. "There are much more children of color in the United States than there aren't and those children deserve to see themselves in books." Stacy explained the importance of doing research; when the story isn’t accurate, it pulls the reader out of the story. She advocated using experts to review your manuscript to help ensure its accuracy and authenticity and having strong characters who "push on the plot more than it pushes on them." Check out stacylwhitman.com, if you are considering writing cross-culturally.

Manuscripts were critiqued by Tracy Marchini off site. Attendees received a written critique from Tracy upon check-in and had the opportunity to speak with her during free time.

We bid farewell to Tracy as a CWHV co-founder and committee member. She will continue to function as a critiquer for future CWHV conferences. We wish Tracy well in her future writing endeavors and will miss her insights, her enthusiasm and her ideas. Thank you, Tracy, for all your hard work and time that you invested in the newsletters and other tasks. Go forth and be brilliant!

Finally, conferences are a great way to network, reunite with old writer friends and exchange information. A writer informed me of a local fiction writing group where you can share and get feedback on your manuscript. Meetings are on selected Tuesday nights at Barnes & Noble in Poughkeepsie. http://www.meetup.com/Hudson-Valley-Fiction-Writers-Workshop/

Thank you Emily Feinberg, Kendra Levin, Tracy MarchiniStacy Whitman, the CWHV team, Merritt Bookstore  and our hard working attendees for another successful event!
  
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Kendra Levin and Stacy Whitman
Emily  Feinberg

Tracy Marchini discussing a critique





Monday, September 22, 2014

2014 November First Impressions Event

Our First Impressions Event was a wonderful success! Susan Kochan, Associate Editorial Director of Putnam Children's at Penguin Group USA and Jennie Dunham of the Dunham Literary, Inc. gave their first impression on our attendees first manuscript page or query letter on Saturday, November 15, 2014.  

Besides learning what to do and what not to do on your first page or query letter, attendees enjoyed fellowship by reuniting with past writer friends or conference colleagues over light refreshments.

Special submission information has been emailed to all conference attendees. Please follow the instructions regarding marking your envelope and note the submission deadline.

 "The First Impressions Event was a rousing success. So much helpful information and constructive critiques from Susan & Jennie." Doreen Tango Hampton, 2014 attendee.

Our next event will be June 13, 2015 at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Poughkeepsie. To receive updates about current or future conferences, sign up for our newsletter


Susan Kochan  and Jennie Dunham



Wednesday, February 5, 2014

2014 Conference

The Children's Writers of the Hudson Valley held their second annual writer's conference at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Poughkeepsie on June 14, 2014. 

Jill Davis, Executive Editor, Katherine Tegen Books led the picture book workshop. She said get to know your character: who are they, where do they come from, where do they live, etc. She reviewed the picture book basics: the physical structure of a picture book, voice, rhythm, language, tone, page turns, universal experience and emotion. She also spoke on point of view, the rule of threes and playing with concepts and character.

The writing exercise involved mining your childhood memories to recall memories and objects and using some of those memories to write paragraphs.

Stacey Barney, Senior Editor, Penguin/Putnam Books for Young Readers led the novel writing workshop. Stacey reviewed the mechanics of novel revising: character, plot, setting, conflict, dialogue, voice, point of view, genre, writing style and mood. Each of the above topics were discussed and broken down further.

The writing exercise was to work in pairs and write a first page using the elements above and expand that to five pages.

Our closing speaker was Alan Katz who entertained us as only Alan Katz could. He sang several songs, shared some of his childhood experiences and his family history. Specifically, how he was told at every turn, "no one needs funny." His advice was to play with words, have fun with them, be all you can be, meet everyone you can and put your work everywhere you can. His closing words were anyone can "do funny."

Manuscripts were critiqued by Tracy Marchini off site. Attendees received their written critique when they checked in and had the opportunity to speak with Tracy during the conference.

Thank you Stacey Barney, Jill Davis, Alan Katz, Tracy Marchini, the CWHV team, Merritt Bookstore, Panera for delivering our lunches and our hard working attendees for another successful event.

 "Thank you for an excellent Children's Writers Conference. I found it both enjoyable and enlightening with lots of good ideas. My editor review by Tracy was also quite helpful and [an] incentive to keep writing." Catherine Cwiakala, 2014 attendee.

"Thank you for encouraging me to attend the young adult novel workshop with editor Stacey Barney. Just weeks before, I had decided to give up writing. I was done, and I didn't want to write anymore. During Stacey's workshop she not only presented the dynamics of writing a young adult novel, she offered how-to instructions. Her Powerpoint presentation was chocked full of writing ingredients from  types of genres, and dialogue to the high school five point plot.

During the workshop, I had the opportunity to discuss my first page with another participant, and actually crafted a query letter based Ms. Barney's guidance. Her workshop sparked my interest in revising my own novel, not just simply revising to revise, but specific revision: remove dialogue tags and quotes, check verb tense, remove overuse of phonetically spelled words. Ms. Barney coached, she guided, instructed, she did not lecture." Angela Hooks, 2014 attendee.



 Q&A with Stacey Barney and Jill  Davis
Tracy Marchini talking to an attendee during lunch

Closing remarks by Alan Katz