Monday, September 12, 2022

2022 November Fall Conference

Our November 2022 Fall Conference was a wonderful success. It was a pleasure to see so many familiar faces, and our faculty was welcoming, knowledgeable and their presentations, excellent. We had Frances Gilbert, VP and Editor-in-Chief of Doubleday Books for Young Readers; Rachel Orr, agent at Prospect Agency; and Talia Benamy, editor at Philomel Books.

We opened our conference with fellowship over coffee, cookies and muffins.

Our Keynote was Frances Gilbert. She talked about the rules of writing. The tip is there are no rules in writing. She showed a slide of 9 picture books, four of them were medal winners, and all of those writers did not follow the rules. She talked about some of her editorial preoccupations, including word counts, plot, stories being too formulaic, main character growth or no growth, plus others.

Rachel Orr talked about strong beginnings that will hook the reader, the different categories of beginnings, what makes a bad beginning, and what is the purpose of picture book beginnings. She talked about nontraditional structures and the three categories of endings. Working on our own manuscripts, we used some of the techniques that we learned to improve our beginnings and endings.

Talia Benamy’s workshop was on crafting compelling characters. We reviewed what makes characters seem real, three dimensional and someone you’d like to spend time with. We examined ways to make characters come alive, what are their wants, what do they think they want, mannerisms, habits, etc. Our exercises encouraged us to delve deep into our characters to flush them out.

Our final session was a panel with Frances, Rachel, and Talia. Some questions asked were about the submission process; multiple authors on the same story and how royalties are split; if a client and agent part ways, what happens to future royalties and commissions; how did the editors and agent feel about self-published works; and what happens if an editor leaves in the middle of an acquisitions?

The faculty and attendees enjoyed a Panera’s lunch. Thank you Panera for providing our lunches. We want to thank our faculty, staff, and our dedicated and hardworking attendees, without your support, we wouldn’t exist. 

Frances Gilbert

Talia Benamy

Rachel Orr

Sunday, April 10, 2022


We were thrilled to have Elizabeth Law, Senior Editor and Backlist Specialist at Holiday House run a workshop at our June 2022 CWHV Event on writing your manuscript’s hook. She was humorous, knowledgeable, approachable and a real delight.

Crafting a compelling hook is essential in getting an agent’s or editor’s attention. If your hook doesn’t grab or appeal to them, they will stop reading. When writing your hook, try to put the key words in your title or in the first 25 words of description. Always highlight the conflict or tension.

Several examples of hooks were discussed, along with several formulas for crafting your hook.

1. Book A meets Book B (for example: Mean Girls Meet Parent Trap)

2. My book, (title) has the sexual tension like Twilight but with pirates instead of vampires. (State what is similar and what is different.)

Our hands-on-exercise was working on our hooks, sharing them (optional) and then getting Elizabeth’s feedback.

If you’ve received letters from agents or editors with nice compliments like great writing, great characters, etc., but no acceptance offers, it could mean there was no hook and therefore they didn’t know how to sell it or there was no emotional arc.

Tips on researching, finding comp titles and finding examples of hooks were discussed.

Thank you Elizabeth for a wonderful and fun afternoon! You can find Elizabeth on Twitter @elawreads