This blog is the continuing dialog between two faces of rilla (most of the time!) Rant and rave with us. Leave a comment. Click on the 'nickname' button if you don't have a Google ID already.
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My Pic Of The Day

My Pic Of The Day
San Francisco Cable Car

Saturday, August 25, 2007

30 -- The Night Arthur Levine Came to My Hotel Room

NOTE: This blog is a continuing dialog between the two faces of rilla. The identity crisis is explained (if such a thing is possible) in the first edition. Click here to read: 1 -- Introduction

Rilla: WHAT?
rilla: What…what?
Rilla: What’s with the title …?
rilla: Title...?
rilla: Oh…that…
Rilla: Yes… that…WELL…?
rilla: Will you stop yelling in my ear…you’re giving me a headache.
rilla: OK…it’s a deal.
Rilla: How about if you start… right about… now…
rilla: OK…I was in the illustrators’ portfolio competition show pavilion at the conference…you know the SCBWI Summer Conference and…
Rilla: …and…?
rilla: Will you stop breathing down my neck…it tickles…
Rilla: …and…?
rilla: and Jim…the illustrator…you know Di Bartolo…the one who did those gorgeous illustrations for The Faeries of Dreamdark : Blackbringer…you know…Laini Taylor’s husband…
Rilla: What’s he got to do with this…I don’t want to talk about Laini and Jim…I want to hear about Arthur Levine…
rilla: Why? You have something against Laini and Jim…
rilla: Hey…you promised not to yell if I told the story…
Rilla: I’ll stop yelling IF you tell the story…
rilla: OK…all right…well Jim called me over and introduced me to Arthur A. Levine…you know…the editor of the Harry Potter series…
rilla: Well…he’s also going to be the editor of a new illustrated novel by Laini Taylor and Jim Di Bartolo called Goblin Fruit…
Rilla: sniff…sniff…sob…
rilla: Now what…you’re blubbering? You’re upset Laini and Jim wrote an illustrated novel…
Rilla: You …sniff…are just sniff … a SADIST. I can’t take the suspense anymore. Did Arthur Levine come to your hotel room or not?
rilla: Yes… he did.
Rilla: And…?
rilla: You keep interrupting me…I’m telling the story…I’m the tale-spinner… you’ve got to let me tell the story the way I want to… without interruptions…OK?
Rilla: …
rilla: OK?
Rilla: ….
rilla: Well? Do we have an agreement or not?
Rilla: I don’t want to say anything you’ll construe as an interruption…
rilla: Whatever…where was I …?
Rilla: Jim introduced you to Arthur Levine in the illustrators’ pavilion…
rilla: Yes…Where’s your room, asked Mr. Levine…
Rilla: Oooh…where’s your room? Just like that?
rilla: Fifth floor I said…not far…come along…
Rilla: What?
rilla: So we hopped in the elevator…
Rilla: Bet it was packed…everyone staring at Arthur Levine…
rilla: No…no…just the two of us…
Rilla: Did you tell him about your writing…?
rilla: Well…he asked…what do you write…?
Rilla: And…what did you say…?
rilla: Fantasy… expectant look from Mr. Levine...Yes...?
Rilla: Fantasy…?
rilla: When it was clear nothing more was forthcoming...he asked... What kind of fantasy…?
Rilla: And you said?
rilla: Middle grade and YA...another expectant look...but it wore off quicker than the first... turning into one of disbelief, so I quickly interjected...
Rilla: Yeah…yeah…you interjected... you said something brilliant and hooky about Crystal Coffin with Amy the roller-blading, red-haired flute prodigy, and you talked about your YA fantasy with a flavor of India blended with the dreamscape of Australia and … Kalpa… gutsy… stubborn Kalpa and…
rilla: Ummm …I said … blup blup bluppity bluppity*
Rilla: Blup...blup...Wait a minute... are you telling me you had Arthur Levine ask you to talk about what you were writing and all you could say was blup blup…?
rilla: Ummm… we'd gotten to my room by then...
Rilla: Well at least you gave him what he came for…?
rilla: Said he’d left his at home…
Rilla: Oh…
rilla: So I pulled mine out…and he looked at it…and he said…
Rilla: Yeah… ?
rilla: Nope…
Rilla: Nope…?
rilla: Won’t fit.
Rilla: Won’t fit?
rilla: Not the right shape.
Rilla: Not the right shape?


Rilla: Hey…stop knocking on my head.
rilla: Just trying to get rid of the echo in here…
Rilla: What wouldn’t fit?
rilla: The power cord to my laptop wouldn’t fit his…he forgot his own power cord at home.
Rilla: Oh…oh…didn’t he say anything else?
rilla: Yeah…he said, Sorry for disturbing you…to my illustrator roommate
Rilla: Oh…what’s that you’re working on now…?
rilla: I’m writing a query letter…
Rilla: To Arthur Levine?
rilla: The same…I’ve decided to send him my manuscript…
Rilla: There’s one thing you’d better NOT say in that letter…
rilla: What’s that?
Rilla: Blup blup bluppity bluppity…if you do…he’s sure to say it’s NOT A GOOD FIT!
rilla: Nah… I’m going to let the manuscript do the talking for me.

* This is the mermaid's song in Steve's, of my writing group, amazing Mermaid Tale...and I figured a mermaid's song would work... sorry I borrowed it Steve ...I should have known... the mermaid only sings for you...;(

On a more somber note...there were two bomb explosions in my hometown of Hyderabad, India, today. I want to send my thoughts and condolences to all the families who lost loved ones in the continuing mindless violence that we humans insist on perpetrating on one another...
...taken from the New York Times

Terror Bombings Kill Dozens in South India

Published: August 26, 2007
A pair of synchronized explosions tore through two popular spots in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad on Saturday evening, killing at least 30 people and wounding 60 others in what state officials called a terrorist attack.
The blasts occurred just minutes apart. The first hit an open-air auditorium in a public park during a laser show about the history of Hyderabad, and the second was at a popular restaurant called Gokul Chaat.
No one immediately took responsibility for the attacks; the police gave no information about who might have been to blame.
The bombings were the latest in a series of attacks against economic targets in this country. Hyderabad, with a population of about four million, is one India's
prosperous and fast-growing cities, home to many software and biotechnology companies.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

29 -- The Higher Power of Lucky -- SCBWI Part Four

One of my favorite times of the conference...the last day...when authors and illustrators sit down to sign their books for to you...draw for you...answer your questions...give of themselves...promising that one day you will be where they sit only have to dream...dream big...dream big as Hattie's Sky...there is no other way to go...

Words of wisdom from Kirby Larson:
"Sometimes when life gives you lemons, it shops at Costco," but "I applied a liberal dose of 'bum glue' and wrote through the bad stuff." You have to write through the bad stuff...

From the podim of Lisa Yee:
"Write about what you know AND what you WANT to know."
"Race and nationality should not limit what I write about no more than dictate what I read."
"Our fight should not be about excluding people, but about including them."

Conference goodies from last year...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

28 -- Just When You Thought it Was Safe – SCBWI LA Conference Part THREE

NOTE: This blog is a continuing dialog between the two faces of rilla. The identity crisis is explained (if such a thing is possible) in the first edition. Click here to read: 1 -- Introduction

Susan Patron, 2007 Newbery Award Winner and John Green, Michael Printz Award Winner -- Whoa!

Rilla: Umm…
rilla: What?
rilla: Oh…I’m still floating…
Rilla: …without a concern for my vertigo…typical…it’s all about you…all the time…
rilla: You don’t like floating? OK, I guess we can…
Rilla: NO!
rilla: Now what? I thought you wanted to get back down to earth…
Rilla: Not here, don’t come down right here…
rilla: Why?
Rilla: There’s a puddle underneath us…
rilla: A puddle?
Rilla: Yeah…all that drooling…
rilla: …drooling?
Rilla: The drooling you did over Kadir Nelson…
rilla: OH…oh…oooohhh…OK then, no problem we can just keep floating…not difficult at all…all I have to do stay up here is to read all the incredible blog posts of all the wonderful people I met and heard at the conference… Click here to go to links

John Green: All Writing is Rewriting
Author: Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines

As hilarious and wise as you would expect of John Green:
“I feel like an elephant who’s been asked to talk about how to be an elephant, to a group of elephants.”

“Writing is as much translation as it is creation.”

About boarding school in Alabama:
“It’s exactly like Hogwarts except for brooms we had beer.”

Some exceedingly vague ideas about writing:

“Never settle for catching small facts when there are bigger truths in the pond.”

“The truth does not lie in artifice.”

“The great book does not happen by accident.”

Emma Dryden: An Editor’s Guide to Writing a Novel
VP and Assoc Publisher of Margaret K. McElderry Books and Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Maintain voice, it must be consistent throughout, ring true and keep the reader hanging on.

“Dialog is action.” The character must come out through talk and action as much as possible.

“10 strong scenes are better than 10 strong scenes plus 2 weaker ones…make choices.”

The details must be memorable, poignant and particular.

Characters and setting should be clear and believable.

A felt novel is a successful novel.

Linda Sue Park and Dinah Stevenson: Beyond the Slushpile
LSP: Author: A Single Shard, Project Mulberry, When My Name Was Keoko
DS: VP and Publisher Clarion Books

Linda Sue Park’s words of wisdom: “If you want to write, you have to read, no exceptions.” So what’s in my To Be Read pile: I'm reading Book Thief, next is Holes, and Elsewhere, Twilight, Hattie Big Sky, Clementine, Beka Cooper, A Single Shard, Millicent Min, Sea of Trolls, Flipped, Sold… Thanks Linda.
More wise words:
“Finish the story.”
“Story is how a character changes as a result of the plot.”

When I’m struggling with two different ways I can resolve an issue in my writing, her smooth steady voice comes to mind: “TRY IT.” Try everything and see what works the best. Thanks Linda.
Dinah Stevenson: “Publishing is a process not an event.”

Read more conference experiences -- much more fun and inspiring than mine ;)


Laini Taylor


Colorado Writer

Lisa Schroeder

Tammi Sauer

Kid_Lit Kim

Lisa Yee

Saturday, August 11, 2007

27 -- SCBWI Summer Conference 07 Rocked! Part TWO

Day TWO:

Kadir Nelson: Words and Paintings
Illustrator – Henry’s Freedom Box, Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom

Not too many artists are more beautiful in person than their work is. Kadir Nelson is one of them. And that’s not because his art isn’t…beautiful…it’s magnificent.

Some of Kadir’s wisdom:
“When things make you angry, you have a choice of doing something negative or positive about it.” He chose to do something positive…oh yeah!
“Visualize your own success!”
For all those writers who believe they just have to get ‘there’ and then they’ll be made…they’re first book, their first contract, their first publication…according to Kadir “there’s really no ‘there’. You have to keep on working.” Mmm…
While doing research on a story about a slave who escaped in a box, he went down to look at cotton plantations in the south and found that “cotton is really beautiful if you don’t have to pick it!”
When I look back at my notes on his talk, I see a great big ‘WOW’ in red ink by his name and that sums up my impression of Kadir Nelson quite succinctly.

Dinah Stevenson: Inside Clarion
Vice President and Publisher Clarion Books

Clarion is one of the few publishing houses that is completely open to unsolicited manuscripts in their entirety. Manuscripts she is impressed by usually have the following attributes attached to them – creative, distinguished, destined to become a classic!
She says, “if I don’t respond to the work, not all the presentation and packaging can make me buy it.” Some extravagant packaging was on display – artwork that arrived in a plastic orange fish, in a green high-heeled shoe – the packaging is remembered long after the work has been returned and the sender forgotten – OUCH!

Rubin Pfeffer: A Publisher Examines the State of the Industry
Sr. VP and Publisher Simon & Schuster Children’s Trade Publishing

Revenue from sales of children’s books has been and is projected to increase through 2009, however, number of units peaked in 2006 and is declining.

“A great book,” said Rubin, “is one that sends a kid off to read another book.”
Lifelong readers decrease illiteracy.
He exhorts us as writers to follow David Diaz’s advice: “It’s not enough to be yourself, you have to be your best self.”

Rachel Griffiths: How to Catch an Editor’s Attention
Editor – Scholastic, formerly with Arthur A. Levine, an Imprint of Scholastic

Choose the editor to whom you send your manuscript carefully. Look for a match, for someone with the same sensibility as yours. You need to “work with someone you trust.”
Go to bookstores and find the books most similar to yours and look up who edited them.
Publisher’s Lunch
Publisher’s Marketplace
Publisher’s Weekly which is free on Thursdays.

Tips for the good query letter:
-- Talk about the protagonist in the protagonist’s voice
-- Write the description of the book in the style of the book, similar to flap copy
-- Editors love for you to talk about the books they’ve done in your query letter.

Things she is interested in: “a really rotten villain,” stories rooted in emotion, voice and character driven manuscripts.

Ellen Wittlinger: How Can a 58-Year Old Write Books For Teenagers (And Why Does She Want To?)
Author – Hard Love, Sandpiper, Parrotfish, What’s in a Name

One of her tips on where to listen to teenagers talk – the Registry of Motor Vehicles!

“You must have memories not just in your head but in your heart and in your gut to sound realistic.”

“The heavy inner life” of your protagonist – the basement – is the foundation upon which we build.

On why she writes about gay and transgender issues:
“Once you know someone, your prejudices fall away.”

And then it was time to PARTY by the light of the silvery moon...

The best roomate in the world -- award winning illustrator, Stephanie Roth!

Zariah the belly-dancing illustrator from Hawaii!

My dance-partner for most of the evening...

LJ Bloggers forever!

Blue Malibu, SeaHeidi

So wonderful to meet the people you blog with. So much to little time.

Stephanie Blake -- Colorado Writer -- Winner of the First Annual Disco Mermaid Scholarship!

Laini Taylor still rocks!

Marie Antionette, winner of the contest!

Jay Asher, Disco Mermaid extraordinaire!

SCWBI LA rocks!

Gotta love em Disco Mermaids...oops...where did Robin go?

Oh! There she is, along with the lovely fairy -- Colorado Writer.

Lisa Yee Forever!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

26 -- SCBWI Summer Conference 07 Rocked! Part One

NOTE: This blog is a continuing dialog between the two faces of rilla. The identity crisis is explained (if such a thing is possible) in the first edition. Click here to read: 1 -- Introduction

Rilla: Mmm…
rilla: Yes?
Rilla: Uh…
rilla: Is there something you want to say?
Rilla: Look down.
rilla: Where?
Rilla: Your feet.
rilla: My feet? What’s wrong with my feet?
Rilla: They’re not…exactly…touching the floor…
rilla: Oh…you’re right…I’m floating!
Rilla: So it was good, huh?
rilla: Yes, the Summer Conference in LA of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators…
Rilla: Squibby…
rilla: Squibby, was FABULOUS! It is entirely to blame for the feet off the floor, also known as the walking on air, syndrome I am currently suffering from and for which I hope there is NO cure…and here’s a few reasons why…

In a four part series on the SCBWI Summer Conference 07, I paraphrase and quote the amazing and inspiring speakers I heard.

Lin Oliver opening the conference...

We started out with the faculty traipsing up onto the stage and saying one word they thought important. They were funny, inspiring…, but one raised the bar and set the tone for the rest of the conference…

Susan Patron
Author of The Higher Power of Lucky, winner of the 2007 Newbery Award


Then we went into keynote speeches and breakaway sessions. Here are a few tidbits…

(Inspiring) Walter Dean Myers: A Passion for Detail
Author – Somewhere the Darkness, Scorpions, Jazz

What inspires me to write? I want to create a world – be God!
In order to do this convincingly, you the writer need to “give sufficient detail to allow the reader to recreate your world in their minds. The reader needs to recognize the details as truth.”
You must have a passion for details – search for the right details that will make your reader believe in and care for your characters.

(Awesome) Emma Dryden: Sailing Away from the Safe Harbor: Connecting Young Readers with Books in a Media-Driven Society
VP and Associate Publisher of Margaret K. McElderry (pron. Mack-el-dary) Books and Atheneum (A-then-aum) books for Young Readers – imprints of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division

We read stories to explore, to journey, to relax, to escape fear. “If we don’t explore our world with stories, we will cease.”
“Story matters most. Write what you know, write what you feel, write what you care about.”
“The confirmed sailor goes on tacking forever.”

(Hilarious...OK and anal) Tamora Pierce: Developing Cultures in the Fantasy Novel
Author – The Circle of Magic Quartet, The Song of the Lioness Quartet

On why she writes fantasy – “Well, duh, I like magic!”
“The immature artist imitates – the mature one steals!”
Details make the world you create, yet must avoid drowning the reader in them.
Tip: A great resource for researching historical costumes and customs:
Google – Amazon, Pickling and Dry Goods

(Informative) The Panel: Professional Criticism: How to Receive it and What to Do With It
Arthur A. Levine: VP at Scholastic Inc and Editorial Director of Arthur A. Levine Books, Elizabeth Parisi: Exec. Art Director at Scholastic Books, Mark McVeigh: Editor Alladin Paperbacks, Krista Marino: Editor at Delacorte Press in the Random House Books for Young Readers division.

- Think of the editor as an equal who is trying to help you improve your work.
- It is a partnership, be nice!
- Keep an open mind, critiques are meant to help
- Don’t debate.
- Don’t get defensive
- Ask them questions, pick their brain.
- Be willing to take risks.
A. Levine – “It’s not about obedience, it’s about respect”

LJ Bloggers Unite!
Lisa's Little Corner,KidLit-Kim,Tamarack

The wonderful Laini Taylor and Jim Di Bartolo of Faeries of Dreamdark -- Blackbringer fame that I raved about in my last post. LAINI SOLD A BOOK TO ARTHUR LEVINE AT THE CONFERENCE!!!! Is that amazing or ... what!! Good on ya, Laini and Jim!