Category: SCBWI


Thanks to everyone who’s joined Readers Aloud.
After two weeks, we’re 60 readers strong and counting!

I *just* drew the winner of the 3-Chapter Readers Aloud giveaway, via random.org. Without further ado, the winner is…

S. Kyle Davis!

The prize: I’ll read 3 chapters of Kyle’s work-in-progress and send him an audio file. This way, he can listen to his work and find the spots that may need more attention. Many agents and editors highly recommend incorporating this step into the revision process. (Here’s an article on why this technique works.)

So, what does Kyle think about his win? I’m such a nerd for giveaways, I had to ask him:

I think that Readers Aloud is awesome! I’ve already done my first reading, and I’m excited to do more. It’s easy and a lot of fun. I am so excited that I won the contest, and I’m looking forward to hearing the results. I’m very curious to hear how my book sounds during a cold read, and think this will be a huge help during my writing and revisions. Thanks Margo!

Yay, Kyle! I look forward to reading those chapters.


Could you use a fresh perspective on your WIP?

Visit Readers Aloud, a free and open exchange on Facebook designed to help revising writers. Our willing readers can help you take your manuscript to a whole new level – and you can do the same for someone else.

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I can’t stop smiling right now. So many of my favorite things came together yesterday: the writing community, the revising craft, helping others, and one simple exchange at the speed of social networking. And in the end, I have something to show for it. It’s just a seed right now, but soon a community of writers and non-writers will grow to help each other better craft the written word. Introducing:

Readers Aloud

Readers Aloud is an open exchange project, pairing willing voices with revising writers or others who need read-aloud versions of written work.

Writers, join the group to take your manuscript to a whole new level – HEAR your latest revision from a reader’s voice. More than you ever could before, you’ll pick up on subtle, nuanced changes you should make.

How Readers Aloud makes it happen:

1. Those who want something read aloud leave a post on the wall describing their project (genre, word count, etc).
2. Volunteers comment on the projects they’d like to lend their voice to. Every little bit helps – even just a chapter. More commenters can chip in, crowdsource-style.
3. Writers and volunteers decide amongst themselves how to exchange text and audio files.
4. Give what you get! If you get help with your read-aloud project, help someone else with theirs – anything from a chapter to a whole book.
(Non-writers can post projects, too!)

I’m excited to help my fellow writers – starting with the group’s co-founder, author Kat Yeh. Kat’s work-in-progress will be the FIRST Readers Aloud project. After all, it helped inspire the group (see the story below)!

Enter our Charter Member Contest!

Join Readers Aloud (for free, of course!) and leave a comment below. For every comment from a new member, I’ll read aloud & record 250 words of Kat’s book. So challenge me – if 200 new members leave comments, I’ll read the whole thing!

Writers, get a chance to win!

Writers with a work in progress: tell me in your comment. We want to help! If you’re our randomly selected commenter, we’ll read aloud and record three chapters of any WIP to give your revision a boost.

To qualify, join the group and leave your comment by 11:59 CST on Monday, July 9. The winner will be announced July 11.

And do your writing community a solid – send your writing buds to http://bit.ly/ReadersAloud. Building our numbers will make it easier for all of us to get read-aloud help!

So… where’d this group come from?

My author friend Kat Yeh asked a question of her Facebook friends last night:

Does anyone else read their manuscript aloud during revision?

Kat wanted to know if she was the only one talking to herself. Of COURSE not! (Gosh, you’re silly!), the internet said. Harold Underdown, legendary editorial consultant and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books, commented,

“It’s a technique I recommend. Even better is to have someone read it to you.”

Many other writers echoed this, in the 37 comments Kat’s thread collected. At one point, she lamented that her manuscript was probably too much for one reader to take on – 53,335 words. So, my unthinking brain (it does that sometimes) typed “Crowdsource it!” in the comment box. But then I thought, Yeah – I could read her a chapter and record it. That’s easy! 10, 15 minutes tops. So in another comment, I offered to read a chapter. And then the two of us got to talking about the idea of an exchange… And that’s how Readers Aloud was born.

Become a charter member and read aloud with us. Add your ideas or general comments about the group below. Our brains are storming with thoughts on helping non-profits, starting a monthly best-of podcast, approaching acting schools and sketch troupes… The read-aloud sky is endlessly blue, and we welcome your thoughts!

About an eon ago, my friend, young-adult author James Kennedy, “took over” my blog – I hosted a giveaway when his book The Order of Odd-Fish came out in paperback. Oh what fun that was, since James was also gearing up for his “Dome of Doom” fan art show and battle-dance party in Chicago – in which yours truly competed and valiantly… uh, lost… in the first round. But anyway.

James is up to some serious fun again. This time, he’s asking folks to retell Newbery-winning stories…  In video, in 90 SECONDS.

[Cough] Oh my. The prospect starts my little heart racing, it does. The contest has gotten lots of kids, classrooms, and families inspired, too. James and co-curator Betsy Bird (she of School Library Journal’s Fuse8!) have collected dozens of entries from miles around. With submissions from Canada and New Zealand, this thing has gone international AND intercontinental.

(Where it all began: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, starring James’s niece Freya. She’ll also star in the book trailer for my young adult novel Thirty Decibels.)

Check out this entry, told entirely in shadow-puppets!

Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

OH! Here’s one that had me laughing. I mean, c’mon, it’s a musical!:

The 21 Balloons by William Péne du Bois

Mark your calendars for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival:

New York:  Saturday, November 5, 2011, 3-5 pm
The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the New York Public Library main branch (Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, New York, NY. 917.275.6975.)
Co-hosted by James Kennedy and Jon Scieszka, with appearances by Rebecca Stead and Ayun Halliday!

Chicago: Wednesday, November 16, 2011, 6-8 pm
The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the Harold Washington Public Library in Chicago (400 South State Street)

Even better: you can be a part of it. That’s right, James is taking entries until October 17th!

Here’s James’s take on the whole thing:

Teachers, here’s a fun project that will get your students reading Newbery winners.
Students, here’s an excuse to mess around with video equipment.
Librarians, here’s an activity to do with your teen advisory boards.
Anyone can enter. Everyone wins!

I love it! For full rules, head over to the official contest announcement. And get crackin’ on your entry!

If I could describe SCBWI’s (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’) annual international conference in one word, I’d call it:

infreakingtense.

But what can you expect from a group, 20,000+-strong, as they cap off their 40th year?

This was my first SCBWI-LA conference, and I only wish I’d stocked up on sleep beforehand. I was in for some serious inspiration.

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Arriving late on the night before the festivities, I was wired enough that of course I didn’t get a proper night’s rest. Of course!

The first day began with a wonderfully honest and engaging run-down of writing advice from Bruce Coville. His first tip? Marry rich.

I took to heart another piece of Bruce’s advice: “Scare yourself.” Take on projects that rattle your nerves. You’ll grow immensely. He followed that up with “Stop scaring yourself” – meaning, don’t talk yourself out of taking action. I believe every writer struggles with this at one point or another. This sort of self-sabotage paralyzes everyone who’s ever wanted to write… but just hasn’t yet. A story’s in there. Just put it down. And “Don’t be afraid to show your heart,” as Bruce put it. “Don’t be sentimental, just honest.”

The conference was full of honest voices, including authors Laurie Halse Anderson, Judy Blume, Libba Bray, Donna Jo Napoli, David Small, Gary Paulsen, and Nova Ren Suma, agents Marcia Wernick, Barry Goldblatt, Tina Wexler, Michael Bourret, and Tracey Adams, publishers Julie Strauss-Gabel, Alessandra Balzer, Jennifer Hunt, Allyn Johnston, Debra Dorfman, and Beverly Horowitz, plus the SCBWI’s own exec director Lin Oliver and its president Stephen Mooser.

More than one of my favorite authors shared that they’d started writing to escape a sour marriage. Writing had given other authors refuge from personal demons. For one, writing became therapy in lieu of mental health coverage. Author David Small, whose vocal cords and ability to speak had been severed for 10 years following a neck surgery, rather appropriately quoted Vargas in his rousing talk: “Life is a shitstorm. And when it begins to rain, the only umbrella we have is art.”

If you want to write, trust me (and everyone who’s done it before): The story won’t be good right away. If you don’t believe me, take it from Judy Blume, whose book Summer Sisters didn’t truly emerge until her 23rd draft. Twenty-three drafts. So just put the words down, to start. Writing’s a little like recovering from alcoholism. Take it one step at a time, and through some steady work, you’ll get stronger. You’ll show your best self. (Yes, I take liberties with metaphor.)

Here’s my favorite part of attending SCBWI-LA: Wherever I looked, I knew I’d find someone just like me, toiling away on that thing they love. That story they have to tell. If they’d made the trip to SCBWI-LA like me, that means they’re just as serious about telling it. And I find so much hope in that. Don’t you?

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