Sunday, February 24, 2008

Decision time!

Well, after I heard from Lesley University, I decided it was time to make a choice.  (I still haven't heard from Hamline, but at this point I've decided I don't want to go out to Minnesota in the winter!)  So it comes down, for me, to Lesley and Vermont.  They are both excellent, well-respected programs.  Here are the main differences as I see them:
1.  Vermont is in Montpelier-a quintessential New England town; Lesley is in Cambridge-an amazing city, close to Boston, and surrounded by Harvard and Boston Art Institute.
2.  Vermont's mfa degree is in writing for children and young adults, which means that everyone there would be focused on writing children's books; Lesley has several genres in it's mfa in creative writing program (fiction, screenwriting, poetry, etc) where I could focus on writing for children, but I would be very exposed to other genres.
3.  Vermont uses the well-established program for it's mfa-one that most of the low-residency schools currently use; Lesley also uses a similar program, but add an independent study component on top of it.  
I have decided, based on these three differences, that the best school for me is Vermont College writing for children and young adults.
Now I just have to send them a check!
Please drop me a note if you currently, previously, or some day will, attend Vermont College!

Friday, February 22, 2008

One more editor...

Alessandra Balzer, Hyperion
She doesn't usually accept unsolicited submissions, but for attendees of the conference, she will accept one submission/person until April 10th.  She works with pb through ya.  She's looking for stand-out writing, strong voice, humor, an approach of the familiar in a new way, a clever title/concept. She said pbs should be easily read aloud, funny, able to withstand millions of readings, short with a satisfying story arc.  She said books need a hook; it could be beautiful writing, a commercial concept, or a holiday or school curriculum tie-in.  Be sure to put SCBWI NY on the envelope and keep the cover letter short and sweet.  Her address is:  Alessandra Balzer, Hyperion Books for Children, 114 5th Ave, NY, NY 10011.  Expect a 4-6 week response time.

More information from SCBWI NY conference

I have gathered the information from several attendees of the conference regarding the breakout sessions with editors.  The following is a compilation of that information:

David Gale, VP and Editorial Director Simon & Schuster BFYP
Looking for all genres from pb to ya, although he despises rhyming pbs!  He enjoys a quirky character driven story, and short pb (1-2 lines per page).  He asked that we address submissions to the "Submissions Department" instead of to him directly.

Nancy Siscoe, Associate Publishing Director and Executive Editor, Knopf & Crown
(A division of Random House) She also expressed the desire for shorter pb text.  She takes pb and mg.

Jennifer Hunt, Little Brown Books for Young Readers
12 acquiring editors, Jennifer Hunt's assistant editor, T.S. Ferguson, also acquires material.
She is not looking for pb manuscripts at this time.  Key features in manuscripts are voice, original characters and plot, and craft (well-written).

Molly O'Neill, Assistant Editor, Bowen Press
I have no information on her, except that she is not looking for pb texts now.  She does not accept unsolicited manuscripts, but I think if you put SCBWI-Midwinter Conference on the envelope, she may be required to at least look at it.  I believe that is a condition for them to attend these conferences.

Reka Simonsen, Henry Holt
Spring/Summer are the best times to submit.  Henry Holt tends to be educational, and connect to the classroom curriculum in some way.  They are NOT trendy.

Caitlyn Dlouhy, Atheneum Books
Always accepts unsolicited submissions.  Response time is usually 2-3 months, but could be longer.  Likes character driven plots with a strong voice.

Wendy Loggia, Delacorte
No pb.  All "girly" books.  Yearling Contest for mg opens up for submissions in April.  Does not usually take unsolicited submissions.

Anamika Bhatnager, Sr. Editor, Scholastic
Attendees of conference can submit pb through ya manuscripts until Jan. 2009.  Be sure to check the guidelines

I apologize if there is information missing and invite you to post any additional information you have.  You can find the submission guidelines for each of these publishing houses online,  or in CWIM 2008.  I hope you found this information helpful!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

SCBWI-New York

I spent the weekend in New York City at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators winter conference.  It was enlightening, inspiring, and otherwise exhausting.  I'm a little star struck with meeting such authors as Tomie DePaola, Susan Patron, and Carolyn Mackler.  It was an amazing weekend.  One of the big questions was:  is the picture book dead (or dying)?  The answer was a resounding NO.  But the picture book (particularly the rhyming picture book) is the most difficult to sell.  And it's one of the hardest things to write because every single word must be essential to the story.  The level of the reader must be considered with every word, and the patience of the parent to read the story (usually over and over) must also be considered.  So, the question becomes, why on earth would anyone choose to write a picture book, given all these strikes against it before it's even finished?  I believe the answer is simple.  The writer does not choose the story; the story chooses the writer.  And the writer must write the story that has chosen him.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Always Follow the Directions

I used to tell that to my students all the time.  They would rush ahead to do their work, and inevitably get it wrong because they didn't take the time to read the directions carefully.  I now give this advice to you, my fellow writers, because this time it's me that made the mistakes.  I am entering two of my children's picture books into a contest.  On the submission form it clearly states to check the website for further submission details.  Did I do that?  No.  Now, as it turns out, I have sent off the stories with a cover letter that has been formatted incorrectly.  It has all the information they asked for, but it's not in the format they want.  And I've been told it will be automatically eliminated because of it.  So, I am rushing to re-submit the stories, with the properly formatted title page.  All because I failed to follow my own advice.  As my father used to say, do as I say, not as I do.
Oh well.


So far, I've been accepted to Spalding University, Pine Manor, and Vermont College.  I am still waiting, anxiously, to hear from Hamline University and Lesley University.  But I must say, at the moment I am leaning toward Vermont College.  I've heard Montpelier is a beautiful town, and the program is supposed to be phenomenal.   So now we wait.