Our November 2022 Children's Writers of the Hudson Valley 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.