Agent, Editor, & Author Kari Sutherland On First Lines, Revisions, & Representation

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Agent and author Kari Sutherland joins this year’s LA SCBWI Working Writer’s Retreat faculty. She was a Senior Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books before joining the Bradford Literary Agency in 2017 and she co-writes the middle grade Menagerie series with her sister, Tui Sutherland. She’s worked with bestselling and critically acclaimed authors on projects such as the #1 New York Times bestselling Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard and the #1 New York Times bestselling Pretty Little Liars series by Sara Shepard. Needless to say, she knows a thing or ten or about writing, editing, and publishing books, and she’s here to share some of that knowledge with us!

Sarah Parker-Lee: You graduated from Williams College with a B.A. in English and Psychology. Why do you consider this the perfect combination for working with authors on character and plot development?

Kari Sutherland: I’d say both fields help me pinpoint when a character is behaving in a way that isn’t authentic or in a way that may produce a reaction in readers that the author is not intending. Having studied the way minds work, it gives me insight into personality and character growth. With my English studies, I know how to catch and keep a reader’s attention through voice, sentence structure, and plotting. Psychology classes also prepared me to be an excellent listener and to help coax out what a person really wants to say – in this case, through their manuscripts.

SPL: Your Bradford Lit bio says youre passionate about helping to polish each manuscript and equip your clients for success. What does that entail? Continue reading

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SCBWI Central Coast Regional News, Third Quarter 2017

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By Ann Rousseau Smith, SCBWI CenCal News Liaison

Rediscovering Your TRUE Voice with Robin LaFevers, by Andrea Custer

Equal parts group therapy and expansion of craft, the Voice Workshop with Robin LaFevers, held on April 29, explored the concept of voice in all its forms: writer, character and story.

The main objective of the day was to help us identify our unique writer’s voice by connecting with our core selves. To accomplish this, Robin led attendees through a series of writing exercises that revealed our emotional truths. Continue reading

The LitMingle Minute: West San Gabriel Valley

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Written by Heather Banis and Ronna Mandel

Hot dogs! Peanuts!

The 2016-2017 WSGV Mingle World Series, led by Ronna Mandel and Heather Banis, is coming to a close in July with the annual, celebratory, planning picnic in the park. It may not be Dodger Stadium, but the plays we’ve seen all year have kept our fans coming back month after month. Starting in September with “The First Pitch,” minglers pitched new story ideas to one another in a workshop format. Racing ahead to “1st Base” in October, our focus was on the creation of a big-screen-worthy team of characters. As so often happens in the world of sports, unavoidable date and venue changes kept our minglers on their toes. In November, our plotting workshop moved us collectively forward to “2nd Base” and minglers with plotting problems were coached on ways to best remedy plot issues. Continue reading

Judges Award Sue Alexander Grant, SCBWI-L.A.’s Top Writing Prize

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By Marcelle Greene, SCBWI-L.A. Contest Coordinator

Our anonymous judges were unanimous in their opinion that awarding this year’s Sue Alexander Grant was one tough decision. But after three rounds of whittling more than one hundred entries, there emerged this clear winner:

I do my best thinking in my underwear. Mamma always understood that about me.

 “We Rockfort women are at our best when we’re wearing the least,” she’d say. But Lord in Heaven, I don’t think she had in mind that I’d be wearing a man’s jockey shorts, standard Army issue, second-hand no less. And I’ll say it plain, as much time as men have spent getting into my drawers, I can’t quite get right with walking around in theirs.

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Get to Know Samantha Swank, Scholastic Assistant Editor and Working Writer’s Retreat Faculty

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Samantha Swank-300Samantha Swank is an assistant editor at Scholastic, where she works on fiction and non-fiction for ages zero-eight. She is a faculty member for the Working Writer’s Retreat, set for Sept. 15-17 at the Holy Spirit Retreat Center in Encino. She talks to Kite Tales about her work, children’s publishing, and her love for Benjamin Franklin.

EV: What made you decide to sign on as faculty for the Working Writers Retreat? What can participants expect from you?

SS: I thought the Working Writer’s Retreat sounded like a great opportunity for me, both professionally and personally. It’s great to get out there and meet other industry folks and talent, and there are worse places to do that than in California! My goal is to offer the participants some helpful feedback about their manuscripts and give them an idea of what I’m hoping to acquire going forward. And they can definitely expect an impassioned karaoke performance on Saturday night.

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Marla Frazee: From Picture Book to Big Screen

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The Boss Baby, a 32-page picture book written and illustrated by Marla Frazee was published in 2010 (S&S, Beach Lane). Since the book’s publication, more than 200,000 copies have been sold and, in 2016, Frazee followed up with a sequel, The Bossier Baby, introducing the Boss Baby’s infant sister. On March 31, 2017, the animated DreamWorks film was released with Alec Baldwin voicing the main character. Frazee’s book depicts the newborn as a tiny suit-wearing boss who dictates the household. Simon Spotlight released several movie tie-in editions—two board books, a junior novelization, and a leveled reader—and the original picture books have been labeled as the inspiration for the movie.

Christine Van Zandt: Has being part of SCBWI contributed to your career?

MARLA FRAZEE: I have a career because of SCBWI. I attended my first conference in the early 1980s; Jane Yolen was working the main desk and Trina Schart Hyman gave a keynote. I think there were 80 people in attendance. After that, I went to the national conference as often as I could afford to and I attended local Southern California conferences, too. I tried to introduce myself to the speakers, which was super hard because I felt so shy about doing it and I didn’t have much to say. But I forced myself. During those years I was also sending illustration samples to art directors and picture book projects to editors, so I would occasionally meet someone who I’d sent something to. A few of them recognized my name and told me they liked my work. Those exchanges truly kept me going. I met Linda Zuckerman, who at the time was an editor at HarperCollins, at a local conference, and she eventually became my first editor. And 25 years ago, after meeting at Illustrators Day, I became part of a critique group—which is still going strong. Continue reading

Author Catherine Linka on Community for Introverts, Critique Tips, What Sells, & Balancing Romance with Wonder Woman

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Catherine Linka, author of the A Girl Called Fearless series, joins this year’s LA SCBWI Working Writer’s Retreat faculty. She is a world traveler, former buyer for an independent book store, and was almost thrown out of boarding school for being “too verbal.” She spoke with me about her work, your work, Wonder Woman, and the kid lit community’s place in the world.

Linka first became involved in SCBWI “forever ago.” It was the first time she’d found people interested in the same kid lit things as her. Later, she added her Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA community and then the debut author community. “Everyone was so generous and warm and inclusive.” That’s why she believes it’s so important to give back. “It costs me nothing but time to help someone else out, really, so why not?”

True to that ideal, Linka is a huge supporter of SCBWI and an active SCBWI mentor and member. She knows every writer needs a supportive community. “It can take years to develop your craft, and you need people to cheer you on, point out opportunities, open doors, celebrate successes and mourn defeats. We really can’t do this alone, and it is so much more fun and satisfying to do it together.”

Linka acknowledges that writers who are often introverted, herself included, may feel overwhelmed in social situations, even when taking advantage of SCBWI’s group activities and professional development opportunities. This can also make it harder when we eventually have to do our own marketing. Her biggest advice: Continue reading

Critiquenic 2017 offers children’s authors community, feedback on works in progress

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By Claire Moore

From left: Sue Ganz-Schmitt, Sue Berger, Claire Moore at Critiquenic 2017.So you’ve written a book – devoted countless hours (hopefully you weren’t actually counting) toward its creation. Bravo! Well done! But wait, how do you know if your book reads as you imagined, or that you’re on the right track? Critique groups, baby.

“They’re necessary,” said Sue Berger, a published author and one of the minds behind The Pen and Ink Blog, a blog devoted to the “wild, wild world of children’s literature.” This is why the Los Angeles chapter of SCBWI hosts a Critiquenic each year. This year’s event took place on Sunday, June 11th at the Skirball Cultural Center.

More than 70 writers – some aspiring, some published but beginning new works – gathered to give and receive feedback on their picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and young adult manuscripts. For longer manuscripts, writers kept their critiques to the first five pages.

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Ask an Editor: Submissions to Agents

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“Ask an Editor” is a forum wherein SCBWI members submit questions that are answered as part of our quarterly Kite Tales blog.

Dear Editor – How many pages will I submit to an agent?

—Lim, Los Angeles

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The Power of Pen-Ultimate: 4 Critique Group Tips

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By Cheryl Bommarito Klein and Kara B. Wilson

Kara & Cheryl, 3rd from the left

Editor’s Note: Cheryl and Kara, who are in the same critique group, both won manuscript awards at this year’s Los Angeles Writers & Illustrators Day. I asked them to share their critique-group-secrets with us because they are definitely doing it right!

We all want the kind of support that keeps us motivated to create and improve our craft. For us, a well-organized critique group was exactly what we needed! Here are four tips we have learned over the last year that will help you to enhance or build the kind of group that fits you as illustrators/authors. Continue reading