Sparking Conversations

SCBWI Conference-AdI have a confession to make… I’m not very good at small talk. Usually it doesn’t matter that much – I learned a long time ago that smiling and nodding goes a very long way. However, the quiet smiler doesn’t exactly make a memorable impression….especially when you’re trying to chat with an editor or agent at an SCBWI conference.

So, what’s an introverted writer to do?


(actually, that advice goes for all writers, all the time – reading is the best way to improve your craft, learn what’s selling and make you part of the kidlit universe)

In this case, I’m talking about focused, directed reading that will not only provide insight into an agent or editor’s taste, but also pearls of wisdom for future conversations. As Valerie Lawson mentioned in her Tips for Attending a Writing Conference post, Oklahoma SCBWI divides up the speakers and published authors during lunch so everyone gets a chance to talk with a publishing professional.

Imagine, if you will, starting the conversation with, “I really enjoyed Book You Recently Edited/Agented. I thought the author did a great job with the pacing (or characters or theme.)” More than once I have seen jet-lagged publishing professionals light up at sentences like these. You now have something in common – a shared interest in a particular book.

(Word of caution – Don’t try to fake this because it absolutely won’t work! The editor or agent easily spent a year or more working to get that book published, they will know if you didn’t actually read the book.)

Here’s a list of the Oklahoma SCBWI speakers for the March 28 conference in Tulsa, along with a few of the books they’ve edited/agented/recommended.

SCBWI biagiAgent Laura Biagi from the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency lists six books under “Agent Shelf Talkers” on the agency website. They range from picture book, The Happy Lion by Louise Fatio, to middle grade, Otis Dooda by Ellen Potter, to young adult, Amber House by Kelly Moore, and adult literary fiction. (I’m looking forward to talking with her about the manipulation of time presented in Amber House.)


Agent Rachel Orr from Prospect Agency represents Kit Alloway, whose young adult novel, Dreamfire SCBWI rachel-orrreleased this week and Oklahoma author Jennifer Latham, who has Scarlett, Undercover coming out in May. (an e-book preview is currently free on Amazon ) picture books include Matilda in the Middle by Cori Doerrfeld and The Helpful Puppy by Kim Zarins.

SCBWI juliebliven


Julie Bliven is an editor at Charlesbridge Publishing. I found a radio interview from KRUU in Fairfield, Iowa where she talks about Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart and Sarah S. Brannen and Prisoner 88 by Leah Pileggi.  Tagged by Diane Mullen (releases March 10)



SCBWI erica-finkel-photo1

Erica Finkel is an editor at Abrams Books for Young Readers. She edited Fraidyzoo by Thyra Heder and has several more that haven’t been released yet.



SCBWI alysonheller1Alyson Heller is an editor at Aladdin Books. She edits the Goddess Girls, Heroes-in-Training and Unicorn Magic series. Other titles include Catch Me When I Fall by Vicki Leigh (Dreamcatcher series) and 30 Days of No Gossip by Stephanie Faris.



Kristine Brogno is a design director with Chronicle Books. Design directors work with illustrators and cover artists to make sure all aspectsSCBWI kristine-brogno of a book are appealing and accurately reflect a book’s theme and tone. To see what Kristine has worked on, visit the Kids and Teens section of the Chronicle website. (one of my favorites is the Ivy & Bean series, illustrated by Sophie Blackall.)

SCBWI-OK members Valerie Lawson (@litbeing) and Doug Soulter (@dougsoulter) will be hosting a Twitter chat with editor Alyson Heller (@EditorAlysonH) this Sunday, March 8 from 7-8 p.m. Central Time using #okscbwichats and look for ongoing tweets about the conference using #ok15scbwi

Registration is filling up fast for this conference, which is capped at 150 attendees. Save your spot before they’re all gone – sign up on the SCBWI-OK website.



3 comments for “Sparking Conversations

  1. March 4, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    That is a great idea, Gayleen. Thanks for sharing it! And thank you for sharing my blog post. I think this is going to be a fantastic conference!

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