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Apr. 18th, 2014

09:33 pm - Photos: SCBWI-LA Writer's Days 2014 (Saturday and Sunday)

Hello, Friends! Photos from SCBWI-LA Writer's Days 2014 are up!

SCBWI-LA Writer's Days 2014
Sat. & Sun., March 22-23, in San Gabriel, CA

Click here for the Flickr album, where you can download pictures.
Click here for the Facebook album, where you can tag yourselves and each other.
These photos will also appear in the upcoming Summer 2014 issue of Kite Tales, the SCBWI-LA/Tri-Regions newsletter. (As always, if you use any of these photos on your blogs, Web sites, etc., please credit me, Rita Crayon Huang. Thanks!)

Some personal highlights:

Newbery Award winner Katherine Applegate, "Frog and Toad at The Hunger Games: 10 Rules for Genre Jumping and Career Building from a Seasoned Hack . . . I mean, PRO"

My takeaways from Katherine's talk: She and her husband, Michael Grant, are funny. They used to ghostwrite Sweet Valley High. They gave Jessica her first period.

Children's Book Buyer and Author Catherine Linka, "What Every Writer Needs To Know About Retail Book Buying Today"

Look at Catherine's awesomeness. The glasses, the pointer, everything. She's got something to say, and she's going to say it!

Catherine's talk was really interesting. She showed how different versions of your author bio get used to convince book buyers to stock your book in stores, among many other things. And she had insight into what book buyers think when they see what's coming out. It's not what you'd assume.

Writers doing writing exercises! Every speaker gave one this year.

The hand model above is Robin Reul, who later won one of this year's writing contests. Note this hand. It's going places.

The Sunday intensives included an Agents Picture Book Track taught in the morning by Danielle Smith (pictured here), and in the afternoon by Jen Rofe;

the Agents Novel Track, taught in the morning by Jen Rofe (pictured here) and in the afternoon by Danielle Smith;

Jen kicks off her intensive with an example from her favorite movie.

the Editor Track with Heidi Fiedler, "Work For Hire and Trade Publishing";

and a plotting intensive with Martha Alderson, "The Plot Whisperer," which I attended.

Martha Alderson talks about the four energetic markers in stories.

I spent a thoughtful five hours analyzing my novel, sitting amongst good friends. It was like a writing retreat!

At lunch on both days, everyone made the prettiest little tableaux you ever saw, everywhere, of writers having fun. Seriously, these friends could not have made more diverse portraits if they were posing for Benetton ads.

All this pic needs is me! the Asian. ;)

Actually, most of the pics didn't need me. ;)

Look at the colors everyone's wearing in both of these pictures above: Red, green, blue. Red, green, blue. Perfect.

I remember my glory day (singular) of having won a Writer's Day contest once. That's why I always take pictures of winners getting announced now, no matter how haphazard. That moment glows.

Remember that hand in the dark sweater sleeve? Congratulations, Robin!!!

Congratulations to all of the winners! And congratulations to Sally Jones Rogan for winning this year's Sue Alexander Service and Encouragement (SASE) Award. It's well deserved!!

Sally is our new SCBWI-LA Assistant Regional Advisor. She's the best! And so nice.

There's a whole lot more, so check out the full album on Flickr here and on Facebook here.

This year's Writer's Days was my first significant time away from my baby. I was more nervous about pumping than anything else. But it went great. Sally and Lee and Sarah found classrooms I could sneak off to during breaks. I felt so triumphant each time I had finished pumping for that day, knowing I had done it. I didn't get to pal around as much as usual, at this conference, but I was giddy to be back among writers.

Lee gets everyone to sing the names of our respective intensives--"Plo-t!" "Novels!" "Picture Books!" etc.--in harmony, using a pitch pipe app on his phone. This doesn't exactly illustrate what I was just talking about, but he's giddy, too.

Even more amazing, everyone knew about my baby and asked after him, and commented on photos I've posted to Facebook. I've tried not to post a lot, but there you have it. We are one big happy family.

Topanga Maria with my baby, after my husband brought him to pick me up Sunday. This guy has a following!

That is some crazy shiz, social media, that you can bring the whole world in, when I feel like I've fallen out for a little while.

It's great to be back!

Me and the indomitable Greg Pincus, my original carpool buddy for SCBWI events--and this year's Writer's Days social media guru. His book, The 14 Fibs of Gregory K., just got announced as a Crystal Kite Award finalist!


P.S. And don't think I've forgotten about those Summer Conference pics I said I would post, too. Those are coming. Maybe by next Summer Conference. :)

Aug. 1st, 2013

01:56 pm - The SCBWI-LA Summer Conference starts TONIGHT. :)

The annual, four-day SCBWI Summer Conference starts tomorrow! For some of us, it starts tonight—with some pre-conference karaoke (woo hoo!!). And for some, it started yesterday.

But I'm not attending this year! For the first time in over a decade. Because I'm pregnant. Due in a few days.

But, the baby isn't here yet. So now, in addition to karaoke-ing tonight, I'm hoping to stop by and say hi to many good friends, get coffee, hang out . . . The other reason I'm not officially attending the conference this year is that SCBWI discontinued my Summer Conference photography arrangement with them of several years. It's nothing personal. There have been some shifts in the main office, and the new crew is not as aware of the work I've done for them, alas. But the fact that I'm pregnant is a much more cheerful reason.

I hope to see many of you there!

I will see many good friends at karaoke tonight—woo hoo!! My husband is bringing our new video camera, hoping to capture me shaking this pregnant belly to some hip hop (which is so wrong). This will definitely be his last chance.

Unless . . . I make an appearance at the SCBWI party Saturday night . . . ?? This year's theme is "Black and White," and this body would make a perfect penguin . . .

I'm just sayin'. ;)

P.S. Time permitting, I may still post a few informal pictures from around the fringes of the conference, afterward. There look to be some promising goings-ons this year.

So check back!

Apr. 12th, 2013

09:24 am - Photos: SCBWI-LA Writer's Days 2013 (Saturday and Sunday)

My friends!

Photos from this year's wildly successful SCBWI-LA Writer's Days conference on "Diversity" are up!

SCBWI-LA Writer's Days 2013: "Diversity!"
Sat. & Sun., March 9-10, in San Gabriel, CA

Lovely contest winners from this year's SCBWI-LA Writer's Days. From left to right, top row: Lori Snyder, Erin Fry, Mary Williams. Second row: Christine Bernardi, Judy Kay Slowey-Sly, and Axie Oh.

You can view the full set from both Saturday and Sunday on Facebook here, or on Flickr here.
From Flickr you can download the image files directly by clicking "Actions"-->"View All Sizes"-->and then selecting the size you need. Please credit Rita Crayon Huang if you use any of these on your Web sites, blogs, Facebook, etc. If anyone wants the full-size originals--like, if you wanted to print specific photos out--contact me and I'll send them to you directly. Thanks, and enjoy!

This year's SCBWI-LA Writer's Days conference theme was "Diversity," and--as you will see from the pictures--our regional advisors Sarah Laurenson and Lee Wind put together a stellar lineup of speakers who really spoke to the topic and examined it from all angles--and were really fun and dynamic to listen to, to boot! (I could make a collage out of Daniel Nayeri's expressions alone--but, I will refrain.)

This was the second year SCBWI-LA has added Sunday intensives to Writer's Day, creating Writer's Days plural--a full, weekend event. I took the World Building intensive on Sunday, along with several good friends (and we all did the reading quite diligently). The class was called "Setting As Character: Building Your World," taught by Malinda Lo, and it was super helpful. I loved how you could tell that everyone in the class had come ready to roll up their sleeves and work. Everyone's comments smacked of experience.

Sunday Intensives, World Building Track: "Setting as Character: Building Your World" with Malinda Lo

Thank you again to all of the hardworking volunteers who participated, and most of all to Lee, Sarah, and Sally Jones Rogan for putting on a spectacular two-day event! I really learned a lot and had a blast doing it!

And congratulations again to all of the contest winners--and to Sue Welfringer for winning this year's Sue Alexander Service and Encouragement (SASE) Award. And to Edie Pagliasotti for winning a special SASE Award.

I hope you all enjoy the photos, :)


Dec. 5th, 2012

02:13 am - Photos: LA Kid Lit Holiday Happy Hour--and Book Drive!--2012

Hi, Everyone!

Kid Lit Holiday Happy Hour--and Book Drive!--2012 took place this past weekend. I took an even dozen pictures. Check them out on Facebook here, or by clicking the image below:

Karol and me, chief organizers of this year's Kid Lit holiday event
Karol and me, chief organizers of this year's LA Kid Lit holiday event

About 50 people were there at the height, with several of us lined up before the bar opened, and others hanging out until Happy Hour's bittersweet end three and a half hours later. I didn't bring my flash, though, so I didn't document most of it. (Deliberate strategy, honestly.)

Last partyers standing! Closing down LA Kid Lit Holiday Happy Hour 2012.

Others have posted their pictures at the Kid Lit Holiday Happy Hour--and Book Drive!--2012 Facebook page, so check those out, too. And Karol and Charlie will still be collecting books for the book drive at tonight's SCBWI-LA Westside Writers Schmooze in Santa Monica.

I also took a few token shots at the screening of Library of the Early Mind that happened just before this, at the Santa Monica Public Library just a couple blocks away. I was so happy to see this film at last--and to see so many familiar faces gathered there!

Free screening of Library of the Early Mind, a 2010 documentary exploring the art and impact of children’s literature on our kids, our culture, and ourselves. Above, Lee offers a few words of introduction on behalf of SCBWI Los Angeles, who co-sponsored the event with the Santa Monica Public Library, and Karol gets mad props for making this screening and partnership happen.

As I wrote on the screening's Facebook page,

"Thank you again to the Westside Writers Schmooze (Karol and Charlie!), SCBWI-LA, and the Santa Monica Public Library for putting this together. Those of you who didn't make it, don't despair. Apparently you can also watch this movie on Library of the Early Mind's Web site--for a $5 rental fee. :) But it was so great to watch it with this vibrant group!"

Happy Holidays, Kid Lit Community!!


P.S. Special thanks to D for helping me decorate boxes for the holiday book drive, engaging with the movie (yay! I'm glad he liked it!), and then keeping me supplied with food and drinks throughout the Happy Hour, when he knew I would be too scattered to feed myself. I'm lucky, I know.

Nov. 14th, 2012

08:43 am - Photos: SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day 2012

My Friends,

Photos from this year's SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day are up!

SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day 2012
Saturday, Nov. 3rd in San Gabriel, CA

Winners from this year's SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day portfolio and illustration contests.
(L to R:) ID contest 3rd place - Megan Hartfelder, People's Choice portfolio winner - Mary Lundquist, ID contest 1st place- Ashlyn Anstee, ID contest 2nd place - Kent Culotta, Judge's Choice portfolio winner - Andrea Offermann, Judge's Choice portfolio winner - Keika Yamaguchi

The contest winners look so happy, don't they? You can see the full Illustrator's Day photo album on Facebook here or on Flickr here. As always, please include a credit if you use any of these images on your own media. Thanks!

To see illustrations entered into the contest, including the winning pieces, check out SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day's Facebook page, or go directly to the Facebook Illustration Contest album.

The fascinating thing about shooting Illustrator's Day is that it happens in the dark, because everyone brings visual aids. So, for example, I started out shooting from the speakers' left, because I wanted to piggyback off light from the screen and avoid some bright windows in the back. But I later realized those windows were giving everyone a silvery halo from behind, and tried to capture that on purpose. You find little things. :)

Most people don't realize these pictures are taken in the dark (I hope).

"I can see your halo (halo, halo . . . )"

This picture of Dan Krall, James Burks, and Mark Fearing from the early morning made me laugh. They look like the Three Little Monkeys--See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Speak No Evil--except they didn't put up their hands!

Which little monkey is which? It doesn't matter, because these three see, hear, and say everything.

Mary Peterson spotted me taking this photo and gave the grouping another name, which I won't repeat here. She's hilarious.

I love-Love-LOVED Merideth Harte's outfit on this day, though I'm scared to say what it made me think of, in case she didn't do it on purpose. (I personally wore my red pirate shorts and black lace-up boots on this day, so I hope she DID do what I was thinking on purpose. But maybe it was just me--and the angles and lights in the moment.)

Looks a bit like juggling . . .

And lion taming . . .

20121103-SCBWI-LA-IllusDay2012-21 20121103-SCBWI-LA-IllusDay2012-22
Plus being a ringmaster, and Awesome.

Seriously, though, at one point someone said something that was unintentionally awkward and Ms. Harte answered in a way that played that up, which made it funnier. And then she . . . *ahem* mimed opening a door and walking right through it. And I was like, Can those skills be accidental??

These thoughts led me to include one more picture at the end of the album that I normally wouldn't--but, this time, couldn't resist.


Am I allowed to post funny pics of luminaries I don't know?

I also had a good time taking pictures of friends all day long, like my good pal Mark Fearing, who gave a talk on digital apps.

Mark giving his "vignette" on creating apps, aptly named, "App talk"

You know, I originally didn't use that photo in the official album, because I second guess too much what people will like. But I'm adding it now, because I realize I don't want to blog the pictures I did put in. *eloquent shrug*

From the end of the day:

Mark Fearing is left autographing books long after SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day 2012 has ended

Mark signs hundreds of books (though they seem mostly to be by Peter H. Reynolds)

He is a very serious author/illustrator.

I also loved Dan Krall's opening talk, "Look, No Hands (or How I made a career in illustration without ever learning to draw hands)," which was so, so great. He said some things I really needed to hear right now with my work, about how if you really focus on conveying your ideas well, people won't notice your shortcomings in craft, that maybe you've been obsessing over for way too long. I especially loved the graph Dan made tracking artistry (along the vertical axis) to age (along the horizontal), showing his personal journey. It was hilarious and felt true.

[I did take a picture of that graph, but I won't show it, because that's his and maybe he'll want to give this talk again. But get Dan to show it to you, if you can. Go hear him speak!]

There were a lot more funny moments and celebrity sightings (Hi, Peepy!), so check out the full album.

If you come to SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day, you, too, can have this much fun! And hang out with beautiful women.

Every year that I've attended, the Coordinators have ended the day by thanking each and every volunteer by name who helped make Illustrator's Day happen. So I'd like to give a shout out to the three fearless leaders who REALLY made this event brilliant:

Thank you, Ken W. Min,

Thank you, Karyn Raz,


Thank you, Wilson Swain

for doing a stupendous job of putting Illustrator's Day together.

Our three fearless Coordinators thank each of us, even though we need to thank them!

Thank you guys for creating an amazing conference, and thanks for letting me participate, too. I love hanging out with all of you!

Visit the Illustrator's Day Web site or Facebook page, or email for more information—both about this year's event and the next. (But, you know. Give our Coordinators a moment to recover. They deserve a vacation!)


P.S. One more personal highlight:

At the very, very end of the day, Mark Fearing lent me money so I could buy a copy of Peter H. Reynolds's Ish and get it signed.

Peter H. Reynolds signs my new copy of Ish at SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day 2012.
Mark, I still owe you a dollar!

Ish is a sequel to The Dot, which I already love and had brought my copy from home to get signed.

Ish and The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds, in the SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day 2012 bookstore

I first learned about The Dot when Lee dressed up as it for our Kid Lit Halloween Costume party last year:

Sara Wilson Etienne, me, and Lee Wind, dressed up as Harriet the Spy, Bunnicula, and The Dot, respectively. When Lee told us the story of The Dot, we all got chills. When I repeated it to my husband later (without having read it myself yet, mind you), I almost started crying. (Oct. 2011: Check out the rest of the Kid Lit Costumes here.)

The Dot is about getting started as an artist. Ish is about giving yourself permission to not do everything "perfectly"--to keep going. As with the message from Dan Krall's morning talk, this was something I needed to hear right now. (Peter H. Reynolds read Ish to us during his end-of-the-day talk.) I also chatted with Mark Fearing and Andrea Offermann on this subject, afterward, so thank all of you so much . . .

And finally . . . 

Did you know there's a collection of my SCBWI event photos on Flickr?

SCBWI Events mosaic
Click on the image to visit my SCBWI Events Collection on Flickr.

Here you can view pictures from SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Days, Writer's Days, and the SCBWI International Summer Conferences from the last several years--including links to their corresponding Facebook albums. Come see what everyone looks like! or what we used to, anyway. :)

Cheers, and enjoy,

P.P.P.S. Hahahahaha--
This just in from Dan Krall, on FB:

Remixed by Dan Krall
Dan: "A photo from the Nobel Awards or the Super Villain Conference, I'm not sure which."

Now I'm REALLY glad I added that photo. :)

Aug. 27th, 2012

12:51 pm - PPS. re: Photos: The 2012 SCBWI Summer Conference (#LA12SCBWI). Part I.5: The TALKS

P.P.S. One more SCBWI Summer Conference talk to add to my previous post in this "two-part" miniseries.

How crazy was it that Deborah Underwood relied on Jonah Lehrer's Imagine: How Creativity Works for part of her keynote, and then had to scramble when the scandal broke out three days before the conference?? (Jonah Lehrer had been caught making up Bob Dylan quotes so his whole book was called into question, and the publisher pulled it from stores everywhere immediately.) I was in the middle of reading it when that happened and had been talking to everyone I know about the content, so hearing Deborah Underwood reveal her dilemma onstage both confirmed and amplified how calamitous this news felt.

Deborah Underwood, "The Power of Quiet" (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

Amazingly, Deborah was able to email the scientists behind the studies she was specifically citing and get them to confirm their results so she could still give her talk. She started personally checking the book herself! Another of my friends at the conference was in the middle of reading it, too--just one chapter behind me!--so I know there were lots of us super interested in this. I'm still hoping the substance is true, even if the quotes are fudged. (Why anyone would think it's okay to make up quotes in a high-profile book in this day and age is beyond me. But I was getting annoying that all the people in the book talked the same. I thought maybe this was a function of the author being attracted to a certain style of quote, plus the fact I was listening to the audio version so maybe he was giving everyone the same cadence.)

Obviously I was super interested in Deborah's subject. I've been thinking a lot about the role of quiet and taking breaks in creativity (what Sara calls "magic brain"). But it was so cool that Deborah was able to start verifying the contents of Imagine when the rest of us have been left in the lurch, wondering if anyone was going to. The letter of apology she "quoted" from Jonah Lehrer was super funny.

As I mentioned in "Part I," all of my pictures from the 2012 SCBWI Summer Conference can be viewed on Facebook here and on Flickr here

"Part II" is still coming up, :)

Aug. 25th, 2012

04:32 pm - Photos: The 2012 SCBWI Summer Conference (#LA12SCBWI). Part I: The TALKS

Hi, Everyone! Fun stuff! My photos from the SCBWI 2012 Summer Conference are up!

The SCBWI 2012 International Summer Conference
August 3–6, 2012, in Los Angeles, CA USA

Lin Oliver kicks off SCBWI's 41st Annual Summer Conference with our own, very tiny Olympic torch, presented to Dan Gutman.

Click here to view all 234 photos on Facebook, where you can tag yourself and your friends.
Click here to view the same set on Flickr instead, where you can download full-size files.

Please credit Rita Crayon Huang if you use any of these images on your blogs, Facebook, Web sites, etc. Please also tweet, tag, and spread the word! Feel free to untag yourselves, too, if that is your wish. As always, if any picture makes you uncomfortable in any way, message me privately and I will take it down immediately, no questions asked.

I had lots of writer friends on the faculty this year. Here are a few from the Friday morning walk-in:

Authors Jennifer Bosworth; Greg Fishbone--a new friend!; Martha Brockenbrough and Jolie Stekly, also representing Team Blog;
and our very own Sara Wilson Etienne at Friday morning's Welcome & Introduction of Faculty. (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

So many of my friends are crossing over to the other side! Slowly but surely, I can feel the tide turning. Crazy how everyone's individual striving is adding up like this.

The talks were fantastic, as always. An obvious highlight this year was Ruta Sepetys's keynote, "You Can't Break the Broken," about how she went to a prison camp as research for her book. I've never seen anyone lay themselves so bare as a human being onstage before. She laid all of us bare in the process--and she did it while being funny. Even when she got to the soul-shaking bits, she kept on going, and she kept on being funny. I know that David Small took us on a profound journey last year, too, down into the deep, dark hearts we all know from our own lives and then back up, into the light--with dancing--but da--ng. Ruta made us confront who we are right now, in our chairs, as adults. It was unexpected, to say the least.

Ruta Sepetys, "You Can't Break the Broken: Writing Emotional Truth" (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

Standing ovation for Ruta Sepetys's emotional keynote at the SCBWI 2012 Summer Conference (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

I attended Ruta's breakout session on media prep, too, and it was wonderful. (That was before her keynote, so I had no idea what she had in store for us.)

Ruta Sepetys, "Media Prep: Author Tips for Radio, TV, and Print Coverage" (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

Did I feel ashamed of myself taking a picture of Ruta crying, by the way? Yes. But that didn't stop me from doing the same thing to my tablemate at the Golden Kite Awards.

Reaction to Golden Kite Awards speeches (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

But what I'm trying to say is, awesome talks and breakouts aside--

oh! But I also attended Eugene Yelchin's breakout on thinking "Outside the Trim," which was also fantastic! I went because his answers were so smart during the picture book panel that morning that he made a fan out of me on the spot. During the panel he brought up how, as children's book creators and creators of culture, we're all participating in a larger conversation that spans time and space and topics (my paraphrasing, sorry). We have to be aware of the current cultural moment in order to add what we want.

Jon Klassen, Antoinette Portis, Eugene Yelchin, and Lee Wardlaw on the Picture Book Panel, "The Picture Book: The Dance Between Words and Pictures." Moderated by Dan Yaccarino. (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

I was like, Yes!! I had forgotten that's what we're doing! I haven't thought about this business in a big-picture, intellectual way in a long time. You know, I confront the emotions and minutiae of what I'm trying to say day to day, and the audience I'm trying to reach, but not the big space-time continuum of how we fit in. And you don't need to think about that in order to participate--we're all participating all the time--but I'd become ungrounded in terms of how to think about issues like whom we're trying to speak for regarding multiculturalism in our books, for example. We speak for ourselves, always--and we do this by being aware of what other people are saying, and responding. That's all there is to it.

This echoes what Lee Wind once told me Jacqueline Woodson said on the subject of race in her books, which is that it helps to remember we don't have to start the discussion ourselves; we just have to add.

After that I spontaneously went to Eugene Yelchin's breakout session to hear more of how this guy thinks.

Eugene Yelchin, "Outside the Trim: Thinking Beyond the Literal Space of the Picture Book" (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

It was brilliant--of course. It was especially eye-opening for me as a writer who's been turning over in my mind how I might use photography in a picture book way someday. Eugene (if I may call him that) broke down a lot of visual concepts and gave me new vocabulary with which to think. I wasn't looking for that, and now I'm excited to take these ideas and play.

Of course, this meant I missed the talk I had originally planned to attend--Jenn Bosworth's "The Conspicuous Writer (Turning Readers Into Fans)"--which I heard later from Sara was amazing. But what can ya do. pang as fomo is confirmed I'm learning to follow the moment . . .

I also went to Matthew Kirby's session on Voice, which was outstanding.

Matthew Kirby, "Voice" (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

Everyone there agreed: we'd never heard anyone discuss voice so clearly before. It was just so clear. And it was right, everyone also agreed. We all knew it--the definition of voice--when we heard it. ;)

Ahh. That soothes a complaint I've had for a long time on how people should really be able to define voice, because are we writers or aren't we?? It also led to a revelation for me about what to do with the voice in my book. I had brought my niggling question to ask at the session's end, but Matthew's presentation was so clear that just thinking about how to phrase my question in his terms, answered it.


I hear Mike Jung is giving a talk on Voice soon for which he'll be borrowing heavily from this one (with attribution, of course). So if you want to know what was said, go hear Mike! Or go hear Matthew Kirby. :)

The guy in the hat plans to steal from Matthew Kirby's talkspeak on Voice soon.

And, I attended Sara's session on creating book trailers.

Sara Wilson Etienne, "Book Trailers: Storyboards, Scripts, Lookbooks, and Everything That Puts the 'Tease' in Teaser" (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

Amazing also. If you haven't seen Sara's astounding book trailer yet, check it out here. And be on the lookout for her article on making book trailers, which will appear in the next update to the SCBWI Publication Guide. Even though I had heard Sara talk about her trailer while they were making it, it was so enlightening to see the lookbooks and rough cuts she and her talented friends had made. The session was chock-a-block packed with real, how-to information, plus how one should think about different kinds of trailers before getting started. And she showed how much you can get done before you've spent one dollar, which I love.

Okay! But I actually didn't want to talk about the talks and inspiration and craft and business side of the conference--I wanted to talk about the people and the fun! With friends and at yoga and the party and afterparty . . .

All right, you know what? This post has gotten long enough. I'll do the fun stuff in a "Part II" post. Please come back.

So just one more talk--really quick. Because it made a difference.

Amy Goldman Koss said some really provocative stuff during her breakout, "Character Quirks and Credible Jerks! Nailing Character," about how she doesn't believe people change; that they come into the world the way they are. (She said if you believe differently, you can write books that show such, but she has to stay true to what she believes.) She also said the more individuality you give a character, the more you risk that character being disliked by readers. (Good for villains, potentially bad for protagonists.)

Amy Goldman Koss, "Character Quirks and Credible Jerks! Nailing Character" (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

I've turned these ideas over and over in my mind. Of course I want to argue, but she used compelling examples, plus I know what she's saying. It's gotten the dialog going pretty awesomely in my mind. I also just read one of her books, Poison Ivy, and wow, that book is brutal but brilliant. I mean, brilliant. And brutal. Those characters are alive in the most stubborn, maddening but real way possible. I recommend it to everyone. (Be forewarned, but definitely read it.)

I've been thinking over how I might test some of Amy's ideas in my book, through a couple of my characters, and the book is definitely benefiting.

Okay! So that's everything I'm going to say about craft, business, and inspiration in this two-part miniseries. Come back in a few days for the fun, fun, fun, okay? =)


P.S. Did you know that I have an SCBWI Events photo collection on Flickr?

SCBWI Events mosaic
Click on the image or link to visit my SCBWI Events Collection on Flickr, including International Summer Conferences and Los Angeles regional conferences from the last several years.

In addition to the latest, 2012 Summer Conference photos, it includes pictures from the 2011 Summer Conference, the 2010 Summer Conference, the 2009 Summer Conference, and the 2008 Summer Conference--with corresponding Facebook links--plus the last several SCBWI-Los Angeles Writer's Days and Illustrator's Days. I just glanced through them and wow. I totally recognize people--faces in the background--that I didn't know back then. And we're all younger. You should check it out.

Cheers, and enjoy,

May. 1st, 2012

03:10 pm - Photos: SCBWI-LA Writer's Days 2012 (Saturday AND Sunday)

Friends! Photos from last weekend's SCBWI-LA Writer's Days are up!

SCBWI-LA Writer's Days: "Books and Beyond: How To Make A Living (And A Life!) As A Writer"
Sat. & Sun., April 21-22, 2012

Lee Wardlaw Dawne Knobbe Bonnie Berry LaMon Monica Haven Terri Farley Jennifer Bosworth, Kristen Kittscher, Sara Wilson Etienne, Tony Etienne Anne Tibbets
Lee Wardlaw: "Ten Things I've Learned from My Cats about Being A Children's Book Author."
Dawne Knobbe: "Busting out of the Box--Creative Marketing for Published/Unpublished Writers."
Bonnie Berry LaMon (Professional Forum): "More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Children's Book Publishing Agreements."
Monica Haven giving a tip on how to make a living as a writer. She led a Professional Forum on Taxes, "Fact of Fiction?"
Terri Farley: "Fetch Me A Dream, PDQ."
Jennifer Bosworth, Kristen Kittscher, Sara Wilson Etienne, and Tony Etienne kickin' it at lunch.
Anne Tibbets during a mid-morning creativity exercise involving pipe cleaners.

View the whole SCBWI-LA Writer's Days 2012 album by clicking here. 
See original Writer's Days event details here.

This year was the first time SCBWI-LA added Sunday intensives to Writer's Day, creating Writer's Days plural--a full, weekend conference. It was so much fun!! Check out the album to see the kind of joyful learning we experienced together, including glimpses into the new Sunday intensives. Some of these pictures will be featured in Kite Tales, SCBWI-LA's online newsletter, soon.

Highlights for me include seeing Sara from my writing group speaking on an amazing, super entertaining editor/agent/author panel with Stacey Barney and Michael Bourret, her editor and agent, respectively. And again in her own talk on how she's been brilliantly promoting Harbinger. (Which totally sold out of copies Saturday morning after the panel alone, before she even showed her book trailer. Which knocked people's socks off.)

Stacey Barney, Michael Bourret, and Sara Wilson Etienne's panel "Traditional Publishing Case Study: Harbinger," moderated by Lee Wind.
(That's my writing group! Represent!!)

Harbinger, by Sara Wilson Etienne
Last copy standing--and then it was gone. Lee told me to take a picture, and the funny thing was, I already had.

The Harbinger team: Michael Bourret, Sara Wilson Etienne, and Stacey Barney
Look at this camaraderie. When I first showed up at Writer's Days, these three were literally joined at the hip.

We also got to hear Lee Wardlaw speak, whose delightful picture book Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told In Haiku I have given out many times this year. (Your autographed book plates are coming soon, friends!) In addition, thanks to my role as official event photographer, I got to meet and hang out with esteemed faculty members Dawne Knobbe (okay, I knew Dawne already, but I got to learn more about what she does), Bonnie Berry LaMon ("objective correlative!"), Monica Haven, Terri Farley, Alexis O'Neill, and, and, and.

[deleted here: an ill-fated attempt to name-check all the other awesome people I got to hang out with or at least waved to during the conference.]

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What's up, Friends! You are all looking so fresh and beautiful this fine Saturday and Sunday morning.

I saw tons of awesome peeps from the Westside and Hollywood Schmooze, and even more writer friends at Saturday's Kid Lit Drink Night, whom I had met at other Kid Lit Drink Nights. And I made new friends, too! But the thing that was so bonding this weekend, even when I didn't get to talk to everyone as much as I wanted, was how we all participated in these intensives together. I felt closer even to people I hadn't met properly. After spending that Sunday morning and afternoon together, discussing our stories, when I see their faces in photos now, I'm like, Oh, hey--What's up!! 

Sunday morning I took Stacey's Revision Workshop for Middle Grade and YA novels,


and on Sunday afternoon I took Michael's intensive on "Pitching (a How-To Workshop)":

Guess I've found Michael Bourret's Pitching workshop. This violent image made me laugh, probably because I was freaked the hell out.

Both workshops gave me excellent tools that I have continued to use since. The pitching workshop was particularly exhilarating, because I normally avoid that activity like the plague, and this class was capped at 15 people so we all got lots of personal attention. Michael really clarified the tone and content of pitches, and the group collaboration was fantastic. I learned so much from going over everyone else's before we even got to mine! I also enjoyed sitting in an open circle in a classroom decorated as a forest. (I can't believe, after all my talking about it, that I didn't document the overhead canopy, giant tree trunks, or doorframe filled with trailing, painted, paper leaves. See?? Nerves.) Whoo! I had some good adrenaline going by the end. As I told Michael, I would be ready for this workshop by 1 pm on Sunday and not one moment sooner. (I used to be both an extrovert and an introvert, but these days I have to make appointments with my extrovert.) I really enjoyed getting to the nut of what 14 other people's stories were about.

I want to thank all of the hardworking SCBWI-LA volunteers for making this weekend happen--especially our new Regional Advisors Sarah Laurenson and Lee Wind, who spearheaded this groundbreaking expansion of an already fabulous event. Congratulations to all of the contest winners--and to Rilla Jaggia for winning this year's Sue Alexander Service & Encouragement (SASE) Award--in addition to a writing contest--for her work on Kite Tales these past several years. I've been reliving Writer's Days thanks to these photos, and now I hope you like them, too.


P.S. As always, everyone is invited to use these pictures in your blogs, Web sites, etc. Please credit Rita Crayon Huang, but otherwise, I would be honored. You can download images directly from Flickr. Also, if you have any concerns whatsoever about pictures I have taken of you, message me privately. I am here to be your professional ally.

P.P.S. As mentioned earlier, Kid Lit Drink Night took place that same Saturday evening. I did take some pictures that I'll post later, but not as many as you'd think considering the cornucopia of nuttiness going on. What a weekend.

Mar. 2nd, 2012

06:00 am - Photos: Book Launch for HARBINGER, by Sara Wilson Etienne—w/ details for Harbinger Launch Party 2.0!

Sara's debut YA novel Harbinger came out on Feb. 2nd, 2012, and I had the privilege of attending her first book launch for it on Saturday, Feb. 4th, at Children's Book World in L.A.

Sara Wilson Etienne mingling at the book launch for HARBINGER
Sara Wilson Etienne mingling at the book launch for Harbinger
at Children's Book World in Los Angeles, CA, Feb. 4th, 2012

Click here to view all 53 photos on Flickr.
(Photos are by my husband and me, because I had fractured my foot and needed help. Thank you, D!)

I've included some favorite photos here, and they should speak for themselves (especially because I wrote captions for them). This book launch was phenomenal. Children's Book World was packed to silliness, and Sara delivered a silky smooth, perfect talk, and then friends and family and fans from all over the country lined up to get their copies signed.

Sara's proud writing group—me (Rita Crayon Huang) and Lee Wind—at the book launch for HARBINGER
Sara's proud writing group—me (Rita Crayon Huang) and Lee Wind—at the book launch for Harbinger

Sara's fans applaud wildly Sara's fans applaud wildly
Sara receives a warm welcome. "Author! Author!"

Sara Wilson Etienne shows off HARBINGER's endpapers, illustrated by artist husband Tony Etienne
Sara shows off Harbinger's beautiful endpapers, illustrated by artist husband Tony Etienne

Author Kristen Kittscher listens appreciatively to Sara's talk
Author Kristen Kittscher listens appreciatively to Sara's talk

Let the autographing begin! Sara Wilson Etienne signs copies of HARBINGER for fans.
Let the autographing begin! Sara Wilson Etienne signs copies of Harbinger for fans

Sara's book brings new customers to Children's Book World
Sara's book brings new customers to Children's Book World

But, but, but!! That was so one month ago! Everyone should know that Sara's next major signing event is happening this Saturday, March 3rd, at the Hive Gallery and Studios in downtown Los Angeles. She's throwing "Launch Party 2.0: HARBINGER Art Gallery Opening and Signing!" where she is going to showcase all of the artwork contributed by 25 incredible illustrators and artists in one glorious, Harbinger-inspired, gallery gala! It's going to be so fun all over again, in an entirely new way!

From the "Launch Party 2.0" Facebook event page:
Twenty-five incredible illustrators and artists have picked their favorite scenes and characters from HARBINGER to give you a taste of Faye’s life at Holbrook Academy. . . .

6pm-8pm: Book selling and signing; pre-gallery opening hang-outs; and FREE ENTRY

Starting at 8pm: COVER CHARGE of $8, music, bar, partytime!

Featuring art by: Jason Puliti, Joan Charles, Amy Kim Kibuishi, Andrew Mitchell, Marilyn Scott Waters, Aileen Holmes, Brian Ormiston, Ken Min, Katie McDee, Drew Etienne, Wilson Swain, Jane Smith, Dave Fass, Israel Sanchez, J.H. Everett, Karyn Raz, Mary Peterson, Patricia Cantor, Angela Matteson, Mary Etienne, Su Moon, Andrea Offermann, Tony Etienne, Ken Wong, Kelice Penney . . .

If you want a little taste of what these amazing artists have been up to, check out the Holbrook Academy website.

What a line-up of incredible talent—and how awesome to have a gallery opening for your debut novel! I hear there's going to be tasty refreshments, and the company and conversation are guaranteed to be brilliant, soul-scintillating, and maybe even downright scandalous.

So come one, come all! Check out the Facebook Event Page for "Launch Party 2.0: HARBINGER Art Gallery Opening and Signing!" for more details. I hope to see you there!

Congratulations again, Sara. You deserve every bit of the accolades coming to you, and so much more.


Me and Sara, just after she signed my copy. Congratulations, Sara!!

Dec. 6th, 2011

06:46 am - Photos: Kid Lit Holiday Party! 2011

Hey, Everyone! Here are a few photos from the Kid Lit(erati) Holiday Party this past Saturday.

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To see the full set (I wish I'd taken more of everyone!!),
click here for Facebook, where you can tag or untag yourselves,
click here for Flickr, where you can download the images in sizes of your choosing, and/or
click here for Zenfolio, where you can download the whole batch and order prints, if that's your thing.

Thanks, everyone, for the drinks, delicious treats, and fun conversation--and THANKS for bringing all those gorgeous children's books to donate! The schools they're going to are really going to appreciate them!

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Lee Wind and Sara Wilson Etienne pose with all the beautiful, gleaming children's books to be donated. I seriously wanted to borrow half of them to take home and read first, but that wouldn't have been in the spirit.

As mentioned in my previous post, the YA titles--in the two stacks on the left--are going to Central High School/Tri-C, a continuation school serving at-risk youth throughout the LA school district. Picture Books through Middle Grade novels (the right two stacks, plus spillover onto the game table) will go to the Knox Elementary School in South Central LA. Both schools were arranged by Lee Wind, who also brought lovely, decorated boxes to sort the donations into as they arrived.

With double thanks to all of the organizers who made this event happen and got the word out--Lee Wind, Jenn Bosworth, Sara Wilson Etienne, Greg Pincus, Jill Corcoran, and me, I guess :) --and triple, quadruple thanks to all the people who helped sort and carry books at the end of the night (in addition to having helped lug them in!).

And always, I cannot thank enough the people who bring the delicious snacks . . . and the hilarity and good times!

Happy Holidays, Kid Lit Community!


Me with Elle Jauffret, who drives up specially from San Diego because LA Kid Lit events are so fun. (She makes the most amazing cookies, by the way. Good to know.)

Speaking of delicious baked goods, who brought those amazing dark chocolate espresso brownies in the pie tin? I would like to shake your hand . . .

:) :)

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