Friday, March 11, 2016

A Writer’s View: Undiscovered Voices 2016 Launch Party

Photos by Candy Gourlay,

The Undiscovered Voices 2016 Writers

The excitement in the air was palpable as the heavy wooden door swung open onto 06 St. Chad’s Place at King’s Cross. A buzz of voices reached my ears and my heart skipped a beat. Here I was about to attend the launch party of the 5th SCBWI Undiscovered Voices contest, an event I had been anticipating for weeks since the announcement that an excerpt from my young adult novel, THE EVOLUTION OF YOU AND ME, would be printed in the 2016 anthology. A handful of artists and writers I had bumped into on my way to the venue trickled in beside me. They were volunteers and alumni from previous anthologies that I had never met in person, but recognized on sight from being in touch on social media.

I am not sure if I was breathing as I walked across the threshold. It wasn’t even the official start time for the party and the room was already crowded with literary agents and editors. Before I could shrug off my coat and practice my pitch in my head for the hundredth time, I was handed my very own copy of the anthology and a badge with my name on it so industry professionals could find me in the crowd. That they would want to talk to me felt astounding and surreal.

The UV mothers: Sara Grant and Sara O'Connor

After being longlisted for UV in 2014, I had never in a million years imagined that I would be a finalist in 2016. My critique partners, SCBWI members scattered around the globe, hadn’t let me weasel out of submitting last summer. Accepting a glass of champagne, I raised the glass in thanks to my far-flung writing buddies. Clutching the glass to my chest all night like an anchor, I hardly drank a drop as I found myself mingling with people who had poured over the anthology’s twelve story extracts and nine gorgeous illustrations. The feeling was overwhelming as I shook hands with publishers and agents that I had only dreamed of one day meeting.  

SCBWI-BI's RA Natasha Biebow

Glancing across the room, I caught the eye of my fellow UV’ers. Fast becoming friends, we gave each other encouraging smiles. Natasha Biebow, SCBWI-BI’s regional advisor introduced the finalists. The illustrators waved a printed image of their artwork, and the writers shyly waved their hands. Bolstered by UV 2008 Sarwat Chadda’s insights into being a ‘discovered voice,’ and pep-talked by Chris Snowden, director of UV sponsor Working Partners, we stepped into the crowd. UV coordinators Sara Grant and Sara O’Connor were swift to make introductions. Regional SCBWI advisors swooped in with boundless excitement. Pushing past nervousness, we chatted with people that had their finger on the pulse of what makes children’s literature and illustration tick. 

Sarwat Chadda
Like the kismet of running into SCBWI members on a street corner, SCBWI has amazed me by forging friendships and long-lasting connections, and I can’t thank the organizers enough for an opportunity and evening that still makes my heart skip a beat now that I am home. 

Photo credit: Journey Collective, Julia Forsman 

Farm-girl turned expat Rose Margaret Deniz is originally from Wisconsin and now lives in Turkey. Her YA novel The Evolution of You and Me was a finalist for Undiscovered Voices 2016 and she is now thrilled to share that she is represented by Jo Williamson at Antony Harwood. Rose is an international SCBWI member and is co-editing an anthology of foreign women's stories on Turkish food and expathood. She loves coffee, grapefruit, and CrossFit. When Rose is not writing, she's plotting her escape to a Turkish village where she can raise chickens. Find her at Follow her on Twitter @rosedeniz

Download for free a copy of the 2016 Undiscovered Voices anthology.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

New NRW Kidlit Chat & Creative Scrawl in ESSEN

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Germany + Austria presents

the next stop on the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) Kidlit Chat & Creative Scrawl: ESSEN
NRW is the most highly populated state in Germany and we’re trying to reach as many writers as possible to see how we can support each other.

Please join us for a morning of conversation and creativity in Essen. All writers, illustrators and SCBWI members are welcome to this stop on the SCBWI tour of central Germany. We’ll be working on an exercise from WRITING FOR EMOTIONAL IMPACT.

Date: Saturday, March 19, 2016

Time: 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Place: Großstadt Deli, Burgplatz 1, Essen

Directions can be found here:

Fee: No cost, but bring money for drinks/food if you desire.

What to bring: pen/pencil, paper, current project. If you’ve used Angela Ackerman’s REVERSE BACKSTORY TOOL to create a character, bring your character along. :)

If you live in or near North Rhine-Westphalia and you’d like the NRW Chat and Creative Crawl to come to a city near you, send us an e-mail:

Laurel Decher at ldecher AT gmail DOT com or
Jane Joo Park at janepark AT gmail DOT com 

Monday, March 7, 2016

My Half-SCBWI New York Conference Experience

By Patti Buff

Manhattan from Liberty Island

I’ve visited New York City only once before, so I was extremely excited to get back there this February for the SCBWI Conference. Mexican Food, devour Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, sightseeing, book research; all things I planned to do during my six days there.

I was able to do some sightseeing and book research with friend and fellow RA, Elisabeth Norton. We spent an extremely cold day (-17 Celsius windchill) at Liberty Island walking around the grounds, listening to the audio guide until our faces and fingertips froze off. It was worth the trip though, since a major scene in REQUIEM, my YA Contemporary Fantasy book that was shortlisted for Undiscovered Voices2016, takes place there.

Jotting down nuggets of wisdom

The pre-conference intensives started Friday morning. I had signed up for the revision intensive, which was led by bestselling authors Kate Messner, Linda Urban and Gary Schmidt. Despite the room being colder than a guinea pig’s nose, they did a fantastic job of warming us up for the tasks that lay ahead when we approach our own revisions. Kate, the queen of organization, shared some of the ways she approaches including timelines, plotting out mentor texts and even a nifty graph to help us “visualize” our books. Gary, word-smith extraordinaire, spoke on how various uses of tone gives readers multiple meanings, all intended by the author. And Linda, still full of energy at the end of the day, gave a wonderful talk on Point of View, Character and Voice that really pinpointed how all those elements come together.

But the real show started on Saturday. Over 1000 people filled the main ballroom of the Grand Hyatt. After a great welcome from founder Lin Oliver, Academy Award winner William Joyce took the stage. At first I was confused why a filmmaker was talking to a bunch of writers and illustrators, but it soon became clear that writing and illustrating are his passion. One thing he said that struck me was that we should “never do anything that is crummy – only stuff you believe in”.

The room was silent during the Publishing Panel

The Children’s Publishing Panel was made up of some of the biggest names in publishing; Jon Anderson (Simon and Schuster), Jean Feiwel (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan), Mallory Loehr (Random House/Doubleday/Golden), Andrea Pappenheimer (HarperCollins) and Megan Tingley (Little Bown). All agreed that children’s literature is being looked at as the innovators of publishing. Its success has given publishers more respect and more resources, but of course it also makes it much more competitive: meaning authors and illustrators have to be on “their game” (Jean Feiwel).

After that, the mass of people divided into workshops ranging from illustration sessions with art directors to writing craft sessions with editors or agents. I attended a session with two of my favorite authors, Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park, Fangirl) and Martha Brockenbrough (The Games of Love and Death). It was a lively and fun interview session and due to the musical tone of her prose, I wasn’t surprised to discover how much Rainbow depends on music, even to the point she hums out what she’s writing to herself.

After a hectic lunch at Grand Central Station, we convened again in small groups for another round of workshops. This time I attended editor Alvina Ling’s workshop on plot, a device she described as “character revealed by action”. Which makes complete sense when we take into account that the reason we read is to live in somebody else’s shoes for a spell.

Alvina Ling

After those workshops the group came together as a whole for a special interview with Rainbow Rowell led by Lin Oliver. And that unfortunately is when my body decided to surrender to the bug it had been fighting and put me into bed for the next two days. I was so disappointed as I’d been looking forward to Sunday’s Acquisitions Panel and Gary Schmidt’s keynote interestingly titled “The Bombers of the Boston Marathon, and the Planes of 9/11 and How Anthony Wished They Would”. But alas, I spent the day shivering and coughing in Brooklyn.

Even though I wasn’t able to participate as much as I’d planned, and missed out on some great talks, I’m still very glad I went. There is nothing like sitting in a room with a thousand other writers and illustrators. Nothing like sitting with strangers during lunch and discovering one of them will soon be moving to Germany and will join our little group here. There is nothing like listening to people who have spent every minute of their work lives producing books and apps and films that children and adults all over the world cherish. And there is nothing like spending a day or two (even if you are hacking up lung every few minutes) and realizing that others find creating books for children just as hard as you do, but also just as fulfilling.

The tenth out of eleven children in a family that took in hundreds of foster kids, Patti Buff found solitude in reading at a young age and hasn’t stopped. She later turned to writing because none of her other siblings had and she needed to stand out in the crowd somehow.

Originally from Minnesota, Patti now lives in disgustingly beautiful Germany with her husband and two teenagers where she’s also the Regional Advisor of SCBWI Germany and Austria. Her YA novel REQUIEM was featured in the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices 2016 anthology. You can follow her #writetip and #pubtip tweets here.