Newbie Notes From My First Conference

It was nerve wracking but fantastic to have gotten feedback* on a manuscript from a real-time editor at the Picture Book Intensive.  But in listening to feedback on other writer’s work (we were 14 participants), I could compare my first impression with that of a professional, and I found that even more valuable. Don’t get me wrong, I am not out to grab another person’s ideas! I know what I like to read, and what I don’t, but, yeah, mine is also one person’s opinion. I benefitted by testing my ear for a good story, and possible areas of weakness. I also appreciated the encouragement to comment on the other manuscripts – with just a few minutes per ms it was a good challenge for me to pinpoint what I thought would help their story most (and I hope I didn’t hang out my New York-style frankness too boldly!). And yes, I have far to go!

It was a great opportunity, listening to whole manuscripts, but I really learned a lot from the breakout session First Pages, for picture book mss. A professional reader and picture book author, Kathleen Pelley, read aloud each participant’s first page of their PB ms, max. 200 words. An agent and an editor were given 2 minutes total to respond. If you should ever have the opportunity, take notes on EVERY ms! In less than an hour I believe almost 40 ‘pages’ were read. Having the PBIntensive experience behind me I was more focused and began to hear patterns. After a while I could predict what the reviewers might say! Yes, I was learning something! I highly recommend signing up for this session format!

Here are a few of those First Page comments:
• really hard to sell an MC that is not a child
• too much telling, not enough showing
• narrative too simple, needs more tension
• repetition is not effective
• need more emotional connection with MC
• that story is already out there – check the market
• sentences are too long; careful – joke will be taken away by the illustrations
• keep your narrative child-centered
• don’t know where the story is going till it’s half-way in
• illustrations should complete the text – less description.

*more in another post