Saturday, June 19, 2010

Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers

This week I attended the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference in Sandy, Utah. I went in not knowing what to expect, and ended up improving my manuscript, making connections, and meeting tons of awesome writers who will surely become rich and famous in the next couple years :).

The morning workshops lasted four hours, during which a relatively small group of writers met together to exchange advice and critiques. My group was headed by Brandon Mull, author of the Fablehaven series and Candy Shop War. The insight I gained into my own work through their thoughtful editing suggestions was invaluable. I will be forever grateful to these people, who are all talented, kind, open-minded, and well-educated. Here's to all of you: Ali, Michelle, Jeni, Gwen, Chersti, Joel, Sally, Brandon, Jason, Liesl, Gina, Gaylene, and Lana. Also, my heart goes out to Taylor, who had to return home after the first day of the workshop due to a family emergency.

Our Group

Liesl and I

The afternoon events varied with each day. After the plenary address I usually went to the mingle, where aspiring writers such as myself got to speak with published authors. I love authors. Seriously, being around people who are just as crazy as I am has been the highlight of my year so far. The encouragement I received made me excited to continue working on my project.

Thursday morning, I found out I won the WIFYR first page contest. This allowed me the opportunity to meet with an agent, Mary Kole of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Our session was wonderful! I really understood all of the advice she gave me, and I'm grateful that she took the time to go over the first section of my manuscript. I'm really hoping I'll get to work with her at some point in the future! She also told me she liked my shoes, which in my opinion makes her extra awesome :).

One of the best parts of the conference, as I already mentioned, was the authors. These are but a few of the people I met:

Carol Lynch Williams runs Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. She's also the author of 5,623 different books*, including The Chosen One, which I read in a single day while I was in New York. It made me cry (almost).

When I arrived at the conference, I was convinced Carol was mean. Why, you might ask? Well, I'm not exactly sure. I think it's because she's not smiling in the picture on the back of her book (don't get me wrong, it's a great picture...she looks very dignified). Also, it might have something to do with her middle name being Lynch. It wasn't a conscious decision on my part, but I had gotten it into my head that Carol was the sort of person who's always very serious (and therefore somewhat scary).

Carol is actually hilarious. Plus, she's super nice, despite what I might have thought before attending the conference. I had so much fun listening to her speak and I absolutely love her writing. As the person who organizes Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers, I have to say, thank you thank you thank you! It was an amazing experience. Barring death or serious physical incapacitation (knowing me, it's highly possible), I'll be back next year for sure!

And isn't our picture just adorable? :)

Carol's Blog (with Ann Dee Ellis)

Alane Ferguson has written 5.3 million books*, even more than Carol, if you can believe it. She is known for her flash critiques and brutal honesty. She's also an incredibly talented dancer, even if she won't let us (me) post the video on YouTube.

Alane is my new favorite person. Everybody buy her books. Seriously. The reason she is my favorite person is because she encourages all aspiring authors, no matter how good or bad their writing is, and because she doesn't hold back in her editing suggestions. Her advice helped me revise my first page and win the WIFYR contest. In essence, I owe her for my consultation with Mary, and I'm so grateful that she took the time to speak with me and critique my work. She's also hilarious, and I loved all of her presentations. Funny people are great. I like funny people.

Anyways, you should all visit her blog. Yes. I mean you. Click here:

Alane's Blog

This is me and Gentry with Sara Zarr, author of Story of a Girl, Sweethearts, and Once was Lost. First off, Gentry is awesome. She's 12 and she's already an amazing writer. I had a great time getting to know her and her aunt, Paige Kimball, during the afternoon sessions of WIFYR.

Anyways, Sara's books are very, very good. I've read the first two, and Once was Lost is next on my list. If you like contemporary YA, go buy her work right this moment. You won't regret it. I loved the presentation she did with her editor, and I feel like I really learned a lot from the things Sara said. She's always been so kind and encouraging (we first met back in November) and she's really inspired me to keep writing. You should also visit her blog:

Sara's Blog

Brandon is so cool. If you haven't read Fablehaven, you're missing out. He really knows how to cater to a young audience, and I loved hearing about his journey to publication and how he markets his books. As the head of my critique group, he did a wonderful job reviewing and editing our manuscripts. His advice was so helpful and I loved his sense of humor! He's secretly a nerd, like me, so we had fun talking about Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter :).


Also, I'd like to give a shout-out to The King's English, the most amazing bookstore in the entire world. I could spend forever in the children's room there. If any of you are ever in Salt Lake City, go here:

King's English

Anyways, that's about all I can think of to write, apart from reiterating how amazing this conference has been for me. I've never had an experience remotely like it. Thanks to all of you out there who made WIFYR possible, and I hope to see you next year!

*All figures are approximate


  1. Wow Kate, that about sums it all up, eh? I think you covered it all!

  2. Haha it really was a great week, wasn't it?

  3. I try to think of something interesting or meaningful to say, but all I can think of is, "I'm jealous!!!!!"

    Pretty much sums up my thoughts. I'm really motivated to look for these writing conferences now. I need to meet my own cool authors. ;D

    Oh, and thanks for all the book/author suggestions. I'm checking them all out now :)

  4. Hahaha yeah I think that's one of the big advantages to living in Utah...there are so many conferences! This one was so much fun. I'm really, really sad it's over.

    Meeting authors is the greatest, because they're all somewhat crazy. They're a lot less intimidating than I expected them to be.

  5. That was a great week, wasn't it? And our class was definitely the best of all of them.