Teen Writers Bloc

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Archive for the ‘Book Biz Buzz’ Category

Spotlight: Neesha Meminger’s New Book “Into The Wise Dark”

Posted by Dhonielle Clayton On April - 4 - 2012

b170d833bb3ad68fdafd38d0c35d1c28 Spotlight: Neesha Memingers New Book Into The Wise DarkAnnouncement! Announcement! My good friend Neesha Meminger has a new book out and it’s magical. The last time we caught up with Neesha, it was to discuss her other book Jazz in Love. Fans of that book will definitely dig her latest one, even though it’s a departure from contemporary fiction. Neesha wades into fantasy waters and does it well. Plus, the main character, Pammi, is a secondary character from her last novel. We caught up with Neesha to discuss the new project.

What inspired you to write a fantasy novel? Was it challenging to incorporate fantastical elements?

I loved magic and fantasy as a child. I don’t think I’ve met a child yet who doesn’t! It engages the imagination and makes the seemingly impossible, possible. All fairytales are full of magic — fairy godmothers and wolves who talk and mirrors that tell tales and lands where no one grows old… And the stories I grew up with at home were deeply rooted in Indian myths and legends. The lines between the fantastic and the real were always blurry and my mother never made the distinction between the two. I wrote many short stories and poems, prior to having my first book published, that had elements of the speculative. They had a thread of magic or a hint of the fantastic woven throughout. In fact, the very first novel I ever shopped around to agents – an epic tale of trans-global migration – had a grandmother ghost in it. But the first novel to get published was a contemporary realistic one. It was distilled from the longer, epic novel I’d written, sans the grandmother ghost. But I’d always wanted to write stories that broke open the world we live in, so that we could glimpse other Possibles, and grow bigger than we think we can. Into The Wise Dark had been brewing in my mind for a while and when I finally began to write it, I felt like I was coming home in a way.

How did you transition between writing two different genres — contemporary for Shine, Coconut Moon and Jazz in Love – and now, fantasy with Into the Wise Dark? Did you have to switch “hats” or sensibilities so to speak?

I read a lot of both, so it wasn’t super hard for me to make the transition. The challenges I faced were the same challenges I face with all my other writing. I have weak areas and blind spots and strengths and some things that I do really well. All of those came into play in the same way. I still look at issues of race and gender and sexuality and collective action over individual glory, and my key protagonists are all women and/or women of color. This is true for all my work. It will always be true of my work. I often get asked if I will “branch out” and write characters who are not South Asian. My answer to that is usually, “Yes. I will stop writing strong South Asian female protagonists when the shelves at major bookstores are lined with novels about strong South Asian female protagonists. Until then, this is what I shall focus on.” icon smile Spotlight: Neesha Memingers New Book Into The Wise Dark

The other thing we hear a lot about when it comes to fantasy and speculative fiction is “world-building.” At first, this term intimidated me, but then, when I thought about it, I realized I’d been “world-building” all my life. Every time I translated the western culture we lived in to my non-English-speaking parents at home, I was world-building. Every time I tried to explain the strange and foreign traditions and customs of my family to the outside world, I was world-building. And in both my contemporary novels, I still had to build worlds. I needed to build an “inside” world of South Asian culture and traditions that could feel real to readers who might not be familiar with those. If readers couldn’t step inside and become a part of the world I’d created, they wouldn’t experience the story as it was meant to be experienced. So, when I thought of it in those terms, the process was less intimidating and felt more doable.

What’s next for you? A sequel to Into the Wise Dark? Another contemporary tale? Both?

At this point, I’m not sure which direction my career will take. Writing will always be an important part of my life and connecting with my readers is a necessity for me. It shapes me and helps me evolve. But the path has been unpredictable and bumpy and, many times, not at all what I expected. Now, with the way the world is in flux and all the (very rapid!) changes taking place, I’m having a bit of a breather so I can gain some perspective. But rest assured I will be putting *something* out in the not-so-distant future icon smile Spotlight: Neesha Memingers New Book Into The Wise Dark .

Photo Credit: Ignite Books

 

mike sorrentino picture 488x325 YA Dealmakers: Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino to Pen Literary YA Novel

Major YA publisher Scholastic has just announced that it has acquired the rights to a new YA novel by Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, of Jersey Shore fame. The novel, My Soulful Sigh, will revolve around Torrence, an African-American soul singer who “must endure the hardships of petty small-town racism and the heartbreak of unrequited love while following the twisted, painful path toward stardom.” Here’s a direct quote from today’s press release:

“Scholastic is thrilled to have secured the rights to Mr. Sorrentino’s novel. My Soulful Sigh is truly a masterpiece of literary art. It’s safe to say that no one who knows Mr. Sorrentino solely from Jersey Shore expected this kind of writing to come from him, but we have verified Mr. Sorrentino’s authorship, and we couldn’t have been more excited to learn that underneath the entertaining (and buff) exterior lies an intellectualism that rivals Beckett or Hemingway. And he’s made it all accessible to a teen audience. My Soulful Sigh will hit bookstores in Fall 2013.”

Ever since the news hit, reactions from all over the world have been pouring in, most of them negative. “My Soulful Sigh?” scoffed Sorrentino’s Jersey Shore castmate Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi. “Yeah, you want a reaction?” Ms. Polizzi then farted loudly into the microphone. Internet commentators have been, if possible, even less welcoming. Comments underneath the LA Times report have ranged from “Situeeten a crzy ho!” to “Looser [redacted] mouse turd [redacted] pickle juice [redacted anti-homosexual slur].”

Here at TeenWritersBloc.com, we have to admit that we’re surprised that The Situation has supposedly personally written anything, much less a serious literary novel. We had a hard enough time when we learned that Snooki had “written” a bestseller. BUT it’s totally unfair to pass judgment on something we haven’t read. We know lots of people at Scholastic, and they’re no dummies! So we promise to read the book with an open mind.

How about you? What do you think?

Photo courtesy MTV

215px HungerGamesPoster 195x300 Breaking YA News: Hunger Games Theme Park to Feature Actual Tributes from Thirteen StatesUniversal Studios has announced that it will begin work on a theme park that will let fans live the experience of Katniss Everdeen, star of the popular Hunger Games movie and book series. Thanks to an agreement between Universal, the film’s producers, and the country’s most cash-strapped states, the park will feature actual live tributes, whose families will be paid $1,000 for each day their tribute survives after beginning his or her shift.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” says Universal president Barney Rhodes. “The states get lump sum payments that will really help with their budget deficits, plus they’ll save the cash they would have spent on welfare and Medicaid. The families replace their mouths to feed with crisp green dollars. And Hunger Games fans get to live out their dream of killing other people for no reason. People love these books because of the senseless murder. We’re giving them what they want and making it even more fun!”

Author Suzanne Collins was less excited about the plan. “They’re doing thirteen states,” she said. “But in my books, only twelve districts send tributes. Unless they fix this inaccuracy, I might have to sue for breach of contract.” But Universal was sanguine about the threat. “She sold her rights to us fair and square,” said a spokesperson. “Plus, Mississipi needed the money. It’s a win-win.”

Teen Writers Bloc also spoke to some fans. “Omigod, I can’t wait!” said self-described “superfan” Angela Burbank, 18, whom we spoke to outside a midnight showing of the Hunger Games movie. “I hope we get to do some of the killing ourselves. It would suck if it was just, like, behind some glass or something.”

“I don’t know,” said 12-year-old Alyssa. “If the tributes are getting paid, it’s not really the same. If they start doing a lottery thing, I’ll think about it.”

We followed up with Universal to see if becoming a tribute would, in fact, be voluntary. “It’s up to the parent,” said the spokesperson. “We br … I mean convinced state legislators to change the laws to make children property of the parents until they turn eighteen. Republicans know our way is better than birth control. So the parents can sell them to us or not. But I can tell you, we’ve already got more offers than we can handle! One father even offered his son for free. He said the kid was a sissy for reading a ‘girl’ book like The Hunger Games and this would teach him.”

We then asked if Universal had any plans for a similar theme park centering around 1990s Japanese bestseller Battle Royale, which also features teenagers senselessly murdering each other at the behest of an evil government. “What? Never heard of it. Hunger Games is totally original,” said the spokesperson, who hung up on us.

Look for “The Hunger Games: Isn’t Senseless Slaughter Fun?” to open at Universal Studios Florida in summer 2015!

Photo courtesy Lionsgate 

The Hunger Games Brings Out All the Bigots (and Many Are Teens)!

Posted by Dhonielle Clayton On March - 27 - 2012

 The Hunger Games Brings Out All the Bigots (and Many Are Teens)!The Hunger Games made a dynamic showing this past weekend and most fans seem to be generally pleased with the adaptation of the book to the big screen. They’ve praised the director and those involved with the film for its adherence to many pivotal elements of the book. But in the midst of excitement and great press for YA books, a nasty cloud looms.

A friend sent me an article from Jezebel about all of the racist posts and tweets about the characters of Rue and Thresh from District 11 (Read about these idiot racists more here). The tweets aren’t for the faint of heart and sound like they are snippets taken from some backwoods, Jim Crow bar before a Klan rally. I am horrified and disgusted and, frankly, PISSED!

These particular fans claim that neither Rue nor Thresh were written as black characters. They hated the movie because of it. They don’t believe black actors and actresses should have these dynamic, pivotal, and heart-breaking roles (especially Rue). Maybe they can use this argument with the character of Cinna, who isn’t completely racialized by Collins. But if these fans paid attention to Suzanne Collins’ text, they would discover that she did, indeed, write them as black characters. She was even quoted as saying that Rue and Thresh were African-American.

But I have to admit that even some of my like-minded, YA-savvy friends emailed me after the casting for The Hunger Games came out and said, “Was Rue really BLACK?” And then I had to re-think the plot and characters and remember this fact. I, myself, had forgotten. This is a huge problem that I will return to.

In my copy of the book, Rue is first mentioned when Katniss is watching recaps of The Reapings in other Districts. Rue is described as, “… a twelve-year-old girl from District 11. She has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that, she’s very like Prim in size and demeanor” (45). And the other tribute is described as “the boy from District 11, Thresh, has the same dark skin as Rue, but the resemblance stops there. He’s one of the giants, probably six and a half feet tall …” (126).

Gale and Rue from THE HUNGER GAMES movie The Hunger Games Brings Out All the Bigots (and Many Are Teens)!Perhaps this line is missing from the racists’ books. Perhaps I am wrong and can’t read very well. Perhaps the millions of fans who’ve come to defense of Rue and Thresh and the actor and actress who play them are somehow delusional.

I was so happy that Suzanne Collins created characters that looked like me with hair just like mine. I was so happy that Suzanne Collins populated her world with all types of human beings so that each teen reader could find their “future” self on the page. She could’ve made them all-white and no one would’ve blinked.

But I can’t help thinking: Did Suzanne Collins drop the ball with her minority characters by not reminding readers that they were minorities or non-white?

Should writers remind readers of what characters look like, even if it’s not pertinent to the narrative?

Crazy questions, right?

Rue doesn’t really come back “on-stage” in the narrative until page 184, when she saves Katniss while she’s in the tree by pointing the the nasty wasp nest. She isn’t described physically anymore for the entire book. We are supposed to remember the sweet, little brown girl who was mentioned as looking similar to Prim during The Reaping. We are supposed to remember that she is brown. Even when Rue chomps on leaves to make a paste for Katniss’s knee and they help each other survive for a little while, there isn’t another mention of her color. Not even when she died.

Did Suzanne Collins stumble?

Should she have continued to remind us through slight-of-hand ways that Rue was a little brown kid? Would these reminders have kept Rue as an “outsider”?

Did Katniss’ relationship with Rue progress as most human relationships do — beyond race?

Did we forget Rue was brown because Katniss forgot and it became irrelevant?

Did Rue’s race become obsolete as they were both trying to survive?

 The Hunger Games Brings Out All the Bigots (and Many Are Teens)!After subjecting myself to reading through the racist tweets and vile rhetoric lodged at the two characters, I found myself wondering more deeply why do “we” (people living in a Eurocentric culture) assume that if a character is not described in detail and/or racialized as an “other” that he or she is white? Last year, Teen Writers Bloc surveyed a smorgasbord of black writers about this very question. But I still can’t figure it out.

I have no answers.

I just know that I don’t want anyone to forget the color of my characters. I don’t want their color to be overlooked. I just want their particular color to not be held against them.

As a writer, this whole uproar scares me about the potential of non-white YA characters to soar on the big screen or on the page in a big, splashy way. Can brown and yellow and red and black kids go to outer space or through the wardrobe or to a magical school or any other cool place and bring in money to the box office like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter? Or move books off the shelves in such quantities?

Do my characters stand a chance? Or will there always be racial epitaphs lodged at them?

What do you think? Did Suzanne Collins drop the ball? Should she address the controversy?

Get educated on the characters of the Hunger Games. Check out this article!

Photo Credit: Lionsgate

Midnight Showing of The Hunger Games

Posted by Dhonielle Clayton On March - 23 - 2012

Corey katniss ring Midnight Showing of The Hunger GamesA few of us at Teen Writers Bloc stayed up late to grapple with lines and crowds just to see The Hunger Games at midnight. At the Court Street Theatre in Brooklyn, the line wasn’t too bad when we arrived at 10:00 p.m., but soon thereafter it exploded and wrapped around the block. The crowd was thick with people of all ages and nationalities and racial groups. I didn’t see anyone dressed as characters from the trilogy, but some jackass showed up as a wizard from Harry Potter, complete with a wand!

At 11:10 they let us crowd into the theatre and made us travel all the way up to the 9th floor by escalator. Once at the top, we waited a little more until 11:35 and then they let us pile into the theatre. Everyone (including me) proceeded to run for seats.

In the theatre, every seat was taken and everyone was on their best behavior. I was nervous that there would be talking during the film or general debauchery, but these were dire-hard fans who wanted to see every frame and hear every word. Although my nerves were fried, I was able to settle in and enjoy the film. I thought the world of Panem was captured wonderfully: the crazy costumed people in The Capitol, District 12, the wilderness of the game site, the other tributes (especially Rue). I’m not sure there was a dry eye in the theatre when poor Rue was killed.

I don’t have much to say about the actual film. I was super-impressed and liked the way they let the story unfold. If I had to find a note of criticism, it would be that Gale was a more attractive than Peeta and, thus, it was distracting. I kept thinking, When are we going to see Gale again? I loved Peeta in the books, but he just didn’t look as lovely as Gale on the big screen.

Go see the film. Our New School Lit professor David Levithan was the editor on this series and it’s just a treat. I may never go to a midnight showing again because I have barely recovered from being out until 3:30 a.m., but it was quite the experience!

Photo Credit: Corey Ann Haydu’s wonderful friend Meghan bought her the Katniss ring, which is featured in the picture above.

Mermaid Jolante Flickr Guest Blogger Jean Paul Bass Investigates The Lure (and Lore) of the SeaThe year 2011 was hyped by many as the year mermaids would dethrone vampires as the reigning monarchy of YA paranormal fiction. USA Today proclaimed mermaids were going to be the next big thing and even mentioned the vampire queen herself, Stephenie Meyer, was working on her own spin of the mermaid genre.

So, where are all the mermaids? While there was a school of mermaid YA titles published in 2011 and a small herd swimming to bookstores in 2012, I have yet to see the genre live up to the hype. Publishers seem to be focusing their attentions on the tried and true, vampires, ghosts, and angels, when it comes to paranormal YA fiction.  A quick look at Barnes & Noble’s list of the top selling paranormal YA novels reveals that vampires still dominate. In fact, I was unable to find a single mermaid novel on the entire list. Over in fantasy, dystopian novels like The Hunger Games and tales involving the supernatural or high fantasy such as Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series are the bestsellers, with mermaids nowhere to be found.

Are readers not ready to give up their beloved vampires? Or is the market just not delivering the goods? There are plenty of readers who love a good mermaid tail* (the year 2011 saw the introduction of a magazine and convention devoted to mermaids), but it’s still a small niche. Perhaps publishing houses are finding it difficult to widen the appeal of mermaids or maybe YA readers just aren’t that into tales from the sea.

While I would welcome a change from the blood suckers that currently rule the YA roost, I’m not convinced mermaids are what’s next. To me, mermaids seem a little too fantastical for today’s YA readers. Maybe when the Disney-fied mental image most YA readers probably conjure up at the mention of mermaids loses its impact, readers will be able to take the genre more seriously. Vampires have had centuries to develop their cool, from Bram Stoker’s iconic Count Dracula to Anne Rice’s genre-busting Interview With A Vampire.  So, until then, I can’t agree that mermaids are the new vampire, but they are definitely washing up on shore**** more often. In an interview with Susan Marston of the Junior Library Guild, she mentions that novels featuring half-mermaids will be a popular trend for 2012. And a half-mermaid is nothing to shake your trident at, right?

*Pun very much intended. I’ll try to scale** back on punning from now on.

**Get it? Alright, alright. Starting now, I promise: fin*** to bad puns.

*** Okay, starting now.

**** Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Bio: Jean-Paul Bass recently decided to quit her job to focus on writing full-time and she swears she doesn’t miss having a regular paycheck at all.  She is currently working on her M.F.A. in fiction at The New School and is writing a memoir about growing up in Cleveland, Ohio.   

Photo Credit: Flickr — Jolante

Big News For A Friend of Teen Writers Bloc!

Posted by Dhonielle Clayton On March - 19 - 2012

i heard the big news Big News For A Friend of Teen Writers Bloc!

The year of 2012 has turned out to be a successful year for many so far. A good friend of Teen Writers Bloc, Lisa Amowitz has great news to celebrate. She sold her awesome book titled Breaking Glass.

Here’s the blurb from Publisher’s Marketplace: Lisa Amowitz’s Breaking Glass, about a troubled boy struggling to keep his grip on reality as he unearths long buried secrets and reawakens old nightmares after launching an investigation into the disappearance of his longtime crush who vanished only to contact him from beyond the grave, to Kate Kaynak at Spencer Hill Press, by Victoria Marini at Gelfman Schneider.

My very dear friend (and Jewish mother) Lisa Amowitz is the graphic artist responsible for our gorgeous website banner at Teen Writers Bloc. I’ve known this energetic and spunky lady for what feels like my entire life. She let me into her wonderful critique group back when I was a small-fry, trying to learn to write. Now, this group, populated with the fantastic writers — Heidi Ayarbe, Christine Johnson, Kate Milford, Cynthia Kennedy Henzel, Lindsay Eland, Trish Eklund, Pippa Bayliss, and Lisa Amowitz — has become my writing life-line. Coupled with the Teen Writers Bloc crew, if I can get a manuscript past their sharp critiquing eyes (and teeth), then I know it’s viable.

After a long journey and several manuscripts, Lisa has done it (courtesy of her fabulous agent, Victoria Marini, who also represents one of our own at Teen Writers Bloc — Corey Ann Haydu)! And the book is good!!!!!

Photo Credit: Dribble.com; John Duggan

nyt duckrabbit 300x249 The Mystery of the NY Times Best Sellers List (Warning: Caelas Doing A Lot of Math)March is Women’s History Month and what better way to celebrate the power of women than in recognizing their accomplishments — both fictional and not — in the field of children’s lit?

After all, we have an wide array of women’s superstars in our industry, from Katniss Everdeen and Hazel Grace Lancaster to JK Rowling and Judy Blume.  And this parade of women marches far back behind the page. The majority of literary agents representing children’s’ authors are women; the majority of editors putting kids lit on the shelves are women; the majority of authors and aspiring authors putting words on the page for teens and young people are women.

When people discuss careers dominated by women, they usually mention eduction, nursing, fashion, etc.  It’s a growing list and it’s wonderful to be able to add the very alive world of children’s publishing to it.

But all of this adds to the mystery of the New York Times Best Sellers List.

I first noticed this a few weeks ago (February 12th to be exact) when I was reading the paper with my dad. He was discussing how the adult’s Best Sellers List tends to be the same authors over and over again, and I posited that that was probably true of the children’s list as well. But that’s not what I noticed when I checked that week’s Book Pages. Instead, I noticed that the list of names was as follows: John, Rick, Random, Brian, Jack, Shel, Rick, Brian. Not one woman’s name on the list!

Because my own short time in this industry has been so dominated by women — eleven of our twelve classmates, four of my six professors, my agent, my editor, and all of the other agents and editors I spoke with are women — this seemed strange. But I figured it was just a current trent. Probably just a fluke.

So I crunched the numbers. I listed every author on the Best Sellers List over a year’s time, but I excluded the non-fiction titles (i.e. The Lego Handbook), which don’t seem to belong on this same list as The Fault in Our Stars or The Red Pyramid anyway. Here’s what I found:

*41 weeks of the year, there were more men than women on the list

*8 weeks of the year, there were more women than men on the list

*4 weeks of the year, the list was evenly split between the genders

*6.2 was the average number of men on the list

*2.88 was the average number of women on the list

*4 weeks of the year, the list was topped by a woman

*48 weeks of the year, the list was topped by a man

I have to admit, this shocked me. What’s going on? Obviously, it feels like we should be aiming for a 50/50 split, which we’re far from.  But considering the majority of qualified authors are women to begin with, it seems like the data should swing in the other direction. How is this possible? Why would this be?

I have been trying to fill in the reasons ever since, but I haven’t gotten very far.

Perhaps there is a gender-based reason for this. Perhaps men are simply better at publicizing themselves and pushing their ideas toward the big money. Perhaps men tend to be more focused on reaching a broad audience or perhaps they are more likely to define success through becoming a Best Seller. Perhaps the fact that there are fewer men out there to push means that more people rally behind them.

Or maybe the reasons are more benign. Maybe it’s simply the old lore that girls will read about anyone, but boys prefer to read about boys, so men automatically end up with double the audience. (Although in my time teaching for boys, this proved to be entirely untrue.)

Or maybe it’s even simpler than this. Maybe it’s just that the recent super-stars are Rick Riordan and Brian Selznick, so there are men who often appear on the list multiple times in the same week. And maybe these numbers would look completely different in a year when the rage was Twilight or The Hunger Games. 

But no matter the reason, it seems a mystery worth exploring during Women’s History Month.

Photo Credit: croniclebooks.com

Jess’s Big News!

Posted by Jessica Verdi On February - 28 - 2012

photo 448x600 Jesss Big News!As writers, we are lovers of words. Learning new words, rediscovering old words, choosing the perfect words to come out of our characters’ mouths. But I now know five words that, when put in a very specific sequence, are better than any other words in the whole wide world: I GOT A BOOK DEAL!

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I don’t like celebrating myself. I’ve never been one for birthday parties and I didn’t even have a wedding – I talked my husband into getting married at City Hall. (It costs 25 bucks and takes about 30 seconds. Plus, you can wear jeans!) But selling my book, getting this deal… well, I kinda want to shout it from the rooftops.

My debut novel, On the Plus Side, a contemporary YA about a suburban teenage girl who tests positive for HIV, will be published by Sourcebooks Fire in Spring 2013. And it’s part of a 2-book deal (!!!), so my currently-untitled follow-up contemporary YA novel will be hitting bookstores the following October!

It’s a very weird thing, going from being a writing student with an abstract dream of selling a book to suddenly working with a real live editor and coming up with cover ideas and back cover synopses and author bios and all that stuff that will be part of an actual, physical book. A book that I wrote. I mean, holy crap, right? Crazy.

So crazy, in fact, that I’m almost afraid it will all go away. Like there was some big mistake made or the publishing company will change their minds or it’s all part of some elaborate joke. You see that picture? That’s the letter from Larry Kramer, the playwright of The Normal Heart, that was given out to all audience members at the Broadway production of the play last year. I taped it to my wall above my computer so whenever I needed inspiration while writing On the Plus Side, Larry’s amazing words were there to give me an encouraging nudge.

I put the “Happy Thoughts” note up on the day my awesome agent Kate McKean sent the book out to editors. (Feb. 28 was the close date – yeah, this whole thing happened really quickly.) Whenever I managed to convince myself that no one would want to buy the book and that I am a talentless, wannabe hack (which was often), I would look up at that note and think happy thoughts and it would make me feel better. The thing is, I’m now afraid to take them off my wall. What if by doing so, I displace some tiny, teetering part of the universe and the whole thing comes crashing down around me?

Those notes will probably stay taped to that wall until I move out of this apartment and am forced to take them down. But that’s okay. They’re a welcome reminder that this whole business might be totally crazy, but it’s also totally wonderful.

Writers Conferences 2012: Where Will You Spend Your 2012 Marketing Dollars?

Posted by Sona Charaipotra On January - 6 - 2012

nycview Writers Conferences 2012: Where Will You Spend Your 2012 Marketing Dollars?

Writer’s conferences are like a quick fix of creative adrenaline. A concentrated take on the craft and business of writing, they can really get the creative juices flowing, and get you right into the thick of things, whether or not you’re a natural-born networker, like our own Dhonielle.

But there is a right time to go — and not every conference is a great fit for everyone. That’s why, when you’re budgeting your networking dollars, it’s a smart idea to take a really close look at what your options are. Especially given that, these days, you could probably find a writers’ conference in your area any given weekend. But which are worth the investment? And when should you go?

It all depends on you and where you are with your writing. A few of us here at Teen Writers Bloc, for example, are gearing up for the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators conference in New York City this month. But others among us know that, as much as we’d like to go, we’re nowhere near ready. Perhaps a summer conference would be a better bet for those folks.

What writers conference will give you the most bang for your buck? Only you can decide. But since it’s a new year (and hopefully, new budget!), we’ve rounded up a few of the best bets for your perusal — and we’ve tried to stick to conferences that would be fruitful for teen and middle grade writers. Maybe we’ll see you there!

Writers Digest Conference
New York, New York; January 20 – 22
Cost: $525 for the full conference, $375 for Saturday only — and there’s even a $275 student option
With lots of big picture overview, including keynotes on the where publishing is headed, e-publishing, author-entrepreneurship,  self-publishing and marketing yourself and your work online, this conference, sponsored by industry magazine Writer’s Digest, is taking writers’ straight into the future of the book business. There’s also an intensive three-hour pitch slam, a sort of speed dating with agents, including YA and kid lit champions Brandi Bowles (Foundry), Susan Hawk (The Bent Agency), Molly Jaffa (Folio Literary Management), Mary Kole (Andrea Brown Lit), Sarah LaPolla (Curtis Brown) and Holly McGhee (Pippin Properties), amongst many others.

Society of Children’s Book Writers And Illustrators
New York, New York; January 27 – 29
Cost: $385 for members, $485 for non-members
Highlights: The SCBWI annual winter conference is the scene and be seen event for children’s book writers. This year, teen favorites like Cassandra Clare, National Book Award winner Kathryn Erskine and Sophie Blackall are amongst the speakers, and there are plenty of big agent and editor names on the panels on craft and marketing, too. But conference vet Dhonielle says the best part of doing the SCBWI events is meeting like-minded writers. She’s found critique group members — and life-long friends — at these events. If you can’t make this one, SCBWI has mini-events across the country — and another biggie in L.A. this summer.

San Diego State University Writers’ Conference
San Diego, Ca.; January 27 – 29
Cost: $435; one-on-one consult appointments are $50 each
If you’re working it on the West coast (or trying to get out of the snow here on the East Coast), then you can’t beat the San Diego State University Writers’ Conference at the end of January. The event seems chock full of opportunities for teen fiction writers, including meet-n-greets with editors looking for YA at Harper, Tor Teen, and St. Martin’s, amongst others.

Algonkian NYC Pitch and Shop
New York, New York; March 22 – 25
Cost: $595 before March 1, $695 after
This quarterly, application-only conference, held in New York City every spring, summer, fall and winter, is focused on getting writers in strong shape to sell their novels, offering novel deconstruction and analysis from agents and editors from major houses (including ICM YA champion Tina Wexler). Writers refine their works via panels and intimate workshop groups, then have the opportunity to pitch up to four industry professionals, including editors from Grand Central, Random House, Broadway Books and others.

Backspace Writers Conference
New York, NY; May 24 – 26
Cost: Early Bird registration (pre-Feb 1) $595 for Conference and Agent-Author Day
The conference spin-off of the stellar online writers’ community BKSP.org, this three-day event is super-focused on making connections with agents, with panels on querying, crafting stellar opening pages, and what agents are looking for. So if that’s the stage you’re approaching, it might just be the perfect way to network yourself into a deal. YA and women’s fiction star Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the keynote this year, and given the NYC location, the publishing industry insiders will no doubt turn up in spades.

Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-On-One Plus Conference
Piscataway, New Jersey; October 2012
Cost: $195 for the one-day event, including breakfast and lunch
This application-only event pairs a small number of skilled writers one-on-one with a children’s writing professional — agent, editor, or writer. The plus? Each writer and mentor pair gets to network with several others at round-table discussions about writing, editing and publishing — a great, low-pressure way to network, and it’s very likely you’ll come out of the event with long-term relationships. As an attending at the 2011, I met editors and agents and authors — plus, many of my fellow aspiring writers, too.

What writer’s conferences will you be attending this year? What are your best tips for getting the most bang for your buck at these networking events?

pixel Writers Conferences 2012: Where Will You Spend Your 2012 Marketing Dollars?
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