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Dear John Green: An Open Letter About Diversity from a Little Brown Librarian

Posted by Dhonielle Clayton On February - 19 - 2013

 Dear John Green: An Open Letter About Diversity from a Little Brown LibrarianDear John Green*,

After watching your fireside chat with President Obama, I got inspired to write you a letter. I am a middle school librarian at Harlem Village Academies in East Harlem, New York, and an up and coming MG/YA writer represented by the lovely Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider/ICM. My library has several copies of all of your books, and they stay in constant circulation with my students. I was first introduced to you as an author in David Levithan’s Teen Lit course in my MFA in Writing for Children program at The New School. We read Looking for Alaska, and your prose, your characters, and the heart of the novel blew the class away.

There’s no denying it. You’re great!

I don’t need to tell you that you’re an awesome storyteller and that the stories you tell connect with millions and millions of readers. You’re a New York Times bestselling author, and what you write turns to gold!

I just have a question for you: Why is there a lack of racial diversity in your work?

Granted, I know that it’s probably unfair of me to ask you this question. I am a writer and don’t want to ever be told what to write or to be questioned about what I choose to write, but after watching you with President Obama, I couldn’t help but think, Can Sasha or Malia find themselves in John Green’s books? Is there someone who looks like them in his universe? Would someone who looks like them ever be the main protagonist in one of his awesome novels?

A child or teen (or a person, really) can connect to anything if there’s a thread of universality present or an emotional core that transcends race or class or ethnicity or religion. I get that. I’ve experienced that. You’ve done that in your works.

But what’s sad is that I get questions like this from my students when they visit the library weekly:

“Why is the library filled with books about white teens?”

“Why is everyone in books white?”

“Why have I read every single book about kids like me?”

“Do any books with brown kids – besides Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – hit the New York Times best seller list?”

You might say that there’s no way my students are asking these types of questions. That I made them up to suit my open letter.

Come visit and see! Harlem Village Academies are full of the brightest young minds, kids who are challenged to read 50 books a year as a requirement to go from grade to grade. They devour everything I give them, and they ask a lot of insightful questions about life and the world. When you can’t find yourself in the books you’re told to read, it brings up a lot of thoughts and questions about the world of books.

You don’t have to care about these questions. You don’t have to think about them as you write, even.

But I wish that you would consider them. There’s a pervasive whiteness to the stories you write. I don’t mean to be inflammatory or rude in this observation, and I could call out a hundred other YA authors who do the same thing. I’d like to ask you about it though. Maybe whiteness is all you know. Maybe that’s what your life journey and upbringing has afforded you. Since we’re supposed to write what we know, maybe that’s what you’re doing. I can’t fault you for that. Your stories reflect an earned authenticity.

As a minority in this country, I have a different experience as you probably already know from countless other minorities shouting from rooftops or PC culture, etc. But the fact remains that I am surrounded by white people. My identity has formed in contrast or in conjunction with whiteness. I am/was/will always be the smudge. The stories I write will always be multicultural because that is my experience. I don’t have the luxury to write about an all-anything world because that isn’t reflective of where I come from. So white people and children will always be written into my stories. You don’t have to have this experience. But it has given me a sense of creative responsibility to write invisible teens and people into the YA book world.

Do you feel a sense of creative responsibility?

I don’t have a lick of fame, yet I feel this overwhelming sense that I need to do something meaningful and inclusive with my creative work. Maybe this is all a function of my identity as a minority and my upbringing as a person from an oppressed group. I don’t have an explanation for this. It’s a feeling that runs parallel to my aspirations.

I often argue with my adult writer friends about the topic of creative responsibility. We’re a semi-diverse, motley crew made up of the ladies who blog on TeenWritersBloc.com. At our biweekly critique meetings, we sometimes discuss TV shows. At one dinner a few weeks ago, we had a fruitful discussion about whether writer/producer Lena Dunham should have meaningful diversity on her HBO show Girls. I always bring up the fact that I think she should have minorities present on her show. It’s the same argument I’ve had about other shows in the past – Sex in the City, Friends, etc. Some of my writer friends, whom I love no matter what they believe, assert that it isn’t Lena Dunham’s responsibility, and bring up a great point about why white men aren’t pushed to include minorities, yet white women tend to be pushed to do so. I always posit the following question at the end of this never-ending conversation: Even given all of that, why not include them?

So I’ll posit the same question to you – Why not include racial minorities in your work? What’s the harm?

I know the publishing industry is very different from the TV/film industry, and one of the ugly rumors floating about is that books with minority teens don’t sell. Their faces on books alienate white readers and their white parents, who buy the books their kids read.

I just don’t know. It makes me sick to think about it being true. And it really isn’t your problem. It’s mine. It’s something that I will have to face as a writer who includes teens/children of color as main protagonists.

But your career makes me wonder if someone with your fame and clout could change the game. You’ve done it in so many different ways already. If you wrote a book about a non-white teen, would it explode like The Fault in Our Stars? Or would it be the one book you wrote that flopped and didn’t make all of those best teen books lists? Would your white fan base say the book isn’t for “them”? Would angry minorities come after you for writing a book from a non-white protagonist and earning money from it?

I don’t know.

I’d just like to challenge you to write a book with some color in it, or at least consider it. I know if anyone can do it, it’s you. Even if nothing comes of this letter, I’d love to start the conversation about the lack of diversity in teen books.

Happy Writing!

Dhonielle Clayton, a little brown librarian (and writer!)

*NERDfighters do not attack, put the lasers down, this open letter comes from a warm and fuzzy place, and I am a small, humble librarian who wants no trouble. I speak my words in peace. Thanks!

Enter to Win a Signed ARC of Jessica Verdi’s MY LIFE AFTER NOW

Posted by Jessica Verdi On January - 15 - 2013

photo 224x300 Enter to Win a Signed ARC of Jessica Verdis MY LIFE AFTER NOWHi gang!

To celebrate the impending release of my contemporary YA novel MY LIFE AFTER NOW (Seriously, is it April yet? I’m tired of waiting!), I’m doing a Goodreads giveaway! The giveaway is open from now through March 1, and one winner (chosen at random by Goodreads) will get a signed advance reader copy of the book. Woot!

Here’s what the book’s about:


Lucy just had the worst week ever. Seriously, mega bad. And suddenly, it’s all too much—she wants out. Out of her house, out of her head, out of her life. She wants to be a whole new Lucy. So she does something the old Lucy would never dream of.

And now her life will never be the same. Now, how will she be able to have a boyfriend? What will she tell her friends? How will she face her family? Now, every moment is a precious gift. She never thought being positive could be so negative. But now, everything’s different…because now she’s living with HIV.

And here’s the link to the giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

15752348 Enter to Win a Signed ARC of Jessica Verdis MY LIFE AFTER NOW

My Life After Now

by Jessica Verdi

Giveaway ends March 01, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Kid Lit Critiques — A New Venture From Two Teen Writers Bloc Members!

Posted by Dhonielle Clayton On September - 7 - 2012

kid lit critiques final banner JPEG 600x138 Kid Lit Critiques    A New Venture From Two Teen Writers Bloc Members!Announcement! Announcement! Jess Verdi and I have pooled our skills together to launch Kid Lit Critiques, a manuscript critiquing business. Check out a little more about us:

Dhonielle Clayton and Jessica Verdi are two girls in New York City, living the writerly life: attending kidlit events, reading the latest books and ARCs, meeting editors and literary agents… and, of course, writing! We received our MFAs in Writing for Children from The New School (Class of 2012) and we are both agented authors actively writing for children and teens. While at The New School, we studied under such esteemed instructors as David Levithan (author of over a dozen YA novels and founder of Scholastic’s PUSH imprint), Susan Van Metre (VP and publisher for Abrams Books), Hettie Jones (author of How I Became Hettie Jones and a Beat generation poet), Tor Seidler (author of several acclaimed children’s books, including National Book Award finalist Mean Margaret), Sarah Weeks (author of many picture books, chapter books, and YA novels), and Sarah Ketchersid (Executive Editor at Candlewick Press).

We have a fresh perspective on MG and YA literature while also keeping our fingers on the pulse of what’s happening in the industry today. We are both members of SCBWI and while we both read and love all kinds of literature, our specific areas of expertise are different: Dhonielle is the Middle Grade expert, Jess lives and breathes all things YA. Dhonielle is also more fantasy-based, while Jess is down with the contemporary. It’s these differences that make us the perfect team for your critiquing needs – between the two of us, we’re able to cater to all different types of writing styles and genres!

We are both extremely experienced critiquers (those here at Teen Writers Bloc can attest) and we have started this joint venture because we know how valuable quality feedback is. Time and time again, we have received feedback on our own works-in-progress that opened our whole stories up for us. Oprah calls those “a-ha!” moments, and we know how crucial they are for a writer to take his or her work to the next level.

We wanted to start this business to give someone a workshop feel that might not be in an MFA program, who is in desperate need for unbiased feedback, but doesn’t have $600 -$1,000 to spend with a book doctor.

Our website was designed by the wonderful designer of the Teen Writers Bloc website, Navdeep Singh Dhillon, and it was an awesome experience. He built a customized site for us and arranged (and re-arranged!) the layout to meet our aesthetic tastes. Check out his writer-focused design company Pataka Design. He hand sketched every page so that we could see it before he built it which allowed us to see a rough idea of what it would look like before he started. He’s great!

Let us read your work. Come check us out!


Jess’s Cover Reveal for MY LIFE AFTER NOW

Posted by Jessica Verdi On September - 4 - 2012


Okay, I know it’s not considered customary or proper to begin a blog post with what is essentially a scream, but I can’t help it. My book has a cover! Check it out:

9781402277856 3001 Jesss Cover Reveal for MY LIFE AFTER NOW

MY LIFE AFTER NOW, my contemporary YA novel, will be published by Sourcebooks Fire on April 1, 2013. Yes, that’s April Fools’ Day, but hey, that just makes the release date easier to remember! Here’s the back cover copy:


Lucy just had the worst week ever. Seriously, mega bad. And suddenly, it’s all too much—she wants out. Out of her house, out of her head, out of her life. She wants to be a whole new Lucy. So she does something the old Lucy would never dream of.

And now her life will never be the same. Now, how will she be able to have a boyfriend? What will she tell her friends?  How will she face her family?  Now, every moment is a precious gift.  She never thought being positive could be so negative. But now, everything’s different…because now she’s living with HIV.

And I love my cover! The Sourcebooks Fire design team really outdid themselves. I love the red dress (symbolic of the HIV but without being overly obvious), the stage-like lighting (the light flares are my favorite), and how she seems to be bravely facing her future—whatever it may hold. I also love the color scheme—it’s just so pretty!

Let me tell you—seeing my cover for the first time a couple of weeks ago made this whole “I’m getting published” thing a whole lot more… well, real. I cannot wait to get to walk into a Barnes and Noble and see my book on the shelves. Only seven months to go!

Click here to pre-order My Life After Now from Amazon!

Click here to add My Life After Now to your Goodreads list!

Book cover image courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire

Cover Reveal: Escape from the Pipe Men!

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On August - 22 - 2012

9780547859057 web 400x600 Cover Reveal: Escape from the Pipe Men!Hello, Teen Writers Bloc Readers!

I’m so excited to unveil the cover for my second novel, Escape from the Pipe Men! And yes, the exclamation point is part of the title. Take that, exclamation point haters!!!

The book is about a couple of kids who have grown up in an alien zoo and go on an adventure across the universe. Here is the official summary by the nice folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

Ryan has spent his life as a human exhibit in the Pipe Men’s intergalactic zoo. But when his father is accidentally poisoned in a separate alien exhibit, it is up to Ryan and his sister, Becky, to escape and search the universe for the cure. As they travel across the galaxy, Ryan and Becky are shocked to find out that their benevolent overlords, the Pipe Men, are reviled by scores of alien species plotting to rebel. Caught up in an interstellar revolution, Ryan and Becky must play the diplomats among a spectacular and imaginative cast of aliens, staving off a war they know nothing about, all in the hope of finding the antidote to save their father’s life. In her second novel, Mary G. Thompson brilliantly captures the inception of a revolution by delving into the conflicting motivations of oppressed factions, in this fast-paced adventure sure to delight science fiction fans and mainstream readers alike!

I always knew I had to write a book about aliens and space travel some day. After all, my first love as a reader was science fiction. The first part of the concept was the alien zoo — what better excuse to come up with all sorts of crazy creatures? But the zoo was only the first part. My characters also needed to travel around the universe and discover what there was to see, because that’s exactly what I want to do once someone in the real world finally gets around to inventing faster-than-light travel! I’m so excited that Ryan and Becky are getting the chance to live out my personal fantasy, and I hope you enjoy it too!

Escape from the Pipe Men! will be released on June 11, 2013, and is available now for pre-order!

Oh yeah, and !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Corey’s Cover Reveal for OCD LOVE STORY!

Posted by Corey Haydu On June - 15 - 2012


OCDlove1 Coreys Cover Reveal for OCD LOVE STORY!

Guys. My book has a cover.

And I couldn’t love it more.

I was worried my cover might be too somber, or too boring, or not unique enough. I got everything I could have hoped for. The cover is downright VIBRANT, it’s quirky, it’s intense, it’s surprising, it’s whimsical, it’s edgy, it’s everything my book is, and it feels decidedly MINE. The designer (and, as always, my editor) seemed to really get my voice, my book, and how something can be both painful and hilarious, quiet and massive, unusual and relatable, obsessive and beautiful.

And, as icing on the cake, here’s a short description of the book:

When Bea meets Beck, she knows instantly that he’s her kind of crazy. Sweet, strong, kinda-messed-up Beck understands her like no one else can. He makes her feel almost normal. He makes her feel like she could fall in love again.

But despite her feelings for Beck, Bea can’t stop thinking about someone else: a guy who is gorgeous and magnetic…and has no idea Bea even exists. But Bea knows a lot about him. She spends a lot of time watching him. She has a journal full of notes. Some might even say she’s obsessed.

Bea tells herself she’s got it all under control, but this isn’t a choice, it’s a compulsion. The truth is, she’s breaking down…and she might end up breaking her own heart.

I’m thrilled, and would love to hear your thoughts!

Photo courtesy Simon Pulse

Wuftoom: Book Release Events and Giveaway

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On May - 4 - 2012

9780547637242 hres 400x600 Wuftoom: Book Release Events and GiveawayHello Teen Writers Bloc readers! I’ve plugged it at every opportunity, to the point where you are probably thinking, yes, Mary, we know about the stupid book. But for realz, y’all, it’s almost here!

To celebrate the release of Wuftoom on May 8, I’m having a public book release party at the fantastic McNally Jackson Books, here in Manhattan. Please come and bring your friends, family, children, and any random people you meet. Subterranean monsters are also welcome, though if they stink up the place, we’ll charge a special cleaning fee.

  • What: Wuftoom Book Release Party
  • Where: McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince St. New York, NY
  • When: Sunday, May 13, 2012, 4:00 p.m.
  • Details: I will be reading from the book and having a conversation with The Boneshaker and The Broken Lands author (and friend of Teen Writers Bloc!) Kate Milford. Then we will be eating fun and gross worm-themed desserts, drinking wine/soda, and generally having a good time.

If that’s not enough for you, I’m also reading THIS SUNDAY, MAY 6 at Books of Wonder along with several fantastic teen sci-fi/fantasy authors.

  • What: Teen Sci Fi/Fantasy/Dystopian/Supernatural Event with me, Paolo Bacigalupi, David MacInnis Gill, Alethea Kontis, Galaxy Craze, Kate Klimo, and Elizabeth Norris
  • Where: Books of Wonder, 18 W 18th St., New York, NY
  • When: Sunday, May 6, 2012, 1:00 p.m.
  • Details: Come meet some fabulous teen sci-fi and fantasy authors, including Hugo and Nebula award winner and National Book Award finalist Paolo Bacigalupi.

Finally, I’m running a giveaway on Goodreads from now until May 15th. Enter to win a signed copy of Wuftoom!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

12351901 Wuftoom: Book Release Events and Giveaway


by Mary G. Thompson

Giveaway ends May 15, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Cover Image courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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

caucasia 185x300 Writing Ethnicity vs. Writing Colorblind: Amber Thinks Its An Authors ChoiceMy stance on writing race and ethnicity has always been the same. If cultural elements and racial identity are important to the story you’re telling and the character at the heart of your piece, you should make those things apparent in your work. However, if you’re not writing a story specifically about a Black/Hispanic/Asian/White/Arab/Indian/etc. individual and how s/he experiences life, and instead you’re writing a story about family/love/friendship/loss or whatever with a protagonist that just happens to be of a certain race, I don’t think that such information needs to be heavily focused on in the text.

It’s true that if it’s not spelled out for the reader, most people will assume that a narrator is white, because that’s what we’ve been conditioned to see as the norm. And it’s true that some distinguishing characteristics about a character’s appearance should be included for readers so that they can have a fuller picture of who that character is. Naturally, readers bring their own preconceived notions taken from their personal experiences and apply them to whatever text they’re reading, helping them to relate to a character or situation. But with that said, what pushes me to keep reading a novel is not a character’s race necessarily, but his or her voice, motivation, personality, point of view, and most importantly, his or her personal journey or struggle. In my opinion, if those are clear and specific in a narrative, the appearance of a character is almost irrelevant with regard to level of importance.

Now, this belief of mine has garnered some criticism during workshops because I don’t always describe a character’s appearance in the first chapter. I may say brown hair or brown eyes, but I don’t make it glaringly obvious that it’s a person of color until the third paragraph in chapter two. Sometimes I wonder why this is an issue. When I read a book about a white protagonist there doesn’t always seem to be a need to discuss cultural or racial particularities. If my story is mainly about a girl struggling with her parents’ divorce, does it matter what race she is necessarily? So much so that it must be clarified on the first page? But then I think about when I was a teenager and I wanted to read about someone who looked like me going through the same ‘normal’ things that other teens in YA novels went through. That reminds me that the distinction does matter, and always will, to an extent.

Many of my favorite books, like Danzy Senna’s Caucasia, are written by black or mixed authors about black protagonists, and I do admit that I seek out such works so that I can try to find a character who understands some aspect of my experience. Many people do this, I feel, especially since a character’s identity is often important to a story. Yet, a fair amount of my favorite books are also written by authors of other races about white protagonists or protagonists of other ethnic origins, like with Jenny Han’s novel, The Summer I Turned Pretty. Do I relate any less to those characters? Not really. Their experiences and viewpoints, spelled out richly on the page, cause me to yearn to know what will happen to them on their journeys as well.

Still, regardless of what race a protagonist is, sometimes when reading I don’t relate at all to an emotion or feeling or incident that the character experiences. For instance, I can read a book about a black girl and not be able to fully relate to that character because of our different backgrounds and struggles. Every person, no matter what ethnicity or race, is unique in experience and thought. A character’s differing decisions and outlooks and a reader’s ability to understand and/or be intrigued by them account for a novel’s strength in some regard.

Overall, I believe that writing race is difficult. Will what you write affect people’s perception of your people as a whole? Or is it just a part of that particular character’s experience? Will people read your work as widely if you focus on a character considered to be an ‘other’ in society? Will you be pigeon-holed into only writing about a certain type of person? These are all questions that a writer might consider before beginning a story. But a better question is perhaps this: what is necessary for you to include in order for you to tell the story you want to tell in the best way possible? It’s a question that only you can answer. For YA readers in particular, finding a character that speaks to them and their personal struggle is crucial. But the way such characters are written depends on authors and their conscious and deliberate decisions about how to best tell the stories they were meant to tell.

Image Courtesy of Penguin Group, Inc.


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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