Austin SCBWI Fall Conference

Friday night, my husband Greg Leitich Smith and I had the honor of hosting at our home a reception for speakers and volunteers in conjunction with the Austin SCBWI fall conference.

Honored out-of-state guests included: Melanie Cecka, co-editorial director at Bloomsbury Children’s Books USA; Mark W. McVeigh, senior editor at Dutton Children’s Books; Stephen Fraser, a literary agent at Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency; Cecilia Yung, art Director at G.P. Putnam’s Sons; David Caplan, art director at HarperCollins; and Pun Nio, president of Nio Graphics Inc.

Local luminaries included: author Dianna Hutts Aston; author Chris Barton; illustrator Theresa Bayer; author Carla Birnberg; author Anne Bustard; former Austin SCBWI regional advisor/writer Debbie Dunn; former Texas Book Festival director/publicist/editor Cyndi Hughes; illustrator Erik Kuntz (AKA Greg’s Web designer); author Lindsey Lane; Austin SCBWI regional advisor/author Julie Lake; author/librarian Jeanette Larson; author/illustrator Mark G. Mitchell; former Austin SCBWI regional advisor and magazine writer Nancy Jean Okunami; author Jane Peddicord; illustrator Christy Stallop; illustrator Mary Sullivan; author/poet Jerry Wermund; author/illustrator Frances Hill Yansky; and author Brian Yanksy.

Catering was by Central Market (the quesadillas and shrimp were our biggest hits); flowers were by Gary Lake. Christy brought big, yellow daisies (my favorite kind!); Erik brought red wine (ditto!); and Jeanette brought a copy of Quilt of States: Piecing Together America (National Geographic, 2005), featuring quilts by Adrienne Yorinks, written by Adrienne Yorinks and 50 librarians from across the nation (including Jeanette; more on that to come!).

Saturday morning, I had the pleasure of hearing Melanie Checka and Mark McVeigh speak. Melanie talked about Bloomsbury U.K. and the Harry Potter phenomenon, writing from the heart (not trends), and led a writing exercise. Mark gave an overview of the acquisitions process for first-time authors. He covered a lot of hard truths: that it’s tough to break in; that first-timers have less negotiations room; that past sales and type of manuscript affect future sales; and that it’s the author’s job to sell books.

I spotted too many friends and colleagues to mention them all, but highlights did include author April Lurie, who just sold her second novel to Delacorte, and Jill Bailey, winner of the Lucile Micheels Pannell Award for Excellence in Children’s Bookselling, given by the Women’s National Book Association. Jill recently left her position as children’s/YA book buyer at BookPeople in Austin to become a Penguin sales representative.

Cynsational Notes

Mark McVeigh is editing Santa Knows by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith (Dutton, winter 2006).

Cynsational News & Links

A Day for the Books from Chris Barton on the Austin SCBWI conference.

AS IF (AKA Authors Supporting Intellectual Freedom) suggests that anyone who wants send a book to: ATTN: Susan Schotz; St. Andrew’s Upper School; 5901 Southwest Parkway; Austin, TX 78735. The school turned down a $3 million pledge because the family who was contributing the money wanted the school to remove a story from the reading list.