Day 3 (Day 4 for morning people, but there were no afternoon sessions on Wednesday)
I sat for a few minutes with Dandi Mackall. I really like her. She smiles a lot. She’s probably in her late fifties but has this huge, long, dark hair that probably weighs several pounds. Really warm and friendly. Apparently she has published over 400 children’s books (!). The ones I read ranged from pretty good to outstanding. I asked her about how she found out which editors to send her first manuscripts to, since she writes such a variety of things. She says people should go to bookstores (not libraries—you want the new stuff) to see who is publishing what. She recommended a website, cbc.org, to get a list of editors. Also Jeff Herman’s Guide to Editors, Agents and Publishers is good, though often outdated since it comes out only once a year. It’s helpful because it tells the personal preferences of editors and agents. Haroldunderdown.com is a good site for finding out latest news on who is where. An editor who has just changed houses is often a good one to send stuff to because she is hungry.
Then I sat with Krista Marino, editor for Delacorte. I asked if they publish early chapter books and she said, “Not usually, but we did inherit Nate the Great. I suppose if it were as good as those, we’d consider it.” Someone asked her what makes a good book great. Her answer: “Voice.” She said anything written in first-person present tense is usually a turn-off. Also that we shouldn’t send to more than one editor at the same house simultaneously. She says many first-time authors have agents.
The plenary was Stephen Fraser, agent at Jennifer DeChara Literary Agency. I was quite ill on Thursday but this speech was why I came down anyway. Steve had been an editor at Harper Collins before he became an editor. He seems like a really nice, down-to-earth guy. (I liked him a lot better than Edward Necarsulmer, or whatever his name was, from last year.) His speech was entitled, “A Good Manuscript Has a Home,” and he spoke about the nature of really great ideas, and how we know it when we have one and, if it is great, it will get published.
Good writing is clear, speaks to its audience, flows, is original, is controlled and even, is from your experience and heart, is authentic. Good writing is a work of art. Take the time it needs to become what it should. Don’t send it out unless you are confident that it is fantastic.
Sorry, that’s all I have for Thursday. I was very sick. If anyone attended another session, or the banquet and follies, and would like to make my notes here complete by adding yours, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll put them up here.