Friday, June 29, 2012

Visiting communities: Millbrook Literary Festival 2012 wrap-up

On Saturday, June 16, my writing friend and I took a drive up to Millbrook to attend the annual book festival. This year the event had a new name: Millbrook Literary Festival, and as usual, the day was filled with genuine awesomeness. The owner of Merritt Books, Scott, and a sponsor of the event, can always be found with a smile and a kind word and I hope he knows how cherished he is by readers and fans from all over the county. His dedication to books and authors never wavers. Most of the events were held at the beautiful Millbrook Free Library. Some libraries just have a comfortable feel to them and this one definitely does. We headed downstairs, perused the used books for sale (as usual, bibliophiles cannot help but stop) before heading down the hall for the Not Just For Teens panel held inside the Childrens' Room. This room is a colorful place for kids of all ages to hang out and read.

(L-R) Authors Susane Colasanti, Elizabeth Cody Kimmel,
Susannah Appelbaum and Timothy Tocher
at the Not Just For Teens panel
Middle grade and YA novelists Susannah Appelbaum (The Poisons of Caux), Susane Colasanti (Keep Holding On and Long Shot), Elizabeth Cody Kimmel (Suddenly Supernatural), and Timothy Tocher, also moderator, made up the Not Just For Teens panel. I always find it interesting to hear other writers discussing their characters and challenges and these authors did. Susannah read an excerpt from then spoke about her fantasy series, The Poisons of Caux. Being a fan of Maryrose Wood's The Poison Diaries, the concept for this series intrigued me so I picked up the first two books afterwards.

Susane Colasanti
I have read three of Susane's contemporary YA novels and hearing her read from and speak about her latest release, Keep Holding On, was enlightening. She recounted her own experiences as a geeky kid and being bullied in school. She mentioned how sad it is that smart kids are still being picked on and how special it is when readers contact her to say "thank you" for bringing this topical issue to light. Her main character, Noelle, is bullied for being poor and she learns to stand up for herself and the boy she likes. Keep Holding On is definitely on my list of books to read.

I was thoroughly impressed with Elizabeth Cody Kimmel and remembered her discussion at a past SCBWI conference in Poughkeepsie. My daughter loves her Suddenly Supernatural MG series and cherishes the autographed copies I brought back for her from that past event. Elizabeth spoke in detail about her writing journey, how she has written over 40 books for kids, and told us she is the chosen official author to continue writing Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series. She also read from her latest novel, a serialized book from the upcoming animated movie, ParaNorman. Richly detailed and humorous, I made sure to pick this title up for my eight year old son. Timothy Tocher (Chief Sunrise, John McGraw, and Me), always a gentleman, also read from one of his novels and shared with us some of his publication journey as well.

At the author signings I met local history buff Anthony Musso and made sure to grab a copy of his book, Hidden Treasures of the Hudson Valley. While signing my copy he pointed out sites close by to my home to check out. I never know when inspiration will strike up my muse so having this book as a guide is sure to stir up my creativity when I do visit them. With my bag filled with signed books for my kids, my friend and I stopped to say hello to picture book writer Susannah Leonard Hill (Punxsutawney Phyllis) and Peter McCarty (Chloe, Hondo & Fabian). 

K.L. Going
After a quick lunch we headed down the road to attend the Tricks of the Trade Hands-On Workshops for Aspiring and Published Children's Writers. The keynote speakers were Jacky Davis and David Soman (the husband and wife creators of the Ladybug Girl series) and they had wonderful advice to give. I enjoyed their speech and learned a lot about how illustrators approach each job as well as the many steps involved in creating the pictures. I never knew just how many sketches and drawings it took to make the final published picture.

The first workshop I sat in on was Following the Novel: From Idea to Publication given by K.L. Going. Some aspects of her workshop were reminscent of her Writing for Teens workshop I took with Kelly years ago at Merritt Books. Hearing about the filming of her debut novel, Fat Kid Rules the World, made me want to go see it. Her journey--shown with some of her manuscripts from her early days--is a testament in dedication of the craft. Kelly told us she isn't the usual kids book writer sticking to one age group. She has written middle grade books, YA books, and earlier that morning she sat on the panel for the Picture Book Menagerie and spoke about her newly published picture book, Dog in Charge.

Up next was Pick Me!, a query letter workshop given by editorial consultant Tracy Marchini. Just when I thought I had a grasp of the formula for queries, Tracy showed me there was more to learn--a lot more. She handed out a packet of letters (examples she made up) and gave us a specific amount of time to read through them, telling us to stop reading when we found them problematic. Needless to say, I quit reading many only after a few lines because they lacked focus or didn't tell me the pertinent information about their book. Wow. From those few minutes I was able to see what editors and agents have to deal with every day. And I can now look at my own queries with a more critical eye.

The signed books I brought home for my kids.
The Festival and workshops ended at four and we said goodbye to writing friends before heading back down the street to grab an early dinner at the diner. We spotted one of our friends from our weekly writers group and invited her to join us. At home I looked back at the day, happy and content, despite missing Eileen Charbonneau's leading a discussion on Elements of the Novel which conflicted with the workshop schedule. I had another wonderful expericence at the Millbrook Literary Festival. I will be taking Eileen's all day Elements of the Novel class at Merritt Books next month and look forward to going back to Millbrook.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for attending the panel, and thanks for the kind words!