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Last year I attended the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Plus conference. (Phew! That’s a mouthful. How ’bout I just say RUCCL from now on?)

It was my first big conference. It was my first conference, period. I thought I was prepared. I don’t get nervous in large crowds of people, nor do I find it difficult to go right up to someone and chat. And I love public speaking and performing. I’m not easily intimidated.

But, when I arrived, I realized it. I hadn’t fully prepared myself.

The day went by quickly. Those organizers pack the event chock full of excellent speakers and interesting topics. (See my post-conference notes from last year.) The time you have to meet people is the time it takes to walk from one presentation to another.

I didn’t get the opportunity to talk to many editors or agents. True, I had only just begun to write for children, and thus, I didn’t know who I should be chatting with anyway.

So I decided that I would try to help other first-timers. Here’s a list of lessons I learned last year. I hope they help you make the most of your day.

1. Research the faculty in advance.

rucclmentors

2008 RUCCL mentors arrive

Find out which editors and agents are interested in the kind of work you produce. Make a list of their names, and if possible, look up their photos online. No, I’m not encouraging anyone to be a stalker! There are 80 professionals mixing it up with 80 attendees, all wearing name tags. If you don’t want to squint at people’s chests all day trying to figure out who is who, go online and see if you can find a photo to recognize people by sight.

Approach editors/agents only during appropriate moments. Don’t interrupt another attendee or tap the editor’s shoulder while they’re taking a big honking bite of sandwich. You should know that the restroom is a no-no! The best time you’ll have to approach professionals is between sessions. Another good time is when they announce where mentors and mentees should meet. (They will announce pairings via alphabetical order and ask “A-F” to meet in a specific area, like near the fireplace.) When I went to find my mentor for my 45-minute session, I didn’t immediately see her…because another attendee had already pulled her aside to talk.

And I’ll say it: lunch is a good time to talk. They will seat mentors at numbered tables that correspond with the five-on-five assignments. Although not everyone sits in the right place, it will be easiest to find people during lunch. But again, if someone is chomping on chicken salad, it’s probably not a good time to interrupt.

Why is it important to talk to the faculty directly? Because they may not accept your submission post-conference if you don’t make contact. Now that’s contrary to what I had heard about conference submissions, but I did get one submission returned after RUCCL, citing that they don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. (Yes, RUCCL was clearly marked on the envelope and in the cover letter.)

So find editors. Ask if you may submit. Ask for a business card. Don’t give them yours unless they ask. Be professional, courteous, polite and to the point! There’s not a lot of time, so don’t ramble. Which brings me to my next lesson…

2. If you know your manuscript needs direction, say so.

My submission last year was a novel I had only recently begun. I was not yet clear on the plot or direction. But when my mentor asked me about it, I meandered. I had two general ideas of the possible direction in my head, but I wasn’t certain which path I should take. Instead of asking my mentor what she thought, I tried to make it sound like I was clear. And I obviously was not.

Another attendee had it right. She told me, “I explained to my mentor that I had started the novel but stopped because I was stuck. I told her I wasn’t sure the direction it should take. She then gave me some very good ideas and we brainstormed the possibilities.”

3. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions.

During the five-on-five, the mentees had an opportunity to ask questions of the professional panel. But our discussion leader asked questions off a prepared, suggested list of topics. They weren’t necessarily the questions I wanted answered, but I didn’t speak up and ask what was on my mind.

Remember, this is your day. The conference is arranged to help you, the mentee, take the next step in your career. So if you don’t find the topics to be of interest, speak up. Politely interject and ask if you can introduce a question instead.

Mixing it up at lunch

Mixing it up at lunch

4. Prepare a list of questions.

Questions about your submission, questions about the market, questions about the publishing house, questions about your other manuscripts. Whatever questions you have, take them with you. Refer to them. If there’s information you want to collect, this is the place to do it.

Another good idea is to bring a list of your manuscripts with one-line descriptions. Even if you just have ideas, ask if they’re good ones. A mentor might tell you to pursue idea A and D but not B or C because of current market dynamics, competition, or other factors (remember, one of those factors might be personal taste).

5. Have fun!

This is your day. It’s a step forward in your career. Enjoy it, use it to your advantage, learn from it. Congratulations and have a great day!

FYI
I added the schedule from last year as I recall it, for those interested in how the day is structured. Please realize this may not be similar to this year.

2008 RUCCL Schedule
• Arrive, get folder with schedule/mentor assignment/faculty bios, read through it, have breakfast, free time to mingle with other attendees
• Introductory speaker (2008, Kay Winters)
• Mentor session
• Panel Discussion (2008, “How a Manuscript Becomes a Book”)
• Lunch
• Five-on-Five Discussion (You, your mentor and four other mentor-mentee pairs)
• Keynote Speaker (2008, K.L. Going)

Writers are entertainers. We immerse readers in a magical world, letting them escape with our words as a guide. If a reader enjoys your ride, chances are they’ll seek you out again. And again.

This week I read a lot about branding yourself as a writer, thanks to writing friend Jill Corcoran. The subject isn’t foreign to me, having worked in marketing for a decade. But just what is branding for writers? Developing a consistent style in your stories, offering readers a place that’s as comfortable to return to as their favorite chair. It’s not about writing books so similar that no one finds value in buying more than one. It’s about finding your niche in the publishing world and working within it.

Let’s compare this idea to chain restaurants in the US. Why are they popular? Diners know the menu, they know exactly what to expect. Olive Garden promises that the chicken parmigiana in Spokane will taste the same as the one in Cleveland. They don’t just sell unlimited salad and breadsticks, they serve predictability and comfort. Repeat diners know they’ll enjoy their meal.

People often buy the same laundry detergent, the same rice and the same cheese year after year. How many of you use the same brands your mother bought? Consumers will buy an item simply because they know it and they don’t know the competitors.

Brands also have unique qualities that make them more attractive than similar products. I prefer Barilla Plus pasta because it has added protein without a significant change in flavor. While it’s just pasta, it’s very different from the other noodles on the grocery shelves.

As a new writer in an increasingly difficult book market, developing a brand may give you an edge over the competition. When I think of Grace Lin, I think of whimsical illustrations with colorful patterns like origami paper. John Scieszka? Fairytale spoofs. Roald Dahl writes humorous, fantastical tales. Think about some of your favorite authors and what kind of feelings their name brings to mind. You want to elicit that same kind of recognition when readers think of you.

On the flip side, author K.L. Going admitted that her interest in multiple genres makes it difficult for readers to get a handle on her. At the Rutgers One-on-One Mentoring conference last October she said, “You never know what you’re going to get with a K.L. Going book.” She suggested not doing this as a new author, although she also encouraged us to write what we love.

But what if we love crossing genres? What if writing a supernatural YA mystery comes as naturally as a quiet non-fiction picture book? Perhaps you can be predictable in your unpredictability? Isn’t that a brand as well? Sure it is. But is it one you want as someone who’s trying to break into a tough, competitive business? Agents and editors tout “high concept” in novels, so why not come up with a “high concept” for yourself?

I realize that branding yourself as a writer is a complex task, especially for someone new who is still experimenting with style, genre, voice and subject matter. Stories are more complex than shampoo. You can’t guarantee thicker, fuller hair and a fresh lavender scent with each turn of the page. So what do you guarantee your readers?

Ask your critique partners what your brand might be. What perceptions do they have about your stories? What qualities in your writing are consistent? What do they look forward to when you hand them a new tale? Where does your work really shine?

You might have a very good idea about what your brand is. But remember that branding is all about someone else’s perception, not yours. You can have an image or a message you wish to relate to your readers, but are you sending it? Start asking around. Get to know your own brand so readers can get to know you.

What are you thoughts on branding for writers?

This post is just one in a series about the 2008 Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Mentoring Conference. Click the RUCCL tag above to read them all.

My notes have been exhausted. I’ve taken a week to think hard about all the suggestions I received. About all that I learned. So what lessons have I taken away from this experience?

I just gotta be me. I may be a little more educated now, but I can’t change who I am.

One of the questions posed to writers during the five-on-five discussion was where we get our ideas. I find it odd when non-writers ask this question because the answer seems very obvious to us: we don’t know.

A spark fires in our brains, as unexpected as a lightning strike on a cloudless day. We feel an attraction to the idea and it becomes a part of us. We cherish it and nurture it like a mother cares for her child. It is ours and ours alone; we have created it. If you asked me exactly how I arrived at the idea, I might have a concrete example to throw at you. Or I might not. Writers often look for the fabulous realities in everyday life, but I get just as many ideas while I’m flossing my teeth.

I don’t look at the current list of best-sellers to find my next idea. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series is wildly popular, but I’m not going to drop my projects to write about vampires. It’s not my thing. It’s hers. Graphic novels are hot. Not exactly my thing, either. Yes, it’s important to be up-to-date with market trends, but follow fads too closely and by the time your work has been completed and published, the fad may have faded. Know the competition, but know how to be different and fresh.

K.L. Going was correct when she told us to write what we like, even if no one else “gets it.” Our enthusiasm is what injects our story with excitement. It’s what keeps us writing. If you try to be someone else just to please a specific audience, you won’t be a happy writer. And that can lead to not being a writer at all.

A few days before the conference, I went shopping for a new outfit. (Yes, this segue has a point.) The business-casual clothes in my closet are six years old, from my life before daughters. They’re dated and they don’t fit anyway. So I bought something very professional-looking in neutral colors. The morning of the conference, I put it on. It didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel right. So I took it off and put on a ruffled magenta-purple blouse and wide-leg jeans. Ahhh. Much better. Now that’s Tara.

So I’m going to run with my ideas. Not only do I love them, I don’t know how to exist any other way. I do have a new appreciation for how to mold my ideas to the market, however. It’s all about balance, but with the scale tilted ever so slightly in my direction.

So what did you learn at RUCCL?

This post is just one in a series about the 2008 Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Mentoring Conference. Click the RUCCL tag above to read them all.

After lunch, RUCCL attendees separated into groups of five mentor/mentee pairs to discuss industry trends.

The first question was posed to the editors: “What are the biggest mistakes you’ve seen new writers make?”

Senior Editor Erin Molta from Scholastic Book Clubs said she dislikes when writers claim “their book is the next Harry Potter, especially when I read it and think, no, not at all!” Yes, writers are encouraged to compare their manuscript with a successful title, but she’s seen way too many Harry impersonations. On the other hand, she likes when a writer tells her why they have written this story. If the story comes from your heart, the genuine enthusiasm shines through.

Grace Kendall, Editorial Assistant at The Blue Sky Press/Scholastic, emphasized the need for a concise cover letter that tells her “how you see your book positioned in the bigger world.” You might have a great idea and a great character, but is it a good story? She receives great projects without story, and story trumps all. Tell her that “your book is like this [other] book, but it’s different because…” And you’d better have a good because!

Kendra Levin, Associate Editor at Viking and award-winning playwright, said her biggest pet peeve is when people call her on the telephone. One of the writers asked about sending a status query instead. “If it makes you feel better,” she said. “Honestly, if I have your manuscript, I will read it.” She also suggested, “Do your research before you send it out.” Target your manuscript to specific editors. Let her know why you are submitting to her. Information about editors is available online and she suggested looking in a comparable book’s acknowledgements. Authors often thank their editors.

Kiffin Steurer is an Assistant Editor at Philomel (and fellow Dahl fan). He wants writers to “get to the heart of the story as quickly as possible in the cover letter.” His pet peeve is “picture book authors who send [poor] illustrations with the story.” An editor will match your story with an illustrator. So if you’re not a professional artist, don’t send pictures. They can sour the entire manuscript. Let your words stand on their own.

Agent Alyssa Eisner Henkin said her pet peeve is “when someone sends a query to me…and everyone else in children’s publishing!” Agents want to know that you’ve researched their preferences and that you’re not just submitting blindly en masse. She’s impressed with a query when it mimics jacket flap copy, so do yourself a favor and read a lot of jacket flaps!

Kiffin Steurer added that he’s not looking for a message. “I’m looking for good stories. If you have a good story with a message, then it’s just icing on the cake. But if there’s no story, we don’t want it.”

This post is just one in a series about the 2008 Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Mentoring Conference. Click the RUCCL tag above to read them all.

After we heard from the panelists, Alyssa Eisner Henkin opened the floor to questions.

One writer asked, “In the editor and agent bios, a lot of you say that you’re looking for two things: high concept and unique voice. Could you please tell us exactly what you mean by that?”

Chad Beckerman couldn’t resist: “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: high concept, unique voice.” Then one of the editors explained high concept as boiling the essence of a story down to one line.

Agent Stephen Barbara offered an example, shouting down from the audience, “Phonebooth!” The movie is about a man trapped in a phonebooth by a sniper. You can summarize the entire film with that single concept.

On the other hand, a literary novel or a coming-of-age story isn’t necessarily about a single concept. You may still be able to describe the story in a sentence, but it doesn’t offer the instant understanding of a high-concept pitch. The industry wants the next big thing, and high-concept often delivers it.

Next, the editors talked about unique voice. One editor told us about her friend’s personality. “She’s the most bubbly, interesting person I’ve ever met. But in an email, she comes through flat. Hi. How are you? I am fine.” That’s not what you want to do. Your writing should capture the essence of your character. Inject your writing with its own personality. The voice is what makes your story stand out among similar tales. It’s the way you tell your story that allows kids to connect and relate to your characters.

Another question from the audience had the editors a little tight-lipped. “What are the new themes coming in the next 1-2 years?” They looked around but no one spoke. The writer pressed, “Come on, what are you working on right now that you think is going to be big?”

Chad Beckerman said he hoped there would be “more books without words.” Just like an art director! Lisa Cheng talked about a new novel that’s told in text, IM and blog posts. Chad offered, “High concept!”

Then Molly O’Neill gave a fabulous answer to the next question regarding the border between YA novels and adult fiction. What distinguishes them from one another? “This is going to sound like a perfect, rehearsed answer,” she said, “but honestly I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately.”

YA novels have a sense of immediacy. When you’re a teen, every experience is new. Every hour of every day is heartbreak, tragedy, elation. There’s a heightened sense of reality and being in the moment. There’s no time for pondering, you’re too busy living. Adults have their entire lives on which to base decisions, but a young adult doesn’t have that experience to draw on. They’re making decisions in the here and now, raw and full of emotion.

Lisa Cheng agreed and added that in a YA novel, she doesn’t want to leave the reader feeling hopeless.

With their thoughtful answers and wealth of industry knowledge, the editors didn’t leave any of the writers feeling hopeless, either. (Yeah, corny ending, but gimme a break, I’ve written a lot of these posts!)

This post is just one in a series about the 2008 Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Mentoring Conference. Click the RUCCL tag above to read them all.

Chad Beckerman is a graduate of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. He worked at Scholastic and Greenwillow before taking on the role of Art Director at Abrams BFYR and Amulet Books. Besides designing book jackets, he illustrates YA covers and creates the artwork for novel interiors. In addition to all that, he’s got a wry sense of humor and knows how to work a microphone.


Chad Beckerman, Molly O'Neill, Lisa Cheng, Lisa Ann Sandell

 Chad told us he’s unlike an editor. “They like to put their hands in everything,” he quipped. “I just have to make things look nice. And that’s…really nice.”

One of the things he likes to do is check out the competition. “I’m in the bookstores every weekend,” he said. He eyes what’s on the shelves, but he’s keenly aware that “you shouldn’t try to be what other books are being.” His job is to remain as unique as possible. “Look at what is out there, but do something totally original.”

Chad talked about translating novels into cool visuals and how difficult a task it can be to get it right for the audience. He recently worked on a book where a school prankster shoots classmates you-know-where with a watergun so it looks like they peed their pants. “That’s great,” he said, “here’s what we’re gonna do. We’ll put a watergun on the cover squirting yellow liquid!” But there’s some lines you can’t cross. It’s only a watergun, but it’s also a gun. And urine. “They told me we can’t do it, we just can’t. It made me sad, but I got over it.”

Chad is the savvy designer behind Jeff Kinney’s blockbuster novel-in-cartoons, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. “That one was really hard to do, even though it’s really simple.” There’s no color in the book; the interior illustrations are simple black drawings. But the book still needed a color identity if it was to be noticed on the shelves. People often associate a diary with a brown leather cover, but Chad felt that was “too literal” a translation for this book.

The Diary is a journal that the character’s mom gives him, so Chad looked at a lot of different diaries to get a feel for what this book should be. They settled on a typeset font for “DIARY” to suggest it was a bookstore purchase by Mom, but they scribbled “of a Wimpy Kid” in handwriting to demonstrate it was personalized by the main character Greg. Then they placed a ripped piece of paper with a drawing of Greg on the cover, seemingly torn right from the diary. (I personally love the wimpy, slouching pose.) The background is red to make it stand out, but it’s not a solid red—it has a slightly worn, leathery appearance. And each book in this series is color-coded. There’s a green one, a blue one and a do-it-yourself version in orange. “Some people think it’s brown, but it’s not brown, it’s orange,” Chad reminded us. The different colors help kids easily pick out the ones they don’t yet have!

People often ask Chad where he finds illustrators. In this digital age, he loves to browse websites and blogs looking for new talent. But the best way to get to him is by sending a postcard with a web address. It sits on his desk and reminds him to go online.

One point Chad emphasized to the RUCCL mentees is that “if you like what you’re writing about, then you need to go with it.” No matter what it is, he promises to make it jump off the shelves.

To wrap us this series, next I’ll post about the audience questions!

This post is just one in a series about the 2008 Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Mentoring Conference. Click the RUCCL tag above to read them all.

Molly O’Neill began her career in school library marketing before becoming an Assistant Editor at The Bowen Press, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books. “It’s hard to separate the marketing parts of my brain from the editorial parts,” she said, offering some background behind her perspective.

“If I love this manuscript, the first thing I ask is who is it for?” The answer will inform her decisions on everything from design to marketing. “Now I know what you’re thinking,” she addressed the audience of writers, “my book is for all the people in the world!” We all laughed. Sure, we’d love to believe that millions around the globe will buy our debut novel! But no, each book has a specific audience and her job is to make a book connect with that group. So she refines the question further, “Who’s going to love it first?”

Ms. O’Neill spoke about a new literary novel by a debut author (and if someone remembers the name, please let me know). Since literary novels are first embraced by librarians, they picked jacket illustrator Raul Colón, whose lush watercolors librarians instantly recognize as associated with other literary titles.

One of the best ways to make an audience connection is through artwork. The Emily the Strange graphic novel series uses black, white and red to paint the main character’s world. A visually stunning book appeals to Emily’s counterculture fans. Emily has pale white skin, jet black hair, and a brood of black cats. As HarperCollins works on a new YA series based on Emily, they even make these visual connections in the office, using bright red paper and black pens at their meetings.

Molly asks herself some very important questions about each manuscript. How is this book different? How does it stand out? And yet, how is it the same as successful books on the market? What does it compare to? This point was drilled into our heads throughout the day—think about how your manuscript compares to a brilliant best-seller, but tell editors and agents why it’s completely different!

Ms. O’Neill spoke about when a publisher distributes advance copies of a book. Tucked into the front is a letter from the editor explaining why this book is exciting. For Herbert’s Wormhole, a novel in cartoons, they ditched the letter in favor of a single cartoon. “Who is it for?” is still at play.

And the most important question editors may ask themselves is, “Am I going to enjoy working on this?” Two years is a long time to be involved with a project. But if the answer is yes, then they can believe that people are going to read it over and over again. That is an editor’s ultimate goal, for their book to become your favorite.

Chad Beckerman coming next in this series!

This post is just one in a series about the 2008 Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Mentoring Conference. Click the RUCCL tag above to read them all.

Lisa Cheng edits picture books as well as middle grade and young adult fiction at Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. She began her manuscript-to-book speech, “…so there’s this manuscript that I love and I want to take it further. What steps do I go through?”

The short answer: a lot. Lisa provided us with a valuable inside look at the complicated business of publishing. As writers, we submit manuscripts and then wait for an answer, often for months and in some cases, years. After listening to Lisa, we now know why. There’s much to be done.

First, she reviews her own list. What has she released lately? What does she have coming out? Does this manuscript compete directly with projects to which she’s already committed? If the answer is no, then she looks at the other McElderry editors’ lists. Then she looks at Simon & Schuster’s list. If the book does not compete, then she moves to the next step.

She looks beyond what’s hot in the marketplace now and tries to imagine if this manuscript will be welcomed in a year or two when it’s released. In other words, is it too trendy or will it work in the future? Other questions she thinks about: Does this book have an audience? Does it have a good hook?

If she’s still convinced of this manuscript’s promise, she’ll show it to other editors in her group. She has to be confident at this point since she’s asking her colleagues to take time out of their own schedules, time away from their own manuscripts, to read her project.

If it passes her peer review, then it’s onto the acquisitions committee. In these meetings, she asks editors and her publisher to review the book. Design sits in and gives an opinion. Marketing sits in. Publicity, too. They all make a decision of whether or not this manuscript should proceed.

If it’s thumbs up, then she has to work up a profit and loss statement. Some of the financial considerations: estimated price point, forecasted sales, royalties, overhead costs (everything from staff salaries to lightbulbs are in that number somewhere), art costs, and production costs (binding, type of paper, page count). Phew. That’s a lot of numbers. And they have to look good.

So that’s what editors like Lisa Cheng have to do before you get that magical piece of paper: the contract. Her job is to “look beyond the craft to the business” and that’s what we writers should do as well.

Next up is Molly O’Neill!

This is the fifth in a series of posts about the 2008 Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Mentoring Conference. Click the RUCCL tag above to read them all.

How does a manuscript become a book? Four RUCCL mentors offered their experience from four unique perspectives:

Chad Beckerman, Molly ONeill, Lisa Cheng, Lisa Ann Sandell

Chad Beckerman, Molly O'Neill, Lisa Cheng, Lisa Sandell

  • Lisa Ann Sandell is a Senior Editor with Scholastic, but she has also written three young adult novels, so she answered wearing her published-author hat.
  • Lisa Cheng, Associate Editor at Margaret K. McElderry Books, talked to us an editor who has fallen in love with a new manuscript and wants to take it further.
  • Molly O’Neill from The Bowen Press came to the editorial side from school library marketing and has a knack for looking beyond the artsy part of writing to the business part.
  • Chad Beckerman of Abrams BFYR and Amulet Books presented the art direction angle (and made us laugh).

My mentor, agent Alyssa Eisner Henkin, introduced the panel. There she is. She is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. I’ve never seen someone smile so much when giving constructive criticism!

First up was the extraordinarily talented Lisa Ann Sandell. She had an idea for a novel brewing in her head for seven years, so she finally sat down to write it. When she finished, she polished it up and sent it out to agents. She received revision requests from an agent, took a few months to revise, and sent it back out.

Let me pause for a moment and fast-forward to the five-on-five discussion I had later that day. Editor Erin Molta cautioned us against submitting a revision request the very next day. “Umm, did you even think about it?” Erin said, recalling when a writer got back to her too quickly. Note how Lisa took a few months. I know we’ll be extremely fired up once we get that request, but take the time to consider the editor’s suggestions. Don’t rush it. If they’re interested now, they’ll be interested in a few months.

Back to Lisa. She was asked to revise again, so she did. And then her agent sent it out. When the book sold to Viking within a few weeks (WOW!), there was more editing to do. Not only did her editor present her with a line edit to smooth out the language, there were the copyeditor’s marks, too. She had to address both sets of comments. “Because I’m an editor, I can be a little more easy going about this process than others,” she said.

In conclusion, don’t expect the final draft of your manuscript to be the final. There will be more revisions necessary as you secure your dream agent and sell to the publisher. But remember, everyone who has a hand in the revision process has the same goal as you: to make your book the best it can possibly be.

Lisa Cheng is up next in another post! Stay tuned!

This is the fourth in a series of posts about the 2008 Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Mentoring Conference. Click on the RUCCL tag above to read them all.

Vivian Grey, accomplished author and founder of the RUCCL conference welcomed attendees to an “extraordinary creative collaboration.” Why did she use those three words? The RUCCL is unlike any writing conference of its kind, matching new and aspiring authors with experienced professionals for an in-depth discussion of children’s literature—on whatever topic the mentee wishes to explore.

“Use this day to move your writing career forward,” Ms. Grey said. “The RUCCL pioneered and developed the one-on-one format and helped launch the careers of many well-known authors: Marcie Aboff, Laurie Halse Anderson, Denise Lang, Pamela Curtis Swallow, Kay Winters, and Rita Williams-Garcia.” (And I’m sure I didn’t catch them all!)

When Vivian Grey approached legendary Rutgers President Mason Gross in 1970, he enthusiastically supported her idea and assured the conference a permanent home at Rutgers through a presidential charter. The RUCCL is the only group in the country to be recognized in this manner. Aspiring authors can be confident knowing that this organization will continue to inspire us year after year.

Ms. Grey left us with words of wisdom based upon our difficult times. “We live in an era of great confusion and agitation,” she said, referring to the upcoming election, our suffering economy, and the wars raging overseas. “Children are vulnerable and powerless. But we can listen to them and be their voice. We can help them understand this increasingly confusing world.”

She continued, “There’s no better time than now to be writing for children. The vision we create for children becomes their future.”

Bravo, Vivian. The vision you created for us will indeed become our future, too.

As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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