Thursday, August 31, 2006

First Books: Some Stats...

In my 14 years working on CWIM, I've found there is never a shortage of debut children's book authors. This year I heard from writers, illustrators and writer/illustrators. First-timers worked on picture books, MGs and YAs. They wrote historical, contemporary, fantasy and poetry. And they were published by both small presses and big New York-based operations.

I've pretty much got my next First Books lineup picked out (haven't emailed anyone yet though), and as I paged through my stack of emails, I kept a list of the publishers producing all these wonderful debut titles. Here they are (in no particular order--I'm not good at alphabetizing):

  • Sterling
  • Delacorte
  • Sylvan Dell
  • Flux
  • Candlewick
  • Margaret K. McElderry
  • Greenwillow
  • Harcourt
  • Little, Brown
  • Abrams
  • Farrar, Straus & Giroux
  • RGU Group
  • Henry Holt
  • Random House
  • Simon & Schuster
  • Dutton
  • Blooming Tree
  • Richard Jackson/Atheneum
  • Albert Whitman
  • Red Deer
  • Bloomsbury USA
  • HarperCollins
  • Dial
  • Carolrhoda
  • Houghton Mifflin

Half of the publishers on the list are publishing two of more of the first-time authors who contacted me. And Delacorte and Sylvan Dell get Most Friendly to New Authors Gold Stars.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Oh Those Quirky Writers...

I found this link in the MBToolbox at mediabistro and thought you all might enjoy it reading about the alleged weird habits and rituals of famous authors (as assembled by writer Judy Reeves).

Do you have any weird writing-related rituals? Me? All my writing rituals seem more like thinly-veiled procrastination rituals--scattering papers and writing things in the corners; discussing projects with my co-workers; walking about the building; looking at websites; blogging. But I guess while I'm doing all this stuff things are sort of jelling in my head. Usually by the time I actually start typing, I'm pretty close to a really good draft. But the toughest part is just getting started. For me, writing will always fall into the toughest-jobs-you'll-ever-love category--sometimes I find it just painful, but when it's going well it's a joy.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Purple Crayon...

Hopefully you've all visited editor editor Harold Underdown's website The Purple Crayon. If you haven't, do yourself a favor and add the site to your favorites list. Harold's site is chock-full of useful stuff, including books reviews (check out his newly posted review of the 2007 CWIM and it's not-really-icky-yellow cover); tons of articles and info including a "Who's Moving Where?" feature; and excerpts from his terrific book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books.

I'm not sure how Harold has time to maintain and update his site, post on the CW listserv and still, you know, have a life. But I'm glad he does--he offers a great service to children's writer's and illustrators. And there's lots of purple involved, which is never a bad thing. (I still haven't forgiven my parent's for not painting my room purple when I was nine.)

Monday, August 28, 2006


  • Tour: Tonight a panel of Writer's Digest Market Books editors will appear at Books & Co. in the Dayton, Ohio area, at 7 p.m.--it's at the store's old location. Please come out for a lively discussion on writing and publishing. There's always a great crowd at this store and many, many good questions. It's rainy and nasty outside in this neck of the woods--so it's the perfect time to schlep through the rain and go to a bookstore, where everything is dry and sunny. I won't be at this event because today is Murray's birthday. (More on that later.)
  • More on That: Today is my son Murray's second birthday. He actually sort of gets the concept of birthdays: people give him stuff; there are cupcakes. My house is now overrun with toys, trucks and trains. Alas, no one got him a book. Does that happen with those of you booklover/author types who have kids? I think everyone thinks I'm picky (I am) and don't know what to pick out (they don't) so they're afraid to buy books for the little guy.
  • First Books: I'm up to my eyeballs in wonderful debut authors, so please, don't send me any more first books emails, lest the difficult job will just get difficult-er. I promise to decide on my lineup before the end of the week. There. I've said it in public, to the whole world. Now I have to do it.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I Finished a Book (An Ongoing Series)...

I know, I know--I said picture books don't count. But I had to give a mention to Lisa Wheeler: Rhymer Extraordinaire. Lisa recently sent me a copy of her book Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum (autographed for Murray). The little guy is often reluctant about new books unless they have pictures of trucks on them, but he was interested in this one right away (kudos to illustrator Laura Huliska-Beith).

And as soon as I began reading, Murray was mesmerized. He was repeating words and squealing about pages he particularly liked. This continued through reading number two...and three...and four...and five...and six. Although my read-aloud-er was getting worn out by then, Bubble Gum was a joy to read. Lisa's rhyme is the kind that feel great as if flows out of your mouth. All of you budding picture book writers struggling with rhyming manuscripts, read some Lisa Wheeler to see rhyme done right. (Because rhyme done wrong is just so, so wrong.)

For more on rhyme, read my conference report on Hope Vestergaard's session. And pick up a few of Hope's books, too--like her latest, Hillside Lullaby. Hope really can write rhyme that lilts, marches and dances off the page--her work is wonderful and charming. (Murray likes it too.)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Lots of People, Lots of Questions...

We had about 55 writer-types in attendance for our first Market Books event of the year (didn't even need cupcakes and free beer!) and we talked writing and publishing for two solid hours. Among other things, people asked:

  • Do I need an agent? Should I have a different agent for fiction and nonfiction? Do I need an overseas agent? Should I pay a reading fee to an agent?
  • A publisher is reading my work--if they offer me a contract, what should I do?
  • Can I break into major newspapers?
  • How do I approach a publisher with a nonfiction project (and other submitting-my-work questions)?
  • Should I pay to have my work published?
  • Are contests a good idea? How can I tell if a contest is legit?

My favorite comment from the crowd came from a children's writer. (She's the lady in the light purple sweater in the front row in the middle photo.) She said she bought and read through CWIM, followed the advice, and had her work requested by two major publishers. "All I did was follow the instructions," she told us. "It was amazing." She is hereby invited to all our events.

We also talked a lot about how the path to publication is different for everyone, and emphasized networking with other writers, attending conferences, etc. It's so much fun to be in a room filled with people who want to talk shop!

Note the photo above showing the entrance to the JB Kids area of the store. If you are ever in the Nati (that's Cincinnati for your out-of-towners) be sure to stop in Joseph-Beth and hang out in the kids section for a while. (I browsed the potty books.) It's big and well-stocked and fun. And if your books are in the store, they'd be thrilled to have you autograph them.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


  • Hotties: Well, Michael Stearns did not win GalleyCat's Hotties in Publishing men's title this year. If only my blog were more popular! (Tell your freinds.) If only I would have campaigned more vigorously! Bumper stickers, slogans, t-shirts...A website! I feel personally responsible. Sigh. But, alas, it is an honor just to be nominated.
  • Tour: Don't forget--anyone in the greater Cincinnati area should be at Joseph-Beth at 7 p.m. tonight for the kickoff of our market books tour. There will be handouts. And complimentary pens. And cupcakes. And free beer. And a dozen well-respected literary agents from New York who are looking for clients. (Um, a few of those things might not be true.)
  • First Books: I've got a great stack of emails from a great bunch of authors and illustrators and it's going to be absolutely painful not to choose each and every one of them for my annual First Books feature. But starting Monday I'll be weeding out my stack, making a short list, checking it twice, whittling it down all the more, until there are but four (or five if I must). So there are just a few days left to email me about your debut titles. Many thanks to all I've heard from so far--and to those writer-friends out there who directed first-time authors to my First Books blog post.
  • CWIM 2008: Is it too early to start talking about this? Not for me! I've been vigorously planning the next CWIM, going through queries, making lists, sending emails, assigning articles, dreaming about it at night--it's my favorite time of the year! I've got some cool things lined up for all of you out there and I'm going to be busy writing writing writing (after reading reading reading and interviewing interviewing interviewing). You'll likely see hints of who I'm talking to in future installments of I Finished a Book (An Ongoing Series).

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Market Books Tour Kickoff--TOMORROW!...

If you're in the area tomorrow, be sure to stop by Joseph-Beth's Cincinnati location at 7 p.m. for the kickoff to our Market Books Editors (Tiny Part of the) World Tour. This event is not limited to those interested in children's writing and publishing (my people)--the lineup also includes Lauren Mosko, editor of Novel & Short Story Writer's Market; Robert Brewer, editor of Writer's Market and; and Nancy Breen, editor of Poet's Market.

Our event will begin with a panel discussion led by Greg the Publicity Dude. He'll ask us intelligent, probing questions related to our areas of expertise. (So he says--he won't tell us the questions in advance. We'll have lots of big, spontaneous fun!) Then we'll open it up to questions from the crowd, which are generally good and interesting (besides the guy who wants to explain his life story for 20 minutes and ask what he should do to get it published even though he's never written a work--that guy makes me tired. Oh--I'm pretty sure he can't make it tomorrow.)

So come! Please come! It's free. Our new book covers look so pretty when they're all on a table together. And we're all nice and knowledgeable editors. And after our event, you can browse your favorite sections of the store (you'll find me in literature, children's books, YA and the magazine rack--look there first).

For our complete schedule of upcoming events, click here.

Monday, August 21, 2006

BookSense Picks: Children's Autumn 2006...

I just found the latest BookSense list in my inbox. Here's a quick not-very-specific-and-incomplete rundown of what's on it. (Follow the list link to read full titles):

  • Four Monster books
  • Lots of animals: Dog, Cow, Giraffe, Gecko, Hippo, Hare, Rabbit and Pig
  • Animal Poems and Dog Poems
  • Pirates
  • Goth Girl, Good Girls, That Girl Lucy Moon
  • Dragons (and lots of fantasy)
  • Ranger's Apprentice, Last Apprentice, Last Dragon
  • Books that are part of trilogies and series
  • How to Be Popular, How It's Done
  • A reinvention and a new version of Alice in Wonderland (both of which I will buy because I dig all things Alice in Wonderland)
  • New books by Gail Carson Levine, Edward Bloor, Elise Primavera, David Wiesner, Maurice Sendak, Denise Fleming, Patricia MacLachlan and Ian Falconer among others

Non-Alice-in-Wonderland-related books on the list I'm going to add to the stack next to my bed as soon as Wednesday (because I will be at a bookstore that day):

Book on the list Murray (the little book lover I gave birth to) would like most:

Sunday, August 20, 2006

I Finished a Book (An Ongoing Series)...

I'm happy to report I've finished my first book since enacting My Plan to Read a Lot More Than I Do. (Picture books and board books don't count.) I decided to begin with a book I purchased at the SCBWI Conference earlier this month, so I just read Justina Chen Headley's Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies).

One might think Nothing But the Truth, about a half-Asian/half-white teen whose mother is difficult and who is about to embark on summer math camp, wouldn't be a book for me. I'm quite pink, can't do math to save my life, and my mom's a peach. But a good author really gets to the heart of her characters and reveals their pain and angst, and pain and angst are universal. Plus, I've been fifteen. I don't want to do it again for real, but I love to relive it through books.

Things I loved about this book:

  • Great believable and dimensional characters and a main character I could really like and really root for.
  • The end of every chapter made me want to start the next one which made me not want to put this book down (and stay up way too late to keep reading).
  • The author really puts Patty, the 15-year-old main character, through some humiliating and difficult situations. She gets through one and then--oh no--how could she do that to her again!
  • Patty learns things about herself and her family and she grows, and you're right there with her. And by the end she's rather kick-ass.
  • The author uses some wonderful word play (even math puns!).

Friday, August 18, 2006

Cast Your Vote: Hotties in Publishing...

I can't be all business all the time (as if...), and it is Friday night, so today's post is to tell you about Galley Cat's "Hotties in Publishing" voting that's going on through Sunday at midnight. Everyone go vote for HarperCollins Children's Editorial Director Michael Stearns. (It's a tight race so feel free to vote repeatedly.)

So he's worked with Jennifer Donnelly, Edward Bloor, Elise Primavera, Bruce Coville, and Frances Hardinge--wouldn't top Hotty in Publishing be a much greater accomplishment? (And why did no one nominate me in the women's category?)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

From PW Children's Bookshelf...

I'm not sure if you can subscribe to the PW Children's Bookself e-newsletter if you don't subscribe to the print magazine. Anyone know? If you can get it, sign up! It's chock-full-o-news (and reviews) and it's quite visually appealing too (lots of covers and a cute reading-frog logo pretty much the exact same color as the 2007 CWIM).

Today Publishers Weekly reports that HarperCollins is launching a new imprint called HarperTeen to "publish all of HarperCollins's YA titles that don't fall under the EOS fantasy/SF imprint." They'll no longer us HarperTempest and Avon imprint names.

They also report some movin' and shakin' among editor types: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing promoted Caitlyn Dlouhy from exec editor to editorial director of Atheneum Books for Young Readers. They've also restructured their Simon Pulse teen imprint--Bethany Buck is editorial director and her new staff includes exec ed Jennifer Klonsky (from Aladdin), associate ed Sangeeta Mehta (from Little, Brown) and editorial assistants Michael del Rosario and Caroline Abbey. (Be nice to editorial assistants--they do stuff like read slush.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


  • I'm tired of reading books about trucks. I know far more than a 38-year-old female editor whose favorite reading material is YA novels and Lucky: The Magazine About Shopping needs to know about big construction equipment.
  • I keep meaning to flip through the Publishers Weekly Children's Books Fall 2006 issue that's in my inbox. I hope you've checked it out. It's like getting a mini catalog from most every publisher.
  • Pretty soon there will be a CWIM website. Those of you who have the 2007 edition might have seen the address listed on the back cover. It's not quite ready yet, but I'll keep you posted. (When the site is live, you'll be able to sign up for a monthly e-newsletter from yours truly.)
  • This year it's going to be harder than ever to choose my First Books lineup--the book descriptions I've gotten so far all sound fabulous. (Hmmm...Perhaps I smell a website feature.)
  • My Five-Pronged Plan to Read Way More Than I Do Now is going well. I actually have not turned on the TV all week and I have not purchased any footwear. And I'm well into Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies by Justina Chen Headley, the one at the top of my stack of books I got in LA. (I'm typing very fast so I can get through a few chapters before bedtime--I'm dying to get back to it.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Call for First-Time Authors & Illustrators...

My favorite time of year has once again rolled around--it's the time when I begin planning the next edition of CWIM (2008 edition!). My favorite CWIM feature to work on is our "First Books" article, for which we interview four (or so) first-time authors and illustrators about their books and their debut publishing experiences.

If you have a debut book coming out in late 2006 or early 2007 (I'd need a cover image by early February) and would like to be considered for First Books, please email me ( I'll consider all genres of children's books and agented or unagented writers and illustrators. Tell me a little about your book (including pub date) and yourself. If you have a website, give me the link. No self-published books or e-books please.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Market Books Tour...

This month marks the beginning of the annual mini book tour by Market Books editors (myself included, of course). We'll be visiting a number of bookstores, talking about writing and publishing and answering questions. If you are in the areas in which we're appearing, please pop in and see us and buy some books (ours or someone else's). Here is our lineup:

Cincinnati, OH
Wednesday, August 23
7 p.m.
Includes editors of Writer's Market, Poet's Market, Novel & Short Story Writer's Market, and CWIM (me).

Books & Company
Dayton, OH
Monday, August 28
7 p.m.
Includes editors of Writer's Market, Poet's Market, Novel & Short Story Writer's Market and Guide to Literary Agents. (I'm skipping this event--it's my son's birthday. He'll be two. Cute little peanut.)

Cleveland, OH
Thursday, September 7
7 p.m.
This event includes only me--please come! The following Saturday, September 9, I'll be presenting at the Northern Ohio SCBWI Conference.

Barbara's Bookstore at UIC
Chicago, IL
Thursday, September 14
7:30 p.m.
Includes editors of Novel & Short Story Writer's Market and Guide to Literary Agent and CWIM (me). We'll follow up this event with workshops at the Midwest Literary Festival. (The info on the website is not completely up-to-date so you won't find my name anywere, but I'll be there.) The Festival's Children's Guest of Honor is Bruce Hale. He'll be wearing a jaunty hat, no doubt.

Joseph Beth
Lexington, OH
Saturday, September 23
4 p.m.
Includes editors of Novel & Short Story Writer's Market and CWIM (me).

Friday, August 11, 2006

Confession Time...

I have a shoe problem. I've just spent the last 45 minutes on my favorite shopping website (which is the best place in the universe to buy shoes--don't get me started) browsing through 25 pages of flats available in size 8 1/2, popping half a dozen cute pairs into my shopping cart (just in case). As I viewed the shoes from every angle, I was thinking, ya know--there are so many cute shoes in the world, it's a shame I only have two feet (and one closet).

I feel the same way about books--there are so many good ones I want to read, it's a shame there are only 24 hours in a day. I guess I have a book problem, too. They fill six bookcases in my house; they're piled up in corners, on top of the speakers, next too the bed, in front of the fireplace, on the bathroom floor, and all over my cubicle at the office. After recently acquiring more books at the SCBWI conference and making that stack that mocks me from my nightstand (see below) officially taller than I am, I began to stress about reading. I have a job, an almost-two-year-old, an eBay addiction, a love of TV, and I work on a lit mag in my spare time (when I'm not performing domestic goddess duties). Something's gotta give!

So I offer here, to all the world, My Five-Pronged Plan to Read Way More Than I Do Now:

  1. Schedule reading, just like I do everything else. In the beginning of the week, I work out which days I'll go to the grocery store and the gym, when I'll take a trip to the mall to replace my watch battery, when I'll pick up my dry cleaning, which yoga classes I'll attend. Why not add reading to my weekly plan?
  2. Cut down on Internet time. I'm on the Internet--a lot. I've got a list of blogs I visit. I read my email when I eat breakfast. Every time I pass the computer, it beckons me, like an ice cream shop to someone on a diet. I must stop browsing the net every time I'm bored. I'll pick up a novel instead.
  3. Cut down on TV. I don't watch a ton of TV during the summer rerun season, so sorry Jon Stewart, sorry Colbert--nighttime TV must be replaced with nighttime reading, at least a few days a week. And soon, when the new TV season starts, One Tree Hill and The O.C.--your days are numbered. Lost and The Office, you're safe. Oh--and Gilmore Girls (baby steps, baby steps).
  4. Read on my lunchbreak. Whether I'm eating at my desk or in my kitchen (1.5 miles from the office) I should grab a book instead of Entertainment Weekly. I'm sure my boss will understand if I occasionally get caught up in a novel and accidentally take a bit of a long lunch. It's research--it's my duty to stay up on the market and reading new titles is important.
  5. Read at the gym. When I spend a good 50 minutes on the cardio machine do I really need to stare at the TV reading the captions for General Hospital or Judge Judy? No. I'll plop a book on the stand instead--I bet it makes the uphill climb to nowhere zip right by.

I can't count the number of times in CWIM someone offers this same advice to writers: Read. Read, read, read. Read some more. How do you all find the time? I'll let you know how My Plan is working and I'll tell you about the books I finish. Now back to Zappos to finish my shopping (then I'll read).

So I Never Run Out of Topics...

It is pretty unlikely that I will run out of things to address in this space. (I feel like I could blog all day long. Is there a 12-step program?) I'd love, however, to answer questions from the CWIM audience/potential audience/any interested party periodically.

If there's anything children's-publishing-related you'd like me to address, please send me an email ( If I don't answer you publicly, I'll do my best the answer you privately.

In the meantime, please keep visiting--my head's chock full of topics and ideas filed in this special corner of my brain called the Things About Which to Blog lobe.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

My Conference Wrap-Up...

Well, folks, that's pretty much it. You've gotten my perspective on the SCBWI 35th Annual Summer Conference. I didn't report on everything--the event is just too vast. And I have lots of laundry to catch up on, at the office and at home--one cannot blog all day long (or at least one shouldn't).

I'm still adjusting to being back on eastern standard time. I've got nice bruises on both knees from falling on the escalator at LAX. The stack of books on my nightstand has grown considerably. (They stare at me, mock me --you'll never read us all--[evil laugh]--you'll never read us all.) And boy could I use a pedicure, a massage, and a yoga class.

So, I'm slightly exhausted--but at the same time I'm somehow invigorated. I've been getting email from people I met at the conference. I've been going over my notes, making lists of ideas and people to follow-up with. I've been blabbing about my trip to my co-workers. I can't wait to dive into planning the 2008 CWIM. (Everyone who's queried me, it won't be too much longer...)

And I got some cool news from my fav sales dude Phil yesterday: the 2007 CWIM was my company's bestselling book last week. Thanks for buying it (with its beautiful green cover that somehow looks icky yellow Amazon)--conference-goers and non-conference-goers alike.

In closing:

  • Number of pina coladas I had during the conference: Zero (Sorry Darlene.)
  • Number of people who sent me to the wrong place in LAX: 4
  • Approximate temperature of the Encino room: 56 degrees (and somehow breezy). (Note to self: next time pack pashmina and/or parka.)
  • Approximate amount of sauce on penne, the vegetarian option at the Golden Kite Luncheon: hardly any.
  • Speaker who made me laugh the hardest: Pat Mora (who told a university in need of her cap and gown size for an honorary degree ceremony that she had a 57-inch head).
  • Presenter who made me laugh the most: Candie Moonshower.
  • Number of sessions during which I teared up: 3
  • Number of Kevin Costner movies I watched in my hotel room: one--twice.
  • Approximate price of the breakfast buffet in the Breeze before tip: $19
  • Presenter with best hat: tie--Mo Willems and Bruce Hale.
  • Best conference-goer accessory: the #2.5 pencil that's always behind Kevan Atteberry's ear.
  • Best SCBWIdol Contest shenanigan: unicycling.
  • Number of days until next year's event: way too many.

Final Keynote: Jane Yolen...

I mentioned in an earlier post that I got a picture of Jane Yolen dancing during the Jade Jubilee. There she is above, happy and cuttin' a rug. So I was shocked when SCBWI President Stephen Mooser pushed her to the stage in a wheelchair. It seems Jane's food at the Golden Kite Luncheon didn't agree with her, so much so that she and Lin Oliver had been in the emergency room for the better part of the night. But the show must go on, Jane Yolen is a trooper, and she delivered a terrific talk. (I would probably have been curled up in my bed moaning had I been in her shoes.)

Here's Jane's speech in seven words: Butt in chair: Write the damn book.

If seven words of Jane Yolen wisdom is not enough, check out Take Joy.

Editor Panel Moderated by Arthur Levine...

Four editors took the stage for a discussion led by Arthur Levine (in case you don't know, he's VP of Scholastic and has an eponymous imprint): Lee & Low Editor-in-Chief Louise May; Harcourt Editorial Director Liz Van Doren; Alvina Ling, editor with Little, Brown; and Michael Stearns, HarperCollins Children's Books Editorial Director.

Arthur posted a question about all the talk in the industry of the difficulty of selling picture books (both to publishers and to the end consumer). Here's what the panelists said in a nutshell:

  • PB sales are hurt by a lack of children's-only booksellers. (One editor estimated that there's been a loss of 70% of children's-only booksellers in the U.S. since big chains came on the scene.)
  • Just because the PB market is soft, doesn't mean there's not an opportunity for big titles. (As Michael said, an editor's list is "like a classroom of kids--you like them all, but you can pick out one of two who have a chance to be President.")
  • Michael blames bestseller lists to some extent--they make bookseller's choices too easy when it comes to hand-selling titles.
  • Alvina confessed it's easier for her to hire an author/illustrator for a PB project than using a separate author and illustrator.
  • Liz said there's more attention than ever to profitability.
  • Louise said Lee & Low has been doing well with picture book biographies.

Arthur asked the panel to name some editorial "young guns," up-an-coming editors to watch (I'm leaving this info for conference-goers--so ask your conference-goer friends; I'm not going to give away the store) and asked editors to be sure to update SCBWI's "Edited By: A House-by-House Listing of Editorial Credits." SCBWI members should check the website to review this resource.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Darlene the Century Plaza Cocktail Waitress...

The first SCBWI conference I attended at the Century Plaza Hotel was the 25th anniversary event. As I dragged my luggage through the lobby 10 years ago one of the first things I saw was Darlene the Cocktail Waitress serving drinks to thirsty hotel guests. (She served a formidable number of them to me that year. I much was younger and could still handle my pina coladas.)

As I dragged luggage across the lobby the night before the 35th conference began, I wondered if Darlene was still around. The hotel had changed hands several times in the last decade. But I spotted her--Darlene--still serving drinks to thirsty hotel guests. Darlene has delivered many a martini to beloved children's book authors. She's brought bottles of beer to both the accomplished and the aspiring. She's seen agents and editors meet with their authors. She's seen strangers become lifelong friends. She's been on her feet, wearing that same outfit, working at the heartbeat of the SCBWI conference networking machine: the Lobby Bar. Ah, Darlene, you're as much a part of the SCBWI conference as keynotes, breakout sessions, portfolio displays, and anniversary balls. Thanks for bringing those mojitos and wasabi peanuts, Darlene. Thanks for service with a smile. I'll see you next year.

Editor vs. Agent: Duking It Out...

...In this corner: Edward Necarsulmer IV, Director of the Children's Department at McIntosh & Otis

...And in this corner: Mark McVeigh, Senior Editor at Dutton Children's Books


There was no hitting below the belt in the mock contract negotiation--Edward and Mark explained the back in forth they go through when deciding on a book deal with a sense of friendly competitiveness. It was interesting to hear the discussions of advances, royalties and rights. Edward brought up a number of concerns in regards to the terms for his pseudo-client, things that a green author negotiating a contract on her own would likely not grapple over, like subsidiary rights and option clauses. (Note: Be sure to do your homework if not working with an agent.)

Something that I hope conference-goers also took away from this is a glimpse of the whole manuscript acquisitions process. The pair used the HarperCollins acquisitions model (Mark formerly worked for Harper). Here's a nutshell version:

  • Edwards sends Manuscript to Mark for exclusive look for an allotted time period. Mark loves Manuscript.
  • Mark passes Manuscript to his boss for review. Boss loves Manuscript.
  • Manuscript is presented to an Editorial Board for review. Manuscript passes.
  • Mark prepares a Profit & Loss Statement for the book. The P/L is used determine if the book would be profitable, and takes into account possible advance amount, print run/production costs, projected sales, etc.
  • Manuscript is presented to acquisitions board made up of sales, publicity, marketing and inventory staff. Manuscript is accepted.
  • Mark negotiates contract with Edward, who communicates with Author throughout the process, discussing things like advances, pay-out structure, royalty rates, due date, sub rights, copyrights, jacket and cover consultation, out of print issues, option clauses, bonus languages, etc.
  • Mark and Edward come to an agreement that satisfies the publisher and the authors.
  • A Contract is sent out.
  • Mark emails Author saying how excited he is about working with her.
  • Contract is signed and sent back.
  • Things are reviewed by publisher's legal department. Everything's kosher.

Whew! Did we get to 13 rounds? An editor's really gotta like your book to go through that whole process, don't you think?

...And after all that, the editorial process begins.

Laurent Linn on Getting Your Art Noticed...

Between working on Sesame Street and getting his job at Henry Holt, Laurent Linn spent five years working as a freelance illustrator, so he's uniquely qualified to offer advice on getting noticed by art directors. He talked about what worked for him as an illustrator and what attracts him as an art director. Here are few pieces of advice from Laurent, whose company publishes Eric Carle, Peter McCarty, Denise Fleming, Dan Yaccarino, and Yuyi Morales, among others:

  • The most important promotional tools for illustrators are websites and postcards. It's now expected that illustrators have websites.
  • Be sure to include your name and website on both sides of your promo postcard.
  • He recommends creating a logo out of your name to brand yourself. (See his website for a good example.)
  • He's doesn't not think it's necessary to create business cards--a postcard can serve this purpose.

Laurent told us that Henry Holt is one of the oldest publishers in the U.S. (They were established in 1868), and that they receive about 2000 promo samples a year from illustrators. They actually publish about 40 picture books a year.

He noted that attending the SCBWI conference it incredibly inspirational for illustrator who do solitary work, but thought it could also be discouraging seeing the wonderful work of so many other illustrators with whom you must compete. Don't be discouraged, he advises--use the experience at a kick in the pants.

Krista Marino on Writing for Teen Boys...

Delacorte Press editor Krista Marino gave an interesting session on writing for the ever-reluctant young male reader. Krista acknowledged the fact that boys and girls not only have different biology, but also different socialization and ways of learning. So how does a writer capture an audience that doesn't want to sit still and read a novel?

In a nutshell, Krista advocates creating protagonists who boys can identify with, characters from varying ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, and have these characters deal with common adolescent issues. If readers can identify with a character, it affirms their identity. Also, create an authentic teen experience by creating believable dialogue, even if it means hanging out at teen haunts and eavesdropping on them. Pace is also important. Books for this audience need to move fast--"quiet," too cerebral book are not likely to engage boys.

Here are some recommended books that Krista read from during the presentation:

P.S. Krista Marino was named the SCBWI Member of the Year at the Golden Kite Luncheon later in the conference.

Caroline B. Cooney...

The Face on the Milk Carton has sold a bazillion copies, and in this session author Caroline Cooney gave a rather fascinating look into how she got from initial idea to bestseller, describing how she developed her plot and her character in Milk Carton and a few other titles. Below are a few nuggets from this presentation:

  • Be sure your character, though flawed, is lovable.
  • When you develop stories ideas, come up with 100 questions.
  • Action is easy to write--don't slow down action with details.
  • She believes the bulk of YA readers are 11- and 12-year-old girls.
  • Her first drafts are always "stupid."
  • The lead character has to be the one to resolve the story.
  • You can do anything for 15 minutes--set a timer and write a scene.
  • It's much easier to expand and revise than to write in the first place.

She ended saying: "I love writing, except when it's really hard--then I hate it."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Alice vs. iBook...

You may have noticed my conference postings have kind of fizzled over the last couple days. I was locked in a classic struggle of (wo)man vs. machine--machine won. My pesky laptop refused to cooperate so I couldn't get online to post.

The conference is over, I'm back in eastern standard time and, obviously, back on the net. And I've got lots more conference scoop to share. Watch for more SCBWI conference-related posts (and some photos) tomorrow and over the next few days. Today I'm not sure how much sense they would make as I had a 6:30 a.m. flight and I got 4 hours of sleep. (Remind me to tell you about how much I love LAX. Note to self: never go up a down escalator.)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Picture Book Panel...

Barbara Seuling moderated this panel on creating picture books, with panelists Laurent Linn, senior designer at Henry Holt; Elizabeth Parisi, Executive Art Director at Scholastic (both of whom were judges for the portfolio display); and illustrator Melissa Sweet.

Barbara presented questions to the panelists about various aspects of picture book creation to be addressed from their varying perspectives. Here are some answers to one question I hear discussed often.

Why aren't most authors and illustrators involved in choosing illustrators and why don't illustrators and authors communicate while they're working on the same picture book?

Laurnet Linn called this question "the elephant in the room that no one talks about," but they talked about it. The panelists gave several good reason for the way things work in the picture books world when it comes to these issues:

  • Publishers have a better grasp on the illustrators who are out there and are experts at pairing text and illustrations into the best package.
  • A picture book is 50/50 when it comes to authors and illustrators telling the story. Illustrators need the freedom to create their own interpretation of the story without the interference of the writer; afterall, a writer wouldn't want an illustrator to make suggestions on how they should create or alter their text. Such collaboration would muddy the vision and arrest creativity.
  • If an author is involved, it makes the already long process of creating a picture book even longer.

Manga Manga Manga...

I must admit I'm not at all into manga. In fact I don't think I've so much as picked up a manga title and flipped through it. But I still got up early to go the 8 a.m. session with TokyoPop's Jeremy Ross--I even turned off a quite good-though-predictable Kevin Costner movie and put off eating breakfast. (I am a big fan of breakfast and a medium fan of Kevin Costner.)

I was really blown away about some of the stats given during this presentation. So here is a list of some of the things I learned, many of which surprised me. (I'm also a big fan of bulleted lists):

  • Manga is the fastest growing publishing category and is a $300 million industry.
  • 40% of all publishing in Japan is manga--it's read by all ages and covers an array of subjects.
  • 70% of U.S. manga readers are age 13-19; 60-70% of them are female.
  • TokyoPop makes up 52% of the U.S. manga market share.
  • There are 61,331,000 teens in the U.S.
TokyoPop has just relaunched their website. Now people can post their artwork and stories, communicate on a forum, and even learn about manga from other publishers. If you're into this genre, sounds like a visit to their site should be in your future.

Number of times I typed the word mango while writing this entry: a bunch

The Jade Jubilee...

To commemorate the 35th anniversary of SCBWI, they held the Jade Jubilee which included one free drink; a fajita, chips and salsa dinner; a DJ; and a costume contest. I took a million pictures (it was the first time I broke out my camera) which I will post whenever I get time.

I spotted lots of conference faculty at the party including Jane Yolen (I got a great picture of her dancing), Mo Willems (who said he's open to doing a CWIM interview), and Jackie Woodson (whose book I'm getting ready to delve into-- I finally hit the bookstore).

My favorite jade-themed costume was by a cartoonist names Genevieve Shapiro. She drew representations of various definitions for the word jade all over a white dress. She was so robbed of the best costume award! I spotted her at the Golden Kite Luncheon (more on that later) in a white t-shirt bearing her work. Genevieve, you should design a line of clothes--everyone who wore them would be a billboard for your work.

My Day of Portfolios...

I missed out on a few sessions today since I volunteered to help out with the juried portfolio dipslay. The other volunteers and I, under the leadership of Priscilla Burris, took portfolios from a long line of illustrators, ran them to tables, arranged the books and artists' promo pieces, and assisted the four delightful judges.

The day was not without it's challenges: We battled the elements--gusty winds sent postcards flying, the hot sun bluckled plastic portfolios. I got a bit of a sunburn and my dogs were barking. But it was great fun just the same.

Several portfolios truly blew me away. One great thing about helping with this event is that I get to puruse the portfolios along with a select few others before the rest of the conference-goers are allowed in to see them. I scored a great stack of promo pieces and got to page through some amazing work.

It's also fascinating to listen to the judges discuss what works and one doesn't in certain books, and what they like and don't like. Here are a few things I overheard:

  • Artist's don't always know what their best work is.
  • Consistency is important in a portfolio. A number of them had wonderful work in the beginning of their books, but as the judges flipped through, the quality level did not hold up. One or two pieces that aren't as good as the others can bring the whole portfolio down.
  • It's important to show movement, not just portraits of characters; show you can carry characters through scenes.
Winners of the portfolio event will be announced tomorrow at the Golden Kite Luncheon. (I know who they are, but my lips are sealed!)

Justina Chen Headley...

I was having trouble deciding which morning breakout session to attend and I'm really glad I decided on Justina Chen Headley's Channeling You Inner Teen. I'd attended a number of great presentations that were funny and engaging (Mo, Jarrett, Candie); Tina's session was emotionally engaging.

She talked about pathos and heart. She talked about life lessons and desires. She asked writers to think about the greatest fears of their characters and themselves, as well as the worst possible moments. She advised writers to ask tough questions about their characters. Just like Candie Moonshower, Tina said she doesn't believe in writer's block; writers aren't blocked, they just lose their way, forget what their characters are about.

I held back tears no fewer than a dozen times during this session. This was particularly difficult as Tina read passages from K.L. Going's Fat Kid Rules the World and Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak. I have not yet read Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies), the debut novel by Justina Chen Headley, but I'm adding it to my bookstore shopping list for tomorrow.

If there's one thing this conference must inspire every budding writer to do, it's read.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I Heart Jarrett J. Krosoczka...

Not only does Jarrett Krosoczka do wonderful books, he also does wonderful presentations. Here are some highlights and some things I learned about Jarrett:

  • Before he was published, the guy at the post office loved the "wicked good pictures"on his promo postcards.
  • He, like so many of the other speakers thus fars, stressed the importance of giving ideas time to develop.
  • He says he can't separate writing and illustrating--they're all part of the same process for him.
  • As a child, he loved the Smurfs
  • He was raised by his grandparents.
  • The first book he wrote (as a kid) was called The Owl Who Thought He Was the Best Flyer.
  • He worked at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for kids with cancer and other incurable diseases.
  • He says the happiest day of his life was his first book signing.
  • He showed a film about the trails and triumphs of the creative life staring Jarrett J. Krosoczka as himself. (He's not just an author/illustrator--he's an actor!) The film can be found on his website.
Number of birthday cake photos in Jarrett's presentation: 2

More Words...

Lin Oliver started off the morning with the parade of Regional Advisors introducing themselves and saying One Word. (No disco music this time.)

Among my favorite RA words this year: symbiosis, enlightened, voice, portfolio, sizzling, silly, gassy, and, from the International RA coordinators: world peace (two words, but well worth repeating).

The Ice Breaker...

After the sessions ended for the day, SCBWI held a wine-and-cheese event during which published authors could showcase their work and others could mingle. To help move the mingling along, we were all assigned the same task as the conference faculty for their morning procession: come up with a word, which were were then to write on a sticky name tag below our name and post said nametag on our person.

I picked moxie. Here are the reasons I planned to give should anyone ask why I choose this word:

  • It's pretty much the favorite word of my best bud Megan without whom I would never have figured out how to do this blog. She's smart, and I trust her judgement when it comes to words and most other things.
  • Moxie is good trait to possess on many occasions and it can even come in handy whilst one is mingling.
  • There's an x in it, and that's a most excellent letter.
  • It rhymes with Roxy which is a very cool name. (It's no Candie Moonshower, but it's right up there.)
  • If you change one letter it sounds like foxy.
In another attempt to promote mingling, SCBWI gave out bright green buttons that declare: Kiss Me, I'm Published. It's a good thing there was not an open bar at this event, because, you know, with free drinks and these buttons--heaven knows what could happen! I'm happy to report, however, that I observed no public conference-goer-on-conference-goer smooching. (I feared for the adorable author/illustrator/faculty member Jarrett Krosoczka, what with the out-of-whack female-to-male ratio at this conference. I observed him removing his button and stuffing it into his bag.)

Elise Primavera...

Here are a few things I learned about Elise Primavera and her work:

  • This picture book author/illustrator, famous for Auntie Claus, has a novel coming out in October called The Secret Order of The Gumm Street Girls.
  • One of her new characters looks strikingly like Donatella Versace.
  • She majored in fashion illustration.
  • She collects things (photos, clippings, reference material), sometimes for years, before she starts writing a story.
  • There were more than 20 drafts for the cover design for Gumm Street over the course of three years before she and her publisher agreed on a concept.
  • When she was 40 she moved back in with her parents during a period of midlist doldrums.
Elise's words of wisdom: "Ideas are living things--have respect for them and give them time to grow. Let them lead you."

Candie Moonshower: One Hilarious Harried Housewife...

A packed room of 100+ conference-goers were rolling in the aisles during Candie Moonshower's session titled by SCBWI: Ten Giant (but Essential) Steps to Writing & Publishing Your First Novel. (Candie's title: The Harried Housewife's Guide to Writing Your Novel in Seven Free Minutes a Day.)

But not only is Candie funny, has a fab haircut, and has, like, the best name ever. She's also a font of solid advice. Her path to publication took several decades. There was love lost and love found. There was a bounced check (for a class on plotting). There was deception. ("Yes, I've written the entire manuscript Ms. NewYorkCity Editor.") There was self-doubt. There were even a few instances of vomiting. But with a supportive manly roofer-spouse at her side, and a trusty laptop she can take with her to the bathroom, Candie managed to win the Sue Alexander Award, finish her manuscript, land an agent, and have her debut novel The Legend of Zoey published by Random House all while juggling a crazy everyday life. Not bad for seven minutes a day. (She did confess that once she discovered her kids had eaten all three meals of Poptarts, "but they were all different fruit flavors.")

A few of my favorite pieces of advice from Candie (excluding the advice immediately following the dirty joke which I'd be happy to repeat, but I don't think my delivery would be as good):

  • Stop writing--and read. She took a year off writing to read books. That's a serious exercise plan for writers. It paid off for Candie.
  • Decide if writing's going to be a job or a hobby. If it's a job, treat it like one. Join SCBWI, go to conferences, network, and take your job seriously.
  • Butt in chair, hands on keyboard, and type like mad. Candie doesn't believe in writer's block.
And I must share her quote from a certain Sylvester Stalone classic:
  • Mick to Rocky: "How can you fight the champ if you can't even catch a chicken." This is where she told everyone to caress CWIM, and learn about the market and about the business.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Hope Vestergaard (and the Whole Rhyme Thing)...

I've been to many many many children's writing conferences over the last 15 years and I don't think I've ever been to one during which someone didn't raise her hand and say: "Why don't editors like rhyme? I hear so many editors say don't send rhyming manuscripts." So I had a feeling there would be a good turnout for Hope Vestergaards's session Rhyming Right--Creating Stories that March, Lilt and Dance off the Page.

In her session, Hope answered the above question (and for those of you who have also been to many many many writing conferences you've surely heard this before). Editors in fact do not hate rhyme. They just hate bad rhyme (unless you're Katie Couric or Billy Crystal. Well, they probably still hate bad rhyme from celeb children's authors, but they'll publish them anyway.)

Hope talked about just what makes bad rhyme bad--things like forced not-really-rhyming end rhymes (again and rain) and meter problems (from meter that's inconsistent to meter that's redundant and monotonous). She also got the say onomatopoeia a few times.

The highlight of this breakout session was hearing examples of good and bad rhyming books and poetry. Good: a lovely, fun poem by A.A. Milne. Bad: Billy Crystal and Katie Couric. This is certainly an exercise aspiring rhymers can do themselves. Read some good rhymers aloud (Hope's list includes Mary Ann Hoberman, Lisa Wheeler, J. Patrick Lewis and Alice Schertle among others). Then do the same for some celeb-penned titles. Wow. Now read your own work aloud--or better yet, have someone else read it to you. Hope recommends this as a way to catch stumbling spots. She also advises: "Read a hundred good rhyming books before you write one."

Mo Willems...

Things I've learned about Mo Willems:

  • He's done standup comedy.
  • He travelled around the world for a year (with one very small piece of luggage).
  • He's written for Beavis & Butthead and Sesame Street (guess which one earned him an Emmy?).
  • He grew up in New Orleans ("a city constructed of stories") and spent a great deal of time dancing with an old guy's hot young wife.
  • He worked with his dad making pottery.
  • He's incredibly witty and smart and funny (which I suppose is subjective).
  • He was featured in the Hot Men of Children's Literature series on another blog (which I suppose is also subjective).
  • He claims he's too lazy to name his characters.
  • He encourages people to draw his pigeon. (We got lessons.)
Number of times Mo Willems said smattering in his session: 3

Jacqueline Woodson...

This author was a great opening speaker: engaging, funny, touching, and real. I know of her work but I haven't yet read her books. (Note to self: stop in bookstore.) Jacqueline Woodson writes realistic fiction, some of which she read passages from. She talked about her background and what led her to be a writer--it was not something she set out to do. Like most writers, she's often asked about how she works, but says the act of writing a novel is something that can't be explained. "A writer shouldn't think about the process," she said.

Some writers plot and outline before they begin working on a novel. She is not one of them. Her stories unfold and reveal themselves to her. "I never wanted to be a writer," she said. "I wanted to be someone who could change the world." Isn't that what all writers should set out to do--one book at a time?

They Will Survive...

After a witty-as-usual introduction by Lin Oliver, we were introduced to the conference faculty who processed in accompanied by a Gloria Gaynor disco anthem. Each member of the facutly stepped to the microphone and uttered just one word (an SCBWI opening ceremonies tradition). Among my favorites: chocolate, diversity, intention, surreal, breathe, vote, pressure, kegger, busty, craft, sold and tardy (for the not-yet-arrived Arthur Levine). We're all supposed to think of a word for our name tags for an ice-breaker event later--I'm open to suggestions.

As usual Lin gave the breakdown of the conference-goers: 646 women, 118 men, 26 "unknown," 298 published, from 44 states and a number of countries including Germany, Japan and Australia.

There was a buzz of excitement and anticipation in the air. And, I'm happy to report, the brand new 2007 CWIM in the bookstore.

Planning My Days...

After a rather nauseating cab ride down the 405 I finally made it to LA a few hours ago, unpacked, got some sushi and much-needed water (no pina coladas for me), and hung out with illustrator Kevan Atteberry who flew in from Seattle early this morning.

I've been poring over the SCBWI conference schedule trying to decide which sessions to attend tomorrow and throughout the weekend. It's so hard! There are tons of cool/interesting-sounding things happening at once. I would guess most other conference-goers are here to network and learn things that will help them perfect their craft or boost their careers. My agenda is a little different. I'm here to learn and network, but I'm looking for ideas for my book--topics I should cover, people I could interview. I wish I could bring along a small staff of assistant editors and together the CWIM team could attend every session and meet everyone. But, alas, I am the entire CWIM team, and I can't be everywhere at once.

Tomorrow you'll find out how I decided to spend my day (rhyme or cover letters? book design or first novel tips?) as I report on conference sessions and anything else I deem cool/interesting.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

My Trek West Has Begun…

I’m now sitting in the airport waiting to get on my flight to LA. (At least I was when I wrote this--no airport WIFI so I’ll be posting this from the hotel.)

Do they have thoes new “air puffer” machines in your airport security area? I was told they installed them about 6 weeks ago here in CVG. You walk into this glass booth, about the size of a phone booth. A recording says “air puffing will now begin,” then things get windy. My hair flew up; my skirt flew up—it was all very Marilyn Monroe. And also very startling; I squealed a little. Apparently the air thought I was OK.

I stopped at the newsstand to pick up a copy of Glamour for the plane (a supersize special issue with 3 cover models) in case the novel I brought from the giant stack on my nightstand isn’t doing it for me. The girl in the store asked me if the guy on my shirt was my boyfriend. It’s John Cusack. She didn’t know who he was (hasn’t everybody seen Say Anything?) then she accidentally called me Mom. She’s a teenager, so I guess technically I am old enough to be her mom, but it made me feel an itty bitty old.

Then, as I dragged my luggage through first class on the way to my cheap seat, I saw a couple whose kids I babysat--get this--22 years ago. Ahhh! I need to read some picture books so I feel like a kid. (If you run into me at the conference, it would be really sweet of you to tell me how young I look.)

The cool thing about my airport experience thus far is that the bus at long-term parking picked me up right at my car. (Note to self: Row E22) And soon I will emerge from my plane and be somewhere in the vicinity of 80 degrees and the world won’t feel like a big unshuttable oven (as my friend Meg put it).

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Almost Conference Time...

I'm psyching myself up for the my trip to LA tomorrow, and although I have 87 million things to do before I go, I'm getting really excited. Here's my list of conference-related things I'm most excited about:

  • Wearing my hot pink Punk Farm t-shirt.
  • Steve Malk's party at Dutton's bookstore in Beverly Hills (invitation only).
  • Mo Willems! (Love that pigeon.)
  • Working at the Art Portfolio Display with Priscilla Burris and company. (Pretty much my favorite part of the conference--so cool to eavesdrop on editors and art directors talking about portfolios. And some of the art is just fabulous.)
  • A balcony. And a phone in the bathroom. (Yeah, I have a mobile, but it's still cool.)
  • Jane Yolen's keynote address. I've heard her speak many times and she's always wonderful. (Check out her new Writer's Digest Books title Take Joy.)
  • Low humidity and temperatures below 90. (Oh, I cannot wait.)
  • Seeing presenter Hope Vestergaard and my other Michigan author friends. (I missed you all last year.)
  • Regional Advisors--some of the hardest working, most dedicated volunteers on the planet.
  • The costumes at the "Jade Jubilee." Oh the wacky things creative types come up with. (I'm hoping to get some photos.) I have not yet decided on my outfit, but I'm pretty darn sure I own nothing that could be referred to as "jade." (Maybe next year they could have a Black Ball.)
  • Have I mentioned the great pina coladas in the lobby bar?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Welcome to My Blog...

I've spent a few weeks trying to come up with a clever opening sentence to my first-ever blog entry. Then I decided to stop over-thinking it and dive in. So here we go: Welcome to Alice's CWIM blog. Alice (that's me) is the long-time editor of Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market, referred to as CWIM by those-in-the-know. It will hence by referred to as CWIM in this space.

(Just about) every day, I'll be posting something of interest to writers/illustrators/CWIM readers--or at least something that's interesting to me. This could include market news, industry news, info on books and authors I like, short interviews with my writer/illustrator/ editor/agent friends, links to cool/useful sites, Q&A (send me your Q, I'll give you my A), etc.

As a Grand Kick-off, I'll be blogging from the SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles. This awesome event runs from August 4th-7th at the snazzy Century Plaza Hotel. (One year I ran into Dennis Franz, Finola Hughes, Monica Lewinski's parents, and Tomie dePaola.) If you're not going (but I really hope you are) visit this space for my conference play-by-play. I'll talk about sessions I've atteneded, who I've seen, what I've heard, what everyone's talking about--and I might even post a photo or two (or a bunch). So if you're there, beware of me and my camera. And if you're looking for me, try the lobby bar--they make a fab pina colada, and that's where all the cool kids hang out.