Monday, September 19, 2011

Thank You!

Many thanks to our conference coordinators for a fabulous conference – Genetta Adair (Midsouth RA), Sharon Cameron, Courtney Stevens Potter, and Susan Eaddy (Midsouth Illustrator Coordinator).

Until next year...

Cheryl Zach Scholarship Winner

Congratulations to Victoria Morris, winner of the 1st Cheryl Zach Scholarship, a conference scholarship in honor of SCBWI-Midsouth's founder, Cheryl Zach.

Jim Hoover: Illustrator Promo Screening

The Mid-south offered this session for the first time about 4 years ago and every year it is invaluable peek into the head of the art director who is doing it. This Jim gave us some great tips on how he addresses promos and what he thinks an illustrator's best plan for getting noticed should be. "Artists get precious seconds" so we need to make them count. He suggested both mail and online promos and that from a cost advantage illustrators need to "embrace the internet." Forgo the flash for an easy to navigate website and keep your mailings something special, tactile and memorable.

On a bit more personal level, it was nice to end the conference the way we began - a circle of artists, relaxed together, chatting about the art spilled across the table in front of us.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

2011 SCBWI-Midsouth Illustrator Contest Winner

Congratulations to the winner of the 2011 Illustrator Contest, Kris Sexton!

Conference Scenes

SCBWI-Midsouth 2011 Fiction Ms Contest Results

Congratulations to the winners and finalists in the 2011 SCBWI-Midsouth Fiction Manuscript Contest!



The Noisy Ninja by Jessica Young

Honorable Mentions:

Feed that Monster by Evelyn B. Christensen

Dove Love by Tina Seago


Winning Middle Grade Entry:

Who Brainwashed the World? by Janice Erbach

Middle Grade Honorable Mentions:

Orion’s Hunt by Hannah Dills

Skirmishes by Elizabeth Muster

The Knuckerhole by Howard Shirley


Winning YA Entry:

The Wild (The Regime Trilogy) by Stephanie Cardel

YA Honorable Mentions:

Liberation/ Geurin vs. the Greater Good by Millie Bullington

Next by Tiffany Russell

Bellum by Sharon Wilharm

Editor, Agent, and Art Director Panel

Maneuvering the Digital Landscape in Children's Book Publishing

Panel Participants- Tina Wexler, Alexandra Cooper, Jim Hoover, Emily Mitchell, Erin Murphy, and Michelle Poploff.

So many people have questions about ebooks and apps and how it is affecting the industry as a whole...this panel addressed those inquiries and discuss the digital landscape in publishing. 

A Celebration of 20 Years in the Midsouth

Genetta Adair recognized SCBWI-Midsouth founder, Cheryl Zach and Midsouth RA Emerita, Tracy Barrett for their contributions to our region on our 20th anniversary.

Emily Mitchell: Voice: Your Special Sauce

Character is intimately related to voice.  Characters cannot be relatable if they are not speaking in their own voices.

A gifted writer can muse all three elements; characters, plot, and narrative voice.

Without voice, a story is just a series of events.

Best advice to learn voice:  read good books.  Listen for the book's voice.  Try to analyze how author creates that voice.

First person is one of the easiest ways to establish narrative voice--but you can have voice in third person, too.

Emily read specific examples from selected books to demonstrate an excellent use of narrative voice in both fiction and non-fiction.

Examples of some books with great voice:

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
Matilda and James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Speak and Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson
Going Bovine and Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Miss Nelson is Missing by James Marshall
Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin
Ramona books by Beverly Cleary
Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park

Alexandra Cooper: Show, Don't Tell: Developing a Character

Basic building blocks of character:

Character arc:  What does your character want more than anything?

"Stories should start on the day everything changes for the main character." -Judy Blume

What is your character's deepest fear?

How will your character face his/her greatest fear?

Use benchmarks.  If a character is in a similar situation at the beginning and at the end, show that a character reacts different.  It is a way to concretely show that the character will react differently.

Diamond Structure of character building--four different aspects of a character:  Spine, Supporting traits, fatal flaw, and a shadow.

Don't forget to add flavor to your characters!  Give your character a past.

Through the course of the book, the character must work through fear and conflict to get what they really want.

Sympathy is what turns type into character.

Elizabeth Dulemba: Technology and the Future of Books

A Brief History of Apps and Technology Reading

As one of the first author/illustrators published as an app (Lula's Brew), Elizabeth Dulemba presents both (brief and fascinating) history of reading via technology. 

E-book- flowing text. This is not ideal for picture books because there is no fixed layout (due to the ability to change size of font etc.) E-books are mostly text based books. 

Apps- a piece of software...for picture books it can be used to change colors, create mazes, etc. 

Apps are a much different format than ebooks.  

She presented a history of children's book apps, from Miss Spider's Tea Party (2010) to The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (May 2011). 

Some tips for illustrators:
* Artists need to work with technology and sound experts. 
* most developers are not accepting submissions, yet. 
*best for out of print books. 

Check out her website for great resources and information! 

Linda Sue Park – Scenes: The Building Blocks of Fiction

Newbery Medal winner Linda Sue Park believes scenes are the building blocks of fiction. She writes in scenes, not chapters. She believes Character, Plot, and Setting are interconnected and cannot be separated.

Each scene shows the character’s progress or impediment (both internal & external). Characters are acting or reacting in each scene.

The level of progress/impediment in your story changes depending on what type of story you are telling.

Michelle Poploff: The Acquisition Process

Michelle Poploff lead a "Sunday morning sermon" on the acquisition process.  Here are some highlights!

When Michelle receives a submission, she is going to assume you have worked on numerous revisions. You get one shot, and you need to make it your best shot.

Each book is an organic process.

When your book is acquired, roll up your sleeves and get ready for some good old fashioned revising.

This can take from several months to a year or more.

She will work in whatever way is best for the author.

Not every issue will be resolved in one revision.

After many revisions....

After the book is copy edited and all queries are answered, the author receives first pass pages. The book is set into type.

The proofreader reads the pages.

The author can add dedication, acknowledgments, author's note, glossary, etc.

The art department is working on cover art and interior illustrations as the writer and editor works on the editorial process.

Editor sends editorial letter.
Editor makes comments on the revised manuscript.
Copy Editor—grammar and punctuation are checked throughout in a second color of pen.
Cody edited manuscript is sent to author.
Author responds in third color of pen.
Most of this is now done electronically.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Emily Mitchell: The People in Your Neighborhood

I’d like to begin this post with a comment I heard as we were leaving this session. A voice behind me said, "I wish I'd heard this talk when I was just starting out." Emily Mitchell's session, "The People In Your Neighborhood," was a useful, insightful peek into the roles of the various individuals at a publishing house who each play a part in bringing our books to life.

We learned that the first group at the publishing house to receive a manuscript is Editorial. The first person to read it will usually be an editorial assistant or intern, and if it makes it to an editor who likes and wants to publish it, that editor will make the case for the book with Sales and Marketing at the launch meeting.

Once it has been decided that they are really interested in the book, the sponsoring editor contacts the author to discuss it. This may be the first time the author hears from the editor, even though she or he may have been interested in the book for quite some time. The editor is the author’s ally, the one who has been promoting the book internally throughout the process.

Design joins in with Editorial to choose an illustrator. Design works out the details like trim size and fonts. When the illustrations are finished and the design is all set, Production coordinates printing and tracks the shipment of the finished books.

Meanwhile, promotions are tackled by Sales & Marketing. Sales reps visit stores, schools and libraries. Marketing looks into subsidiary rights opportunities such as toys and translations for foreign countries. It’s not good to leave all the promotion to the publisher, though. You can really help promote your own book, and in many cases the publisher will help you. Consider book signings and school visits. Make sure you have a website and include links to booksellers who are selling your book. And don’t forget social media – there are numerous opportunities to promote your book in that way, even before actual publication.

Jim Hoover: Nonfiction Picture Book and Novel Jacket Illustration

Jim Hoover led us through a discussion on three non fiction picture books, Sandy's Circus, Kubla Khan, and Two Bad Pilgrims. While he admitted that history is a hard sell, the right illustrations can really bring life to nonfiction stories. One facet of illustrating for non-fiction that illustrators should be aware of is the possible conflicts of interest that can spring up when dealing with intelectual property rights from actual persons or events. In the case of Sandy's Circus the illustrator had to completely redo the cover right before publication because of this.

Next Jim talked about the process of creating novel covers. While the cover of a novel has always been an important selling point for a book, the importance of this - since the demise of Borders - has ratcheted up to a fever pitch. He tells stories of a sales force that need to be convinced that a cover will sell a bajillion copies while also being 2 x 3" big on Amazon. Any illustrator who feels up to the challenge, please, step up. Nevertheless Jim is also championing the return of illustrated covers to books especially those for girls as "not every girl midgrade needs to look like Vanity Fair." We illustrators had to give him a round of applause for that one.

Kristin O'Donnell Tubb wins Crystal Kite Award

Kristin O’Donnell Tubb’s SELLING HOPE won the 2011 Crystal Kite Award given by SCBWI. The Crystal Kite is the only peer-given award in publishing for young readers. SCBWI members in Kansas/Louisiana/Arkansas/Tennessee/Kentucky/Missouri awarded SCBWI-Midsouth member, Kristin O'Donnell Tubb this honor in the award’s inaugural year.

Erin Murphy: Get the Heck out of Your Own Way

Erin hosted a smaller session for a limited group of writers.

Erin advises her clients to be aware of their own strengths. Make lists of your strengths so they can look back at the when they think there is no way. What is your strength in writing an illustrating? What positive attributes do you have? What resources do you have around you? If your friends/family/critique partner answered these questions about you, what would they say?

Find and constantly be open to revising your creative process.

What is your ideal process?
How can you make your current process more like your ideal process?

Discipline and Routine can be friends OR enemies. Assumptions about how you must do things can actually hold you back.

Give yourself permission to write a lot of crap and figure it out as you go.

“Part of what I do as an agent is get things to the point where an editor can see themselves making it into a book.”

Set small goals along the way because that's where steps are taken.

Erin hosted a wonderful, interactive session that welcomed audience contribution.

NYT Bestselling Author Ruta Sepetys on Story Sparks

Ruta Sepetys, author of the New York Times bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray talked about creativity and sparking ideas for stories.

Ruta’s upcoming novel was sparked by a pair of engraved antique opera glasses she received as a gift.

Use Writing Prompts such as a phrase, photo, or an advertisement. Ask yourself what’s going on, who you see, etc. Every writer will see the prompt differently and create a different story idea.

Robert Blake- Rough Idea to Presentable Sketch

These session notes were taken by Wanda Collins Johnson

This session about the importance of keeping a sketchbook was full to the brim with pictures, examples, stories from his own adventures as an illustrator, his writing process, and lots of wonderful advice!

Some highlights from the session

  • I draw in my sketchbook every day and do a lot of practice drawing. That's how you get better!
  • A sketchbook is your private space where you can screw up and make mistakes. 
  • Be absolutely authentic. That's the best advice I can give you. 
  • Every one of you has the germ of some really amazing idea.
  • Do not go in with a buddy who does writing or illustrating. Don't offer a package of the two of you together on a book. The exception to this rule? If you do the writing/illustrating yourself
  • Going on location to research a book is the only way to get certain details.
  • You gotta trust yourself

Tina Wexler: Where and When

Some highlights from Tina Wexler's session on setting:

If your setting does not change your characters, it is not working hard enough.

What conflicts are a direct result of where and when your story is set?
Setting is the opinion of the main character. How does your protagonist view where he or she is from?

How does each character view where story is set?

Setting shapes plot.

Setting sets the tone.

In the beginning, the reader does not need to know the entire landscape. He/she must feel the landscape as they are walking through it.


Tina also gave the audience a series of exercises to ensure that your setting is working hard enough.

Jim Hoover: Picture Book Illustration: From Portfolio to Bound Book

Jim Hoover presented 3 case studies of books he has worked on and described the process by which each came to grace its creator's resumes .... and bookstore shelves. During the session he passed around copies of illustrations and printer's proofs.

First was The Roller Coaster Kid illustrated by Roger Roth, this book is ultimately about a family dealing with tradition and loss during a yearly trip to a Coney Island style theme park. Jim passed around copies of Roger Roth's beautiful watercolor images and talked about the significant consideration given to choosing a cover image. Ultimately an image of the main character standing in front of the iconic twisty roller coaster. He described how the illustrator Roth planned to hand letter part of the title to make it match the style of the cover and how he personally appreciated it when illustrators are willing to take that on.

Next up was Blue Chicken by Donna Freedman. This engaging book was quite the logistical equation as each character was going a different direction, getting into a different mess. Jim described how the copy editor's became essciential  to keeping the characters with their correct conflicts while Freedman sorted out the action in the illustrations. Jim explained that this book was an example of how everyone in the publishing food chain can have a hand in making a book a success. 

Finally, was Rat and Roach. Author / illustrator David Covell plans to control every aspect of the book. Jim said his job basically "is making he knows the deadlines." While this is unusual in the publishing process its a good example of how editorial will work with a book creator, even to the point of not working with them, to make a book become the writer's vision.

Author-Illustrator Panel

Ruta Sepetys, Linda Sue Park, Tracy Barrett, Robert J. Blake, and Elizabeth O. Dulemba answered questions including...

How do you take your work from great to publishable...How do you get the time and space to write...Advice for people trying to break into the business...Ways to promote published work...and stories about how the panelists got their start in the business.

Great Questions and a variety of inspirational answers!

Michelle Poploff: The Write Place at the Right Time

Michelle Poploff, Vice President, Executive Editor at Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers (Random House) presented The Write Place at the Right Time.

Michelle is a fan of fabulous historical fiction. She has published books by several authors based on their families’ experiences.

Two debut novels Michelle published by authors she met at regional SCBWI conferences are:
GONE FROM THESE WOODS by Donny Bailey Seagraves

Michelle says, “These authors were able to bring a strong sense of time and place to the story.”

Michelle published 2011 Newbery Medal Winner, MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool. The book was the author’s debut novel and is based on family stories.

She encourages writers to explore family history, travels, and other resources for your next story.

Michelle says, “You never know when you’ll be walking into a story that only you can tell.”

Erin Murphy- How to Make Your Quiet Novel Stand Out

So many authors have heard some variation of I love the book, but it's too quiet. Quit books are the opposite of high concept, they can't be described simply. Often quiet books are character driven books.

Great writing can make a "quiet" book more noticeable, as can changing a setting (adding background). Quiet books have to be well written. A super strong voice can fool people into never noticing that a book is  quiet.

Quiet books often have more librarian appeal than bookstore appeal.

Adding elements to a quiet book can give editors less reason to pass.

Some of Erin's suggestions for making a quiet novel louder...

  •  polish the writing
  •  make the secondary characters real (in addition to main characters)
  • up the stakes, make the conflict more meaningful (remove support system)
  • change setting
  • use multiple view points to show both sides of the conflict
  • romance (editors can never get enough) 
  • humor 
  • fabulous catchy title

Look for universal (not cliche). Try to capture something that lots of kids go through, but make the details your own. Find something new. 

Linda Sue Park Keynote: Not Believing in Yourself

Linda Sue Park is a Newbery Medal winning author.

Linda Sue Park has written eight picture books and nine novels, and still thinks that every book she writes will be her last.

She is still nervous about speaking.

Linda says she not to believe in yourself--just believe in your story!

If you want to improve at writing, you have to put in the time.

Critique strategy: Say okay. Saying okay does not necessarily mean you are agreeing to all of the changes.

Focus on the story--not yourself!

As a writer, trust the reader. Linda Sue Park disliked books telling her what to think and how to feel. Don't be preachy!

Work as hard as you can--and if you get a little bit lucky--you can succeed!

"Courage is when you are afraid and go through the ordeal anyway."

Welcome to the Conference!

Regional Advisor, Genetta Adair, welcomed attendees to the 2011 SCBWI-Midsouth conference. This is the 3rd consecutive sell-out conference with 167 attendees from 12 states.

The Library Police

Dietrich & Jennifer Stogner (The Library Police) interview Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

The Library Police arrived on the scene at the SCBWI-Midsouth dessert party last night. They were interviewing author/illustrators, not suspects. The Library Police is a weekly book podcast by two Nashville men. Our conference faculty authors and author/illustrators were interviewed for a special Children’s Book Episode. Watch their blog here for info on the upcoming podcast.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Meet the Bloggers!

Here are your Midsouth Conference Bloggers for 2011!

Rae Ann Parker

Rae Ann Parker writes YA fantasy & Middle Grade mysteries. She is represented by Erzsi Deàk of Hen & Ink, A Literary Studio. Please visit her website at

Bethany Griffin
Bethany Griffin is the author of the Masque of the Red Death and a sequel, forthcoming from GreenWillow books as well as Handcuffs, a realistic contemporary YA novel available from Delacorte.She lives in Louisville KY, teaches English, and has two elementary school-aged children. Visit her online at

Amanda K. Morgan

Amanda K. Morgan writes YA novels and is represented by Mary Kole of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She is a creator of Do the Write Thing for Nashville. You can visit her at

Guest Bloggers! We love them!

Wanda Collins Johnson

Wanda Collins Johnson loves art, poetry, and reflecting upon the mysteries of life. Along with raising her two kids, she has made Gallagher guitars, restored historic buildings, studied yoga, and painted. Her current projects include a watercolor series featuring birds, a picture book, and a YA novel loosely based on her teenage experience of living in a cardboard house in the woods. Please visit her at

Kris Sexton

Kris Sexton is an illustrator living in Franklin, Tennessee. She works in Painter, Photoshop, and occasionally in watercolor. Kris has illustrated several books for the educational market.

Mary Uhles

Mary Reaves Uhles has worked for over a decade doing illustration for children. Her pieces have been featured in books and magazines around the world. Prior to beginning her career as a freelance illustrator, Mary worked as an animator on projects for Warner Brothers and Fisher-Price Interactive. To this day her work features a cinematic quality essential to bringing characters to life. Her illustrations have been featured in multiple publishing showcases in the South and she was featured in the 2005 edition of New Voices Exhibition. A PAL member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Mary lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee.

Illustrator Intensive with Jim Hoover, Art Director, Viking Children's Books

It has been 15 years since I've sat in a room full of artists and artwork and let the creative flow surround me during a critique. While the instructor paces back and forth, you frantically  take notes, and think "wow what a great idea, why didn't I think of that!?" At the end, each artist takes away the benefit of seeing, not only their own work with fresh eyes, but their colleagues as well. Jim Hoover's intensive Friday afternoon was a wonderful trip back to the heady days of art school. Two months ago Jim gave assignments to us to illustrate spreads from two different manuscripts. We corresponded over sketches and changes. Finally seven of us lined up our work for consumption. Two hours later we'd heard stories about crazy typeface lawsuits, discussed the importance of contrast and tone, laughed and learned. Jim is a wonderfully accessible critiquer. This intensive was truly a benefit to our small group and I hope it returns next year.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Interviews with SCBWI Midsouth conference faculty

Interviews by Courtney Stevens Potter

In preparation for the SCBWI Mid-South Conference, I had the opportunity to do an email interview with our amazing faculty. (And I have to say, in comparison to sending hopeful query letters, an interview is far more fun.) If you checked out the Summer Borderlines Issue then you know how the faculty answered the following two questions: Please choose a picture book, middle grade and young adult novel that you loved when you were growing up and explain what captivated and inspired you and what is the difference between a good manuscript and a great manuscript? But those aren’t the only questions I asked.

So if you are interested in what Alexandra Cooper thinks about a Harry Potter sequel or which piece of art Jim Hoover would love to have from the Louvre or even which Newbery character Linda Sue Park would like to meet in person, you’ve come to the right place. Oh, and you can also get tips on what types of manuscripts these industry pros are hoping to acquire. Below is the Q and A I had with Alexandra Cooper, Jim Hoover, Emily Mitchell, Erin Murphy, Linda Sue Park, Michelle Poploff, and Tina Wexler.

Courtney: You are leaping for joy because you just got a first edition signed copy of…

Alexandra: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. It’s a book that I have distinct memories of reading, and one that my mother introduced me to.

Jim: To be honest, the only signed books I own are ones that I’ve worked on with the authors and illustrators I am fortunate enough to collaborate with. I love when a marketing assistant asks me for a copy of a book and I say, “Oh, gee. I only have one copy and it’s signed to me personally. Sorry. . . . But I love old full-color illustrated books and the lithograph printing they used back in the day. We recently thumbed through a first edition of Snowy Day here in the office, each of us steeped in awe at the vivid color.

Emily: The First Folio. (Hey, a girl can dream, right?)

Erin: Little Women.

Linda Sue: Fantasy: James Joyce's ULYSSES. Reality: Um...can I say A Single Shard? I gave almost all of mine away (who knew, right?), and the first edition print run was so small that they're really hard to find! (It wouldn't have to be signed--I could get it signed easily.) ;-)

Michelle: To Kill a Mockingbird

Courtney: Please fill in the blank. I am most interested in acquiring…

Alexandra: While my list has everything from picture books to YA fiction, what I’d love to find is a middle-grade novel with an authentic voice that is literary, yet still accessible—even fun.

Jim: As an art director, I don’t get to acquire, but I love placing an interesting manuscript with a compatible illustrator. This is why I advise artists to just be themselves with their work and find clients they think their work is suited for—rather than trying to adjust their style according to what they think a particular marketplace is looking for.

Emily: The next Clementine.

Erin: Projects that express a unique and confident vision; in novels, especially if they have a strong sense of heart and can blend a bit of commercial appeal with amazing literary writing. Books that will last.

Michelle: A manuscript that will become a bestseller! Classic commercial fiction, sensational southern fiction (that's why I'm heading to Nashville).

Tina: Middle grade and young adult fiction. Within those two categories, I’m really keen on contemporary science fiction, magical realism, novels-in-verse, and psychological thrillers.

What an agent or editor prizes in fiction from their past or fiction for their future is as unique as a thumb print. In a world where we as authors and illustrators think about trends, it sounds like our editors, agents, and art directors think about classics. Harper Lee. Louisa May Alcott. James Joyce. Our faculty love classics, and professionally they are trying to partner with authors to create classics. Keynote speaker Linda Sue Park knows something about creating a classic. Her novel, A Single Shard, won the 2002 Newbery Medal. When I had the chance to ask her a question, I thought about where I am in my own writing journey.

Courtney: Linda Sue, how would you describe your first five years of writing?

Linda Sue: As training. And not five years, but more like thirty. I started writing poetry when I was five years old; I didn't start writing fiction until I was 37. Most of the time I wrote in poetic forms--sonnets, limericks, rhyming quatrains, etc., which taught me SO MUCH about using words and language. I think writing poetry and reading a lot are the best possible training for writing fiction.

Now, for the fun questions! Recent blogs, twitter feeds, and interviews I’ve read often contain reminders from agents and editors to writers and illustrators that they are people. They are not just the gatekeepers of your dream-come-true, they are approachable and fun. They have lives, opinions, spouses, favorite books and movies, personalities, etc. So I wanted this interview to reflect, not only the professional world of our faculty, but also the personality of these fabulous people. I think you will soon see that SCBWI Mid-South Conference 2011 is going to be full of characters (and not just the ones we write about).

Courtney: Alexandra, J. K. Rowling calls you up and says, “I’m going to write a sequel to Harry Potter, but I need some help on which direction to take the story.” You say, “Well of course, I think the sequel should be about…

Alexandra: Noooooo! If she called me and said that, I would try to talk her out of it. Seriously. I am a strong believer in leaving the audience wanting more!

Courtney: Jim, for your hundredth birthday, someone makes a deal with the Louvre to negotiate for any piece of art you want at no cost to you. Which would you choose?

Jim: Well, I have this fantasy of raiding the armory at the MET once the Zombie Apocalypse happens. (Chain mail, swords, and armor that real Dukes and Knights wore, baby! Take that, walking undead!) I’ve never been to Paris, but I have to say, it would be pretty great to hold the Mona Lisa for a spell—Da Vinci carried that piece around with his intimate personal belongings his entire life. I’ve held sketches in my hands by Van Gogh, Vermeer, and Degas—it is an extremely humbling experience.

Courtney: Emily, a cast of Classic Fairy Tale characters show up at your door to take you to dinner. Which two do you demand to sit beside?

Emily: Red Riding Hood, because she clearly has bad-ass potential, and Gretel, because she was clearly the braver and smarter sibling.

Courtney: Erin, there are only two jobs left in the world: witch hunter or dragon slayer. Which would you choose and why?

Erin: What a horrible choice! I'd have to go with dragon slayer, because the idea of a witch hunter is just repulsive to me (people hunting people!), and at least some dragon slayer stories end with happiness for both slayer and dragon.

Courtney: Linda Sue, you can spend a day with any character from any Newbery book? Who would you choose and what would you do?

Linda Sue: I would spend a day with Juan de Pareja, from Elizabeth Borton de Trevino's 1966 Medal book. He was a slave and an artist, so he could teach me how to grind pigments for paint, how to stretch a canvas, things like that, and then he could introduce me to Velasquez!

Courtney: Michelle, for one week, you can only talk in quotes from a book. Which book would you choose?

Michelle: Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
Courtney: Tina, you have a super power no one knows about, but you’ve decided it’s time to come clean and tell about how you saved …
Tina: …the stray cats of the world from going unloved and un-pet. Thanks to my superhuman ability to overlook get-away-from-me hissing, razor-sharp claws, and the risk of cat scratch fever (if such a thing REALLY exists), I have managed to coo over the world’s mangiest cats. (It’s a dubious super power, I admit.)

I’ve had a chance to ask the faculty my questions, now it’s your turn. Prepare your pitch. Ready your manuscripts. Sell your idea. The Mid-South Conference is almost here.

{Courtney Stevens Potter is a full-time youth minister in Bowling Green, KY, as well as an adjunct professor of Christian Ministries at Lindsey Wilson College. She writes YA manuscripts and serves as a Co-Conference Coordinator for SCBWI Mid-South.}