SCBWI-WWA Nonfiction Intensive highlights

On Fri­day, Andrew Karre from Lerner/Car­ol­rho­da gift­ed a group of our region’s non­fic­tion writ­ers with over five hours of his undi­vid­ed atten­tion. And, wow, was it an after­noon to remem­ber! He brain­stormed with the group and helped us hone our ideas into some­thing mar­ketable. He gave feed­back on our short pro­pos­als and/or first pages. And he gave insight into Lern­er, the broad­er indus­try, and what makes for great non­fic­tion for kids. Here are a few of the gems from my notes:

  • Ask your­self, would it still be a good book if it was fic­tion? It shouldn’t mat­ter where it ends up get­ting shelved—a good sto­ry is a good story.
  • “Be writ­ers, not com­pil­ers of thin­ly-veiled lists.”
  • Straight biogra­phies aren’t real­ly need­ed any­more dead due to Inter­net and online data­bas­es. They need to be MORE than just a biog­ra­phy to be pub­lished as books today.
  • It’s hard­er for non­fic­tion authors to “brand” them­selves, because there is so much less inter­ac­tion with readers.
  • As school librar­i­ans dis­ap­pear, it gets hard­er for kids to get to great non­fic­tion and vice ver­sa. Kids will still man­age to find a copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, for exam­ple, but they might not dis­cov­er The Many Faces of George Washington.
  • Reviews are espe­cial­ly impor­tant for nonfiction.
  • One impor­tant facet of a non­fic­tion author’s job is to decide what to exclude.
  • Non­fic­tion pro­pos­al should first and fore­most com­mu­ni­cate your pas­sion for the sto­ry, not fol­low a spe­cif­ic form.
  • Above all, you must CONNECT to kids!

I feel so lucky to have spent this time with Andrew and some of our region’s non­fic­tion authors. I have a slew of excit­ing ideas and a boat­load of new inspi­ra­tion and enthu­si­asm and for the work that we do. And I can’t wait to see the drafts that come out of it (my own as well as every­one else’s!). Hap­py [non­fic­tion] writing!

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