In my last post, I mentioned the opportunities provided by SCBWI for writers, such as the conferences held by the regional chapters. Late in 2014, the SCBWI-LA group announced registration information for Writer’s Days, to be held March 7 and 8 in 2015. Attendees were offered two opportunities for their works. One was a manuscript critique from one of the visiting professionals: Julia Maguire, Angie Chen, Mary Ann Fraser, Julie Williams or Michelle Markel.
For a fee of $45, an attendee would submit ten pages from their manuscript. I selected assistant editor Angie Chen, who provided valuable advice on the opening to The Justice Dragon’s Secret.
The second opportunity was a free contest, in which an anonymous judge–from the visiting faculty or local professionals—would select from one of four categories:
Picture Book (text only, no illustration or dummies)
Middle Grade novel (first 10 pages)
Young Adult novel (first 10 pages)
Other: Non-Fiction book or Other (first 10 pages) / Poetry (10 poems)
The prize would be free tuition to an upcoming SCBWI-LA Writer’s Day’s or Illustrator Day’s event. Beyond that, winning the contest would be a big plus in a query letter for the story.
The deadline for the critique was January 18, 2015, and January 15, 2015 for the contest.
I submitted the opening to my Justice Dragon story, Message to a Dragon, which could be described as Scrooge/The Grinch with dragons but without the Christmas angle.
Writer’s Days were held March 7 and 8 at the Skirball Center. The first day was the main conference, with “intensive” sessions held the second day.
Here we are enjoying the panels, and otherwise waiting for the results of the contest to be announced.
You can imagine how tough the competition would be for the Los Angeles area. When Edie Pagliasotti announced my name, I was stunned. As I floated to the stage to accept the honor, she read the judge’s evaluation (the text emailed to me later in the day):
All of the volunteers for SCBWI-Los Angeles congratulate you on winning the middle grade category in this year’s Writer’s Day contest with your manuscript, The Justice Dragon: Message to a Dragon. Here is what our professional, anonymous judge had to say:
- First place goes to a marvelous dragon comedy. What exactly is a dragon comedy, you ask? Imagine a sort of novelized cartoon if that cartoon were hilarious and brilliantly written. Containing vivid descriptions such as “A large dorsal-backed dragon sauntered into the room. He had a heavy-set jaw, a body bulging with muscles and polished blue scales that gleamed under the torchlight—the epitome of what human-people would call a ‘hunk.’” The reader cannot help but to visualize the odd cast of characters, which include an experiment conducting she-dragon, a sympathetic red dragon chosen as a specimen, a bodymender—should it all go horribly wrong, and a saucy whistle-blowing park ranger in charge of protecting the wildlife. THE JUSTICE DRAGON entertains.
Afterward the winners congregated outside for photos.
(L-R) Maddie Rue Burke, Bob Miller, Judy Faulkner, Maria Johnson, Karol Ruth Silverstein, Toni Gallagher, Laurie Young, Judith Presnall. Not pictured: Pauline Ts’o and Julia Wasson.
I could have flown home but my car was in the underground parking lot, so I had to drive it. By happenstance, I passed by Edie. She recognized me and threw me a big smile and congratulated me once again. Wow. This was not reflective on me, but on the generous heart of Edie and all those who run SCBWI. The encouragement and joy they bring to others is value beyond measure.
Later, the Kite Tales blog posted a wrap-up of the event with mention of the contest winners, here.
To the fine folks at SCBWI, my thanks.
All photos of the conference are by Ann Suk Wang. Her gallery can be viewed here.