Week of August 14, 2011--More Great Moments from SCBWI, LA
Monday, August 15—Alessandra Balzer--You Can Handle the Truth: Honest Advice on What Editors Are Looking For
Alessandra Balzer is the Vice President and Co-Publisher of Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books. She edits everything from picture books to novels for teens. At SCBWI, LA, Alessandra led a breakout session entitled “You Can Handle the Truth: Honest Advice on What Editors Are Looking For” and spoke to a packed room.
Alessandra said she wants to fall in love with a manuscript, no matter what the age group. She advised writers to ask themselves: Why should someone care about my book? What’s something different about what you’ve written? What’s the value of it? Do I like my characters and will others? She also suggested that writers have an idea of where their books would live on the shelves of Barnes & Noble.
“Don’t race after trends,” Alessandra said. Instead, find the “trend bridges.” If people are into “X” now, imagine the next step and the “Y” that they will be interested in tomorrow.
What Alessandra is looking for:
· POV—what do your characters have to say that is different from other things out there?
· High concept—Fresh, high stakes, plot that is meaty and different
· People want to be moved by your writing—make me cry or make me laugh
· Show me a different life experience
· Write with heart
More specifically what Alessandra is looking for in picture books:
· Spare text
· Funny text
· Reversals (for example: Children Make Terrible Pets)
· Authentic and smart (for example: I’m a Shark)
· Read aloud text (for example: Cat Secrets)
· Interactive and participatory
· Play with timing and page turns
What Alessandra is NOT looking for:
· Rhyming picture books
· Heavy-handed morals
· Straight history (history with a twist could work)
· Board books
· Novelty books
It’s Your Turn!1. Check out the Balzer + Bray list and see what you can discover from the books they have published. Can you see any holes in their list you might fill? Any trends from which you might be able to build bridges?