Dianne Hamilton is one member of the conference faculty for the Writing and Illustrating for Kids 2013 conference, taking place October 12 in Birmingham, AL. WIK is a great place to meet writers, editors and agents in the children's publishing world. This annual conference is hosted by the Southern Breeze region (Alabama, Georgia, Florida) of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI.org). To find out more or to register, visit https://southern-breeze.net/.
It's my pleasure to introduce Dianne, Senior Editor/Publisher at OnStage Publishing, a small traditional publishing company located in Madison, Alabama. OnStage publishes children's literature for ages 8-18.
1- How long have you been a member of SCBWI? Can you tell us about an experience you've had at any previous SCBWI conferences that helped guide your own writing, editing, and publishing career?
I joined SCBWI in the late 1990’s and my first conference I attended was a regional conference held in Columbus GA. [That was years before just Birmingham and Atlanta hosted the conferences.] I had written a picture book and was going to get it critiqued! I just knew I had a Newbery in hand! I learned how kind Faye Gibbons is. She managed to find something nice in my story so she could praise me while deftly telling me that I needed to learn my craft. I attended workshops that opened my eyes to just how badly written my story was. Everything one should NOT do, I had done!I am still, to this day, grateful to Fay Gibbons for her kindness because when I re-read that story, I’m not sure I could have found anything to praise. I keep it around to remind myself how far I have come. I did final in a Southern Breeze fiction contest a couple of years ago but now I write YA, not picture books.
2- What originally got you interested in the children's book market?
I was in an active Romance Writers of America critique group and I discovered I couldn’t write anyone’s clothes off! [There went that career!] RWA had a great support group so I looked to see what other organizations had the same kind of learning/support. SCBWI had a local critique group in northern AL that took pity on me and let me join. I’m a voracious reader and love YA books. In my writing, I’ve found that I really am still a fifteen-year old.
I became a children’s book editor when a member of the critique group asked me what I thought of his self-published book. “Not bad,” I told him, “but you really need an editor to focus your story.” I took control of the company when he wanted to concentrate on his own writing and not worry about the business end of things.
3- Can you tell us the titles of your recent, or your favorite, books published by OnStage?
Choosing a favorite from one’s “children” is not a proper thing to do so I won’t list my favorites.
I will say that I have enjoyed recently working with author Jamie Dodson on his Nick Grant Adventure series which begins with Flying Boats & Spies, an award winning title. The series deals with the beginnings of the Pan American Airlines’ flying clipper ships. The series nicely balances history and adventure. And Wanda Vaughn is a great author to work with on her historical series, Alabama Girls.
And I’m having fun with our e-book line of mysteries, geared for grades 6-12. Carol Norton has developed a series, The Locksmith series, for our e-books. And I’ve just contracted with a Colorado author for a series of mysteries with a boy and service dog as the main characters. Those e-books will be called the Tooten and Ter Adventures. And puns intended.
4- What can you tell our readers about your Alabama Girls Series? This sounds so exciting.
Wanda Vaughn has so many stories in her head that I challenged her to make it a series about girls in Alabama in different time periods. She started with Huntsville,1892: Clara. That book won third place in historical fiction in the Jenkins Book Group Moonbeam Awards. This was a pleasant surprise as the book is history with a story and this history deals only with the town of Huntsville. Birmingham, 1933: Alice was written but we discovered a fatal flaw in our history that killed that story. Wanda Vaughn has had to re-write it, but in doing so, she is making the character stronger, and I think, the story more interesting. It should be out next February in print as well as an e-book.
5- Give us your opinion of the fast-growing ebook market. Do you think this is serving readers and authors in a way that traditional book publishing hasn't?
I am giving a talk at WIK 13 in October on this subject.
I’ve been an e-book editor since 1996 when the only e-readers on the market were the Thompson and the Franklin book reader. I edited general fiction and when I moved from managing editor to Senior Editor, we became much more demanding of the fiction we chose to e-publish. Our submissions got better and we produced some fun reads that the large print markets, based in New York, would have never looked at.
The publishing of those books pushed the print market to counter the “sub-culture” of e-books. Now we have Kindle Fires, Kindle Fires HD from Amazon. Barnes & Nobles gave us the Nook which they will take away soon. Kobo, an e-book reader producer, will be taking the Nook and expanding their e-readers to be more competitive in the market. Sony let everyone send their e-readers back to them for a free update of software as they moved to a different based format. What drives these kinds of moves? E-Books...lots and lots of e-books.
Does this better serve readers and authors than the traditional book publishing? Better? No. Differently...YES. For more information, please come to my talk in October.
6- Can you give us a tiny sneak preview of your upcoming program at WIK13?
I think the answer to question 5 is part of a sneak preview.
I will also be talking about how to critique one’s own work. In that talk, I’ll be concentrating on what makes a good story and how to tell if one has actually written a good story. Because it is so hard to evaluate one’s own writing, the best advice I can ever give, is “Join a critique group.” Join online or in person and you may have to try several groups to find the right fit of people and personalities. But find one. The right critique group is invaluable.
Dianne, as I said, I hope you'll add anything you'd like to talk about that I didn't cover.
I am always available to conference attendees who want to talk to me any free time I have on conference Saturday. I can tell everyone that if you work at the conference, or come to the dessert Friday night, you can mingle with the conference speakers. I always enjoy meeting editors and agents from other places because I learn something new every conference. And the best way to learn is not just to ask questions, but to listen to what they say.
You can meet other members of the conference faculty by following the WIK blog tour:
Aug. 28 Author Matt de la Peña at Stephanie Moody’s Moodyviews
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