“First Page Look Over”

Three weekends ago I sat at the feet of some impressive names in the children’s publishing world at the 2018 SCBWI-AZ Regional Conference in Mesa, AZ. Excitement filled the room as it always does, but this time it was sparked by many first-time attendees who I know from my own critique groups.

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Left: Me, Aspiring Children’s Book Author Right: Children’s Author Jennifer J. Stewart

The ultimate excitement for me is learning more about my craft of writing for children and to hear the inner workings from the flip side—mainly, what editors and agents are thinking and looking for in our manuscript/illustration submissions. I always put at the top of the list catching up with fellow children’s book writers and talking to illustrators.

This year I again submitted the first page of my latest picture book manuscript selected for a chance to be shown anonymously to the whole room and the faculty panel during the First Page/First Looks. Many pages and illustrations were picked. This segment of the conference allows you to get a critique from the publishing professionals in real time.

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The Panel: (l to r) Sr. Editor, Carolyn Yoder (Calkins Creek Books); Editor Jill Davis (Harper Collins); Agent, Jennifer March Soloway (Andrea Brown Literary Agency); and SCBWI-AZ Regional Advisor, Sharon Skinner

I wondered if mine would show up on the screen…and…finally…it was the last page of the first pages! Gulp. The editors all liked it enough to say they were interesting in reading the whole story if they had the manuscript. They liked the humor and writing style. Thankfully, they picked out a few things for revision. I felt honored that my first page was one of the ones selected to be read and discussed.

My comrades gathered around to congratulate me and encouraged me reveal to the faculty agent that the humorous one was my first page. I reluctantly walked up to where she was sitting and told her “my friends encouraged me to tell you I wrote that.” She replied, “I did like it and thought it was funny. Take the remarks to heart and revise accordingly.” I told her I had taken notes, which pleased her.

“Then revise and submit it.” She smiled. I smiled. I’m still smiling while revising.

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