Virginia Law Manning

2015 Successes

Virginia ManningComment

Since I wrote my first post, I’ve been thinking about what value my blog can offer the children’s book community. I hope to help other writers and illustrators like myself—unagented/ unpublished newbies—by sharing what I’m learning on my journey. 

So, as 2015 comes to a close, I thought I’d talk about five courses/programs I participated in this year and something I learned from each.

1.     In January I made a New Year’s Resolution to learn Scrivener. It took me about 7 hours to complete the free online tutorial. After I learned the program, the Eastern PA SCBWI regional advisors asked me to write a blog post about Scrivener for our chapter. I was excited to write my first blog post and took the opportunity seriously. Then, later in the year, they asked me to run an informal workshop on the program at our spring conference. They’ve recently approached me about running a similar program in 2016. This one New Year’s Resolution had a ripple effect and helped me become more involved in my SCBWI chapter. 

  • Lesson Learned: Make another New Year’s Resolution!
  • 2016 Goal: Learn Photoshop

2.     In February I began Mira Reisberg’s Children’s Book Academy’s online course “The Chapter Book Alchemist.” The course didn’t focus as much on the art of writing (ex. character development) as I thought it would. It focused more on certain technical aspects. Some of our assignments included writing a 30-word book pitch, a chapter-by-chapter summary, and a series pitch. Later in the year, when I was preparing to go to the Rutgers One-On-One Conference, I felt so prepared. Because I was prepared. And I would have felt prepared if I was going to a meeting with a prospective agent or editor.

  • Lesson learned: Spend time each year to develop my professional image.
  • 2016 Goal: Update my profile (including author bio and portfolio images) on my website, SCBWI and CBIG’s websites, FB and Twitter. Link to my various pages/accounts.

3.     In April I began a six-month mentorship program Evolution Resolution offered through the NJ SCBWI chapter. Our faculty mentor was Annie Ericsson, a designer at Penguin. Annie offered everyone in the group wonderful feedback on their work. Her comments never felt like criticism. She gave clear, strong direction. I felt so fortunate to have her input over the six month period as I revised my manuscript, created thumbnails and developed a dummy.   

  • Lesson Learned: When I find professionals whose opinions and direction style I admire, seek them out at future conferences to get their feedback over the course of my career.
  • 2016 Goal: Keep Annie and target agents apprised of my work as I complete each stage.

4.     In October I attended the Rutgers One-On-One Conference for my first time. I LOVED it. My mentor Gail Carson Levine was very direct when she spoke with me about my writing. Her questions and comments made me realize how thoughtful an author must be, how precisely we must use words to create a seamless world. We can’t leave gaps or create illogical stumbling blocks that take our reader out of the story. The path must be clear.

  • Lesson Learned: Seek out professional criticism of my work, in addition to participating in critique groups.
  • 2016 Goal: Attend Rutgers again!

5.     In November I attended the Children’s Book Illustrator’s Group Review. 2015 was my first year as a CBIG-NYC member. Membership costs $45. Most of the events are fee. To participate in the Review is an additional $25. As participants, members chose two faculty members to critique our portfolio or dummy. I chose one agent and one art director. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Ninety percent of the agent’s comments focused on my writing, while 90% of the art director’s comments focused on my art (in particular compositions and layout). Where their comments overlapped, they agreed! In my revised dummy, I can address all of the agent’s comments and all of the art director’s and my book will be vastly improved. All of this for $25! Even if I include the cost of the CBIG membership, it was an incredible value!

  • Lesson Learned: For illustrators in the NY area, CBIG is a great organization!
  • 2016 Goals: Take advantage of more CBIG opportunities!

2015 was a great year for me. In this blog I would have loved to discuss the amazing Eastern PA SCBWI Pocono Retreat and Illustrator Day, my experience interviewing author-illustrator Elisa Kleven and the NJ SCBWI Craft Weekend and Holiday Party. But, since I hope to do all these things again, I’ll write about them in 2016.  

If you participated in an amazing program this year, I hope you’ll leave a comment!!! Perhaps you took a great online course or participated in a writing challenge. I’d love to know what you found worked!

Happy Holidays!