Saturday, April 23, 2011

Setting The Scene With Arthur Levine

Last Saturday,  April 16th, I was co-coordinator of the first annual, SCBWI - Illinois Spring Thaw.  My partner in crime, Meg Flemming Lentz, and I are planning to make this an annual event.  The SCBWI Regional coordinators had already lined up Arthur Levine and they guided us through the process of hosting a conference.
Meg Fleming Lentz, Arthur Levine, me, Lisa Bierman

For those of you who don't know, Arthur Levine is the vice-president of Scholastic inc. and publisher of Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Books.   Arthur A. Levine Books published a series of books you may have heard of - Harry Potter!   Arthur is also an author of books for children.  His latest book, Monday Is One Day, was released this month.

Back to the event . . . We decided to title the event, Setting the Scene with Arthur Levine so people would pronounce his name correctly (rhyme Levine with scene).  People sometimes rhyme it with 'mine' or 'pin', so we thought we'd help them out a bit.  I'm sure it gets annoying having people mispronounce your name all the time. Growing up, people often pronounced my last name, Grusin, as 'gruesome'.  I think they did it accidentally :-)

The day went beautifully!  We had 129 attendees, with a good mix of published and non-published authors and illustrators and all genres in children's literature were represented.  Arthur spoke to the group about the current state of publishing and, by the end of his talk, he was pretty optimistic!  

Next, he spoke about the process of submitting, publishing and marketing picture books, using his latest book as an example.  He said his book had three different editors and it took seven years to hit the shelves!   

He followed up this talk with a fantastic Q & A session!  Luckily, they were running late with the lunches, so we were able to pick Arthur's brain for an extra ten minutes.

After lunch, we had a First Pages session.  Children's author, and voice over pro, Laura Ripes, read first pages submitted by attendees and Arthur gave instantaneous feedback - not an easy task.  There was a good mix of picture book, middle grade and young adult stories.  

Arthur found a common thread in each story - "info dump" as he coined it.  Info dump is when there's too much set-up at the beginning of the story.  Arthur said you need to trust that your reader will get that information through the characters words and actions.  One example was a story about a bird who is afraid of heights.  The author stated that in the first few sentences.  Arthur pointed out that she didn't need to put in that fact because the reader would learn it by observing Bird trying to get out of going to high places. 

After the First Pages, we gave out some door prizes, mixed and mingled a bit and Arthur signed books (The Magic Tree Bookstore sold them there).  Then it was over and there was nothing left to do but clean up.  We had a little bit of "after the wedding blues" but we were also relieved it was over and had gone so smoothly!

Arthur and me with Book Tour Alex


  1. What a great event and opportunity - and Book Tour Alex!! :) Awesome.

  2. Wish you could have been there! Maybe you'll meet Alex someday soon!

  3. Lori,

    That is so awesome! What a rock in the juvenile lit community too. You must have been so pleased with your incredible turn out and great day.

    Lots of hard work that paid off.

    Keep it up!