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SCBWI Central Ohio

This weekend, I was a guest and speaker of the Central Ohio chapter of the SCBWI, on an invitation from Susan Bradley. On Friday night, after I checked in to my hotel, we went out to sushi with volunteer Laurie Miller, then Susan and I ate at Jeni’s Ice Cream, which is mind-blowing stuff.

I had a scoop of goat cheese, balsamic, and fig, a scoop of five-spice pumpkin, and I had to try the buckeye, which was peanut butter and chocolate. You can see part of their impressive menu here. I was so sad that I missed the “Pumpkin Tiramisu Parfait,” but I’d gotten sucked right in to the ice cream cases and didn’t even glance at the menu.

On Saturday morning, it was up at the crack of dawn to head over to the conference location. The local SCBWI members got a very balanced program, packed in to one 9-12 time slot. I spoke with two other guests. First was author Lisa Klein of OPHELIA, TWO GIRLS OF GETTYSBURG, LADY MACBETH’S DAUGHTER and the upcoming CATE OF THE LOST COLONY, which are all gorgeous historical YA novels. Then came Marcia James, a romance writer and self-appointed PR guru who had a lot of great tips for the writers. We spoke at the Upper Arlington Senior Center, near Columbus, which you can see below. Look at those great fall colors!

I did two talks. One was my standard kidlit market overview, which some of you have probably heard (it’s also the meat of my webinar and Learning Annex talks), and a new talk on the agent search. I got a lot of good questions from the audience. One was a gentle reminder to add the AAR ( to my list of agent search resources. And it’s true. The AAR lists all the agents who are members, and has an area where you can find agents based on whether they’ve joined the group.

Another good question was about agency contracts. At ABLit, we have a simple, one page agency agreement. In an upcoming post, I will talk about it and other agency agreements, and why it’s important to have a glance at a potential agent’s contract before accepting an offer of representation. Some agents don’t have contracts, which I find off-putting, and so I’ll also talk a bit more about why it’s important to have something in writing.

Lisa, who you can see here, spoke about scene-work and her talk was dynamite. We all spend a long time writing our talks and thinking about them, so I won’t crib from her presentation, but let me just say that if you ever get the chance to see it for yourself, you are one lucky writer.

I can note that she had the following to say about POV: “If your story isn’t working one way, change your point of view.” I wholeheartedly agree. It always pays to play and experiment.

She also spoke about narrators and narrative voice, and how to differentiate between your characters in dialogue. This is all really important stuff. Another favorite quote from her talk: “Good dialogue reveals character and moves the plot ahead.” She also read from her books. If I were you, I’d pick up a copy of her work. One of my favorite details is how deeply researched her writing is, but that the research never overwhelms the story.

I missed most of Marcia’s presentation because I had pitch sessions to attend, but she has a PR information packet for other writers that you can request by emailing her, so you should check out her website.

After the conference, Susan and two of the volunteers went out to lunch at the Old Bag of Nails Pub. It was an absolutely beautiful day in Ohio, clear skies and summer temperatures, even as the leaves were turning. I had a tuna melt and a beer and got ready for the next leg of my adventure.

You see, Ohio wasn’t just a business visit. I have two clients who live in the Cleveland area, Lindsay Ward (website) and Kellie DuBay Gillis (Twitter), who also happen to be fabulous friends. So they came to get me after lunch and we set off on the two and a half hour drive northeast.

On the way, I was awed by the fields and beautiful nature of Ohio. And, of course, by the rustic beauty of Grandpa’s Village and the Cheesebarn. (Me: “Pull over! Pull over! It’s the Cheesebarn!” Kellie: “Uh, okay?” Me: “I really want a picture of it!” Kellie: “…” Lindsay: “Just pull over.”)

But mostly we gossiped and talked about our lives and about writing and publishing. I’m very lucky to have these two ladies, who both work primarily in picture books, on my client list.

In Cleveland, I stayed with Lindsay, at her beautiful apartment full of art and books, where she lives with her boyfriend. Lindsay, Kellie, and I shook off the road with a bottle of wine (which I stoppered with my faculty gift from Susan and the SCBWI: a decorative wine stopper with a genuine buckeye speared through it!) and then set out for dinner at Lola, a Michael-Symon-of-Food-Network-fame restaurant.

We had beef cheek pierogies (Kellie), ceviche (me), and some of Lindsay’s lush French onion soup to start, then scallops (Kellie), mahi mahi (me), and some really delicious duck with bacon-flavored cous cous for Lindsay. Dessert was artisan donuts dunked in hot chocolate and french toast with bacon and maple syrup ice cream (!!!). If you can’t tell, Michael Symon has a bit of a thing for pig. If this was my restaurant, I’d give it the slogan, “Eat out with your meat out.”

After that, Lindsay, her boyfriend, a few of his friends, and I headed to a bar in their neighborhood. There, I encountered an amazing local specialty: the crab race.

Now, I asked around and had several Ohioans tell me, politely, that they had no idea what the heck I was talking about when I said “crab race.” So it must not be an Ohio thing, just a delightful activity provided by this one bar.

Basically, you pick out a hermit crab with a painted shell, then the contenders huddle under a plastic dome until the jaded employee yanks it up (see the dome flying away in a blur in the picture) and then the crabs scuttle away from the center of the table (with some urging from a spray bottle). The first crab to cross the red line wins.

If you leave animal rights out of it and have a few drinks, it’s actually pretty fun. My crab came in first in the first heat, then completely choked from the pressure in the finals. He (or she) didn’t even come out of its shell, poor thing, and no amount of spray bottling would change its mind. Ah well! That’s what you get when you race things that can easily hide.

Sunday was low key. Lindsay and I went to The Root Cafe, which is a nice little indie coffee shop, then we kept up the seafood theme with a clam bake. I meant to take a picture of the final product but we were just too busy eating to bother! I love clam bakes, so I added a few of my clam bake ingredients to their usual mix.

Finally, Lindsay and I spent some time talking books and business, and then we went back to Kellie’s house for a quick visit with her adorable children. Then it was off to the airport.

I had such a fantastic time in Ohio. Not only were the SCBWI members (and behind the scenes volunteers) delightful and attentive, but it was so nice to relax and indulge in some personal time with my clients, who I count as dear friends, not just business partners. Here’s a shot of Lindsay and I on her front porch, right before we took off. This was a trip to remember, for both personal and professional reasons. Next weekend: Wisconsin!

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  1. Lisa T’s avatar

    Sounds like good times! πŸ˜‰

  2. Bree’s avatar

    It was very nice meeting you, and I really appreciated what you had to say. Between what you and Lisa had to say I went home and revised all afternoon and came up with a new beginning that was much improved from where I started!

    Hope you arrived home safely. πŸ™‚

  3. Mel’s avatar

    I have to say that I couldn’t get past the pumpkin tiramisu parfait. It sounds amazing.

  4. KellieD’s avatar

    CHEESEBARN! (I actually asked my husband about the Cheesebarn this morning and he said that it is a well-known stop in and around Columbus. He’s an OSU grad, so I’ll take his word for it.)

    I have to just say that Mary and Lindsay can hang like rockstars. Notice I drop out of the story post Lola (11 pm or so) and the story continues with Lindsay and Mary until FIVE AM. Crazy energetic things.

    Mary runs on a type of energy that I’m pretty sure would solve our nation’s energy crisis if we could figure out a way to harness it.

    Good times.

  5. Kate B.’s avatar

    What a fantastic weekend–for everyone! Food, friends, and fun mixed with business! I love the vicarious living. Thank you Mary!

  6. Anita’s avatar

    Sounds like you had a great time in Ohio. All the ice cream flavors sound amazing, except for the goat cheese balsamic. Not sure if I am brave enough for that one.

  7. Franziska Green’s avatar

    What a great post! While I appreciate reading your wise words on publishing and writing, I just LOVE reading about the places you go, who you’re there with, what you eat and drink… I guess that just makes me one nosy parker! (Or a stalker. Hmm.)

  8. Ellen M’s avatar

    I’m so glad you had fun in Ohio…and that you made it out of Columbus without hitting game day traffic. We were lucky to have you there providing useful information, laughs and lots of quotes from Ursula Nordstrom. Thanks for the great presentations.

    My only regret is that I didn’t stow away in the trunk to Cleveland…It sounds like dinner was somehow more fun than lunch (which was very nice).

    …and if you liked the cheese Barn, I bet you are on pins and needles about Wisconsin. Have fun!

  9. Lynn Rush’s avatar

    Wow. Sounds like tons of fun! LOVE those pictures. The leaves are turning so beautifully. Wow!!!

  10. June’s avatar

    What a lovely trip. It looks and sounds perfectly delightful. We should all be so blessed. Looking forward to Wisconsin!

  11. Julie Hughes’s avatar

    Wow, you have actually, amazingly, made me want to visit Ohio.

  12. Lisa Albert’s avatar

    Fun trip!! I think you should have a client retreat! πŸ˜‰

    Get ready for WI! Lake Michigan, cheese, beer, sushi…

  13. KellieD’s avatar

    Lisa — I second your client retreat idea! Actually, Lindsay and I brought it up. I think if we lobby hard enough with enough foodie type temptations, she’ll cave and plan!

  14. Kenda’s avatar

    Glad you enjoyed some of the sights (and food) of our beautiful state, Mary! And thanks so much for coming–the workshop sessions were fun and helpful, and the pitch opportunity was a great experience. Wishing you the best on all your upcoming travels…

  15. Tricia’s avatar

    What a fabulous report. It’s making me even more excited for the upcoming weekend.

  16. Karen Scott’s avatar

    It was great hearing you speak! Glad you liked “the heart of Ohio” and got to visit our foodie wonderland. πŸ™‚

  17. Jennifer Bucheit’s avatar

    Thanks for a great conference, Mary. It was good to meet you and I much appreciate your effort to make me feel at ease as nerves overcame me during my pitch appointment! So glad you had a good time in Ohio… Jeni’s Ice Cream is the bomb!

  18. D.J. Morel’s avatar

    One summer in college I worked at a hotel in Jamaica where we had hermit crab races at happy hour. We caught the crabs that day from the grounds, then released them at the end of it, so not sure it qualifies as all that cruel.

    Maybe… I also painted a number on their shell with nail polish, so sometimes when we caught the crabs for the next week’s race there were a few in the bunch that already had numbers on them. Though that did make setting up the reace a whole lot easier.

    All around, sounds like a great trip! Thanks for sharing, very much changes my view of Ohio and how nice it would be to visit and meet the writing community there.

  19. Melissa’s avatar

    How fun! I totally get why you wanted a picture of the Cheesebarn. Pictures of such things are important. One of the greatest failures of my life is that, though I lived in South Africa for two years, I never took a picture of a penguin crossing sign. I mean, it was a penguin crossing sign! And I don’t have a picture! Sigh.

  20. KellieD’s avatar

    Ohio writing community = very fun, likes good food!!

  21. Tricia Springstubb’s avatar

    I’m from Cleveland, and have passed the signs for Grandpa’s Cheesebarn many times without stopping–despite the enticing MEAT! FUDGE! exhortations. I’ve also never seen a crab race. It’s always the tourists who point out what you’re missing!
    So glad you enjoyed our state.

  22. Sherrie Petersen’s avatar

    Those orange leaves made me jealous! I grew up in Piqua, Ohio (thank you Dav Pilkey for putting it on the map!) and I miss those fall colors and the lovely chill in the air on October mornings. Looks like you had a wonderful time in my home state πŸ™‚

  23. Cyndi’s avatar

    Mary, you sound like the most fun agent ever!! What incredibly lucky clients you have!!
    Note to self: add ability to stuff face and drink beer to list of potential agent attributes…

  24. Kristin Gray’s avatar

    When I was a kid, we had turtle races at summer camp. They worked the same way. I always hated it when I picked out a real slow poke. πŸ˜‰

  25. Ronni’s avatar

    I know I’m late commenting on this, but wow. This post made me a bit homesick. I lived in Columbus for 13 years before moving to Chicago in 2008. πŸ™‚


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