A few key points from Gennifer Choldenko, author of Al Capone Does my Shirts and a Newbery Honor winner.
When SCBWI calls, Gennifer says yes!
Gennifer is happy when she starts a novel with character because it grounds her, but there are challenges. She admits to having a hard time getting a plot off of the ground. Slowly, as she does research, ideas get more grounded and more real. She likes to make trouble for characters; don't protect them. Learn to love Murphy's Law! When Gennifer writes, she goes back and forth between letting characters go and following the plot.
Her first novel that was published was not the first novel she wrote.
Gennifer doesn't believe in writers block. If she's having trouble, it means there isn't enough info coming in.
Listen to what people say about marketing, but play to what your strengths are.