Hey, everybody, I’m back! I’ll confess that my brain feels a bit like pudding after all the amazing things I learned at the summer SCBWI conference—I think I need to give it all a little time to set. But so much wisdom was shared, and I’m feeling reinvigorated when it comes to my writing, which is always a good thing.
I thought I’d share some highlights from the conference. This is just a tiny taste of everything I learned and experienced there.
Inspiring Keynote Speakers:
- M.T. Anderson – He talked a lot about taking the familiar and making it unfamiliar and vice versa, and reminded us that the strangeness we seek is all around us. In our writing, we should show the world the invisible, what only we see.
- Darcey Rosenblatt – She told us about her incredible learning journey through SCBWI and how it has affected her career.
- Christian Robinson – This dynamic illustrator spoke about how brick walls can end up being successes in the end—even when you don’t get what you want, you get a learning experience.
- Renée Watson – Renée gave an inspiring speech about changing the world with our writing. She pointed out that we must distinguish our purpose from our goals. You might fulfill your purpose, even if you don’t meet a goal.
- Anna Shinoda – She told us about an amazing organization called Books Change Direction. They educate about the importance of responsibly representing mental health and illness in books and promote books that do that well. You should definitely check it out!
- Raúl the Third – He told us about a project he helped create at a Boston art museum with local kids: a family tree that incorporated personal objects, family photos and stories, and kid-created portraits. He said this one exhibit was more multiracial/multicultural than the whole rest of the museum!
- Yuyi Morales – She shared her story of coming to America as a young mother. I loved this quote: “We don’t need children’s books that will change an author’s life, but we do need books that will change children’s lives.” At an author convention where lots of us are looking for our “big break,” this is important to remember!
- Mem Fox – This was actually an interview, not exactly a keynote, but I’m sharing it here anyway. Mem’s colorful personality shone as she shared about when she gave up on writing completely one day (literally called her agent and told him she was done) and then was struck by inspiration the next!
- Meg Medina – She encouraged us to mine our childhood memories: “Follow your memory down to the root and yank it up.”
- A group of editors and agents shared what speaks to them in the books they acquire.
- Five authors spoke about how they go about creating books that matter.
- A group of picture book authors and illustrators spoke about their creative process.
- A panel of publishing professionals spoke about the options in publishing: from self-publishing to traditional publishing and everything in-between!
- A group of agents spoke about the difference between trends and evergreens and how you can’t write for trends (because you’ll be too late!), but you should write the book that speaks to your heart.
- A panel of authors talked about how to create memorable characters for series.
- Elizabeth Partridge & Ken Wright told about their roles and process while working together as author/agent and then author/publisher.
- Alexandra Penfold shared the secrets of making the most out of your relationship with your agent. She stressed that we need to be prepared to wait and wait!
- Bruce Coville gave excellent advice on how to reveal plot through character and the art of adding details. I wrote three pages of notes from this breakout!! So good!
- Lesléa Newman gave us a fantastic primer on several formal poetry forms. This is another one where I took copious notes (and felt inspired to add some more formal poetry to my verse novel!).
- Jane Friedman shared advice on the best practices for author websites. One important takeaway for me: I need to add my name prominently on my blog if I want to use it as my author website (which I plan to, at least for now—I may have to split them out later).
- Elana K. Arnold & Brandy Colbert talked about survival skills for writers. One gem: Take on projects that scare you, things you think you can’t do. That’s how you grow. Also, they stressed that you need to focus on your writing since there are so many other elements of publishing that you just can’t control.
- Editor Tiff Liao (from Henry Holt Books for Young Readers) gave 12 of us feedback on the first two pages of our manuscripts. (She seemed to like mine a lot and had only some minimal feedback!)
- Elana K. Arnold & Brandy Colbert led an intensive, three-hour session on revising. Among other things, they focused on four elements to consider adding or working on: the ticking time clock, flashbacks, epanalepsis (cycles), and combining or changing characters.
Oh, and I can’t forget about the fun stuff!
- On Friday night, I was able to attend a party that my agent threw and meet her in person, along with lots of the other fabulous authors at our agency! I was especially excited to meet Megan E. Freeman, who is currently on submission with her verse retelling of Island of the Blue Dolphins. She and I have lots in common, and I feel like she’s a kindred writing spirit! I’m super excited about her book, and I’ll be sure to let you know when to watch for it!
- On Saturday night, we had a Woodstock party! Such a fun night! And I met up with several local author peeps there, which made it even better.
Here’s a pic of me and (local author/new friend) Robin Hann. Note the person wearing manuscript pages in the background: her costume was combined with two other people and together they were “draft dodgers.” So clever!