Last weekend, May 2nd-4th, I went to the NESCBWI conference. (For those of you who don’t know really long acronyms, that’s the New England Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators.) The theme was Create Bravely: Make Your Mark. The keynote speaker was Peter H. Reynolds, author of The Dot and other picture books. If you haven’t read it, The Dot is about a girl, Vashti, who is convinced that she can’t draw. She finally makes a dot on a paper, and, encouraged by her art teacher, begins to explore her creativity through dots and more. I’m no artist, I was about to say, but why? Peter talked about how if you ask a young child if he/she is an artist, the answer is always yes. By about 4th or 5th grades, fewer and fewer children agree. So going along with the theme, creating bravely, there’s no reason why I can’t make art. Does making art have to please anyone but me? No. He made me want to go buy a sketchbook and draw. Create bravely.
There were some great workshops that I went to. Some of my favorites:
“From Stage to Page: Using Creative Dramatics to Inspire Writing” with Lisa Kramer – I love starting the conference every year with something loose like drama. This class was so fun. We alternated improv with writing. For some parts, we were our characters, and for some we created other characters. At the end we wrote scenes between two different characters that had been created in the workshop. I started a scene between an alien and a cool teenager. Although, being realistic me, ended up turning the alien into a pesky little sister who was just pretending.
“Writing a Book in a Weekend: How to Fast-Draft without Word Vomit” with Taryn Albright – I took this class because Taryn worked with me on my book, and she’s amazingly awesome. I have no interest in writing a book in a weekend. And I am NOT a planner. But I did take away how planning can enable you to write a fast draft. I’m trying one of Taryn’s ideas right now, writing a several page synopsis of my book (not a pretty one, just plodding sentences of basics). I’m hoping this will force me to think out the middle/end of my book better.
“Beyond OMG: Writing Authentic Dialogue for Teens” with Sashi Kaufman – I think dialogue is actually one of my writing strengths, but it’s always good to make sure my teen talk is believable. We talked about slang, swearing, and what makes different teenage voices unique. We read dialogues with teen characters with each other, which I totally loved.
I do have to admit there were two workshops I didn’t enjoy too much, basically because they didn’t do what the descriptions said. For example, no writing during a “writing-intensive” class?
Book signing – This has gotten crazy for me. I *have* to buy and get signed a book for me, each daughter, and each daughter’s teacher, with a special request for one extra teacher.
Hanging out with my critique group (who I never get to see recently) and some folks I only see at this conference.
SO glad I went and I will return next year!