NE-SCBWI Conference 2014

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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.

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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?

Other bests:

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!

New England SCBWI Conference 2013, Part Two

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There was so much I wanted to say in my last post that I had to break it in two! Here were some of the other highlights of the conference for me:

-Our other keynote speaker was the amazing Sharon Creech. She spoke about  the power of words, how to find them, cherish them, and set them out into the world.

Sharon Creech

-Volunteering: I volunteered at the conference for the first time this year. I was way too shy the first two years I went, so this was progress for me! I worked at the registration table, not that I knew the answers to many of the questions! It was nice to introduce myself to so many new people. And c’mon, I got to wear the yellow volunteer name tag. The YELLOW one.

-Book signing: I love this every year. I choose a book for me, a book for each of my children, a book for my classroom, and a book for both of my children’s teachers. Gets pricy! The autograph is great, but the greeting and personalization are even more important to everyone… a real live connection to the author. I may have had just a few books signed by Kate Messner…

Kate Messner

-Restaurant dinners with friends old and new: Catching up with people I’ve met before was great. But some of the best conversations were with people around the table that I didn’t know. You start with, “What do you write?” and before long you’re explaining premises and plot twists and your inspiration, and the other person truly CARES. There’s no glazed-over look like you get in the real world. Writers eat this stuff up.

-Find-a-Fit: Researching Agents panel with Lynda Mullaly Hunt: This talk was the perfect level for me. I’ve been doing my own research for querying agents, but Lynda had great strategies that I hadn’t used before, and also pointed us to some websites I hadn’t seen. And she was funny enough to keep us alert and jazzed up even though it was the last session.

Can’t wait until next year!

New England SCBWI Conference 2013, Part One

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Yesterday was the last day of the NESCBWI conference. It was a great weekend as always. This was my third time going, and each year my knowledge and connection to other writers has deepened.

Here were some of the highlights for me:

-A panel on Edgy YA: Right up my alley. The panelists focused on questions like what is Edgy YA, the importance of voice, and if kids should be able to self-curate their books their own reading. The panelists were Scott Blagden, Adah Nuchi, Carter Hasegawa, and Rubin Pfeffer.

-A meditation/writing workshop, run by Laurie Calkhoven. We meditated for five minutes, visualized an aspect of our story, and then wrote for five minutes, pen moving across paper the whole time. I discovered a quick back story scene I hadn’t thought of before. At another point, one woman in the audience discovered that her main character had a twin! Unfortunately, some people (including me) had to leave for their agent critiques, which kinda interrupted the flow of the meditation…

-A Save the Cat! workshop, with Dawn Metcalf, based on the book by Blake Snyder. I’m a total pantser and I end up outlining after the fact, if at all, and then only if something isn’t working.  But it was helpful to see how very structured screenwriting is, and to see how that structure can apply to novel writing. I may not be a convert to this system, but it’s good to know about at least!

-Grace Lin. ‘Nuff said.

Grace Lin

photo by Alexandre Ferron

Oh, and so much more…

I just edited my title to say Part One. More later!