I've been home almost a week, and I'm still processing all the great information that came my way at the 2011 SCBWI Summer Conference. I'm excited to share highlights, though I highly recommend checking out the official SCBWI Conference Blog. SCBWI Team Blog covers a conference as nobody else can.
The conference was amazing. 1,342 kid lit lovin' people gathered in Los Angeles, and Molly Hall and I were thrilled to be among them.
SCBWI celebrated its 40th anniversary in style. Here are some of the many moments that spoke to me:
*Bruce Coville gave the first keynote, Ripples in the Pond: Why What We Do Matters...and Matters...and Continues to Matter. His talk was moving and filled with great advice. One tip: "Take your writing seriously. But also take yourself seriously as a business person." He said to learn how to read contracts and royalty statements, to learn to negotiate. He said to provide for your retirement and insure yourself. A tip that spoke to my obsessive-compulsive self was to take a vacation. He said, "Sometimes the best way to get back into the work is to get away from the work." He pointed out that this holds true for particular manuscripts. "Obsession can be tiring." Sometimes you just have to "take a vacation from the book." He was filled with heart, charm, and wisdom, and I'll be keeping my notes from his talk handy.
*Blogging came up more than once. One agent said, "A good book is what matters, not your blog." Common sense, I know, but I have read and heard so many people (myself included) apologetically taking blog breaks so they can focus on their books. That quote should be everyone's "Get out of jail free" card--or "Get out of blog-guilt free" card.
*I am such a fan of Libba Bray...I wish she lived next door to me, and I could warm my hands by her intelligence and wit every time my writing fibers felt chilled by self-doubt, failure, or ugly first drafts. But alas, she would probably wonder what the deal was with the neighbor lady lurking in her yard, and she might mistake me as a stalker, so things are probably better this way.
Libba Bray's keynote, Writing It All Wrong, A Survival Manual, was awesome. She said, "Embrace the suck." She later said, "'Perfect' wants to vote you off the island, but 'Better' wants to make an alliance...If you think, 'I have to make this book perfect,' you're setting yourself up for failure." She is super smart, hilarious, and a brilliant writer. (I should probably note that Molly and I discovered we were in the same SCBWI region when Molly won the "My-Followers-Rock-So-Someone's-Winning-an-Autographed-Copy-of-a-Book-that-Won-the-Printz" contest. I asked Molly to e-mail me with her address so I could send her GOING BOVINE, and I was like, "Really? You live that close?" Now we're buddies, having excellent adventures. And to think Libba Bray brought us together! Tee-hee.)
*Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver rocked the room when they gave their talk, Writing with Humor and Heart. Together, they wrote the Hank Zipzer series.
They are now collaborating on the Ghost Buddy series (Scholastic). Henry said to think of the voice of the ghost as the Fonz and the boy who finds the ghost in his closet as Richie.
While speaking about humor in writing, Henry said, "Emotional truth jumps into the eye and mind of the reader. If you write the truth, someone will say, 'How did you know me?'"
Lin added, "If you want to write with humor, go to your deepest emotional part and stay until it's funny. When something is sad and funny, it's the deepest kind of funny."
*David Small shared the trailer of STITCHES: A MEMOIR during his keynote. He had an unloving mother, and he found healing in the making of STITCHES. He finished his talk with a funny slide show that showed his indie love, and he even danced to the music. I hope he posts the slide show on YouTube, though watching him dance freely on the stage, knowing what he's been through, may have been the very best part.
*Judy Blume was our surprise guest! Can you imagine? And she's incredible. As Lin Oliver interviewed her, I couldn't believe who was sitting beside her: Judy. Blume. I mean, didn't we all grow up reading her?!
She said she's a terrible first draft writer. She's a reviser. (Let me tell you, music to my ears.)
Plot isn't how a story comes to her. "I never really understand the creative process." She said she's the least analytical person her son knows. She doesn't sit there, analyzing it. Something percolates--an idea. She gets ideas while doing something active.
Rather than summing up Laurie Halse Anderson's magnificent keynote, I'm going to send you to the beautiful write-up by SCBWI Team Blog. Read it. You'll be glad you did.
This is getting rather long, so I'll end here and share my conference photos next week. The thing is, I still have a book to give away. An amazing book that's autographed. Are you ready for it?
THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH by Norton Juster!
Holey schmoley, right? THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, people! It first came out fifty years ago!
It's easy to enter to win! All you have to do is:
1. leave a comment on this post before 11:59 p.m. on Friday, August 19, 2011
2. be a follower of this blog
3. have a mailing address in the U.S. or Canada. (Sorry I have to set limits. I wish I could include everyone.)
Each person can enter only once. I'll update if I realize I forgot something.
I'll announce the winner next week when I share the conference pics.
Happy writing! :)