Saturday, April 28, 2012

SCBWI Western Washington Conference 2012

I spent last weekend at SCBWI Western Washington's 21st Annual Writing & Illustrating for Children Conference, "A Parade of Words and Pictures."

I enjoyed the entire weekend, but one of my favorite parts was Matt de la Peña's pre-conference fiction intensive on dialogue. Mr. de la Peña gave us so much to think about--both inside and outside the quotation marks--while writing scenes. I was extremely impressed with his approach to craft. I read WE WERE HERE last  year, and it's a book that comes to mind again and again--which says a lot about his writing. If you ever have the opportunity to hear him and learn from him, go for it!

The Editors/Agents/Art Directors Panel was great. Moderator Kim Baker asked excellent questions, and the panelists' genuine love of kid lit could be felt when favorite children's books were discussed. It was very cool.

Melissa Sweet's keynote
was super inspiring to me. She showed a video as she spoke, and we saw her wonderful studio. She had so many great things to share, but one item really stuck with me: when she's inside her studio, she is working. Simple, right? But after a slightly crazy winter when I was studying for a teaching exam (and passed!) and my family had an extra amount going on, my writing hours became harder to keep. Melissa Sweet's talk and Bruce Hale's keynote completely motivated me to return to my get-to-work-right-away and no-e-mail-while-writing schedule. I'm actually pretty excited about it.

I loved reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures. Next time I'll do better!

Nothing to do with the conference, but it has been sunny here in Washington! Woo-hoo! I'll end with a photo of my husband, Jim, and Thistle, the shameless sun worshiper. We often stop at a coffeehouse on the weekend, and we bring the dogs. Pepper loves the idea of going, but her fear of dogs keeps her on edge--and near our feet. (She seems to think she and Thistle are human beings.) Thistle, on the other hand, spreads out, assuming people will step around him. And people are so nice, they do--and they even smile at him as he hogs up the sidewalk.

Thistle and Jim relaxing in the sun

What have you been up to the last couple weeks? Could you, like me, push yourself a bit more with your writing schedule or are you already in a good place? Is it warm where you are?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

What's Hot at Eagle Harbor Book Company

I met once again with bookseller Victoria Irwin to find out which YA and children's books are currently selling well at Eagle Harbor Book Company. As I've mentioned in earlier posts, Eagle Harbor Book Company is an awesome independent bookstore here in Washington.

Always helpful and friendly, Victoria was happy to share EHBC's top ten children's and YA titles from last week. Here she is displaying one of the books from the list, TO CATCH A MERMAID by Suzanne Selfors.

In the photo, she's also holding a black toy bird from the children's section. I still, by the way, think Victoria the Bookseller should be an action figure. The toy bird could be one of her many accessories!

Now to the list!

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins

CATCHING FIRE (Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins

MOCKINGJAY (Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins

MONSTER by Walter Dean Myers




SCORPIA RISING (Alex Rider #9) by Anthony Horowitz

TO CATCH A MERMAID by Suzanne Selfors

THE EXTRAORDINARY EDUCATION OF NICHOLAS BENEDICT (The Mysterious Benedict Society) by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Diana Sudyka

Thank you, Victoria, for taking the time to help me!

Have you read anything wonderful lately? What was it?
A great book I just finished was INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN by Thanhha Lai. So beautiful and poignant! I loved it!

Please note: I won't be posting next weekend because I'll be at SCBWI Western Washington's annual writers' conference. I'll see you the next week, though! Happy writing!

Monday, April 2, 2012


One of my current projects is a young adult manuscript I'm rewriting as middle grade. While I've been working on YA and MG projects the ten or so years I've been writing, changing a novel from YA to MG is something new to me. It's tricky, shifting a pre-imagined, fully fleshed out book into a different form. In fact, it has been quite the wrestling match. Last week my manuscript was beating me, but this week I'm winning! Woo-hoo!

There are oodles of changes I'm working on to make my new protagonist younger. She even has slightly different goals from the original main character's. I obviously want her to feel authentic. I'm taking the premise and some of the pieces of my original story and giving my younger main character a journey of her own.

This experience is helping me grow as a writer. I'm sure of it! It's making me think in a more concrete way about what makes a book YA or MG.

How about you? Have you ever rewritten a project, changing it so it will reach a different age group?
Otherwise, what are some of the biggest changes you've made to a manuscript?

As a side note, have you heard the acoustic version of "We Are Young" by Fun? It's pretty cool.